Uzbekistan and CSTO - cooperation on distance
Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec. 20 / Trend /
Trend commentator Viktoriya Zhavoronkova
Uzbekistan has once again left the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). In 1999, Uzbekistan refused to sign the protocol on an extension of the contract, although later in 2006 returned to organisation.
The CSTO has accepted Uzbekistan's decision to suspend its membership. However there will be no concessions for the country in joining once again. Now the question is whether Tashkent will ever realise its need for CSTO? To clarify the situation it is necessary to analyse what is the base for Tashkent's interaction with this organisation.
Despite Uzbekistan's membership in the integration association, it never fully participated in its activities. Tashkent is not only, not a member of the CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Force (RRF), but also repeatedly blocked the decisions of the organisation due to disagreements. So instead of cooperating with the CSTO, Tashkent at some point was causing obstacles to its work by significantly influencing its overall policy. Uzbekistan didn't benefit very much from CSTO membership.
This in fact means that a military integration association is unable to 'protect' the republic from some external enemy. Except that Tashkent regularly participated in military training held by organisation and useful from a purely practical point of view.
Countries of the region maintaining strained relations with Uzbekistan, such as Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are also member states of CSTO, which means that the they are not capable of affecting these contradictions. By leaving the organisation Uzbekistan has positioned itself as a fairly strong state with an independent foreign policy capable of making certain decisions and coping with the external problems. This is not baseless as Uzbekistan is of interest to major regional players including Western countries and Russia.
Perhaps the CSTO could and did benefit Tashkent somehow over the Afghanistan issue. However a threat emanating from that country increases in the light of the withdrawal of anti-terrorist coalition forces and the problem will not to be solved within the CSTO. More serious measures in regional and possibly on a larger scale will have to be undertaken.
The media more often reports Uzebkistan as turning towards the West upon leaving CSTO, but that is not the case. Despite the fact Tashkent frequently hosts European and American officials, Islam Karimov's policy could not be evaluated as 'pro-Western'. By analysing what is going on in the region, we can conclude that the countries more committed to cooperation with the West are Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, balancing between the West and Russia for earning the maximum benefit and support from partners, whereas Uzbekistan in comparison with its neighbours stands on its own feet.
This can be viewed as a sign that Russia is fully satisfied with events taking place in the region and is interested in cooperation with Uzbekistan which firmly holds the position of the major regional player.
Prior to making a decision on its ouster from the OSCT, Uzbekistan was visited by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. During his visit he held talks with high officials of the country stating that despite the fact Uzbekistan was leaving the organisation it still remains Russia's strategic partner. This indicates that Russia is fully satisfied with what is going on as well as interested in cooperation with Uzbekistan firmly holding the position of major regional player.
Most likely, unless there is a radical change in the regional situation and within the organisation itself, Tashkent will not rejoin CSTO, but will not become westernised either. Uzbekistan will endorse an independent, favourable policy supporting its image of being a technically, militarily and financially strong state of Central Asia, at the same time contributing to the maintenance of political stability in the country and preventing external interference and excessive integration of external players.