Is Uzbekistan pulling away from U.S. after Obama lifted aid restrictions?
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
On August 30, 2012, the upper house of Uzbekistan’s parliament passed a bill which explicitly bans any foreign military bases on Uzbek soil. This signals a strange shift away from the United States after the Obama administration removed sanctions on aid to the Kazimov regime just last year.
It is especially odd since Uzbekistan just recently left the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) which Abdujalil Abdurasulov of the Christian Science Monitor characterizes as “Russia-dominated,” a move which some saw as an indication of an intention to bring a foreign military presence on Uzbek soil.
Since the CSTO member nations cannot allow foreign bases on their soil without the approval of every single other member, some perceived this move made in June as yet another sign of Karimov’s intention to draw closer to the West.
However, with the passage of this bill (which has yet to be signed by Uzbekistan’s President, Islam Kazimov), there seems to be a shift away from the United States and towards both Russia and China.
Abdurasulov highlights this movement in the direction of Russia by writing that the passage of the bill “appears to be an effort to appease regional power Moscow.”
The move is also highlighted by a recently ratified treaty with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) called, “the Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member countries.” For those who are unaware, Russia and China are some of the most prominent members of the SCO.
International media outlets clearly see this as a sign of a split between the United States and Uzbekistan, with Iran’s Press TV stating that the bill “flies in face of US hopes of military presence.”
However, I’m not all that quick to jump on the bandwagon and say that Uzbekistan is refusing to play ball with the West since Kazimov hasn’t even signed the bill as of yet.
Until this happens, I will be forced to think that the move could very well be an effort to save face as the West and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expand into the region.
Some are clearly seeing this growth as problematic, evidenced by Iran complaining of a “creeping Zionist influence” in the Caucasus.
The timing of this move is also significant because, as Press TV points out, “The bill came against a backdrop of growing rumors of Uzbekistan’s plan to host a US military base to replace a major airbase, leased by the US military, in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.”
Kyrgyz officials have made major moves to step away from the U.S. with The New York Times reporting in March of this year, “One of Kyrgyzstan’s top defense officials told Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta on Tuesday that a crucial United States air base here should have “no military mission” when its lease expires a little more than two years from now.”
Officially, the base is just a so-called “transit center” but the military intentions of the base are far from unclear.
While there used to be reports showing promise of a U.S. presence in Kyrgyzstan with the U.S. handing over $5.5 million for what was being called a counter-terrorism training center in southern Kyrgyzstan, the new president has gone as far as to call for closure of the “transit center.”
However, that very well might be posturing since Kyrgyzstan is getting quite a bit out of the deal monetarily.
It will be interesting to see how this quiet power struggle over the critical region surrounding Western targets plays out.
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