The American weekly “PARADE Magazine” recently published a rating list of the most marginal dictators of our time, where Uzbek President Islam Karimov took fifth place ahead of his colleague Turkmenbashi, who ranked eighth on this pedestal. It is difficult to determine which of this team is more consistent with the image of an absolute tyrant, but it can be said with confidence that they are all smeared with one world. Last year's Andijan events contributed to the rapid rise of the Uzbek president on this ladder, from fifteenth to fifth in one year. They can be called differently - a riot, an attempted coup, an uprising, but in any case it was a tragedy that divided the history of modern Uzbekistan into two parts, before Andijan and after it.
Anyway, the Andijan tragedy served to sharply cool the relations between Uzbekistan and the United States, and, accordingly, to the immediate turn of the Uzbek policy towards Russia. During the period of concluding an agreement on a strategic alliance between Moscow and Tashkent, Islam Karimov stated figuratively that everyone who “raises tail” to Uzbekistan will continue to deal with Russia. A seemingly old-new dear friend and loyal vassal appeared at the Kremlin.
What are the goals pursued by Moscow going to military and economic cooperation with the state headed by such an odious figure as the current president of Uzbekistan? What are Russian interests?
There are quite a lot of interests, but achieving goals is still problematic. We will try to identify them.
First, in the long run, Uzbekistan can serve as a buffer state for Russia on the path of possible infiltration of religious extremism, drugs, and direct military threats from the south.
Secondly, it is possible to profitably “purchase for the occasion” a collapsing Uzbek economy, or, more precisely, just take it in hand. First of all, it concerns the industries of hydrocarbon energy resources, non-ferrous and heavy metals.
Thirdly, Uzbekistan oriented towards Russia can serve as a counterweight to the intensively developing Kazakhstan, which in the near future will be able to play independent political games.
Fourthly, as they say, if you do not take it, then others will take it and therefore must be taken!
This is certainly a pragmatic approach, but there are other principles stemming from purely moral considerations, dictated by Russia's long-term presence in the region, they can be considered a moral obligation.
Now about the related problems. The presence of US troops and their allies in Afghanistan temporarily prevents the formation of large Toliban military groups on the southern borders of Uzbekistan. Throughout its history, Afghanistan has never been aggressive towards its neighbors, although it itself was often subjected to acts of aggression and reflected them in the traditional way of guerrilla warfare. It seems that a simple Afghan worker does not need to wash his feet in foreign seas and rivers, and all his aspirations are to be allowed to have a machine at home and grow poppy on his plot. Uzbekistan, as such, cannot serve as a barrier to drug trafficking because it does not make sense to strengthen the gate without having a reliable fence. Heroin routes can easily pass through neighboring republics, for example, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Incidentally, rumors have long been circulating that the Afghan drug traffic in Uzbekistan has been put on a state basis and serves as one of the main sources of income for the local mafia, which is under the safe roof of state officials. As one of the Uzbek human rights activists said recently, “drugs are delivered directly through the Sheraton bridge”. Of course, not Sheraton and Hilton, but Hairatonsky (a bridge over the Amu Darya River near Termez), but this is not the point. In any case, in any case, militarily strong, with stable statehood, a friendly Uzbekistan is extremely important for Russia.
The formation of a theocratic Muslim state on the territory of Uzbekistan is unlikely, there is no corresponding soil, but in the event of unrest in the country religious slogans may well be used. The recent riots that have arisen in individual countries on “anti-caricature” soil indicate that the essence of the slogans themselves is not important for the lumpenized strata of the population, and the possibility of smashing embassies, shops and anything else at all is important.
On the economy. The above mentioned industries, although they are the most significant in the country, are far from in the best condition. It is connected not even with the outflow of specialists, but with the wasteful attitude of the state towards natural resources. Sale of natural gas, oil, gold, uranium and so on. along with raw cotton, are the main sources of foreign exchange earnings in the budget of the republic, as well as a source of enrichment of the country's president and his entourage. From this come the methods of mining natural resources - to get faster and cheaper, i.e. most barbaric ways. One of the major officials participating in this process, recently stated in a private conversation, “The kaymok (cream-uz.) Was removed, and it is difficult and unprofitable to get milk.” The current Russian-Uzbek economic relations, at first glance, make it possible for Moscow to acquire Uzbek raw materials industries, but with the existing power in Uzbekistan, this is very problematic. Older deposits are mostly depleted, and from the start of exploration and development of new ones to gaining benefits from their exploitation is a huge distance. Even if Islam Karimov, in exchange for guarantees of personal well-being, would allow the highest (and not just promise it) to invest Russian investments in these areas, the latter will sink in bureaucratic red tape.
Under certain conditions, Uzbekistan, located in the center of the entire region, with a large population and cheap labor, possessing raw materials and industrial potentials, may well claim to be a political and economic leader in the whole of Central Asia, and therefore compete with rapidly developing Kazakhstan. We will make a reservation that this can in no way take place under the existing authority, which has completely exhausted the last possibilities of rational government of the country and directing all its efforts towards self-preservation.
Islam Karimov has now rejected, as unnecessary, even the appearance of democracy and the rule of law. Judicial repressions and secret reprisals against real and imaginary dissidents took an incredible scale. It seems that all punitive bodies are in a hurry somewhere, they are in a hurry to “fulfill the plan” to neutralize potential troublemakers, by a certain period of time, without considering the costs.
The government believes that it has nothing to fear, believing in Moscow’s hypothetical intercession. Islam Karimov himself certainly does not think so, but at least he is trying to convince public opinion that President Vladimir Putin is completely on his side and he (Islam Karimov) welcomes his actions.
Today, an incredible-scale company against America, the West in general and the “color revolutions” in particular, has unfolded on the pages of the official Uzbek media. “Color revolutions”, like NGOs, in today's Uzbekistan are declared “absolute evil” and the main cause of all the ills of some CIS countries. Note that the term “color revolution” (CR) does not reflect its essence. Any revolution presupposes a radical reorganization of power, for example, the overthrow and replacement of one type of communist regime in Czechoslovakia. The CRs that occurred on the territory of the CIS brought new politicians to power, without affecting the roots of government. They proceeded mostly bloodless and by and large under the law.
All past in the post-Soviet space, the Central Orthodox Church in Uzbekistan is presented by propaganda as an apocalyptic evil, and under this brand it is suggested to society that this evil is loving (!) The change of government. But Karimov has nothing to fear from the CR in his own country; this is possible only if there are minimal liberal institutions and legal opposition. Conclusions - the change of the dictatorial regime by civilized methods, within the law, is impossible in Uzbekistan today, the current situation will not be resolved by itself. When looking at the republic from the outside, it may seem that the country is in relative prosperity: information is published on the progress of the economy, on the absolute trust of the people in their leadership. In fact, society is brought to the very bottom of a possible fall. Often, speaking of the people of Uzbekistan, the most characteristic features of it are called diligence and hospitality. This is not always the case. The main feature of the Uzbeks is how to call it delicately, law-abiding and patience.
The current situation of Karimov can be defined as critical. He cannot transfer power to other hands, any receiver will simply be forced, in order to support his people and the international community, to anathema his predecessor and, most likely, to crack down on him. According to the Constitution in force in the country, the presidential rule is limited to 2007. Even with today's iniquity to create in Uzbekistan, attempts to simply change the Constitution seem impossible, no one will support this, everything has its limit. It means that we need extraordinary circumstances that will justify the legitimacy of Karimov’s power in power, the “planning” of which his entourage will certainly take. These circumstances should be so extraordinary that no one has a shadow of a doubt that the power in the republic should remain in its hands. Most likely, it can be clashes in certain regions of the country on national or religious grounds. Now there is an active preparation of the image of their future "perpetrators" and the adjustment of public opinion to a certain wave, including the creation of a "ghost" of the Central Election Committee. The most likely time for the implementation of this seems to be the next winter.
You do not need to have a great mind to guess that this is a “little victorious war”, so dear to any dictator. It doesn't matter who is “appointed” as an enemy, in any case “external forces of evil” in the person of Western states and foreign Uzbek opposition will be attached to him. Everything, naturally, will begin with provocations, for which “apparently” planned decisive actions of the government, executed in such a way as to seem adequate for the whole world. The main thing is not to hurry and not be late, just choose the time of provocation, then the people themselves will unanimously express their desire to see the former president at the head of the state. Karimov simply has no other way out and now he certainly needs time to thoroughly prepare the upcoming one.
The current state of affairs seems to be quite suitable for promoting Russian interests in Uzbekistan. This requires the usual diplomatic statements that clearly define the position of Moscow. Tashkent is currently deprived of the possibility of political maneuvering and will simply be forced to accept any demands if they are clearly formulated and specified in terms. It will be enough just to say that the Kremlin sees a democratic, and not a feudal state in its strategic partner. Such a demarche has matured, because the whole world understands the futility of relations with the current Tashkent ruler, their temporality. Russia should demand from the Uzbek president that he should name his successor; this figure should satisfy Moscow as a strategic ally. The process of transfer of power should begin now, this spring, and be smooth and transparent. If Karimov is not able to decide on the receiver himself, then the Kremlin has the right to help him in this delicate matter, to recommend the candidacy, in the end! Russian priorities in relations with Uzbekistan and similar measures will be perceived with understanding, both by the international community and by the peoples of both countries. It is very important that a similar, even more unlucky president, who will use the old methods to preserve his power, will not replace the current one.
Concreteness and decisiveness - that’s what Russian foreign policy lacks. All recent negotiations with Iran and Hamas are more reminiscent of exhortations and thus make the partners in negotiations uncompromising. In our case, there are all the possibilities of a real solution to the Uzbek problem and revenge for all past mistakes. The main thing to prevent an explosion in Uzbekistan is still possible.
President Karimov himself regards the current state of affairs as an opportunity to regroup and prepare for the latest personal benefit. Like any despot, he believes that he is able to outwit all of humanity, although all the secrets of Oksaray are sewn with white (forgive the tautology) threads. In the meantime, Karimov will already be accustomed to play up and promise Russia the “golden mountains”, but promises will remain promises.
Perhaps, our conclusions will seem to some to be cynical and unacceptable for patriots; they will be called appeals for a waiver of the independence of Uzbekistan. Let us say only by the fact that until recently only one person was independent in the country, and even then this is rather conditional. Remaining realistic, one should choose the lesser of several evils, so that everyone who holds the future of Uzbekistan dear must make a choice. While there is time and it is not too late.