TODAY.AZ / Politics

Uzbekistan would prefer to be policeman of Central Asia: expert

28 August 2009 [10:31] - TODAY.AZ
Uzbekistan wants to have the most powerful army amongst the countries of Central Asia, and therefore, opposes integration of foreign troops from other countries in the region, says U.S. expert on Central Asia Bruce Pannier.
"Tashkent would prefer to be the policeman of Central Asia and the presence of large numbers of Russian troops in the region would leave Uzbekistan as the number 2 military power in Central Asia," expert of Radio Liberty Pannier said.

He said this also includes a relation to the Rapid Reaction Force (RRF), an agreement on the establishment of which was signed within the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). It was signed by five member countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization - Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia; Uzbekistan and Belarus refused to sign it.

Russia already has bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan which is technically a CSTO base but mainly staffed so far with Russian troops, and of course under Russian command, he said.

Uzbekistan withdrew from the CSTO in February 1999. According to the expert, Uzbekistan's renewed interest in the CSTO happened after the Uzbek government in 2005 ordered U.S. forces using the Khanabad airbase for operations in Afghanistan to vacate Uzbek territory (that came in response to U.S. criticism about the Andijan violence in May 2005).

"The Uzbek government has, since independence, seen itself as the military power in Central Asia, and today it is. Uzbekistan has the largest armed forces of the Central Asian states, perhaps not surprising since Uzbekistan has the largest population in Central Asia," Pannier said.

The CSTO rapid reaction force agreement requires all the members to send troops to the base at Kant, which is the CSTO anti-terrorist base, the expert said. Given the purpose of the base - counter-terrorism - these troops would need to be from the elite units. They will be under Russian command, Pannier said.

"Given the background information I provided above, it is difficult to imagine President Karimov would send off one of his elite units to serve in a neighboring country under Russian command," Pannier said.  

The expert said it needs to consider that the CSTO unit stationed in Kyrgyzstan can prove to be not enough to accomplish the task.

In any case, President Karimov has made clear he is against sending Uzbek troops abroad and gone so far as to say none of the member states should be sending troops outside their countries, Pannier said, adding that Karimov argues that if they are needed they can be transported to the region fairly quickly.

O"Tashkent would prefer to be the policeman of Central Asia and the presence of large numbers of Russian troops in the region would leave Uzbekistan as the number 2 military power in Central Asia," expert of Liberty radio Pannier told Trend News by telephone.

He said that this also includes a relation to the Rapid Reaction Force (RRF), an agreement on the establishment of which was signed within the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). It was signed by five member-countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization - Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia; Uzbekistan and Belarus refused to sign the document.

Russia already has bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan which is technically a CSTO base but mainly staffed so far with Russian troops, and of course under Russian command, he said.

Uzbekistan already withdrew from the CSTO in February 1999. According to the expert, Uzbekistan's renewed interest in the CSTO happened after the Uzbek government in 2005 ordered U.S. forces using the Khanabad airbase for operations in Afghanistan to vacate Uzbek territory (that came in response to U.S. criticism about the Andijan violence in May 2005).

"The Uzbek government has, since independence, seen itself as the military power in Central Asia, and today it is. Uzbekistan has the largest armed forces of the Central Asian states, perhaps not surprising since Uzbekistan has the largest population in Central Asia," Pannier said.

The CSTO rapid reaction force agreement requires all the members to send troops to the base at Kant, which is the CSTO anti-terrorist base, the expert said. Given the purpose of the base - counter-terrorism - these troops would need to be from the elite units. They will be under Russian command, Pannier said.

"Given the background information I provided above, it is difficult to imagine President Karimov would send off one of his elite units to serve in a neighboring country under Russian command," Pannier said. 

According to the expert, it needs to consider that the CSTO unit stationed in Kyrgyzstan can prove to be not enough to accomplish the task.

In any case, President Karimov has made clear he is against sending Uzbek troops abroad and gone so far as to say none of the member states should be sending troops outside their countries, Pannier said, adding that Karimov argues that if they are needed they can be transported to the region fairly quickly.

According to the expert, perhaps more important, the obligations of possibly providing bases for these troops to use if there is a crisis troubles Tashkent.

"It is not clear, to me at least, if the CSTO agreement requires members to make facilities available to the common force if there is a crisis. For example, if Islamic militants invade southern Kyrgyzstan, as they did in 1999 and 2000, is Uzbekistan obligated to provide bases near the Kyrgyz border for CSTO forces to use?," Pannier said. 

"Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan often have bad relations over a number of issues. But, talk of setting up another Russian base in southern Kyrgyzstan has made Uzbekistan nervous," Pannier said. 
The expert said that it is worth noting that Uzbekistan's recent problems with Russia started late last year when it became clear Russia would not support Uzbekistan's criticism of plans to build more hydropower plants in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

"Uzbekistan is afraid it will be short of water if all these hydropower plants are built. But since Russian companies are helping to build these plants there was never much chance Russia would side with Uzbekistan," the expert said.

That is the main reason Uzbekistan suddenly started losing interest in the Eurasian Economic Community and the CSTO, Pannier said.

Perhaps more important, the obligations of possibly providing bases for these troops to use if there is a crisis troubles Tashkent, the expert added.

"It is not clear, to me at least, if the CSTO agreement requires members to make facilities available to the common force if there is a crisis. For example, if Islamic militants invade southern Kyrgyzstan, as they did in 1999 and 2000, is Uzbekistan obligated to provide bases near the Kyrgyz border for CSTO forces to use?," Pannier said.  

"Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan often have bad relations over a number of issues. But, talk of setting up another Russian base in southern Kyrgyzstan has made Uzbekistan nervous," Pannier said. 

The expert said it is worth noting that Uzbekistan's recent problems with Russia started late last year when it became clear Russia would not support Uzbekistan's criticism of plans to build more hydropower plants in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

"Uzbekistan is afraid it will be short of water if all these hydropower plants are built. But since Russian companies are helping to build these plants there was never much chance Russia would side with Uzbekistan," the expert said.

That is the main reason Uzbekistan suddenly started losing interest in the Eurasian Economic Community and the CSTO, Pannier said.

/Trend News/
URL: http://www.today.az/news/politics/55062.html

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