The death of Karimov and the end of the "Great Game" for the US« Back
Permanent President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov died September, 2, he used to say: "Uzbekistan is not an iceberg to drift." Thus, he stressed that outwardly seemed unstable political course of the state is, in fact, thought-out line. All the years of the reign of Karimov in Uzbekistan held popular among the former Soviet republics "multi-vector policy", balancing between the participants of the so-called "new great game" in Central Asia: Russia, USA, and China. Left after the collapse of the Soviet Union with a rich resource base, but poor infrastructure Uzbekistan took the course on modernization and achieving the leading position in the region and looking for the "donors" for the realization of this objective. But can the political orientation change with the departure of Uzbekistan Karimov? Where will Uzbek iceberg continue to drift?
Deputy Director of the Institute of CIS countries, Vladimir Evseev, in an interview with "Sputnik" expressed the idea that in a quarter-century passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union the "new great game" has already become old. According to the expert, two of the major players - Russia and China have been able to come to cooperation within the framework of such organizations as the SCO and BRICS, and now realize joint projects in Central Asia. And the US is now forced to steadily weaken their presence in the region, and cannot strain both Russia and China by participating in conflicts in other regions.
The reduction of the US presence in Afghanistan has objectively reduced their role in Central Asia. US tried to compensate for this by using the new formats of interaction. As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has actively promoted the concept of the "New Silk Road", but this concept was never realized. In November 2015 during a visit to Samarkand by the US Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed a new format - "C5 + 1" (i.e. representatives of the five Central Asian states, plus the US) - Evseev reminds. But the success of this project, too, should not be counted on because of the lack of the US resources, the expert concludes, remembering how little progress has brought a visit to Washington by the foreign ministers of Central Asian countries: "When five ministers come and discuss five projects, and they are told, we can allocate 15 million dollars for five states, of course, it becomes ridiculous. It is not the money for the states that they will do something".
Also, much success has not brought cooperation through NATO. According to Evseev, the most serious cooperation with the Alliance did not have Uzbekistan but Kazakhstan through the Partnership for Peace, but now it is clear that it has not received serious prospects. As for Uzbekistan, that "although there were serious allegations of the translation capabilities of the Uzbek army to NATO standards a few years ago, the Uzbek military and security forces, and to this day possess the Russian weapons, and it is a very strong factor between Moscow and Tashkent," - expert said.
The US is not going to leave Central Asia, but it also will not give all the resources on it, because their forces are now considerably undermined by the participation in a more serious confrontation with China in other regions of the world such as the South China Sea, or in the Middle East conflicts. The expert noted that the US is trying to shift costs to protect its interests in Central Asia to other countries, in particular on Japan, which also has a format of cooperation with the region called the "Central Asia plus Japan". In such framework Prime Minister Abe made his first visit to Central Asia in October last year and in Mongolia by signing contracts worth of $27 bln. The largest of the disclosed transactions were concluded with Turkmenistan - $17,8 bln. But $10 bln. of them are not an investment in the framework of the TAPI gas pipeline project, - Evseev recalled. A gas transit security problem through Afghanistan has not been canceled, and it is unlikely to disappear in the coming years, so the prospects of this project and to obtain by Turkmenistan of the Japanese money is extremely vague.
There have also been attempts to use Turkey - said the expert. "In the early 90-ies Uzbekistan believed that Turkey could seriously help them. Then students went there for education, process of rapprochement with Ankara was actively going on, but then the process has almost stood up, and now Uzbekistan has rather complicated relations with Turkey. There is some positive for Russia that there are no educational institutions that have been established by Fethullah Gülen in Uzbekistan and it limits US influence on Uzbekistan," - said Evseev.
"In fact, the US has no such state, to which they could shift the burden of protecting its interests in Central Asia. Therefore, the US position in the region will steadily weaken and the positions of Russia and China together will strengthen, as well as of some other states. I think Japan will be further active, Kazakhstan, Iran, and Turkey. Moreover, each state will work in its own field. For example, in the field of education, Turkey is not the only active, but also Japan,"- Evseev said in an interview with" Sputnik ".
The expert also pointed out that this state of affairs is not contrary to the geopolitical interests of Russia, "Uzbekistan has virtually no alternative to participation in the Russian-Chinese projects, but we do not want Uzbekistan to become someone else's weapon. When the Uzbeks wanted to use the Americans, the United States wanted to make Uzbekistan a tool of influence. And we would not want to see China making Uzbekistan also its own instrument". Uzbekistan has always had serious claims to regional leadership. As a former Soviet republic, it especially wanted to emphasize its sovereignty in relation to Russia. Therefore, only if there is the balance of power in Central Asia and Uzbekistan's cooperation with different partners, it can be sure that the dominating role of Russia will not threaten its sovereignty and the role in the region to which it applies. Earlier fearing this, Uzbekistan conducted an extremely unstable political line.
"Uzbekistan has problems with almost all its neighbors. Under these conditions, probably, it is necessary to Tashkent to bet on Russia, and try to help Russia to soften the confrontation that takes place. I very much hope that the new Uzbek leadership will be more far-sighted and will not start to change its orientation as a weather vane. Then Russia will have more desire to help Uzbekistan in addressing the problems that Uzbekistan cannot solve itself,"- said Evseev.