Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 178

Having defeated the Islamist incursion in Uzbekistan, President Islam Karimov is now denouncing Moscow for exploiting the Islamist threat in order to restore Russian domination in Central Asia. In a series of televised appearances and press interviews in recent days, Karimov lashed out at Russia’s military and “special services” for deliberately exaggerating the Islamist threat as an argument for the creation of a Russian-led military bloc in Central Asia. He referred to telephone calls and messages from Russian officials, purporting to warn him that massive Islamist forces were poised to attack Uzbekistan and that only the CIS security system could offer reliable protection. In that context, Karimov alluded to Moscow’s claims that Afghan Taliban forces aimed to capture the Uzbek cities of Samarkand and Bukhara, and cited Russia’s Defense Minister Igor Sergeev as falsely contending that a “5,000-strong bandit force” was concentrated on Uzbekistan’s border.

Karimov, furthermore, decried the planting of alarmist stories in Russian media by that country’s intelligence services. He used the KGB term “aktivki” [“active measures,” disinformation] to describe that “campaign, the goal of which was to foster insecurity and panic in Central Asia; to show Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan as helpless, incapable of coping with the treats; to portray the CIS Collective Security Treaty as the sole salvation and make us rejoin that treaty, which Uzbekistan had abandoned; and to persuade public opinion that it was necessary to send Russian troops or create Russian bases here.”

He expressed concern in connection with CIS Collective Security Council Secretary Valery Nikolayenko’s visits to Central Asia, preparatory to a Council meeting which would discuss “regional collective security forces” under Russian leadership. Uzbekistan for its part, according to Karimov, “never invited certain foreign troops here, will never do so and would not join in any [military] adventures.”

Karimov stopped short of closing the door to military cooperation with Russia. He stated that the existing programs, which were launched prior to the recent fighting, would go forward as part of efforts to upgrade Uzbekistan’s military inventory. But he made it clear that those programs are unrelated to any CIS undertakings, do not presuppose a military alliance with Russia, and do not affect Uzbekistan’s military cooperation with other countries (Turkmen Television, Uzbek Television, September 21, 22; Vremya novostei, Itar-Tass, September 25; see the Monitor, May 22, 31, June 29; Fortnight in Review, May 26).