Meeting October 3 Luxembourg, the European Union Council of Ministers of Foreign
Affairs voted to impose sanctions against Uzbekistan. They banned the sale of
weapons and military equipment to Tashkent, specifically anything that the army
could use for “internal repressions,” and sought to also reduce and redirect aid
sent to Uzbekistan.
The EU also made the unprecedented decision to unilaterally suspend its “Treaty on
Partnership and Cooperation with Uzbekistan.” Moreover, the heads of the European
foreign ministries stripped Uzbek politicians, called responsible for “extreme,
excessive, and indiscriminate use of force,” of the right to visit the EU. The
sanctions stem from Tashkent’s refusal to cooperate with the EU to investigate the
May events in Andijan, in which anywhere from 187 people (according to the official
version) or over 700 people (according to human rights activists) were killed.
Washington fully endorsed the EU sanctions and froze $20 million in financial aid.
Furthermore, on September 30 a draft resolution to launch a criminal investigation
against Uzbek President Islam Karimov was submitted to the U.S. Congress. The draft,
if approved, would be submitted to the International Criminal Court and could have
quite unpleasant consequences for the Karimov regime. In her recent tour of Central
Asia, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demonstratively avoided visiting
Before the international moves against Karimov, Belarus under President Alexander
Lukashenka was the only Commonwealth of Independent States member subjected to such
harsh sanctions. Even the President of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, managed to
avoid such a severe rebuke. Now Moscow is moving to fill the vacuum.
At the recent summit in St. Petersburg, Russian officials raised the possibility of
including Uzbekistan into the Eurasian Economic Community.
“Uzbekistan is an agricultural country without access to natural resources and the
Caspian Sea,” said Konstantin Zatulin, director of the CIS Institute and a Russian
Duma deputy. In order to solve its own problems “Tashkent oriented itself toward
Washington for a long time and distanced itself from Russia, but its hopes have not
Uzbekistan has also put in an application to join the CIS Collective Security Treaty
Organization. It had been an original signatory to the CIS Collective Security
Treaty in 1992, but withdrew when the agreement was expanded in 2002 (Argumenty i
fakty, October 12; Novye izvestiya, October 13).
Cooperation with Tashkent would have obvious benefits for Moscow. Uzbekistan is the
most populous country in Central Asia and occupies the geographic center. Uzbekistan
is the only country that borders all five Central Asian states, including
Afghanistan. Moreover, a considerable Uzbek diaspora lives compactly on the
territories adjacent to Uzbekistan. All these factors make Uzbekistan a key player
in the region. Whoever controls Uzbekistan could reasonably influence the situation
in other parts of Central Asia.
However, a partnership with Uzbekistan also has considerable potential drawbacks.
After the Andijan massacre, Tashkent has made clear that it no longer wants to
maintain even a veneer of democracy, and it is deliberately isolating itself from
the world community. As earlier reported by EDM, Uzbek courts ordered the closure of
the offices of Internews, an American organization helping journalists in developing
countries. Uzbek courts also suspended activities by IREX, an American NGO that
conducts student exchanges and provides Internet access (see EDM, October 4). Uzbek
authorities have decided to simply get rid of any problematic non-governmental
organizations (NGOs). More than half of the NGOs registered in Uzbekistan have been
closed under duress. Typically, local security officials invite the heads of
blacklisted NGOs to appear at law-enforcement agencies, at which time they are
“encouraged” to dissolve their organizations “without making noise” (Fergana.ru,
Shortly after the Andijan uprising, the authorities arrested the well-known human
rights activist Saidjakhan Zainbidinov and radio correspondent Nosir Zakir. Elena
Uralaeva, a human-rights activist based in Tashkent, has been committed to an insane
asylum. In recent weeks, Mutobar Tadjibaeva, a prominent human-rights activist from
Fergana, was also placed under arrest. “It is simply impossible for independent
journalists and human rights activists to work after the Andijan events. They have
all practically either left Uzbekistan or are about to do so,” Tulkin Karaev, a
human-rights activist and journalist from in southern Uzbekistan, told
Since the Andijan events, Uzbekistan has deteriorated into a model totalitarian
state along the lines of Turkmenistan. Moscow’s interest in supporting a
demonstratively totalitarian regime might harm Russia’s international image. But so
far, that is a risk Moscow seems willing to bear.