Uzbekistan has announced that it will not prolong its membership in the CIS Collective Security Treaty when it expires this coming April. Uzbekistan’s move is the more stinging as the pact was signed in its capital and is generally known as the Tashkent Treaty. Uzbekistan’s policy has–since the signing of the original treaty in 1992–moved gradually toward total independence from Moscow. Two weeks ago, Uzbekistan signaled its intentions by refusing to participate in a discussion on extending the treaty, or even to attend the Moscow meeting–of the chiefs of the security councils of CIS countries–which was convened for that purpose (see the Monitor, January 27).
Uzbekistan’s reasons for dropping out of the treaty have been listed on the record by Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahadyr Umarov, and off the record by more senior officials. Tashkent disagrees with Moscow’s intention to secure an open-ended CIS mandate for Russian forces in Tajikistan and to add CIS country units to those forces. In Tashkent’s view, the process of national reconciliation in Tajikistan voids Russia’s justification for a military presence there. Uzbekistan suspects that the real purpose of that presence is to ensure Russian influence in Tajikistan and to intimidate neighboring countries. For these reasons, Uzbekistan also objects to Russia’s apparent initiative to sign soon with Tajikistan a bilateral alliance treaty similar to the Russian-Armenian one. Moreover, Tashkent currently seeks accommodation in a regional framework with Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities, which control almost all of that country up to the Uzbek border. Uzbekistan is concerned that continued deployment of Russian forces in Tajikistan would thwart such an accommodation. Uzbekistan takes the position that “there must be no military bases of any foreign states in Central Asia at all, just as there is currently not a single Russian soldier in Uzbekistan.”
Beyond Central Asia, Uzbekistan “categorically disagrees” with Moscow’s “ill-thought-out and myopic” policy in the Caucasus, where “Russia’s military presence in Armenia aggravates tensions in the entire region.” More generally, Tashkent considers that CIS multilateral institutions are sometimes being “turned into a screen” for policies that do not represent the interests of member countries.” “The limit beyond which they speak on our behalf without even any prior consultations with us has already been crossed,” Uzbek officials state (Reuters, Russian agencies, February 3; Vremya MN, February 2).
In contrast to Russia, Uzbekistan favors NATO’s enlargement in Europe; and, most recently, has sympathized with Western actions in Kosovo. Uzbekistan opened a mission at NATO headquarters yesterday–a meaningful signal to the CIS foreign ministers’ meeting held the same day in Moscow. (Vremya MN, February 2; Reuters, Russian agencies, February 3-4; see also CIS section above).
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