Goodbye, Karimov

Edit WSJ 2/8/05 e Jim Hoagland, Wash. Post 8/8

Karimov (P Uzbekistan), assicuratosi l’appoggio di Russia e Cina, anche su questioni energetiche, ha dato il benservito a USA, chiedendo di abbandonare la base militare K2 entro 6 mesi, e la cessazione immediata delle attività militari.

USA avevano aiutato a trasferire da Kirghizistan a Romania un certo numero di ribelli uzbeki sfuggiti al massacro di Andijan.

[Avrebbe approfittato anche di discussioni interne all’amministrazione USA tra linea “realista” di chiudere un occhio su repressione interna, e linea “idealista” di “difesa diritti democratici” e logoramento regime su modello Georgia, Kirghizistan –ndr].

WSJ, che appoggia linea intransigente: pentola a pressione uzbeka sviluppa ribelli islamici che potranno minacciare anche Russia e Cina (Uiguri).

Anche Hoagland appoggia linea dura USA, ma avverte che Karimov può essere diverso da Mobutu, Marcos o Honecker, perché Putin ha forte interesse a mantenerlo al potere.

August 2, 2005

The decision by Uzbekistan’s leader to cancel a base agreement with the U.S. is unsurprising and in the long term salutary. George W. Bush’s determination to promote freedom and democracy was always going to alienate dictators dying — or rather, killing — to hang on to their jobs. In the case of Islam Karimov, the U.S. was faced with a tyrant who showed no interest in reform and is becoming a source for instability in the region.


The decision to open a U.S. airbase in Karshi-Khanabad, in the south of the Central Asian country, was an expedient born of the need to oust the Taliban and al Qaeda from neighboring Afghanistan in the aftermath of September 11. Contrary to those who chide the U.S. for having a double standard, the existence of the K2 base did not prevent the U.S. from prodding Mr. Karimov toward liberalization, or criticizing him outright when his troops fired on antigovernment protesters in May. The U.N. says some 700 were killed in Andijan; Mr. Karimov says only 180.
Tashkent has not given a reason for handing the U.S. a six-month eviction notice for K2, but it doesn’t take a lot of guessing to figure out why. The decision was announced on Friday only hours after the U.S. helped to airlift to Romania hundreds of Uzbeks taking refuge in nearby Kyrgyzstan.


Nicholas Burns, the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, said this weekend that the U.S. acted because of a fear that the refugees would be persecuted in Uzbekistan. Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice linked Uzbekistan with Belarus, another former Soviet republic with a sorry record, as two countries that "are failing to live up to their commitments on human rights, democracy and the rule of law."


Whether closing K2 will hinder U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan or hunt for Osama bin Laden isn’t clear. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in any case made sure the effect would be limited by rushing to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan last month to ensure that U.S. forces will continue to use Manas air base in the former and retain refueling rights in the latter. "We’re always thinking ahead. We’ll be fine," Mr. Rumsfeld said about the base eviction.


Mr. Karimov had put restrictions on the base and threatened to close it altogether in May when the U.S. protested the Andijan massacre. Now he has played his last card and can no longer try to bluff the U.S. into ignoring his human-rights abuses.


Why he felt he could do so is no secret. China and Russia both courted him assiduously after the massacre, and in the end apparently reassured him that he could rely on their tender mercies. Their courtship confirmed that the response of both to the Bush pro-democracy policy is to woo the tyrants the U.S. keeps at arms length.


Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly wants to bring former Soviet republics back under Moscow’s sway. That’s why he supports former Soviet functionaries Mr. Karimov and the Belarus bad boy, Alexander Lukashenka. China’s protégés include dictators in Burma and North Korea, and it is warming up to some unseemly regimes in Africa and Latin America.


Both China and Russia should wonder, however, if Mr. Karimov’s Uzbek pressure cooker is really something they want to live next door to. The Uzbek jihadists that he has antagonized are a threat not only to the West but to China and Russia as well. Both Russia and China have used Karimov-style tactics with their own Muslim populations, radicalizing Chechens and the Uighurs of western China. Terrorists spawned in such places have guns and bombs and don’t mind travel.


For the U.S., the question of supporting Mr. Karimov for the sake of the war on terror was often presented as a "dilemma" or a "quandary" for the Bush administration. But it ceased to be so from the moment the White House decided that to accommodate dictatorial regimes for the sake of fighting terrorism was counterproductive, buying neither stability nor democracy. From that moment, the relationship with Islam Karimov was doomed.

<1337410">Understanding Uzbekistan’s Snub



The Washington Post

August 8, 2005


If you can supply energy to world markets, do you really need the U.S. and its conflicting priorities and bureaucracies, and all that yammering about human rights and democracy? For Islam A. Karimov, the dictatorial ruler of Uzbekistan, the answer is a big NO.

Mr. Karimov’s recent order to the U.S. to cease operations at the K-2 air base and pull its troops out of his Central Asian republic within six months came only after he had reached new understandings on energy and other subjects with the leaders of China, Russia and his immediate neighbors. Tyrant and butcher Mr. Karimov may be; fool he is not.

Mr. Karimov received assent or encouragement from Russian President Vladimir Putin and from China to stick his thumb in Uncle Sam’s eye by closing the base, a move that complicates the resupply of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That makes the U.S.-Uzbek rupture more than a diplomatic spat over human rights. It becomes a focus for global strategy as well, raising serious questions about the Bush administration’s ability to sustain an American military presence in Central Asia.

Settling on a strategy toward Mr. Karimov alone was not that difficult for Washington. Superpowers have a history of cutting adrift once useful bloodstained dictators. But charting why Mr. Putin is now asking President Bush to set a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Central Asia is a far bigger, still unfolding task.

So is reconciling the meaning of a U.S. commitment to democracy and human rights abroad with the demands of the global war on terrorism and the energy-dominant global economy. While principles remain constant, the reflexes developed during the Cold War seem insufficient today.

Mr. Karimov became an embarrassing partner for Washington following the police massacres of hundreds of civilians in the town of Andijan on May 13. He refused to respond to public U.S. demands for an independent international investigation. The speed and the studied shrug with which Washington greeted the Uzbek president’s expulsion seem to reflect not only a bowing to Uzbek sovereignty but also an assessment that Mr. Karimov’s political viability is running on empty. The former Sov
iet bureaucrat is playing a losing and possibly short-lived hand at home, in this view.

He superficially resembles a 21st century Mobutu Sese Seko, Ferdinand Marcos or Erich Honecker. Those Cold War-era satraps became more trouble than they were worth to their superpower patrons when they were openly repudiated by their own people. Communicating their expendability was often more a matter of calculation than of conscience.

Because the U.S. is reaching so deeply into the former Soviet sphere of influence to fight Islamic extremism, Washington does not have wholly owned "SOBs" of its own there. Actions or words from Washington that undermine Mr. Karimov (or his autocratic neighbors) also affect Mr. Putin’s hold on power in the Kremlin in a direct way.

This makes Washington’s support for human rights abroad a more complex but even more important undertaking than it was in the Cold War. How other nations, and particularly Islamic nations, treat their citizens is today the substance, not just the form, of international relations.

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