Diplomatic Negligence of Moscow

Ivan Preobrazhenskij

Latest achievements of Russian within Central Asia are so significant, that should be widely discussed. This has been the greatest absurdity of Russian diplomacy since its assistance to American colleagues to change the political regime in Georgia, leading Mihail Saakashvili. Just in a month Russia lost its positions in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that had been gained in recent years due to support, including financial support of these regimes. Instead, Moscow has gained ephemeral victory in Kirgizia in the issue of American military base withdrawal. Thus total Russian influence will remain only in the poorest Central Asian Republic, despite the Kremlin had other plans. Of course, there is Kazakhstan left and the relations in this sphere are firm – but this is not a merit of Russian policymakers, but of the president Nursultan Nazarbaev, who has developed and followed strict international policy course.

For those who don’t monitor Central Asian policy we’d like briefly to remind the “previous series”. Due to German initiative the EU lifted sanctions  against Uzbekistan imposed after a bloody suppression of the uprising in Andijan city, official Tashkent started to change its international course from pro-Russian for pro-Western. And it wasn’t the first time. To start, Uzbekistani President Islam Karimov declared about the withdrawal from  the Eurasian Economic Community.  Moscow demonstrated calmness and became really worried only after the beginning of consultations on the withdrawal of Uzbekistan from military analogue of NATO – Collective Security Treaty Organization.

During the visit to Tashkent, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev promised Uzbekistani colleagues to extend their cooperation at the expense of Tajikistan, to prevent them from such a radical decision. As a dry-land Uzbekistan is aware of the problem of water sources, Russian leader stated in public, that Moscow would refuse Tajikistan of hydropower plant construction. Obviously, those who prepared this statement didn’t consider the fact that Tajikistan had been freezing for several years due to the lack of electric power.

This statement incited completely foreseeable reaction of the official Dushanbe. At first, Tajikistani ambassador was “kindly” invited to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for his very harsh comments.  Later on the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon refused to attend the summits of CSTO and EAEC held in Moscow, referring to the necessity to deal with frosts.

After realizing what a great diplomatic mistake had been done, Russia got anxious. All means were used to persuade Rahmon to visit Moscow. They say, that a day before summit Tajikistani leader received phone calls from post-soviet states leaders with a favor to “step by” to the Kremlin in order not to sabotage a very important event. In practice, Tajikistan forced Russia to beg a pardon. In the result, Rahmon as well as Karimov attended EAEC summit. Moreover, already after the summit Dmitry Medvedev successfully “bought” American military base in exchange for a credit in another Central Asian Republic – Kirgizia.

It seems like a glorious victory of Russian diplomacy. Conflicts are resolved, Uzbekistan remains in EAEC. Rahmon agreed on reconciliation. Kirgizia is expelling Americans.

However, in reality this is even grater defeat. And the winner is Islam Karimov, who perfectly walked over Russian geopoliticians. I wouldn’t say that planning changing of the course from pro-Russian for pro-Western he couldn’t even imagine that Moscow would “assist” him so desperately. Nevertheless he managed to deal with several problems at once. Firstly, to escape from the influential sphere of Russia without conflicts and accusations, that he “sells” the ally who was the only one to support him after Andijan events. Secondly, right after Kirgizia decision to expel American base, Islam Karimov gained a promise from the USA “to leave past in past”, and to obtain American credits in exchange of location within Uzbekistani territory of military base, expelled by the neighbors. And finally, to put at odds Russia and Tajikistan, which is not really a friend to Tashkent.
As for Emomali Rahmon, he also came out as a winner in this story. He gained public excuses from Russia, showing that his point also should be considered.  And in addition, after expel of American military base Tajikistan agreed to transit NATO vehicles through its territory, i.e. the same as its Uzbekistani neighbor gained international support of the USA.

And even Kirgizia obtained money, but expressed no guarantees that it wouldn’t let any foreign military bases to its territory in future. And in fact, that American base from which the planes launched to Afghanistan, was located closer to Chinese than Russian borders.

Conclusion is obvious: Russia hasn’t been defeated publically by the USA in the issue of Central Asia control for a long time. I guess, since the times when it let its “American allies” and their bases to this region, acceding mythic “antiterrorist coalition”. Only then the victory belonged to American diplomacy, having played on the best feelings of Russian political elite. And today – it is an absurd diplomatic negligence of Moscow.

Translated from politcom.ru