Uzbekistan Suspends Its Membership in CSTO

• Category: Uzbekistan
On June 28th official Tashkent sent a relevant note to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Secretariat to inform it that Uzbekistan suspends its membership.

Uzbekistan objects to “the CSTO’s strategic plans on Afghanistan” and “plans for boosting military cooperation between the CSTO states,” Kommersant said, citing sources in the Uzbek Foreign Ministry. The move may signal that the Central Asian country wants to host a U.S. base on its territory after U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, Kommersant reported. But under CSTO agreements, a member state would have to consult with the other members before hosting the armed forces of a non-CSTO country.

Tashkent had already used its right to opt out of the organization at any time: in 1999 it refused to extend the treaty but in August of 1999 it restored its CSTO membership. In 2009 Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov refused to sign the agreement on the Collective Forces of Operative Reaction (CFOR) within the CSTO treaty and brought cooperation with the Collective Security Treaty Organization to a minimum. Possibly, Russia’s plans to open a military base in Kyrgyzstan that Uzbekistan was strongly against, served as a reason. There are rather strained relations between Bishkek and Tashkent, which is explained by the existence of 58 disputable areas on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. In addition to this, the inter-ethnic clashes that occurred in the city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan in 2010 cooled the relations between the two countries even more.

Russian experts are not surprised at the suspension of Uzbekistan’s CSTO membership. And still, Tashkent has made a very risky step, an expert with the Institute of the CIS States, Andrei Grozin says. “Tashkent’s foreign policy is zigzagging. It undergoes changes only once in 2 or 3 years. Tashkent wants to win the love of NATO that is interested in solving tasks concerning the cuts of the Uzbek contingent in Afghanistan. Tashkent wants to become the key link in the future troop withdrawal and play the role of the main spring board through which the transhipment of cargoes to today’s Afghanistan’s western border will be carried out”, Grozin stressed.

Over the past two decades, the 74-year old Karimov has maneuvered between Russia and the West, periodically shifting loyalties. Karimov allowed the United States to use a major air base for the war in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, but he fell out with the U.S. and other Western nations after the 2005 uprising in the city of Andijan and moved to boost ties with Moscow. In recent years, Karimov has sought to mend ties with the West while Uzbekistan’s relations with Russia have grown colder.

Kommersant reported on June 15 that the Pentagon is holding talks with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on the transfer of military equipment used by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to the Central Asian states after the U.S. withdrawal in 2014.

“The United States will make Uzbekistan its strategic ally, will provide financial and military assistance, assume some security guarantees, close its eyes to human rights violations,” the Kommersant quoted Kozyulin as saying.

However, neither the USA nor NATO are able to give security guarantees to Uzbekistan on the part of its neighbours.