The Uzbek factor in Kyrgyzstan

I confess I am often distinctly skeptical about the analysis produced by STRATFOR (although they do have some of the prettiest graphics around), but while not agreeing with a fair amount of the piece overall, Peter Zeihan’s The Kyrgyzstan Crisis and the Russian Dilemma does make an interesting and important point about the role of Uzbekistan. Talk of the ‘Uzbek goliath’ is misleading and the suggestion that an Uzbek/Russian military showdown in likely, maybe even imminent, is I would suggest way off beam. However, shorn of some of this sensationalism it does rightly raise the issue of Tashkent’s regional ambitions. Analysis too often regards the ‘stans as (1) victims of circumstance, (2) pawns or booty in geopolitical rivalries between Moscow, Beijing and Washington or (3) eagerly selling themselves to the highest bidder — but almost always essentially on a par with one another, as if there really isn’t a great difference between them. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, in their different ways, have ambitions towards regional authority that will be worth watching in the future, though. In the current crisis in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan can fear instability on its border (especially as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan starts to sift back into Central Asia and look for unstable, undercontrolled havens), resent the treatment of ethnic Uzbeks and see opportunities for influence all at the same time…

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