Uzbekistan without CSTO: expected but risky
The collective security treaty was signed on May 15th, 1992. On December 2nd, 2004, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on granting the CSTO an observer status in the UN General Assembly. The CSTO unites Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. This agreement provides for the right of any CSTO member to opt out of the organization at any time.
Tashkent has already used its right: 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 transshipment of cargoes to today’s Afghanistan’s western border will be carried out”, Grozin stressed.
However, with due regard for the current situation in Central Asian countries which is very difficult, they won’t do without security guarantees on the part of their neighbours. Neither the USA nor NATO wants to give such guarantees to Uzbekistan - and none of them can do that. Tashkent has time to think everything over. Taking into account the choices the Uzbek authorities make from time to time, Uzbekistan may soon again find itself on the list of CSTO members.