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Date: Sun, 4 Feb 1996 15:55:44 -0500
Sender: Former Soviet Republic - Central Asia Political Discussion List <CENASIA@VM1.MCGILL.CA>
From: James Critchlow <critchj@SEACOAST.COM>
Subject: "Foreign Affairs" on Uzbekistan

Foreign Affairs on Uzbekistan

By James Critchlow, 4 February 1996

The current (January-February) issue of Foreign Affairs carries an interesting and thought-provoking article by the historian S. Frederick Starr arguing for better recognition of the strategic importance and potential of Uzbekistan. Starr, who wrote his article after a visit to the country, declares that Uzbekistan, far more than any of its Central Asian neighbors, is the natural anchor of security and stability in the region. (At the same time, he makes it clear that in his view Uzbekistan must "respect its neighbors' sovereignty.")

Listing some of Uzbekistan's liabilities, he cites assets that in his view outweigh them. He writes approvingly of progress achieved by the republic under Karimov's leadership. Noting that "South Korea, Japan and Germany are moving aggressively to establish themselves," Starr criticizes the United States for being slow to recognize the country's significance while paying disproportionate attention to Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan, although he finds recent evidence that this stance has begun to change for the better. Among his conclusions:

A sovereign Uzbekistan, politically and economically reformed, is the best hope to anchor a potentially unstable region and foster Russia's development as a 'normal' country free from regional insecurities and imperial longings.

As Central Asia gets on its feet, the CIS can emerge as an informal body for economic coordination among countries with a common heritage of Soviet rule rather than as a neo-imperial system enshrining Russia's sphere.... Such an arrangement, in which a sovereign and strong Uzbekistan would play a significant role, best serve the interests of all countries involved, Russia included.

Although Starr is careful to note human rights abuses and other problems, some readers may find him too uncritical of the Karimov regime and perhaps too ready to believe claims by Karimov and other officials. Still, his article makes a strong case and will, despite controversial elements, undoubtedly be an ingredient of future discussions of U.S. policy.

James Critchlow
2 Moseley Avenue
Newburyport, MA 01950