New Uzbekistan President to Maintain Karimov's Isolationist Foreign Policy
Uzbekistan's new president has signaled that he will continue the country's isolationist foreign policy, promising to not join any military alliances and to not allow any foreign military bases in the country.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev was confirmed on Thursday as Uzbekistan's interim president, following the death of Islam Karimov, who had ruled the country since before the Soviet Union collapsed.
The same day, Mirziyoyev addressed parliament and laid out the broad strokes of the policies he intends to follow. In the military/foreign policy section of the speech there were no surprises, and he explicitly confirmed that he intended to to pursue the isolationism that Karimov developed over the period of his rule.
"The firm position of our country, as before, is to not join any military-political bloc, to not allow the deployment of military bases and objects of any other state on the territory of Uzbekistan, or the deployment of our soldiers outside the borders of the country," Mirziyoyev said.
The reference to the "military-political bloc" would preclude Uzbekistan rejoining the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which it left in 2012. Russia (which leads the group) has held on to hopes that Uzbekistan would rejoin; Uzbekistan's absence -- as the biggest country in Central Asia -- has hampered the CSTO's credibility in the region.
Mirziyoyev did, though, praise the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a group that served the interests of Uzbekistan. The SCO could be called a "military-political bloc," but its military component is secondary (or tertiary) and Uzbekistan has mostly not participated in SCO military activities, anyway.
In a 2012 foreign policy document, Uzbekistan banned the deployment of foreign military bases. The United States had a military base in Uzbekistan, at Karshi-Khanabad, until 2005 and there were frequent rumors that the U.S. might reopen a base there as a replacement for its base in Kyrgyzstan. Germany had a small air base in Termez, on Uzbekistan's border with Afghanistan, that it vacated only last year.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.