Organized Crime and Uzbekistan Government Contracts: Is the NDN Affected?
There are high-level contacts between government officials and organized crime in Uzbekistan, according to a couple of recently released WikiLeaks cables. One describes a party held by the wife of "Tashkent crime boss" Salim Abduvaliyev and attended by the wives of several top government officials. The other details Abduvaliyev's role in arranging corrupt government contracts, and concludes:
Corruption is rampant in the GOU [government of Uzbekistan]. Tenders and government positions can be fairly easily secured by paying the right amount of money to the appropriate individual.
You mean like the contracts given for operations on the Northern Distribution Network, to ship military goods to Afghanistan? Of course whatever U.S. contracts are given out there are managed by the U.S. government, not by Uzbekistan, so it's not clear what, if any, influence Abduvaliyev or anyone else would have on those deals. But it's worth wondering about.
The AP, reporting on the cables, ties the revelations from the cable to the Northern Distribution Network and Uzbekistan's increasing cooperation with the U.S. military, noting that the "accusations... could reawaken concerns over U.S. dealings with the authoritarian Central Asian nation." I'll give you a second here for you to stop laughing. You can't blame the reporter for trying to find a news peg that will make readers care. But it'll take a lot more than that to stop dealing with corrupt, authoritarian states. But yes, if nothing else it does illustrate that U.S. officials are plenty aware of the fact that dealing with the Uzbekistan government is likely to enmesh you in corruption.
Meanwhile, Karimov has given a speech on the occasion of Motherland Defenders Day (which was on January 14) in which he lays out the priorities for the Uzbekistan military. And among the usual sorts of things you hear in a speech like that -- we will buy modern equipment, etc. -- the president made an explicit statement on whom he's most interested in cooperating with (via BBC Monitoring):
In modernizing the system of military education, it is necessary to widely use the experience of foreign states, including NATO's member countries, in training officers and sergeants.
It was just a couple years ago when the conventional wisdom was that Uzbekistan, from a geopolitical orientation point of view, was kind of bouncing back and forth between the West and Russia. We haven't heard much about that lately, though. If nothing else, the NDN seems to have -- for now -- won Uzbekistan's loyalty. And hey - what's a little corruption and organized crime between friends?
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
Sign up for Eurasianet's free weekly newsletter.