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Uzbekistan: Between Russia and the West

Uzbek President Islam Karimov, seen here shaking hands with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on April 25, is embarking on a two-day Moscow visit to meet Putin and possibly discuss security cooperation. (Photo: Russian Presidential Press Service)

Mindful of the diplomatic tightrope walk that his government performs between West and East, Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov headed to Russia on a rare foreign trip on April 25.
 
Talks during the two-day visit are expected to focus on security cooperation — Uzbekistan is reportedly eager to snap up some new Russian military technology — while also possibly finalizing a debt forgiveness deal that will see Moscow give up on $865 million it is owed.
 
If Russia expects undying gratitude, however, it need not bother, since Uzbekistan will all the same continue to cultivate its friendship with the United States and other partners in Asia.
 
Russia’s State Duma ratified the deal to write off the bulk of Uzbekistan’s debts in late March, leaving Tashkent with only another $25 million left to pay. But Uzbekistan sees this as no act of generosity, but rather considers the deal as fair quid pro quo for relinquishing its claim to its stake in Russia’s Diamond Fund, a vast collection of riches inherited from the Soviet Union.
 

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Uzbekistan: Between Russia and the West

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