Uzbekistan Achieves U.S. Military Aid Parity With Neighbors
The White House today released its proposed budget for the upcoming year, and the big news from The Bug Pit's area of interest is that the U.S. is now giving the same amount of military aid to Uzbekistan as it is to the rest of the Central Asian republics. Last year, Uzbekistan was budgeted a mere $100,000 in Foreign Military Financing aid, which allows countries to buy U.S. equipment. Still, that was the first FMF money Uzbekistan had been budgeted since 2005, because of Congressional concerns about human rights. But according to the budget documents (pdf) released today, in the current fiscal year Uzbekistan's aid has been bumped up to $1.5 million, and it is slated to get the same next year. That's still small potatoes compared to the big U.S. military aid recipients: Pakistan is budgeted to get $350 million, Egypt $1.3 billion and Israel $3.1 billion. And this also is dwarfed by the cash these countries get as reimbursement for being part of the Northern Distribution Network. But Uzbekistan's aid package is now the same as its neighbors': Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan also are budgeted to get $1.5 million, Kazakhstan $1.8 million and Turkmenistan $685,000.
The countries of the Caucasus get more: Armenia and Azerbaijan $2.7 million each, and Georgia $14.4 million (though we'll have to wait and see if any of that includes weaponry). Except for Uzbekistan's aid, and a doubling of Tajikistan's aid, there aren't many changes from last year. And the documents contain very little explanation of the aid packages for these countries. Georgia does get highlighted briefly:
The funding requested in FY 2013 will focus on encouraging Georgia's democratization and developing its free-market economy. U.S. programs will help strengthen institutional checks and balances and the rule of law; develop a more vibrant civil society; strengthen political pluralism; bolster independent media and public access to information; increase energy security; promote the reforms necessary to foster economic development and attract foreign investment; and further social sector development.
But there isn't anything on any other country in the region except the numbers.
We do know that Uzbekistan's aid package is likely to include GPS systems, body armor and night vision equipment. But what seems most significant about this is that Uzbekistan, while it still requires a waiver to get the aid, is otherwise being treated more and more like a normal U.S. partner in the region.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.