US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is visiting Central Asia. On Tuesday he visited Astana. Wednesday – Tashkent. We talked about Blinken’s visit with political scientist Rafael Sattarov.
– What is the main purpose of the visit of the US Secretary of State to Tashkent and why consecutive visits to two Central Asian capitals?
There are, of course, various reasons for this. The main focus is to discourage the possibility of creating a zone free from international sanctions for Russia, to become such a platform for circumventing the sanctions of Russian companies or banks. So that these countries, primarily Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, do not turn into a kind of Iraq for Iran, when the Iranian leadership uses Iraqi banks and institutions to circumvent their sanctions. This, of course, will first of all be discussed behind closed doors and has already been discussed in Kazakhstan.
Secondly, two diplomats have already noted the on-duty phrases here that relations are developing dynamically, but in fact this is a very slow process, and a toxic atmosphere is beginning to take shape precisely in the sphere of diplomacy. This does not apply to the economy, this does not apply, for example, to cultural and humanitarian relations, but it is precisely in bilateral relations in the sphere of diplomacy that a toxic atmosphere is developing. What it is: first of all, Uzbek politicians in the eyes of Americans become some kind of lobbyists for Russian oligarchs of Uzbek origin, such as Alisher Usmanov and others. And there were cases, as noted by Western publications, the Uzbek leadership asked to lift international sanctions against Alisher Usmanov. Of course, these moments do not add warmth to bilateral relations.
Secondly, there is such a different attitude towards the same event if we talk about the Russian-Ukrainian war, or rather, about Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Here, of course, the leadership of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan speaks of their favorite multi-vector approach, that this is an indicator of multi-vector approach – maintaining neutrality and a less critical attitude towards the Kremlin’s policy. But for Americans, this looks more like a fear of irritating the Kremlin leadership, that is, in their understanding, there is already a growing conviction that the Central Asian states are more afraid of offending the Kremlin, offending Putin than international sanctions and some measures from the world community. And in this regard, of course, Blinken is trying to finally understand and dissuade them, to dissuade the states of Central Asia from the possibility of becoming such a workaround for international sanctions,
– Blinken’s visit takes place on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Do you think the United States is also trying to convince Uzbekistan and all other countries in the region to express a clear position on the war in Ukraine?
– Yes and no. Of course, they demand this from everyone, and not only from the states of Central Asia, they demand this from the states of Africa and Asia. And in general, Russia also does not occupy the most central place, it is international sanctions that occupy a special place, but for the Americans the main threat, the main challenge comes from China. And here, of course, the Chinese factor is also very worrying for American politicians, and not only American ones. European big politicians also said that the European Union would be actively involved in the affairs of Central Asia, that is, actively build up its relations with the states of Central Asia so that China would not dominate there. In short, we will say that the factor of geopolitics, unfortunately, occupies a central place in relations with the United States, although one could talk about other areas, but, unfortunately,
– How could you characterize Mirziyoyev’s foreign policy against the backdrop of the Ukrainian war, and where is Uzbekistan actually heading under these conditions?
– It is not clear, but I believe that the Uzbek leadership will increasingly raise the factor of non-alignment, that is, maintaining neutrality, and I think this will occupy a special place. Moreover, the visit of the President of Uzbekistan to Azerbaijan and his participation in the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement is expected. And I think that Uzbek diplomacy will rather go in this direction and will use the platform of the Non-Aligned Movement as a justification for its neutrality in the Ukrainian-Russian war. For Aliyev, the Non-Aligned Movement served as an additional platform for explaining the Karabakh problem, when he was diplomatically semi-isolated in Western countries and here he had the platform of the Non-Aligned Movement. And I think that Mirziyoyev and the leadership of the country as a whole will follow the same tactics.