It seems the US and Russia, acting in concert to protect their mutual ally Islam Karimov, exerted pressure at a NATO meeting in Brussels to make sure language calling for an investigation into last month’s bloody repression in Uzbekistan would be excized from the meeting’s final document. Nice to see Washington and Moscow putting aside their differences, and this certainly indicates that Karimov has been playing his cards very well. Pentagon officials of course invoked the need for continued access to Uzbekistan’s military bases. Interesting that the State Department dissented, indicating a possible split in the administration between sleazy pragmatists who see Karimov as “our son of a bitch” and hubristic visionaries who support “regime change” in favor of a less equivocal client who won’t have to be shared with the Russians…
U.S. Opposed Calls at NATO for Probe of Uzbek Killings
Officials Feared Losing Air Base Access
By R. Jeffrey Smith and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 14, 2005; Page A15
Defense officials from Russia and the United States last week helped block a new demand for an international probe into the Uzbekistan government’s shooting of hundreds of protesters last month, according to U.S. and diplomatic officials.
British and other European officials had pushed to include language calling for an independent investigation in a communique issued by defense ministers of NATO countries and Russia after a daylong meeting in Brussels on Thursday. But the joint communique merely stated that “issues of security and stability in Central Asia, including Uzbekistan,” had been discussed.
The outcome obscured an internal U.S. dispute over whether NATO ministers should raise the May 13 shootings in Andijan at the risk of provoking Uzbekistan to cut off U.S. access to a military air base on its territory.
The communique’s wording was worked out after what several knowledgeable sources called a vigorous debate in Brussels between U.S. defense officials, who emphasized the importance of the base, and others, including State Department representatives at NATO headquarters, who favored language calling for a transparent, independent and international probe into the killings of Uzbekistan civilians by police and soldiers.
Meanwhile, a scandal has been sparked in the UK by photographic evidence obtained by the London Times (May 26) that Uzbek troops used British-supplied armored Land Rovers in the Andijan massacre.
See our last post on the crisis in Uzbekistan.