The last month of the passing year was full of events related to the process of former USSR integration. Uzbekistan has finally left the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a body steady on the way to becoming a full-fledged defensive alliance (otherwise the very term «collective security» would lose its meaning). The Eurasian Economic Community’s existence is nearing its end to give place to the Eurasian Economic Union by 2015…
The summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization took place in Moscow on December 19. In June, 2012, Uzbekistan sent an official note to CSTO secretariat asking for termination of its activity in the organization. The analysts point out the organization satisfied the appeal going even a bit beyond what the Uzbekistan asked for by terminating its membership. It was not activity, but membership suspension that deprived the country of an opportunity to ignore the organization’s decisions because it had no representation anymore. There was one more new provision introduced in relation to the membership restoration procedure. From now on there will be no more preferential treatment. In case Tashkent decides to join the Collective Security Treaty Organization, it will have to ratify all the agreements concluded in its absence.
The introduction of this provision is explained by the fact Uzbekistan left the Organization in 1999-2006 to join GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova). At that, the Uzbekistan’s membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization didn’t affect the organization’s activities in a favorable way. The matter is – it constantly opposed the initiatives aimed at enhancing the CSTO’s effectiveness.
Aside from the decision on the Uzbekistan’s membership termination, the Collective Security Treaty Organization adopted a package of 18 agreements, including the military cooperation plans till 2020, the procedure for forming and using capabilities, the forecast on the situation in Afghanistan: the prospects for its evolution and the measures to counter the potential threats originating from the territory of this country. The command system was changed. From now on the Chief of Combined Staff position will be held for three consecutive years, no combination of positions is allowed, the head of staff is forbidden to wear two hats. Russian Lieutenant-General Alexander Studenikin was confirmed for the appointment. The organization’s activities are affected by the events taking place in the Middle East. According to Russian President Putin the CSTO’s decisions are based on «the inviolability of the regulations of international law and the inadmissibility of interference into the domestic affairs of sovereign states. Ignoring these principles, attempting to impose one’s own approaches on other nations, can lead to very serious consequences. The dramatic developments in the Middle East and North Africa are the most evident proofs to that».
No matter what, Russia is not going to turn its back on Uzbekistan. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had wrapped up two-day visit to the Uzbek capital Tashkent just before the CSTO summit. A number of important statements were made as a result. Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov said it was important to bolster strategic relations between the two countries, especially military ties. Afghanistan is a key factor that necessitates the need for military cooperation, as the Uzbekistan leader noted there was no ground for optimistic vision. Rings true. The occupation of Afghanistan by Americans has been lasting since 2001. During this time the country has become a blazing hotbed of terrorism and the source of global drug trafficking. The Uzbekistan’s withdrawal from the Collective Security Treaty Organization shouldn’t and will not hamper the efforts to counter the threats. As Lavrov said, «That is Uzbekistan’s sovereign choice. We regret the decision was made, but it was». The Russia’s top diplomat pointed out that Uzbekistan was still Moscow’s ally as the bilateral strategic partnership agreement, the Russia-Uzbekistan Treaty of Alliance and military cooperation programs – all were still in force.
Military cooperation is of special importance. This summer the issue of the possible establishment of a so-called Operative Reaction Center in Uzbekistan, which could accommodate warehouses storing weapons and military hardware following the U.S. forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, came to the fore. The prospect for Uzbekistan’s reorientation to the military cooperation with the United States couldn’t but stoke the most serious concern in Moscow…
According to Kommersant, Lavrov was told during the visit that Tashkent would not deploy US military facilities on its territory. At the same time, Uzbekistan is concerned over the Moscow’s plans to upgrade the armed forces of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. As Kommersant reported in November, Russia planned to allocate $1, 5 million for the purpose. The both republics displayed great interest in getting the assistance, while the both of them had rather complicated, sometimes even tense, relations with Uzbekistan.
There are still many unresolved issues affecting the relations between the two countries. No matter what the rumors have said, the Uzdunrobita, the largest mobile phone operator, which is part of Russian MTS network provider, hasn’t started its operations in Uzbekistan as yet. On its part, the Tashkent’s request to cancel the recycling tax imposed on cars transported to Russia, has not received a reply. It affects export prices largely in a negative way and has resulted in sales going down. The details of Russia’s intention to build large hydroelectric power plants in Kirgizia are still murky, Uzbekistan stands firmly against such plans. Moscow has made some concessions to Tashkent, for instance, it has agreed to international expertise before the construction starts; it has invited Uzbekistan to take part in the project, including management of enterprises. On the other hand, it’s hard to predict what will happen in case the expertise results will not satisfy Uzbekistan’s leadership and it will refuse to participate in the implementation of the project.
The session of interstate Eurasian Economic Community took place at the very same time the Collective Security Treaty Organization summit was held in Moscow. It was devoted to the future of the organization. The «brunt» of economic integration process was carried out by the Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus; it was their Customs Union that served as a base for creating the Common Economic Space this year. So the decision was to cease the Eurasian Economic Community’s activities by 2015. According to Putin, «The Community has fulfilled all the goals it had set for itself: the Customs Union is now in operation, the Common Economic Space between three states has been launched, and their common regulatory body – the Eurasian Economic Commission – has been set. Now, after completing the work that has spanned many years, the EurAsEC is transferring to the Eurasian Economic Commission responsibilities to further deepen integration which is an absolutely natural process. The EurAsEC’s powers and functions are being significantly curtailed, thereby requiring that we reorganize the Community».
As yet Uzbekistan has no plans to join the Customs Union, but it has an opportunity to take part in Eurasian integration process. It can accede to the CIS free trade zone (FTZ) agreement that envisages a more «soft» integration – the agreement will eliminate export and import duties on goods with no uniform rates to follow. Tashkent has already expressed the wish to join the CIS free trade zone.