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Uzbekistan - Security Policy

Uzbekistan possesses the largest military forces in the Central Asian region, having around 65,000 people in uniform as of 2012.In the early 2000s, Uzbekistan sharply reduced its defense expenditures as civil wars concluded in Afghanistan and Tajikistan and the government recognized an over-commitment to defense. Between 2001 and 2003, defense expenditures decreased from US$74 million to US$52 million, but by 2005 they had increased again to US$60 million. The Government of Uzbekistan spends about 2% of GDP on the military (2005 est.).

The military's structure is inherited from the Soviet armed forces, although it is moving rapidly toward a fully restructured organization, which will eventually be built around light and Special Forces. The Uzbek Armed Forces' equipment is not modern, and training, while improving, is neither uniform nor adequate yet for its new mission of territorial security. The government has accepted the arms control obligations of the former Soviet Union, acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (as a non-nuclear state), and has supported an active program by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to demilitarize and clean up former weapons of mass destruction-related facilities in western Uzbekistan (Nukus and Vozrozhdeniye Island), as well as to guard against the proliferation of radiological materials across its borders.

As it declared independence, Uzbekistan found itself in a much better national security position than did many other Soviet republics. In 1992 Uzbekistan took over much of the command structure and armaments of the Turkestan Military District, which was headquartered in Tashkent as the defense organization of the region of Central Asia under the Soviet system. With the abolition of that district the same year and a subsequent reduction and localization of military forces, Uzbekistan quickly built its own military establishment, which featured a gradually decreasing Slavic contingent in its officer corps. That inheritance from the Soviet era has enabled post-Soviet Uzbekistan to assume a role as an important military player in Central Asia and as the successor to Russia as the chief security force in the region. Following independence, Uzbekistan accepted all of the relevant arms control obligations that had been assumed by the former Soviet Union, and it has acceded to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as a nonnuclear state.

Although its forces are small by international standards, Uzbekistan is rated as the strongest military power among the five Central Asian nations. In 1992 the Karimov regime sent military forces to Tajikistan to support forces of the old-guard communist Tajik government struggling to regain political power and oust the coalition government that had replaced them. Karimov's policy toward Tajikistan was to use military force in maintaining a similarly authoritarian regime to the immediate east. Although Tajikistan's civil war has had occasional destabilizing effects in parts of Uzbekistan, paramilitary Tajikistani oppositionist forces have not been strong enough to confront Uzbekistan's regular army. In the early 1990s, small-scale fighting occurred periodically between Tajikistani and Uzbekistani forces in the Fergana Valley.

In the mid-1990s, no military threat to Uzbekistan existed. An area of territorial contention is the Osh region at the far eastern end of the Fergana Valley where Kyrgyz and Uzbeks clashed violently in 1990 (see Recent History, ch. 2). The Uzbeks have used the minority Uzbek population in Osh as a reason to demand autonomous status for the Osh region; the Kyrgyz fear that such a change would lead to incorporating the region into Uzbekistan. The primary role of the Uzbekistan Armed Forces is believed to be maintaining internal security. This is possible because Uzbekistan remains protected by Russia under most conditions of external threat.

As defined in the 1992 Law on Defense, Uzbekistan's military doctrine is strictly defensive, with no territorial ambitions against any other state. Although its policy on the presence of CIS or Russian weapons has not been stated clearly, Uzbekistan's overall military doctrine does not permit strategic weapons in the inventory of the Uzbekistani armed forces. Battlefield chemical weapons, believed to have been in the republic during the Soviet period, allegedly have been returned to the Russian Federation. In 1994 Uzbekistan, like most of the other former Soviet republics, became a member of the Partnership for Peace program of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO--see Glossary), providing the basis for some joint military exercises with Western forces.

In the early 2000s, Uzbekistan has focused its military relations on bilateral links rather than commitments to multilateral organizations. It has sought to balance such links among the competing interests in the region. In 2000 Uzbekistan signed a bilateral military agreement with Turkey, implicitly to discourage Russian hegemony in Central Asia. In 2002 a strategic partnership agreement with the United States aimed at postSeptember 11 cooperation against Islamic extremism, but that agreement required domestic reforms that Uzbekistan did not carry out. The subsequent establishment in Uzbekistan of a U.S. base for operations in Afghanistan improved bilateral relations, but the extension of that arrangement increased apprehension among Uzbekistans neighbors and in Iran and Russia. The United States vacated its base and severed military relations in 2005 following the Andijon riots and curtailment of the base agreement by the Karimov government.

In 2004 Uzbekistan signed a comprehensive strategic partnership with Russia, continuing the rapprochement of the two countries that began in 2003 and shifting Uzbekistans military policy away from Western alliances. Late in 2005, a mutual security agreement with Russia created conditions for the basing of Russian forces in Uzbekistan, although no timetable was established. Uzbekistan also moved closer to Russia by signing the Collective Security Treaty of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a move it previously had eschewed. In the early 2000s, bilateral military negotiations with China sought a second linkage with a major regional power. Uzbekistan has discussed multilateral security arrangements with the other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO, including China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan).

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Page last modified: 13-03-2013 16:09:22 ZULU