Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Russian empire displacing American in Uzbekhistan?

This is one of those stories that one reads with a grain of salt. But it could be true and, if so, it's interesting. Russian soldiers have been staying in Uzbekistan for more than a month preparing to take charge of the Khanabad airbase after the U.S. troops withdrawal, Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily reported. Now, there's reason to believe that this might be true. First, it does seem that the United States has been uninvited from Uzbekhistan. Second, Uzbekhistan is in a frontier region that is part of The Great Game (which is and always was a pretty stupid game. The basic idea is that if you put your troops in a remote mountainous region in the center of the world's largest contiguous land mass, it's very difficult for rivals to get them out. Of course, they could always nuke Washington register their unhappiness, but people who believe in The Great Game seem to be lost in the 19th century). Because of its location between China and Russia and because its economic base is too weak to provide military strength, Uzbekhistan is insecure. Third, the local ruler (Islom Karimov) is wildly and deservedly unpopular. He may feel that it's better to be a Russian pawn than a lamppost decoration. Finally, Russian nationalism is far from dead. The nationalists think of their former Prisonhouse of Nations (first under the Tsar and then under the Communists) as the zenith of their history. They want it back. So, it could be true. The US may have just succeeded in adding one province back to the Russian empire.
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