Our relationship with Uzbekistan’s tyrant Islam Karimov gets slimier by the day. Here we are arguing on Karimov’s behalf (albeit for tactical, not ideological reasons) and siding with Russia’s Vladimir Putin – in the halls of NATO no less.
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.
I understand Nathan Hamm’s objections to getting rid of Karimov now. I do. He makes some good points because there are good points to make. But every time something disgraceful like this happens more and more people are going to swing around to my point of view here.
I don’t want to be blasé about our need for military bases in Central Asia. The worst attack ever on American soil came out of Central Asia. We need bases. But I’m not convinced we absolutely have to have them in that particular country. The cost of doing “business” with Karimov keeps going up. And it keeps going up at a time when we need him less than we did.
Don’t agree with me? Okay. I won’t be blasé about our need for military bases in Central Asia if you won’t be blasé about our need to project a decent and honorable image of ourselves to the rest of the world. If you don’t think world opinion of the United States matters at a time like this, well, I don’t know what to tell ya.