REGIONAL SECURITY AND COOPERATION ISSUES IN U.S. POLICY TOWARD POST-SOVIET CENTRAL ASIA
Aziz Makhmudov, Ph.D. (Political Science), Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies-Doctoral Program (GSAD) (Oita, Japan)
It stands to reason that at the early stage of independence the five republics in the Central Asian region—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—previously closely linked to the Soviet economic and political systems, faced a number of challenges, most of which were inherited from the Czarist-Soviet regimes. Coping with the challenges posed by the transition period required foreign support, and all the republics, except Turkmenistan, have been engaged in active cooperation with global powers such as the U.S.
Considering the main features of the Western powers’ involvement in the post-Soviet arena, we can agree with Gertrude Schroeder, who defined the first years since 1991 as a period of “mutual learning.” On the one hand, the leaders of the newly independent states have learned from their experience of establishing a market economy at the speed and with the specifics permitted by domestic reality. While on the other hand, international organizations and countries have obviously contributed enormously to this learning process and, through investment and bilateral assistance programs, also learned much about dealing with a previously unknown environment. Schroeder refers to this process as follows:
“They [international organizations and countries] now have much more in-depth knowledge about physical and behavioral legacies from the old Soviet order, legacies that differ significantly among the post-Soviet states. They have learned that changing the habits and mind-sets of employees in the numerous government bureaucracies with which they must deal is a slow, painful, and frustrating business. They have learned that the specifics of reform policies and programs are usually highly controversial among domestic participants, even though consensus may exist on the desired goals and long-run outcomes. They now perceive that general ‘textbook’ solutions or those based directly on ‘another country’s’ experience may require modification to take into account the peculiarities of the communist legacy in each state. Finally, they have learned, hopefully, to avoid some of the inevitable mistakes of the initial years of involvement. For instance, the perceived failure of donors, especially of technical aid, to involve the recipient country’s experts in all phases of project development has been a frequent complaint, especially from local intellectuals.”
We will note the quite distinctive nature of American policy in Central Asia. In December 1991, Secretary of State James Baker announced that the U.S. “will work with those republics and any common entity which commit to responsible security policies, democratic political practices, and free market economies.” Baker specified that some republics (Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan) seemed more prepared to take this course. Kazakhstan, like Russia and………….