Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Adam Larson
Caustic Logic / Guerillas Without Guns

The Eurasian powers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, faced with the runaway stream of pro-West revolutions, made their most serious counter-moves in July 2005. The offensive was heralded by a joint Russo-Chinese statement on “the international order of the 21st Century” signed by Presidents Hu and Putin, on June 1 in Moscow. [1] Putin summed up “the declaration reflects our understanding of the diversity of civilization, and makes a call not to impose models and standards through force or the threat to use force.” [2] The declaration announced a new vision of a multi-polar world order as seen in the emergence of the SCO, which was set to hold a major summit four days later.

On July 5, three weeks after the Andijan massacre, the Defense Ministers of the signatory countries met in the Kazakh capital of Astana to plot their next moves towards that international order. Australian news reporter Emma Griffiths, who attended, explained how the leaders of “the Shanghai six […] condemn the west for supporting political changes in former soviet republics,” and stated their general objection to what they called “monopolizing or dominating international affairs,” a statement she described as “a thinly-veiled attack on the US.” [3] Even more thinly veiled was their firm request for a timetable for U.S. bases to leave Central Asia; it was time for Washington to precisely define “temporary,” and let the regional powers know when they should expect to start running security there themselves. [4] Russian political analyst Georgy Arbatov stated of this decision:

“For the first time some common political positions beside cooperation against terrorism were expressed, primarily by addressing the question to the United States about how long American military bases are planned to remain in central Asia. That means that China, Central Asian states and Russia are not willing to contemplate American military presence in central Asia as a permanent factor for the indefinite future. This presence was associated with the operation in Afghanistan, with the operation in Iraq. Those two operations are not yet finalized, but some timeframe is an interesting issue for the countries of the region and certainly they do not want Americans to stay forever.” [5]

July 5 was also the first summit to host the four newly-agreed observer states Iran, India and Pakistan (Mongolia had already been involved), and thus represented what PINR called “a one-two punch to Washington's ambitions in Central Asia” and “the most forceful challenge to U.S. interests in Central Asia since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.” [6]

But the SCO summit was of course eclipsed in Western minds by the higher profile G8 summit of the world’s top eight leaders in Scotland, and by the higher-yet profile of the terrorist attack that came in its midst. Presidents Hu and Putin had probably planned a follow-up lecture on “international order” and overstaying welcomes for their G8 partners, with that gathering in Tony Blair’s UK commencing only one day after their people had reached their verdict in Astana. But the 7-7 London rail bombing on the second day of that summit cast a long shadow over the proceedings with three near-simultaneous explosions on the underground rail lines at 8:50 am followed by a bus blast in Tavistock Square at 9:47. Hundreds were injured, many gravely, 52 people plus the four suicide bombers were killed and the Capital city of the country hosting the world’s eight most powerful leaders was shut down for much of the day.

No matter the full truth behind the incident, a perceived, successful al Qaeda attack with over fifty killed in the European capital of the Anglo-American Alliance would do nothing but strengthen their resolve to stay in Iraq and in Central Asia (especially considering the alleged Pakistani Madrassah link to the attack), and make Russia’s and China’s geopolitical nitpicking un-cool by again demonstrating why the bases are there. The 7/7 attack gave all the G8 World Leaders a chance to reiterate their commitment to the cause; Putin himself expressed his condolences over the attacks and called on all countries to remain united in the “fight against international terrorism,” to which America’s Central Asian bases were of course also dedicated. [7]

So Putin and Hu just skipped out on the diplomacy and went ahead with what many see as their plans for the development of the SCO into the “NATO of the East.” It has a long way to go, but member states seem to be cooperating on the grand strategy issues. Uzbekistan had preceded the July ultimatum with an announcement on June 16 that night flights into and out of Karshi-Khanabad were to be banned. [8] Tashkent also placed limits on daytime landings of C-17s and other heavy transport aircraft, allegedly because the planes were damaging the runway. [9] It also served as a reminder that the Uzbek authorities still called the shots at K2, but the Americans simply worked around the issue, re-routing heavy cargo flights through Ganci in Kyrgyzstan and shifting its search-and-rescue flights to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.[10]

After the SCO summit Uzbek officials went further, entirely renouncing the agreement allowing US forces to use the base. On July 29, just days after Rumsfeld’s tour around Uzbekistan, Tashkent delivered a diplomatic note to the US Embassy, giving US military authorities six months to shut down Camp Stronghold Freedom and vacate K2. [11] Ariel Cohen, the Heritage Foundation’s Russia expert, fumed in an article published August 18: “In the post- 9/11 era, this is the first time that a U.S. ally has not only abandoned the battlefield—as Spain did in Iraq—but also shown American servicemen the door. After years of complaining that the United States has not done enough to counter terrorist threats, Karimov did what his Islamist foes have demanded all along: He demanded an end to the American “infidel” presence in Uzbekistan.” [12]

On August 26, Uzbekistan's Senate voted to back Karimov, affirming it was time for the Yankees to leave. [13] In late September State’s Daniel Fried came to Tashkent and coldly confirmed that Washington would comply. “We intend to leave it without further discussion,” Fried said. “We respect this request by the government of Uzbekistan.” On November 21 the US military closed the base for good, and the Russian news agency Interfax reported that the last US military plane left the base after a short ceremony. [14]

In testimony before Congress in late October, Fried had said he recently met with Karimov and reiterated Washington's call for an independent inquiry into the Andijan matter. “We will continue to urge the government of Uzbekistan to reverse its current path and to embrace reform as the only way to achieve long-term stability,” he testified. [15] Karimov did not change course, and in November signed an agreement on closer military cooperation with Russia. [16]

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