Assessing Alliances:

 

Examining the Foreign Policy Orientations of Uzbekistan & Tajikistan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ania Garbien

IR 747

Professor Tsygankov

19 December 2003
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We are determined to build up relations aimed at strengthening the national

            security of Uzbekistan and resisting external threat, on the principle of the

            preservation of general security and regional stability, on the agreed basis

            with those states whose vital interests are directly concerned.”

 

        Uzbek President Islam Karimov

 

 


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

 TOC \o "1-4" \h \z \u I.      Introduction.. PAGEREF _Toc59577507 \h 2

 

II.    Theoretical Approach.. PAGEREF _Toc59577508 \h 2

A.    Defensive Realism: Balance of Threat Theory. PAGEREF _Toc59577509 \h 2

B.     Definitions. PAGEREF _Toc59577510 \h 2

 

III.   Evidence.. PAGEREF _Toc59577511 \h 2

A.    Comparative Case Study Analysis: Uzbek & Tajik Alliance Formation Against Threats  PAGEREF _Toc59577512 \h 2

B.     Uzbekistan: Assessing Threats to the State. PAGEREF _Toc59577513 \h 2

C.    Tajikistan: Assessing Threats to the State. PAGEREF _Toc59577514 \h 2

 

IV.    Objections. PAGEREF _Toc59577515 \h 2

A.    Liberalism.. PAGEREF _Toc59577516 \h 2

 

V.    Conclusion.. PAGEREF _Toc59577517 \h 2

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I.         Introduction

Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the region of Central Asia has been the theater of a constant flux of threats, ethnic conflicts, natural resource rivalries, and contested alliances. How will the fate of these Central Asian states play out after its reintegration with the world over a decade ago? In the realm of international relations it is important to assess the factors that effect the foreign policy orientations of these Central Asian states as current political issues are centered in the lands of the greatest Silk Route in the world. The research question is: how do the threats to national security form alliances and foreign policy orientations? The answer to the foreign policy orientations of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan will be assessed through the use of Stephen Walt’s balance of threat theory. Defensive realism will aid the argument in determining how great powers choose which states to protect, and how weaker states decide whose protection to accept[1] The forces that bring states together and drive them apart will affect the security of individual states by determining how large a threat they face and how much help they can expect.[2] The outcome of this research will exemplify the factors that determine how states choose alliance partners and how that in turn will shape the evolution of international system as a whole.

 

 

II.      Theoretical Approach

A.   Defensive Realism: Balance of Threat Theory

This paper will use Stephen Walt’s balance of threat theory as outlined in his book The Origins of Alliances. The balance of threat theory has been used here because it complements the research, analysis and argument posed in this paper. This section will outline how this paper has implemented the balance of threat theory into the argument and outline in detail the defensive realist approach to the balance of threat theory, its assumptions, key variables and process of analysis.

 

The threats to national security, as determined by the states of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, will cause their alignment against the state that poses the greatest threat. The independent variable is the threat to national security and the dependent variable is the alignment against the state that poses the greatest threat. The information derived from the dependent variable, alliance formation, can also be understood as a state taking a foreign policy orientation toward the state that poses the least threat to national security. Hence, my ultimate goal is to explain the foreign policy orientations of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. 

 

It is important to outline Walt’s theoretical framework clearly. Walt contrasts the traditional balance of power theorists by suggesting that states ally to balance against threats rather than power alone.[3] Although power is an important part of the equation, it is not the only one.[4] It is more accurate to say that states tend to ally against the foreign power that poses the greatest threat.[5] However, the balance of threat theory does not posit that states always balance against the greatest threat in the international system rather they generally balance against states that pose an immediate threat to their survival.[6] Therefore, Walt argues that balance of threat theory is a better alternative in explaining alliance formation than balance of power theory.[7] In using Walt’s theoretical framework I will be able to exemplify my own argument.

B.   Definitions

Firstly, it is important to address and define the top priority of the state: national security. National security is defined as political and military capabilities that maximize the national interest of the state via the use of power and alliances in order to achieve the state’s objective.[8] Alliance and alignment in this paper are used interchangeably and are defined as a formal or informal arrangement for security cooperation between two or more sovereign states.[9]

 

This paper will define balancing as the major behavior of how and why states form alliances and with whom they align. Balancing is defined as allying with others against the prevailing threat. The belief that states form alliances in order to prevent stronger powers from dominating them lies at the heart of traditional balance of power theory.[10] In this paper, states join alliances to protect themselves from states or coalitions whose superior resources could pose a threat to national security.[11] States choose to balance for the major reason that they place their survival at risk if they fail to curb a potential hegemon before it becomes to strong.[12] Because balancing is the dominant tendency, threatening states will provoke others to align against them.[13] Those who seek to dominate others will attract widespread opposition.[14] Strong states may be valued as allies because they have much to offer their partners.[15]

 

Because balancing is more accurately viewed as a response to threats, it is important to consider and define the factors that will affect the level of threat that states may pose: aggregate power, geographic proximity and aggressive intentions can be seen as threats to national security.[16]

 

  1. Aggregate Power: All else being equal, the greater a state’s total resources (e.g. population, industrial and military capability, and technological prowess) the greater a potential threat it can pose to others.[17] In practical terms, it means allying against any state that appears powerful enough to dominate. The total power that states can wield is thus an important component of the threat that they pose to others.[18] By itself, therefore, a state’s aggregate power may provide a motive for balancing.[19]

 

  1. Geographic Proximity: Because the ability to project power declines with distance, states that are nearby pose a greater threat than those that are far away.[20] Other things being equal, therefore, states are more likely to make their alliance choice in response to nearby powers than in response to those that are distant.[21]

 

  1. Aggressive Intentions: Finally, states that are viewed as aggressive are likely to provoke others to balance against them.[22] Indeed, even states with rather modest capabilities may prompt others to balance if they are perceived as especially aggressive.[23] Perceptions of intent are likely to play an especially crucial role in alliance choices.[24]

 

By defining the basic hypotheses in terms of threats rather than power alone, we gain a more complete picture of the factors that statesmen will consider when making alliance choices.[25] The greater the threat to national security, the greater the probability that the vulnerable state will seek an alliance.[26]

 

Also, a major shift in foreign policy thinking in international relations must be addressed and taken into account as part of the definitions section. A major shift in international relations occurred after September 11, 2001. Where once before terrorism was categorized as particular type of ‘interest group’ that was normally dealt within the sphere of international relations as a secondary importance has since changed. More importantly, the state perception of terrorism has drastically changed. Although terrorism is not particular to any one state or confined to any borders, it has become an international threat to all states. This shift in realist thinking is clearly exemplified with the creation of the U.S. State Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security was created by U.S. President George W. Bush after September 11th and was designed to ‘anticipate, preempt and deter threats to the homeland whenever possible, and the ability to respond quickly when such threats do materialize.’[27] Specifically the new department's first priority is to protect the nation against further terrorist attacks. Furthermore, this important shift in international relations will be taken into account in this paper. Therefore, terrorist organizations will be identified as threats to the state. However, terrorism is a mobile variable that is not confined to any particular state.   

 

III.           Evidence

A.   Comparative Case Study Analysis: Uzbek & Tajik Alliance Formation Against Threats

The formulation of the comparative case analysis in this paper will use Walt’s theoretical framework in determining Uzbekistan’s and Tajikistan’s foreign policy orientation by using the balancing approach that he has exemplified in his balance of threat theory. Firstly this section begins with evidence for the state of Uzbekistan, followed by evidence for the state of Tajikistan. Lastly the section will end with a summary of the evidence found.

 

B.   Uzbekistan: Assessing Threats to the State

In general, states facing an external threat will align with others to oppose the states posing the threat.[28]

Before assessing the threats that Russia currently poses to Uzbekistan, it is important to first give a brief background to the states’ historical relationship and the evolving shifts in Russia’s foreign policy orientation toward Central Asia. Since 1917 Central Asia, the land of the greatest trading routes in history, had become little more than an economic colony for Moscow, producing cotton, metals and other raw materials for the Soviet economic powerhouse.[29] Russia as the core power in the Soviet Union had complete political control, established state boundaries and militarily presided over the entire Central Asian region. Furthermore, the core-periphery or asymmetrical relationship established various political and economic dependencies on Russia. And by December of 1991 when all of the Central Asian states were independent as the Soviet Union ceased to exist, these dependencies continued.

 

Whereas the transformation of Central Asia after October 1917 was carried out with an unprecedented degree of bloodletting, which decimated the population, the transformation in December 1991 took place without a single dead body in the streets.[30] It was a remarkable way to achieve independence; however, initial independence was not favored by Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov. Fundamental and functional aspects of a state were not in place at the time of independence, the state had no foundations on which to build a nation and was stranded to find its own means of political and economic survival and military protection without the Soviet Union. Therefore, initially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan aligned itself with the Russian Federation, because of political and economic dependencies that had been formed for decades, in efforts to maintain the security and viability of the state.

 

However, at the same time in the early 1990s, Russia’s foreign policy was dominated by westernists or liberals who saw Russia’s future as best served as part of a re-configured Atlantic Alliance in which Russia would work in partnership with the West, becoming an integral part of its dominate security and economic systems.[31] This westernist approach was brought forth by Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev who viewed ‘Russia as Europe’ and sought to adopt western models of capitalist development, political institutions and power structures as a way for Russia to reclaim its place as an equal in the international community.[32] From 1991 to 1993 Russia largely ignored what it dubbed the countries of the ‘near abroad’, preferring instead to focus on its own domestic reforms. Wary of again falling into a trap of over-extending itself militarily and economically, Moscow had, since the late Soviet period, pursued in effect a policy of non-intervention, even of benign neglect, towards the borderlands.

 

This period led to a time of detached relations between Uzbekistan and Russia. President Karimov sought to build the strength of his state militarily and culturally and sought out alliances with other great powers that would provide the Uzbek state with the political and economic support it needed. There was a shift in Karimov’s foreign policies away from Russia and toward the West.

 

However, the failure of westernist reforms in Russia, due to large public resentment and geopolitical shifts toward the notion of eurasianism, made Russia eager to play a more active role in the affairs of the post-Soviet borderland states around 1993. The shift in thinking in Russian foreign policy circles, in relation to the countries of the ‘near abroad’, reflected a growing unease over the events in some of the borderland states and the consequent perception that Russia should play a more active role in the affairs of the borderlands. Statists, such as Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov viewed U.S.-led NATO expansion as a Western encroachment into what Moscow had for the most of the twentieth century regarded as its natural sphere of influence.[33] Moscow now talked about ‘a geopolitical vacuum’ and fears of ‘geopolitical isolation’ within the ‘post-Soviet space’ and about the need to reassert Russia’s ‘natural’ and ‘regional sphere of influence’ over the ‘near abroad’.[34] After all, it was argued, given Russia’s long-standing historical ties with its neighbors, it was wholly legitimate for Russia to pursue its geopolitical interests in the borderlands.[35]

 

In the context of Russia’s shift in foreign policy, it was seen as practical to drop close cooperation with the West and pursue a more meaningful reintegration on ‘former Soviet territory’.[36] While the reasons for the shift in Russia’s foreign policy are explained by the change in Russia’s national security interests, at the same time this shift posited a threat to Uzbekistan as an independent state that did not view being re-incorporated into Russia’s sphere of influence as a part of its own national security interests. Russia posed the greatest external threat to Uzbekistan which caused it to align itself with the U.S. in order to balance Russia.

The greater the threatening state’s aggregate power, the greater the tendency for others to align against it.[37]

Assessing Russia’s “aggregate power” will provide beneficial results if viewed alongside its shift in foreign policy toward reasserting its influence in the near abroad. Calculating “aggregate power” will first begin with all else being equal, the greater a state’s total resources (e.g. population, industrial and military capability, and technological prowess) the greater a potential threat it can pose to others.[38] Russia’s population is significantly greater than that of Uzbekistan’s. The former has 145 million and the latter has 25.5 million respectively. Russia has nearly six times the population size of Uzbekistan. This information suggests that Russia has a greater source of manpower and overall military capabilities in comparison to Uzbekistan. In examining the military manpower availabilities of both states one can see that Russia far exceeds Uzbekistan in this respect as well (refer to Chart 1.a.). The military manpower availabilities are the estimated amount of men aged 15-49 years of age enrolled in military services that are ready to take on military duties when called upon by the state. Russia currently has 36 million military service men and Uzbekistan 7.6 million military service men. Thus, the total power that states can wield is an important component of the threat that they pose to others.[39] If Russia were interested in gaining a greater sphere of influence within the Central Asian region at an acceptable cost, they could do so militarily with relative ease. Even if Russia does not seek to gain a greater influence in the Central Asian region through the use of force or military power, it still poses a threat due to the greater size of its population and military capabilities in relative comparison to Uzbekistan. By itself, therefore, a state’s aggregate power may provide a motive for balancing.[40] In practical terms, it means allying against any state that appears powerful enough to dominate. 

 

Therefore, the inference one can make in assessing “aggregate power” is that Russia’s relatively greater power capabilities posed a threat to Uzbekistan with the shift in Russia’s foreign policy orientation toward re-integration with the near abroad. Uzbekistan aligned itself with the U.S. in order to counter balance Russia, which posed the greatest threat to the state’s survival and national security. The threat of Russia’s foreign policy shift is also clearly highlighted in President Karimov’s book Uzbekistan on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century where he states, “Among the problems that call for the attention not only of the new states but also of the international cooperative community are, above all, those that originate in recurrences of the imperial way of thinking and behavior.”[41]

 

The nearer a powerful state, the greater the tendency for those nearby to align against it.[42]

In assessing the threat of “geographic proximity” it is important to first begin with the most immediate and nearby external threat to Uzbekistan: that of terrorism and instability in Afghanistan and Russian troops in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The state posing the greatest threat to Uzbekistan is Russia yet they do not share any borders. However, Uzbekistan does share its southern border with Afghanistan, and all of its’ south-eastern border with Tajikistan. Both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have parts of the Ferghana Valley located within their borders. Most importantly, it is the presence of Russian troops in Tajikistan that pose the greatest “geographic proximity” threat to Uzbekistan. 

 

The Ferghana Valley is the hotbed for radical Islam where the intense struggle between revolutionary Islam and traditional Islam began, even before Uzbekistan achieved independence.[43] The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) was founded and lead by Tohir Abdouhalilovitch Yuldeshev and Jumaboi Ahmadzhanovitch Khojaev, who later became known as Juma Namangani,[44] whose message was deceptively simple: that the government of Uzbek president Islam Karimov is still communist and anti-Islamic and must be overthrown by an Islamic revolution, which will quickly engulf the whole of Central Asia.[45] The severe crack down on radical Islamists in May 1998 when Uzbek parliament passed the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations, which required all Muslim clergy to be registered, motivated many of the IMU to flee to Afghanistan.[46] In Afghanistan the IMU received support from the Taliban regime and Osama Bin Laden. The following year on February 16th 1999, in the space of one hour six car bombs exploded in the center of Tashkent in an apparent attempt to assassinate the president.[47]

 

At this time, Karimov made clear that the external threat posed by nearby Afghanistan and its terrorist-supporting Taliban regime were a source of instability to the national security of Uzbekistan. Furthermore, Karimov also made direct connections to Tajikistan harboring terrorists within their borders. In his book, Karimov concretely states that the geographic proximity of conflict posit a threat to Uzbekistan, “The military and political crises in Afghanistan and the instability in Tajikistan can only have a negative impact on both the regional stability of Central Asia as a whole and the national security of Uzbekistan in particular.”[48] Because the ability to project power declines with distance, states that are nearby pose a greater threat than those that are far away.[49] Therefore, is response to the terrorist threat and its ability to project power because of its geographic proximity, Uzbekistan aligned itself with the U.S. in its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11th attacks on in New York. During this alignment Uzbekistan has granted the U.S. military its base and air space use. Furthermore, it currently has over 1,000 U.S. troops located at the Khanabad air base near the city of Quarsi (see Appendix Map 1a.). The military alignment with the U.S. in this case can not only be viewed as a way balance against the threat of terrorism but also exemplifies the thinking in Uzbek foreign policy that reflects a tendency once again to view the world in terms of balance of threat, in which one country’s gains is considered to be another one’s loss.[50] In this case the increased military alliance with the U.S. is in effect a way to balance Russia’s military presence in the region.

 

Therefore, all other things being equal, states are more likely to make their alliance choice in response to nearby powers than in response to those that are distant.[51] However, the state that poses the greatest threat to Uzbekistan as argued in this paper is Russia. Terrorism is not the most critical aspect in identifying and explaining Uzbek alliance formation, however, it an important threat to discuss because it highlights one of the subcomponents of why Uzbekistan has aligned itself with the U.S. More importantly, the Tajik civil war that occurred in the years 1992-1997 is of more relevance to this analysis. Briefly stated, in 1997 war weary Tajikistan was unable to protect itself from external threats and aligned with Russia. This alliance has led to over 18,000 Russian troops stationed along the Tajik-Afghan border. This is of significance to Uzbekistan because the ability to project power declines with distance, and states that are nearby pose a greater threat than those that are far away.[52] Although the state of Russia does not share any borders with Uzbekistan, the fact that Russian troops are stationed within a country that does share a border with Uzbekistan does pose a threat because the projected power of Russia has increased with “geographic proximity.” Therefore, Uzbekistan has aligned with the U.S. in order to balance the nearby power of Russian troops located in Tajikistan and specifically has done so through its military alliance during the Afghan invasion which can be viewed as Uzbekistan’s gain and Russia’s loss. This is because the increased presence of U.S. military power in the region will balance Russia’s military power in the region and hence favor the national security interests of Uzbekistan.       

The more aggressive a state’s perceived intentions, the more likely others are to align against that state.[53]

Finally, states that are viewed as aggressive are likely to provoke others to balance against them.[54] In this closing section of evidence, the perceived intentions of Russia in the Central Asian region are best explained by President Karimov where he makes a correlation between great-power aggressive nationalism and chauvinism as creating the exact environment in which states will ally against it. From his book Uzbekistan on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century Karimov states:

 

“By looking at historical practices, the phenomenon of aggressive nationalism may be characterized as a political, ideological and economic hegemony established between concrete state forces, or an aspiration to such a hegemony based on interethnic, interstate and regional relationships. Chauvinism is revealed in the struggle of some large nations to establish their exclusive domination not only within the patterns of a multinational empire, but also with surrounding geopolitical areas. In the present-day environment small countries and nations experience the pressure of chauvinistic threats and are inevitably forced to search for a counterbalance to powerful aspirations in order to ensure their security and sovereignty.”[55]

 

This statement clearly assesses that Russia is perceived to have great intentions in re-establishing its sphere of influence in the Central Asian region, however the assertion its interests will prompt others to balance against it if Russia is perceived as especially aggressive. Therefore, perceptions of intent are likely to play an especially crucial role in alliance choices.[56] The basic strategic issue that worries independent Uzbekistan is how to prevent the reanimation of the old empire system.[57] In Karimov’s words, “That is why, taking into account our vision of integration and cooperation processes, any bloc-like interstate approaches and restrictions on free-cooperation with all interested states of good will are unacceptable.”[58] Here he makes a direct reference to the CIS in which Karimov views Russia’s role within the organization as a tool intended to spread its influence and control. 

 

In the last chapter of his book, “Integration with the world community,” Karimov makes clear assessments of how alliances with the U.S. and the European Union are important and should be expanded, whereas there is no mention of Russia in his final analysis. In underlining the importance of an alliance with the U.S. Karimov writes, “The development and deepening of multifaceted relations with the USA … is today the primary significance for us. The United States makes a substantial contribution to our process of renovation, reform and democratization in the strengthening of our independence and sovereignty.”[59]

 

Finally, in assessing the threats to the state of Uzbekistan one can see how the foreign policy priorities have been outlined accordingly in the Uzbek constitution: 1) reduce economic dependence on Russia; 2) prevent the reassertion of Russian hegemony within Central Asia; 3) control the resurgence of Islam in Uzbekistan; and 4) seek out development assistance from western states, particularly that of the United States.[60] 

C.   Tajikistan: Assessing Threats to the State

In general, states facing an external threat will align with others to oppose the states posing the threat.[61]

Tajikistan is a state within Central Asia that has taken a drastically different foreign policy action course since it declared independence on September 9th 1991, in comparison to its neighbor Uzbekistan. This divergence in policies started with a division that dates back to Stalin’s Soviet rule. Therefore, before assessing the threats that Uzbekistan currently poses to Tajikistan it is important to first give a brief background on the states’ historical relationship and explain how Tajikistan’s “weakness” relative to Uzbekistan’s “greatness” poses the possibility of Uzbek expansion into the Tajik region over border and terrorist disputes. Tajikistan and its alliance with Russia through the comparative analysis of Uzbekistan’s alliance with the U.S. is therefore the underlying theme in this section.  

 

Tajikistan has a population of 5.6 million people, of whom only 60 percent are Tajiks, while 23 percent of the present population are Uzbeks.[62] Tajikistan was the poorest of the fifteen republics of the former Soviet Union with the lowest per capita income, 25 percent unemployment, a staggering 5 percent annual growth rate of the population, the lowest levels of educational attainment and the highest rate of infant morality.[63] Many Tajiks consider their republic as an afterthought, carved out by the communists to divide and rule Central Asia.[64] For centuries Tajiks and Uzbeks lived together in Turkestan – their common homeland – which today comprises both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.[65] However, in the arbitrary divisions carried out by Stalin’s mapmakers these two ethnic groups were separated and the Ferghana Valley was divided.[66] Stalin’s mapmakers also handed out Samarkand and Bukhara, the two major centres of Tajik culture and history, to Uzbekistan.[67] The loss of their cultural centres continue to hurt Tajiks, who see Dushanbe as a sterile modern city that reflects none of their cultural achievements.[68] The Tajiks claim that they were left with the rump of Central Asia – the uninhibited mountainous regions of the Pamir mountains, that cover around 93 percent of its territory, and no rich agricultural region.[69] Furthermore, ongoing disputes between Tajikistan and Turkic Uzbekistan over Tajiks in Uzbekistan and Uzbeks in Tajikistan have sustained Tajikistan’s tensions with Uzbekistan and fuelled fears that eventually the two republics may clash over borders.[70]

 

However, border issues are not the only concern of Tajikistan since independence. The civil war that lasted from 1992-1997 has made Tajikistan the linchpin of future stability in Central Asia.[71] The war precipitated in military interests from Russia, willing or unwilling, because Tajikistan was unable to stabilize and maintain the basic security needs of the state, while the international community saw it as no interests of their own. Russia’s military influence began in 1992, when CIS troops started to be stationed in Dushanbe due to the rivaling feuds between the 1991 elected President Nabiev, an ex-communist, and the Islamic Renaissance Party, Islamic anti-communists, when civil war broke out. The same year Russian troops belonging to the 201st Motorized Rifle Division were deployed along the border with Afghanistan. In May 1993, at the signing of one of the many friendship treaties with Russia in Moscow, Tajik President Rakhmonov had to admit that ‘without Russia, our country would no longer exist today’.[72] Uzbekistan also intervened in the civil war; its initial dominance over the situation was based on a military presence in order to achieve its regional interests. Since the civil war Tajikistan has been cautious of Uzbekistan’s intentions and Russian troops have remained in Tajikistan’s territory as the only grantor of the state’s military security.

 

The alliance between Tajikistan and Russia were clearly exemplified on 26 October 2001 when Tajik President Rahmanov announced that Russia is the cornerstone of Tajik foreign policy and that relations with Russia are “a fundamental condition for the development of the sovereignty and independence of Tajikistan.”[73] In the following year Russia reciprocated its alliance when in January of 2002 the head of Russian State Duma, Seleznev visited Tajikistan and made it clear that the country “should be one of Russia’s closest allies in all fields,” calling Tajikistan, “our direct strategic partner” and underlined the importance of the Russian presence in Tajikistan.[74] Seleznev, during an inspection of a border guard training center went on to state, “The long-term military presence of the United States in the region is not in Russia’s interests.” Russia is concerned that U.S. military operations in Afghanistan & Iraq could come at the expense of its own influence in Central Asia. 

 

Tajikistan recognizes that they will never receive significant security support from the U.S., as demonstrated by its failure to provide substantial assistance for repelling insurgents during and after the civil war, and instead it looks to Russia, whose commitment in the region is assured. And because the West has ignored it in the past, Tajikistan has become a satellite of Russia, depending on Moscow for security and economic survival.[75] Weak Tajik military forces and the state’s need for external protection is the kind of aid that demands continuous supply. The U.S. may provide short term assistance but not full border security or long term assistance toward development such as a state like Tajikistan needs. 

 

Weak and war weary, Tajikistan now faces even more threats – with the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan precipitating refugee spill-over effects, long-term border insecurity due to narcotics and weapons trafficking, and Uzbekistan’s growing power in the region, the state has aligned itself with Russia in order to balance the these threats. 

The greater the threatening state’s aggregate power, the greater the tendency for others to align against it.[76]

Uzbekistan’s large population and its significant amount of advanced military capabilities pose a threat to Tajikistan because of the opposed states “aggregate power”. Uzbekistan has the greatest amount of resources, mainly oil, that have allowed the state to build up its military infrastructure, military manpower and technological capabilities. In comparison to Tajikistan, a state that has no natural resources and recently suffered a massive drought in 2000 that caused thousands of lives to be lost due to malnutrition and starvation, a state that can barely feed and properly address the social needs of its population let alone military, a nation in which most of its infrastructure was ruined during civil war, places Tajikistan at a much more vulnerable position. Tajikistan has a population of 6.1 million, whereas Uzbekistan has 25.5 respectively. The relative difference in population size allow Uzbekistan to have a greater source of military manpower availability (refer to Chart 1.b.).

 

Because titular populations are spread throughout the entire Central Asian region and Tajikistan having almost one third of its population being ethnic Uzbek, this poses a threat to Tajikistan that Uzbekistan may attempt to reclaim regions where its ethnic population lives, primarily around the Ferghana Valley, through the use of its “aggregate power”. Furthermore, the civil war attracted radical Islamist organizations to Tajikistan to fight on behalf of the IRP and now being a weak state, terrorist organizations such as the IMU have sought refuge in Tajikistan from Karimov’s iron fist policies. Therefore, any IMU remnants pose a threat to Tajik security due to Karimov, who has threatened hosts of the IMU with military action. The President of Uzbekistan has made clear statements that exemplify aggressive action towards the President of Tajikistan in what Karimov viewed as a “harboring of terrorists” when the Tajik government did not oust out the leader of the IMU from its territory. This posed a threat to the national security of Tajikistan because it had no resources to fish out terrorists in its own territory and feared retaliation of Uzbekistan in its attempts to “root out the problem”.[77]

 

The total power that Uzbekistan can wield is thus an important component of the threat it poses to Tajikistan. In efforts to balance the threat of Uzbekistan and maintain its national security, Tajikistan has aligned itself with Russia. Tajikistan relies on Russia to safeguard its borders, prevent invasion and views the alliance as a way to balance the threat of Uzbekistan’s “aggregate power”.  

The nearer a powerful state, the greater the tendency for those nearby to align against it.[78]

In assessing the threat of “geographic proximity” it is important to first begin with the most immediate and nearby external threat to Tajikistan: illegal narcotics and weapons trafficking from Afghanistan and Uzbekistan as the sub-regional hegemon in Central Asia.[79] Uzbekistan is located at the heart of Central Asia and borders each state in the region. Tajikistan shares its eastern border with Uzbekistan and both states also share borders along the Ferghana Valley and Afghanistan. Most importantly, in recognizing that Tajikistan is a weak state, the illegal trafficking along the Afghan border and the “geographical proximity” of Uzbekistan as a regionally stronger state are the key variables in assessing Tajikistan’s alliance with Russia in order to balance these threats.

 

Firstly, the illegal trafficking of narcotics and weapons into Tajikistan through Afghanistan has increased since independence. Matthew Kahane, the United Nation’s coordinator of humanitarian aid to Tajikistan, has estimated that the drugs trade accounts for 30 to 50 percent of the economy.[80] The UN has identified six drugs routes from Afghanistan, two of which run through Tajikistan: one from Kunduz in northern Afghanistan up through the CIS into Western Europe; the other from Badakhshan (Afghanistan) to GBAO (Tajikistan), then through Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan, Russia and onwards.[81] The rise of narcotics trafficking since independence is dramatic.[82] In 1991 just 10.9 kg of narcotic substances were confiscated in Tajikistan.[83] Ten years later, in 2000, 7,128.9 kg were seized.[84] It is difficult extrapolate from seizure figures the actual size of the trade, but rough estimates suggest that perhaps less than 10 percent of opium traffic is intercepted.[85] Narcotics smuggling thrives in an environment of political instability and economic collapse.[86] The current state of Tajikistan is just that, Afghanistan therefore, poses a serious threat to Tajikistan. 

 

Most importantly, it is the state of Uzbekistan that poses the greatest threat to Tajikistan because of its “geographic proximity.” All other things being equal, states are more likely to make their alliance choices in response to nearby powers than in response to those that are distant.[87] As written in the Uzbek constitution, the state’s main priority is to become the regional power within Central Asia.[88] The proximity and strength of Uzbek military capabilities make Tajikistan nervous because Rakhmonov recognizes that for the Tajik state to become stronger it must first focus on remedying its internal problems before it can justly seek addressing external problems. However, Tajikistan is unable to become fully self-sufficient in the short to medium-term future. This is because Tajikistan is dependent not only on foreign aid to maintain the state and its functions, but is even more highly dependent on external natural resources since the nations’ geographic climate and structure provide none. And because Uzbekistan is the closest neighbor that is the richest in minerals, oil and gas, soil, water and various agricultural production, Tajikistan is dependent on it for these vital reasons.  

 

President Rakhmonov recognizes the strengths of Uzbekistan, however is cautious of its role in the Central Asian region and does not want Karimov to become the hegemonic leader because Tajikistan is too weak to fight against Uzbekistan and would become merciless under its aggression. Therefore, to deter Uzbekistan from becoming a regional hegemon Tajikistan has aligned with Russia in order to balance any possible violations or acts of aggression toward Tajikistan’s territorial integrity and national security. Tajikistan views a permanent place for Russia in the Central Asian region and views it as the state that is best fit to do so because of its historical experience and importance to Tajikistan. This alliance will lead to an increased presence of Russian interests and military power in the region that will balance Uzbekistan’s interests in hegemony and military power in the region and hence favor the national security interests of Tajikistan.

The more aggressive a state’s perceived intentions, the more likely others are to align against that state.[89]

Finally, states that are viewed as aggressive are likely to provoke others to balance against them.[90] In this closing section of evidence, the perceived intentions of Uzbekistan in the Central Asian region are best explained by Karimov himself, who has based his states legitimacy on the premise that it will keep order and make the country a “great” one with a dominant regional role.[91] The small size of Tajikistan, its fragile and weak military, its high dependence on Russia and lack of natural resources make this state an easy target for Uzbek aggression. The state of Tajikistan perceives the intentions of Uzbekistan as aggressive and it has therefore aligned itself with Russia in order to balance the threat of Uzbekistan. 

 

IV.           Objections

A.   Liberalism

The argument in this paper has been exemplified through the theoretical framework of defensive realism and the balance of threat theory. Realists in general prescribe the state to be the principle actor in international relations, where the focus is on state and inter-state relations. The state is a unitary actor because it speaks with one voice and is also a rational actor because decision-makers strive to achieve the best possible decision even with constraints.[92] Furthermore, national security is the most important factor for realists where military and political issues top the agenda.[93] Overall, the state is the centerpiece of realists work.[94]

                                       

The greatest objection that faces the argument and realist approach presented in this paper comes from the liberal school of thought in international relations. Therefore, this section will first layout the theoretical framework of liberalism and its main assumptions. Secondly, it will address the specific criticisms of realist theory by liberal Ahmed Rashid as outlined in his book Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia. Lastly, this section will end with a summary of the objection and argument.  

 

In liberalist theory non-state actors such as international organizations and human rights organizations are important. Liberals assert that realists are so obsessed with the state that they ignore other actors and other issues not directly related to the maintenance of state security.[95] Secondly, liberals do not consider the state to be a unitary actor. The state is composed of competing individuals, interest groups, and bureaucracies. Most importantly, the agenda of international politics is extensive. Although national security concerns are important, liberals are concerned with a number of economic and social issues arising from the growth of interdependence among states and societies in the twentieth century.[96] Furthermore, given the national security prism through which realists view the world, other concerns such as the socio-economic gap between rich and poor societies rarely make the realist agenda.[97]

 

Liberals, such as Ahmed Rashid, stipulate that the states of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan face internal rather than external threats. Rashid strongly reinforces that the states of Central Asia have repressive regimes lead by authoritarian leaders who seek the security of their own power and not the security of the nation. Furthermore, Rashid argues that the repressive regime itself precipitates the threats that appear as external challenges to the state. These governments refuse to broaden their political base, institute even the mildest of democratic reforms, or allow any kind of political opposition.[98] Rashid makes the connection between authoritarian regimes and the internal fueling of threats by lack of political participation as sole problem for the states of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that make them seek out external priorities in order to hide their great internal instability. 

 

For Rashid, whilst poverty and unemployment increase – and economic opportunities decrease – Central Asia’s debt-ridden societies will be ripe for any organization or party that offers hope for a better life.[99] The regimes continue to respond with increased repression, viewing not just Islamic militancy but all Islamic practice as a threat to their grip on power.[100] Poverty, organized crime, and the drug trade are also creating previously unforeseen problems.[101] The European based International Crisis Group was similarly ominous:

 

“The situation [in Central Asia] is so dire for the vast majority of the population that patience is beginning to evaporate and unrest to grow sharply… The likelihood is that dire poverty – combined with despair and outrage over rampant corruption, repressive policies and government’s failure to address local needs – could lead to outbreaks of localized unrest with the potential to spread into a wider regional conflict.”[102]

 

Military aid has also not been accompanied by large-scale economic incentives – promises to write off the governments’ foreign debts, for example, or comprehensive funding for economic development – that would have prodded the regimes into developing not just a military strategy but also a socio-economic strategy.[103] Historically, socioeconomic aid has proved to be the critical factor in counterinsurgency.[104] A well-fed, well-housed, and fully employed population would not provide recruits for the IMU – or any other terrorist organization.[105] In fact, Western oil company investments, by creating an extremely wealthy, corrupt minority class, are breeding even greater social discontent.[106] This pattern has appeared in other oil-rich Third World countries like Indonesia and Nigeria, where money has suddenly poured in: the minuscule elite becomes richer, whilst the overwhelming majority of the population grow poorer and more angry and frustrated.[107]

 

In the context that liberals do not view the international system as anarchic, there are opportunities not threats available to the states of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The crisis that has blown up since the September 11 attacks is fraught with danger, but it also offers an enormous opportunity for change.[108] However, the reasons why the governments failed to take advantage of an improved external environment and widespread international support to move on reform are complex but mostly relate to a political system dominated by vested interests at all levels that have a considerable investment in retaining the status quo.[109] A bureaucratic machine that fears change and lacks the capacity to implement reforms has also slowed any program.[110] Therefore, the ultimate problem facing the Central Asian states is one of political and economic reform.

 

It can be assessed that the proposal Rashid offers to make the states of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan less viable to threats, albeit internal threats, is one that encompasses serious political and economic reform. Political reform is suggested as an assertion toward a gradual approach in developing democracy in order to open the forum to non-state actors, political opposition groups and various religious groups. The reduction of regional clan, tribal clan and warlord political infighting would be deterred with democratic reform and allow bureaucracies to play a greater role in foreign policy formation in order to reverse the current top-down approach of Uzbekistan’s and Tajikistan’s authoritarian regimes. Economic reform is suggested as an assertion toward a gradual approach in allowing market forces to play a greater role in establishing the accurate needs of society through supply and demand. This asserts that state decrees in re-nationalizing privatized enterprises should be reversed, regulations restricting cross-border trade and high tariffs to trade should be lowered, and private business should flourish in order for the population to have greater access to employment and income to increase their standards of living.

However, the liberal assertions of political and economic reform Rashid purposes are insufficient in addressing the real threats that are posed to the states of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Furthermore, initiating these reforms would only further exacerbate problems to these states that already face significant threats to their national security. The liberal argument that Rashid poses is insufficient because the reform of the states of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan would only precipitate further threats to the state. Since independence for these states has only been little over a decade it is important that their foreign policies take priority in the face of multiple conflicts occurring in the region and at a time where alliances are more important then domestic affairs. The top priority of the state is to ensure security to the nation and deter external threats, moving away from the realist state in Central Asia would only instigate a deepening crisis.   

 

V.      Conclusion

This paper has illustrated that Stephen Walt’s balance of threat theory has been supplemental in exemplifying the argument that the Central Asian states of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have aligned with the United States and Russia respectively in order to balance the threats posed to their national security interests, hence effectively forming their foreign policy orientations. In having assessed the evidence of both states it is clear that external threats are the most frequent cause of international alliances.[111] Furthermore, states do not balance solely against power; they balance against threats.[112] In this comparative case analysis, the states of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan clearly show that although superpowers may choose alliance partners primarily to balance against each other, regional powers are largely indifferent to the global balance of power.[113]

 

In addressing some of the short comings of Walt’s balance of threat theory, one example is the relative difficulty in measuring the actual threat. Although Walt does lay out the various factors that need to be taken into account when calculating threats, a theory that would solely address the external threats posed to the states of Central Asia themselves would be more effective in using this theory in future reference. However, Walt’s theory has proved beneficial in assisting the argument. The balance of threat theory is more complementing than Kenneth Waltz’s balance of power theory due to the nature of the research in attempting to find the determining factors of state and inter-state interactions. Also, the liberal approach in assessing the foreign policy orientations of the Central Asian states has proved inefficient.

 

This argument is important to the field of international relations because it brings in a fresh perspective on the decision-making processes that are taken into account when determining the foreign policy orientations of the Central Asian states and why they do so. Much of the scholarly research and information available today solely focus on great power politics and often over look or underestimate the importance in assessing how and why these newly independent states have taken certain foreign policy paths.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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[1] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 1.

[2] Ibid, 1

[3] Ibid, 5

[4] Ibid, 21

[5] Ibid, 21

[6] Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, “Seeking Security Alliances under Anarchy: Defensive Realism Revisited,”

International Security 25, no. 3 (Winter 2000/01): 138.

[7] Ibid, 5

[8] Mark V. Kauppi and Paul R. Viotti, International Relations Theory, 3rd ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon,

1999), 12. 

[9] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 12

[10] Ibid, 18

[11] Ibid, 18

[12] Ibid, 18

[13] Ibid, 27

[14] Ibid,  27

[15] Ibid, 27

[16] Ibid, 22

[17] Ibid, 22

[18] Ibid, 23

[19] Ibid, 23

[20] Ibid, 23

[21] Ibid, 23

[22] Ibid, 25

[23] Ibid, 25

[24] Ibid, 25

[25] Ibid, 26

[26] Ibid, 26

[27] The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. government, available online:

http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/theme_home6.jsp.

[28] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 32

[29] Ahmed Rashid. The Resurgence of Central Asia: Islam or Nationalism? (New Jersey: Oxford University

Press, 1994), 4

[30] Ibid, 5.

[31] Graham Smith. The Post-Soviet States: Mapping the Politics of Transition. (New York: Oxford

University Press, 1999), 68.

[32] Ibid, 51.

[33] Smith, 68

[34] Smith, 68

[35] Graham Smith. The Post-Soviet States: Mapping the Politics of Transition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. pg. 66

[36] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 22

[37] Ibid, 22

[38] Ibid, 23

[39] Ibid, 23

[40] Ibid, 23

[41] Karimov, Islam. Uzbekistan on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century: Challenges

                to Stability and Progress. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 30

[42] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 32

[43] Ahmed Rashid. The Resurgence of Central Asia: Islam or Nationalism? (New Jersey: Oxford University

Press, 1994), 79

[44] Ahmed Rashid. Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia. (London: Yale University Press,

2002), 137

[45] Ahmed Rashid. The Resurgence of Central Asia: Islam or Nationalism? (New Jersey: Oxford University

Press, 1994), 78

[46] Ahmed Rashid. Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia. (London: Yale University Press,         2002), 146

[47] Ibid, 149

[48] Islam Karimov. Uzbekistan on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century: Challenges

                to Stability and Progress. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 14

[49] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 23

[50] Graham Smith. The Post-Soviet States: Mapping the Politics of Transition. (New York: Oxford

University Press, 1999), 64

[51] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 23

[52] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 23

[53] Ibid, 32

[54] Ibid, 25

[55] Islam Karimov. Uzbekistan on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century: Challenges

                to Stability and Progress. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 34

[56] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 25

[57] Ibid, 188

[58] Ibid, 188

[59] Islam Karimov. Uzbekistan on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century: Challenges

                to Stability and Progress. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 187

[60] Mark A. Cichock. Russian and Eurasian Politics: A Comparative Approach. (New York: Longman

Publishers, 2003), 267

[61] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 32

[62] Ahmed Rashid. The Resurgence of Central Asia: Islam or Nationalism? (New Jersey: Oxford University

Press, 1994), 160

[63] Ibid, 160

[64] Ibid, 161

[65] Ibid, 161

[66] Ibid, 161

[67] Ibid, 161

[68] Ibid, 161

[69] Ibid, 161

[70] Ibid, 161

[71] Ibid, 171

[72] Giampaolo R. Capisani, The Handbook of Central Asia: A Comprehensive Survey of

the New Republics. (New York: I.S. Tauris Publishers, 2000), 170

[73]Putting a paw print on Central Asia: Talks on Tajik air base drag on…” RFL/RE, 7 November 2002,

vol. 3 no. 26, available online: http://www.rferl.org/centralasia

[74] Ibid

[75] Ahmed Rashid. Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia. (London: Yale University Press,        

2002), 242

[76] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 32

[77] Ahmed Rashid. Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia. (London: Yale University Press,        

2002), 152.

[78] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 32

[79] Ibid, 23

[80] International Crisis Group. “Tajikistan: An Uncertain Peace.” Asia Report no. 30 (24 December 2001),

pg. 19. Available online: http://www.crisisweb.org/home/index.cfm?id=1251&l=1

[81] Ibid, 19

[82] Ibid, 19

[83] Ibid, 19

[84] Ibid, 19

[85] Ibid, 19

[86] Ibid, 20

[87] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 23

[88] Mark A. Cichock. Russian and Eurasian Politics: A Comparative Approach. (New York: Longman

Publishers, 2003), 267.

[89] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 32

[90] Ibid, 25

[91] International Crisis Group. Uzbekistan at Ten: Repression and Instability. 21 August 2001 (ICG Asia

Report no. 21). Available online: http://www.crisisweb.org/home/index.cfm?id=1251&l=1

[92] Kauppi, Mark V. and Paul R. Viotti. International Relations Theory: Realism, Pluralism, Globalism, and

Beyond, 3rd ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1999), 55

[93] Ibid, 55

[94] Ibid, 84

[95] Ibid, 84

[96] Ibid, 200

[97] Ibid, 85

[98] Ahmed Rashid. Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia. (London: Yale University Press,        

2002), 228.

[99] Ibid, 228

[100] Ibid, 228                                 

[101] Ibid, 229

[102] Ibid, 230

[103] Ibid, 236

[104] Ibid, 236

[105] Ibid, 236

[106] Ibid, 237

[107] Ibid, 237

[108] Ibid, 244

[109] International Crisis Group. “Uzbekistan’s Reform Program: Illusion or Reality?” 18 February 2003

(Asia Report no. 46), ii. Available online: http://www.crisisweb.org/home/index.cfm?id=1251&l

[110] Ibid, ii

[111] Stephen M. Walt, Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987). 148

[112] Ibid, 148

[113] Ibid, 148