Worlds Apart: the making and remaking of geopolitical space in the US-Uzbekistan strategic partnership
University of Exeter
Central Asian Survey
Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
This article analyses the US-Uzbekistan strategic alliance in terms of the illusion of ‘partnership’ which sustained it, the contrasting discourses which constructed and deconstructed it, and the implications of them for the region and the study thereof. Official Uzbek accounts of geopolitics contrast with official American renditions of the Central Asian ‘other’ and their expectations about the pace, place and ethics of Uzbek reform. These contrasts were reconciled for a short period by the illusion of common interests which sustained the strategic partnership. I show how contending representations of the partnership came to a head immediately after the Andijon uprising, amid precipitous national and international developments. These contingencies shattered an unstable discursive compromise, crystalised US and Uzbek policy-maker’s positions, and pitted the two states against one another. Whilst not pre-determined or inevitable, this split was always probable. Nevertheless, these contrasting representations have not disappeared and continue to effect the practice and study of international politics in the region. We must, I argue, understand geopolitical dynamics in the region not in terms of swings of a pendulum ‘between’ East and West, but in terms of the qualitative differences of each power’s power in the region. In other words, it is the exclusion of the United States from a spatially-defined and discursively-constructed region of Central Asia which limits its place in the region. An analysis born out of critical geopolitics calls into question these apparently objective descriptions. Differences between the way the US, Russia and China relate to Uzbekistan are found not so much in their mobilisation of strategic and economic resources, but in terms of their powers of representation, their ability to perform the authority of the Karimov regime. The United States, I conclude, is qualitatively less powerful than Russia and China in Central Asia.
Central Asian Survey, Volume 26, Issue 1, March 2007 , pages 123-140