Islam Karimov, the President of Uzbekistan, arrived in Moscow for an official visit on Monday. The main purpose of the visit was the signing of a treaty of union between Russia and Uzbekistan. In addition to economic cooperation, the document also envisages reciprocal assistance in case of external aggression against one of the sides.
[Editor's Note: The agreement is essentially a mutual defense pact].
"To maintain peace and guarantee security and stability, when the contracting parties find it necessary to do so, the two sides agree to use military facilities situated on their territories," Interfax reported, citing the text of the treaty.
The presidents of Russia and Uzbekistan are certain that the agreement will give additional impetus to bilateral relations.
"Russia will not regret its signature on this treaty. I am certain of that. Russia's decision to sign this treaty of union with Uzbekistan is an unprecedented event. This is a totally new level of relations with Russia," Uzbek President Islam Karimov said.
"The signing of the treaty is a major step in the development of bilateral cooperation, which will create a legal basis for the development of Russian-Uzbek ties," Vladimir Putin said, after the official meeting.
Pravda asked two political scientists, Andrei Grozin and Vladimir Razuvayev, to comment on the agreement between Russia and Uzbekistan.
Andrei Grozin, the director of the Central Asia Department of the Commonwealth of Independent States Institute: "Uzbekistan has no other choice but to sign a treaty of friendly relations with Russia. A group of U.S. Congress people have already threatened to put Karimov on international trail for his refusal to collaborate in an investigation into the bloody events in Andijan. [SEE VIDEO] The U.S. and the European Union have declared a propaganda war against Uzbekistan. However, a military invasion of Uzbekistan is hardly possible - the U.S. administration will probably try to organize a coup there instead. Pravda: Will a Russian military base appear in the country?
Grozin: It would be strange if the base in Khanabade went empty for long. But I hardly think there will be discussions about creating a base in Uzbekistan as valuable as Russia's base in Kirghizstan. Russia is not likely to aggravate relations with the U.S. It would be better to deal with such discussions within the Shanghai Cooperation Council of the Organization of Independent States, or in other words, with the participation of other countries.
Pravda: What is the benefit of this agreement to Russia, besides the possibility of positioning a military base?
Grozin: Uzbekistan is the largest country in Central Asia. More than half of the region's entire population lives there. The country is building a mixed economy [public and private?], and privatization in the biggest economic sectors has begum. Gazprom, Lukoil [Russian energy companies] and many other Russian companies have long striven for access to the Uzbek market, and now that access will be facilitated.
Vladimir Razuvayev, Chairman of the Center for Economic and Political Research and Development:
"Uzbekistan will gain tremendously from this union. First and foremost, the country will get Russia, an influential protector with international stature. In addition, the union with Russia will not let it become another example of oriental despotism, like it happened in the neighboring state of Turkmenistan. Russia will get an opportunity to confirm its status of a regional superpower, which is an important aspect, taking into consideration the fact that almost all Russian neighbors try to cast doubts on this status. To crown it all, Russia will have more opportunities to control this region, which is known for its narcotic substances and extremist elements," Mr. Razuvayev said.