President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is growing closer to Uzbekistan-born Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who could help the president solidify his power as he continues to struggle against the Uzbek National Security Service (SNB) and its chief, Rustam Inoyatov. However, any belief that oligarchs will help modernize Uzbekistan is naïve. They will simply assume the power once wielded by the SNB.
The new leadership in Uzbekistan wants to replace the Soviet-era political-economic model, but Uzbek technocrats are still unable to effectively challenge the entrenched security chiefs. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is studying the experiences of Russia, Kazakhstan, and South Korea in hopes of bringing Westernized, apolitical economic specialists to Uzbekistan.
In any other post-Soviet country, the president’s choice of successor would have informed the choice of the ruling party, but not in Kyrgyzstan. There is a flurry of activity in Bishkek, which foreshadows a sharp collision at the Social Democratic party convention, and possibly a fracturing of the ruling party. As a result, the authorities may back a completely different candidate.
The Kremlin is still anxious about the expansion of Chinese influence in Central Asia, which is why it has turned the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, set up in order to work out widely accepted rules of the game for Eurasia, into a useless bureaucracy. Now, Beijing can develop relations with other SCO members without worrying about what Moscow thinks.
In the apparent battle between Uzbekistan’s two most influential politicians, security service head Rustam Inoyatov will have to either support the new president’s agenda, or attempt to return Uzbekistan to the way it was under the totalitarian late leader Karimov. But the resources he has to achieve the latter are getting smaller and smaller every day.
Putin’s recent trip to Central Asia showed that he is willing to pay Russia’s partners in the region for their geopolitical loyalty—even if some republics have refrained from joining the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
Declining hydrocarbon prices and a gas dispute with Russia have kept Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov from bringing back the luster and prosperity of Turkmenistan’s golden age. The next few years promise to be even harder for Turkmenistan’s economy, which is why parliament decided to extend Berdymukhamedov’s term in office from five to seven years.
Media reports about a rapprochement between Russia and the Taliban are not even close to reality. Moscow, however, has opened communication channels with the Afghan group, with an eye on protecting its own interests in the country.
If none of the Kazakh president’s current associates will agree to accept the right of another to become the country’s second national leader, it’s inevitable that Kazakhstan will be ruled by some kind of collective leadership after Nazarbayev. However, nothing in the president’s special address suggested any mechanism for the transfer of power.
It will be difficult for Uzbekistan’s new president to bring about foundational change without moving toward some kind of glasnost. Though Uzbekistan’s tightly controlled political system has its limits, Mirziyoyev will have to loosen the reins in one way or another.