Genuine Friendship Matures with Time
“Perhaps, with none of the Central Asian states did Russia experience such difficulties in building strategic cooperation as with Uzbekistan.” Comments like this in the Russian media had been a frequent incidence until recently. But there were those who would find quite reasonable explanations to those ‘difficulties’. Alexander Kozlovsky, who in 2011 held the post of deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, was among them. He noted back then that “for the time being, Russian business cannot interest Uzbekistan – and one won’t be nice by coercion. We can quickly start working together, but for this we need to be really interesting and competitive… In relations with Uzbekistan, Moscow does not need to force events forward... They have... something ripening, and this should be treated with calm.”
Well, judging by the staggering results of the October visit of President Putin to Uzbekistan, it turns out it has ripened. But what does the expert community think about this? Alexei Kustov, Chief Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and Regional Studies under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, has agreed to share his opinion on the matter with our readers.
“Yes, indeed, the effective cooperation between Tashkent and Moscow over the past two years has made it possible to make serious achievements in bilateral relations. “Thanks to joint efforts, our partnership has reached a qualitatively new level and is developing dynamically in all directions,” the President of Uzbekistan said at a meeting with Putin.
“However, in my opinion, the meeting held in Tashkent was not just a logical continuation of regular contacts at the highest level. It was something more; as a rule, such a constructive political dialogue, but at the same time sincere one, the one based on mutual trust, contributes to the development of genuinely friendly relations for the longer term. Recognizing this fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted the reliability of Uzbekistan as an ally of Russia.”
“I think they did. Since at the meeting between the Uzbek and Russian leaders, there was a fairly frank exchange of views on the coordination of joint measures to counter terrorism, extremism, and especially among the youth. As President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev and President of Russia Vladimir Putin noted, enhancing the security partnership based on the principles of mutual trust and account of each other’s interests will help jointly tackle the tasks of countering new challenges and threats in Central Asia. At the same time, both sides expressed confidence that the process of peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan should be carried out only by the Afghans themselves. The heads of the two states noted positive trends in the development of mutually beneficial and effective regional cooperation in Central Asia.
“By the way, I would like to note that Russian experts also highly appreciated this visit. For example, Andrei Kazantsev, director of the Center for Central Asia and Afghanistan at the MGIMO Institute of International Studies, who believes that within a short period of time both countries made a breakthrough in developing their relations, “Uzbekistan is the central country of the region. In terms of geographical location and population it is the pivotal state. For Russia, it is important to maintain good ties with Uzbekistan. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in turn, did a lot to improve the Russian-Uzbek relations.”
“I believe we can confidently talk about a new growth point today. Judge for yourself: Uzbekistan and Russia reaffirmed a strong commitment to the course taken to increase the volume and diversify the range of commodity turnover, cooperation development among manufacturing enterprises. In particular, at present, Russian investments in Uzbekistan’s economy already exceed $ 8.5 billion.
“Moreover, this year alone, according to economists, the bilateral trade between the two countries will reach $ 6 billion. This figure exceeds the previously designated plans. As President Shavkat Mirziyoyev noted, reaching the level of $ 10 billion is becoming a priority for the coming years. In this regard, Uzbekistan intends to take steps to further increase mutual trade. The total amount of documents signed in the framework of the visit in the trade, economic and investment areas worth $ 27 billion should form a solid foundation for achieving this objective.
“To this end, the presidents of the two states agreed to establish a joint commission at the level of the heads of government of Uzbekistan and Russia. It will be entrusted with coordinating efforts to further increase the volume of bilateral trade, create conditions for expanding mutual exportimport operations, especially related to the supply of products with a high degree of processing, as well as to remove customs and non-customs barriers in UzbekRussian trade on a mutually beneficial basis.
“Yes, it is, after all, the opening of this direction in the cooperation with the Russian Federation forms a new cluster, the implementation of which will further develop the industrial potential and create jobs in various sectors of the country’s economy. In essence, this project marks the formation of a high-tech industry in the republic. According to Nabi Ziyadullayev, chief researcher at the Institute of Market Issues of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev set the task of reviving the nuclear industry in Uzbekistan. “In Soviet times, in Tashkent, the Institute of Nuclear Physics was one of the leading ones. Now Moscow will assist in its restoration.”
“The decision to choose Russia as a partner in this area is not accidental. Rosatom Corporation
“Many experts, predicting the substance of the negotiations, placed security issues at the center, where the positions and approaches of the two countries, despite their own interests, still have common points, which are absolutely the same for both Moscow and Tashkent. In other words, both countries ultimately want one thing – peace. In your opinion, did these predictions come true?
“The practical achievements of Tashkent talks have been in the focus of attention of international observers. In their evaluations, the
visit brought about a new point of growth in the cooperation between the two states. Do you agree with this argument or do you think that one should not hurry with such conclusions?”
“The start of the construction of nuclear power plant is the most important project for Uzbekistan, which has made it possible to supplement the strategic ties between the two countries with a new direction...”
“Why was the choice made with Russia?”
today ranks first in the world in the number and scale of overseas projects – 34 power units in 12 countries. The atomic energy of the newest generation 3+ units is environmentally friendly. Thus, two NPP power units will ensure the production of inexpensive and environmentally friendly electricity, which will contribute to the energy stability of not only Uzbekistan, but also the entire Central Asian region.
“I am sure that it is also very good, and here, the figures speak for themselves: the result of the work of the first Interregional Forum in Tashkent was cooperation projects for more than $ 2 billion. Agreements were reached on opening more than 70 joint ventures in Uzbekistan. At the same time, Rostselmash, KamAZ, Eurocement and other Russian companies are expanding their interaction with Uzbekistan. The Russian company Promtractor agreed with Uzbekistan on the release of tractors and heavy machinery in the republic. The issue of starting the assembly of cars of the Ulyanovsk Automobile Plant in Uzbekistan is also being discussed.
“This result was made possible by the development of relations at the regional level between Uzbekistan and Russia. To date, more than 40 reciprocal visits have already been organized. In particular, in the last two months of this year alone, heads of all regions of our country visited 26 constituent entities of the Russian Federation.
“The establishment of direct interaction of Uzbek companies with Russian regions is of particular importance in the light of the possibilities of strengthening both existing and creating new production chains. Without this, the economies of both countries are largely under-performing the socio-economic bonuses of commodity production. The growing mutual efforts of the two countries to create joint high-tech industries will expand cooperation for the production of marketable products in order to explore third markets.
“Taking into account the importance of this factor, the President of Uzbekistan proposed to hold interregional forums on an annual basis. This will make a significant contribution to strengthening ties between our countries and will play an important role in the development of trade and economic relations.”
“Yes, indeed, today, more than ever, there is a mutual need in the maximum harmonization and integration of the educational space of Russia and Uzbekistan, which is in the interests of the most complete realization of the intellectual and creative potential of future generations of citizens of our states. The first UzbekRussian educational forum “New Specialists for a New Economy” was dedicated to these good goals. The event attracted 80 managers of leading Russian universities. As a result, branches of a number of prominent higher educational institutions of Russia will work in Uzbekistan.
“It is important to emphasize that thanks to the efforts of the leadership of Uzbekistan and the attention paid to all these processes by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the possibilities for developing the capacities of the national research infrastructure have increased significantly. A branch of the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys was opened in the city of Almalyk to receive high-quality Russian education in Uzbekistan. A branch of the G.Plekhanov Russian Economic University: the university has created a modern educational environment that includes innovative elements of the socalled ‘smart university’ innovation – “smart infrastructure”, which includes electronic library and reading room systems, electronic document management, webinar and conference communication systems.
“According to Gevorg Mirzayan, Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science at the Russian Financial University, the attention paid by the authorities of both countries to this field is not in vain. “Education gives not only knowledge, but forms reasoning, a picture of the world. The more young Uzbeks will be trained by Russian standards and within the framework of Russian reasoning, the deeper they will understand Russia.
In addition to branches of Moscow State University, Russian Economic University, Russian State University of Oil and Gas, successfully operating in the capital of our country, it is planned to open branches of MGIMO, National Research Nuclear University “MIFI”, All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography, Moscow Power Engineering Institute, technological university. This intensification of cooperation in the field of science has made it possible to reach agreement on the implementation of a joint project to create a super-powerful radio telescope on the Suffa Plateau in the Jizzakh region.
“Quite possibly. For the purposes of a worthy celebration in Uzbekistan of the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory, it is planned to develop a special program and create a Victory Park Complex in Tashkent within its framework. Moreover, Uzbekistan is planning to publish a 100-volume collection “Masterpieces of Russian Classics”.
“In addition, it is necessary to note the holding of the first media forum in the history of the UzbekRussian relations. This project has helped to significantly expand the Russian public’s awareness of the history and culture of Uzbekistan, improve the qualifications of Uzbek television and radio broadcasting specialists, and in particular, study the experience of leading Russian television and radio companies in the production of information and analytical programs.
“In general, the above examples show the inexhaustible trade and economic, scientific, cultural and humanitarian potential. This was voiced by Alexander Vorobyov, senior researcher at the Center for the Study of the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Volga Region at the Institute of Oriental Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences. In his opinion, the significance of Uzbekistan for Russia will only increase. “The previously unrealized potential of interaction between Moscow and Tashkent is deepening on all fronts: in economy, security, and, of course, humanitarian ties. This is helped by the fact that cooperation is not limited to any institutional framework, formats, but is based on a bilateral basis. We should expect further enhancement of these complex bonds, since it is beneficial for both Russia and Uzbekistan.”
““This is both a useful and very promising area of cooperation,” as Vladimir Putin described the extensive relations at the regional level. We know that Russia has interregional formats of interaction with a number of countries and this mechanism has proven itself very well in practice. How, in your opinion, will the Russian-Uzbek Forum of Regions recommend itself?”
“Do you think that, amid the ongoing tectonic changes in economic cooperation, the development of humanitarian ties is of great importance?”
“Probably, cultural interaction will replenish with new directions, too?”