From the International Crisis Group
Economic misrule and political repression have left Uzbekistan in a woeful state. President Islam Karimov’s intransigence has meant that efforts to encourage economic and political reform have failed. Relations with Europe and the U.S. are the worst since independence in 1991. Religious and political repression and worsening living standards have raised domestic tensions and provoked violence. There is little that Western countries can do now to change Uzbekistan’s direction but they should be doing more to prepare the Uzbek people and the neighbouring states to withstand future instability in Central Asia.
Uzbekistan is well down the path of self-destruction followed by such countries as Burma, Zimbabwe and North Korea, in which an elite prospers while the majority lives in worsening poverty. Even as European governments and the U.S. have encouraged regional development, Tashkent acts as a persistent spoiler and presents a growing threat to its neighbours, with refugees and drugs spilling over its frontiers. The other four Central Asian states and Afghanistan are all relatively weak and vulnerable. Kyrgyzstan was profoundly shaken by the arrival of fewer than 500 refugees after the Andijon massacre in May 2005. Tajikistan has been hard hit by border closures and trade restrictions. Even relatively prosperous Kazakhstan could be seriously troubled if violence were to drive Uzbeks across its border.