Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Book Review: Uzbekistan and the United States: Authoritarianism, Islamism & Washington’s Security Agenda

Uzbekistan and the United States: Authoritarianism, Islamism & Washington’s Security Agenda
               Shahram Akbarzadeh.  Zed Books.  2005

                In this book, Shahram Akbarzadeh provides a comprehensive historical narrative of the rise to power of Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov.  In it, he provides a detailed explanation of the extent to which the Uzbek President has been able to preserve his executive authority in a post-Soviet space.  The author includes a thorough analysis of the manifestations of political Islam and their fate in Uzbekistan, as well as a thoughtful insight into Tashkent’s foreign policy objectives with Russia, China, and the United States.  I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more of President Karimov’s authoritarian rise to and preservation of power in a domestic and international context.
                Akbarzadeh devotes the first chapter of the book to provide a historical background of the contemporary political structure of Uzbekistan.  Emerging from the aegis of the Soviet Union, Uzbek President Islam Karimov sought to immediately consolidate his executive position and legitimize it through elections.  Akbarzadeh provides a detailed description of this transition, effectively reporting on this evolution toward a presidential system of government.  The chapter includes the enumerated powers given to the President by the 1992 Constitution, followed by an analysis of how President Karimov was able to use these powers to make and regulate regional and local political appointments.  The abolition of the office of the vice-president, in addition to the extensive control of local and regional appointments, are highlighted by Akbarzadeh to show the extent to which President Karimov has pursued a distinct style of authoritarian power consolidation under a constitutional framework.  The challenge which arose, however, was the emergence of a strong political mobilization of Uzbek Muslims.  Akbarzadeh describes how President Karimov was able to simultaneously co-opt, assimilate, and suppress the emerging activity of political Islam by justifying these measures are critical to the security and stability of the state. 
                In chapter two, however, Akbarzadeh shows that the initial reaction made by President Karimov was not enough to neutralize Islamic political organization.  In response to the development of the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) of Uzbekistan, President Karimov extended his executive authority to the realm of political party organization by adopting a law against the formation of religiously inspired political parties.  Akbarzadeh describes the ensuing conflict between President Karimov’s secular state approach and the emergence of determined, defiant organizations such as Adolat (Justice) in the Fergana Valley.  Akbarzadeh provides a historical narrative of President Karimov’s response to the de facto sovereignty of Adolat in Fergana and to the militant Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) which followed it.  Akbarzadeh effectively illustrates the severity of the contention for power which existed in the 1990’s between President Karimov and political Islam in Uzbekistan.
                Akbarzadeh proceeds to map Tashkent’s foreign policy decisions in chapter three.  He describes Tashkent’s role in the Tajik civil war as one which was absolutely opposed to the National Reconciliation Government, out of fear of the potential mobility of political Islam in Tajikistan under such a tolerant democratic alliance.  A description of Tashkent’s early indifference of the emergence of Taliban control in Afghanistan is followed by an insistent appeal to the West for intervention against Taliban forces.  Akbarzadeh illustrates Tashkent’s mercurial relationship with Russia in pursuing a security agenda within the region, emphasizing Tashkent’s fear of growing Russian influence running parallel to a frustration of Moscow’s inability to guarantee safety from militant Islam.  Akbarzadeh suggests that, while Uzbekistan sought closer ties with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in response to this frustration with Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Uzbekistan appears to be viewing the SCO with the same accusations of inability.
                Akbarzadeh elaborates on Uzbek-U.S. relations prior to 11 September 2001 in chapter four.  Akbarzadeh identifies an overlap between Uzbekistan and the U.S. concerning Middle East foreign policy.  This overlap refers to the refusal to recognize statehood of Palestine, the support of punitive economic sanctions against Iran and Iraq, and membership of the “Coalition of the Willing” in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  The author suggests that Uzbekistan’s move for association with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and Russia’s subsequent disapproval, provided grounds for Uzbekistan’s departure from CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) membership.  Akbarzadeh also touches upon a shift in U.S. policy toward Uzbekistan away from solely what is referred to as “dollar diplomacy” toward a more “realist” strategic partnership which emphasized Uzbekistan’s importance for Central Asian regional security as a whole.  Summarizing this policy, Akbarzadeh includes the key points of the U.S. Silk Road Strategy Act of 1998, which stressed intra-regional economic cooperation, economic assistance, security and military assistance, and pressuring for democratic and free-market institutions.  Akbarzadeh’s claim is that, at that time, U.S. policy placed less of an emphasis on human rights measures in Uzbekistan, as the U.S. became more focused on strategic development with the country.  All of this coincided, as Akbarzadeh suggests, with President Karimov’s self-preserving, security-oriented preferences.
                Akbarzadeh focuses on the evolution of U.S.-Uzbek relations following the 11 September 2001 attacks in chapter five.  The author emphasizes that President Karimov’s deepening ties with the U.S. prompted Tashkent to mindfully articulate foreign policy objectives to three audiences: the domestic, the U.S., and the Russian.  While Uzbekistan enjoyed closer diplomatic ties with the United States, the U.S. government still expressed a concern for human rights abuses in the country.  These concerns, however, are claimed to be marginal.  Abkarzadeh also thoroughly illustrates Russia’s frustration and concern of Tashkent’s bilateral partnership with the United States, as well as the Russian anxiety of a U.S. military presence in the region.  Abkarzadeh adds that Washington has been cautious in this approach, insisting that it does not seek to replace Russia, and that both Russia and the U.S. enjoy mutual benefit in fighting militant Islam in the region.  Abkarzadeh concludes the chapter by suggesting that President Karimov has enjoyed both regional strengths and domestic self-preserving power advantages in its diplomatic partnerships with the U.S.
                Akbarzadeh dedicates chapter six to assess the conditions of human rights and democracy within Uzbekistan vis-à-vis its relationship with the U.S.  The author suggests that while Tashkent makes and agrees to promises of political reform and human rights guarantees, these promises do not seem to produce much in the way of results.  Akbarzadeh asserts that there is simply an illusion of a multiparty democratic system, which isolates and excludes Islamic political organizations, claiming that they are tied with Wahhabism and Islamic extremism.  The author notes that President Karimov is able to pursue this repression without limit, under the guise of the “war on terror”.  Akbarzadeh illustrates the inhibited agency of Human Rights Non-governmental Organization(NGO)s, which is limited to advocating any issue or problem which does not openly accuse the regime.  Those who do not comply with these conditions, according to Akbarzadeh, are threatened, jailed, or tortured.  Akbarzadeh suggests that Tashkent is able to carry out these policies without reprisal from the U.S., as the U.S. ultimately views Uzbekistan as a vital strategic partner in the “war on terror” and security within the region.
                In the final chapter, Akbarzadeh defines the Uzbek authoritarianism as “adaptive and self-generating” in its approaches following the disintegration of the Soviet Union.  President Karimov insists on a “slow transition” of gradualism in state policies.  Akbarzadeh suggests that the indigenized leadership of aqsaqals (white beards, the community authorities) and mahallas (Uzbek communities) are not likely to possess a capacity to challenge authoritarianism, as their leadership has been carefully co-opted and controlled by the executive state apparatus.  Akbarzadeh claims that Tashkent is more likely to adopt minor economic policies of liberalization before it will adopt any sort of meaningful political reform.  Akbarzadeh concludes with the claim that an imminent crisis of legitimacy looms on the horizon as Tashkent pursues repression under the tacit approval of the United States. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review: The new Central Asia: The Regional Impact of International Actors (2010)

The New Central Asia: The Regional Impact of International Actors  Ed. Emilian Kavalski
           World Scientific Publishing Co. 2010

           The New Central Asia: The Regional Impact of International Actors, which is an anthology of essays edited by Emilian Kavalski, contains a variety of insightful analyses, explanations, and comparisons of the relationships between external agents and Central Asia.  In the first chapter, Kavalski explains that Central Asia is a region which has experienced multiple phases of definition vis-à-vis international actors.  On the one hand, it was viewed in the 1800s as a theater of Russian victory in the contest for influence in the “Great Game.”  Kavalski’s main point in this chapter is that the definition of what “Central Asia” means varies among the international actors, and that these external agents have sought to reshape the region according to their own interests since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. 
            In the second chapter, Smith and Kavalski describe the history and characteristics of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its transition from a military security alliance into what resembles a political-military alliance.  Smith and Kavalski provide a brief synopsis of NATO’s recent attempts and struggles to act as an agent of reform through various programs, such as the Partnership for Peace (PfP) in Central Asia.  They then conclude the chapter with a comparative assessment of NATO’s efficacy in the five Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan.  With the first four, Smith and Kavalski argue that NATO experiences a limited agency; receiving mixed responses in participation and lacking any real leverage over members.  Kavalski arranges the first half of the book to focus on the agency of international organizations in Central Asia, while presenting reflection on Central Asian state relationships with inter-state actors.
            Maria Raquel Freire contributes with an assessment of the performance of the OSCE in Central Asia.  Freire provides a descriptive history of the OSCE as an agent of socialization, reform, and security in Europe, as well as its assumption of a role of expansion into Central Asia.  Despite the amount of resources and staff that the OSCE invests in Central Asia, Freire suggests in the chapter that the organization lacks a clear and unified direction.  Freire suggests that the OSCE consider the following: improving its communication at all levels, defining specific goals for all activities, protecting regional civil society groups in their interactions with the state, encouraging selective bilateral rather than multilateral arrangements between the OSCE Central Asian states, and falling back from grandiose projects to smaller, focused goals.  Her assessment is a relevant reflection of the shared sentiment among Western donors involved with security partnerships in Central Asia.
            In chapter four, Ertan Efegil describes the initial history of the European Union’s involvement in Central Asia as somewhat lacking in direction, with the exception of a handful of bilateral agreements and the TACIS (Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States) program.  Efegil follows with an analysis of European Union (EU) policy after the attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001.  Following the September 11 attacks, the author highlights the EU’s interests concerned regime stabilities, corruption, drug trafficking, terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction.  According to Efegil, this expanded influence in security affairs ran parallel to the rapid expansion of EU-sponsored economic initiatives in Central Asia and the Caucasus.  Efegil highlights the numerous goals of the “Democratic Development and Good Governance” objectives, most of which encourage human rights guarantees and cooperation between leaders, but illustrates the recurring difficulty faced in realizing these goals.  In conclusion, Efegil recommends that the EU further engage Central Asian economies through programs which will motivate citizens to participate and profit from the global economy.
            W. Andy Knight and Vandana Bhatia write on the history and role of the United Nations (UN) in Central Asia in the fifth chapter.  They identify the multitude of original mandates drafted by the UN and elaborate specifically upon the expansion and promotion of the human security mandate.  The authors state the UN’s definition of “human security” in its 1994 UNDP Human Development Report as concerning economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political securities.  According to Knight and Bhatia, this marked a transition in post-Cold War thinking about security.  The authors suggest that the Central Asian states are more likely to prefer resolutions and agreements with the UN because of its neutrality, rather than arrangements enforced from external actors.  Knight and Bhatia highlight the commitment of Central Asian states in enforcing nuclear non-proliferation agreements, particularly the 2008 Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (CANWFZ) Treaty.  The authors also describe the UN’s role as mediators during the Tajik civil war, as well as their efforts to combat drug, human and arms trafficking in the region through collaboration with Central Asian governments.  Although Knight and Bhatia assert that the UN struggles to prompt regional governments to promote gender equality and human rights, they do note that Kazakhstan became the first Central Asian state to sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture
            In chapter six, Michael Clarke highlights the recent agency of China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) within the region.  Clarke introduces China’s foreign policy approach to the region as an avenue of its “peaceful rise” in international affairs.  Clarke describes China’s approach as incorporating “soft” and “hard” elements of regionalism; “soft” referring to a promotion of regional awareness and community, and “hard” being a regionalism through specific interstate institutions.  Clarke also refers to the 2001 declaration of the SCO’s commitment to suppress terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism within the region.  Clarke notes that the SCO seeks to promote security within the region as a means to increase economic growth and development, which bears an interesting parallel to China’s ancient imperial foreign policy of datong (“universal harmony”).  Clarke sums China’s bilateral and SCO-based multilateral approach in the region as deliberate and mindfully-crafted, and demonstrating success in manifesting its “peaceful rise” approach.
            Marlene Laruelle approaches Russia’s “vague” foreign policy in Central Asia in the seventh chapter.  Laruelle categorizes Russian foreign policy in Central Asia over the past two decades into three phases: disinterest (1991-1995), multilateralism and renewed interest (1996-2000), Putin-initiated security and economic partnerships (2000-present).  Laruelle aptly characterizes this dynamic in Russia’s Central Asian foreign policy as ebb and flow.  Much like China’s goals, Laruelle states Russia’s primary interests in the region are controlling energy resources and maintaining regional security.  She also maps the direction of gas flow out of Central Asia, illustrating that it is generally unidirectional and toward Russia.  While Laruelle highlights Russia’s mixed success in controlling Central Asian regional security through multilateral partnerships such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), she explains that Russia relies considerably on bilateral security arrangements between states within the region, which include substantial troop assignments and sales of military equipment.  In conclusion, Laruelle assesses Russia’s Central Asia foreign policy as pragmatic, seeking to co-pt local economic and political elites rather than coerce them, yet still lacking a cohesive, binding regional organizational framework akin to that which existed under the Soviet Union.
            Matteo Fumagalli outlines the changing role of the United States in the eighth chapter.  Fumagalli asserts that the U.S. evolved from a “friend in need” to a “threat” to the Central Asian regimes, and claims that a U.S. approach of “Uzbekistan first” is diminishing its influence within the region as a whole.  Fumagalli notes that although the U.S. policy promotes democracy within the region, this policy is often trumped by security interests.  Thus, Fumagalli describes U.S. policy within the region has “conflicting objectives” which inhibit its ability to levy sanctions against particular Central Asian regimes which fail to guarantee human rights and transparent democracy.  Fumagalli concludes that without being able to claim a sense of urgency related to Afghanistan and regional security, the future of U.S. policy in the region remains obscure.
            Brent E. Sasley provides an assessment of Turkey’s foreign policy in Central Asia with chapter nine.  In this chapter, Sasley suggests that Turkish foreign policy in the region was only marginally affected by notions of shared Turkic identity with Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.  Sasley claims that pan-Turkism failed to compete with the influence of Kemalism, thus defusing any future pan-Turkic approach in Turkey’s foreign policy relations with Central Asia.  The author claims that Turkic foreign policy in the region was largely inhibited by this disorientation, despite its earlier expectations of playing a significant influence.  Sasley illustrates the divide between Western and Turkish rhetoric of the potential of Turkey’s influence in the region on the one hand, and the actual policies which followed on the other.  Sasley concludes that Turkey’s role in the region is limited, and not likely to play a significant role in the future.
            In the tenth chapter, Pierre Pahlavi and Afshin Hojati describe Iran’s approach to the region as pragmatic and realist.  Pahlavi and Hojati provide an example of this prudent realism by highlighting Iran’s refusal to support militant Islamist groups in the region, as well as Iran’s preservation of friendly relations with Uzbekistan despite the mistreatment experienced by Tajiks in the country.  According to the authors, Iran’s pragmatic approach to Central Asia has relied upon: (1) developing bilateral economic and political relations, (2) developing pipelines and infrastructure capacity, and (3) regional integration in pre-existing economic partnerships such as the SCO.  In conclusion, the authors insist that Iran compensates for its inability to dominate the security or political scene in the region by instead pursuing a pragmatic approach of economic partnerships for growth and development.
            Emilian Kavalski provides an analysis of India’s “Look North” policy in chapter eleven.  Kavalski identifies the “Look North” policy as India policymakers’ emphasis to formulate proactive and meaningful policies with respect to Central Asia.  Kavalski states that this policy has likely emerged from a sentiment of anxiety caused by the instability, religious extremism, trafficking, and mixed reforms in the region.  Kavalski identifies two main ambitions supporting india’s “Look North” policy: promoting secular democratic ethos, and encouraging regional cooperation in safeguarding stability of the states.  Kavalski emphasizes that India’s strongest path of influence Central Asian regional politics has been through bilateral relations with Tajikistan.  In conclusion, though, Kavalski suggests that the “Look North” policy has had more of a “no influence” in the region, failing to command a majority of respect among Central Asian leaders.
            David Walton describes Japanese foreign policy in Central Asia as a product of its “adaptive state” model.  Walton explains that Japan’s role in region during the 1990’s was largely characterized by humanitarian assistance programs and small partnerships for economic development.  However, through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Japan has realized itself as leader of intraregional cooperation within Central Asia.  Walton illustrates how Japan works through ASEAN to promote peace, economic development, intra-regional cooperation, and positive democratic relations throughout the region.  Watson remarks on Japan’s achievement of influence in Central Asia comparable to that of China or Russia, while not being a geographic neighbor of the region.
            In the final chapter, Stephen Blank provides an overview of external agency in Central Asia.  He essentially summarizes the theoretical meaning underlying the previous chapters into a writing which illustrates the complexity of these external agencies and their related circumstances.  He suggests that the absence of regional cooperation within the region is the largest motivator for external involvement.  Blank also reminds the reader that these external actors end up working toward overlapping security goals: suppressing militant Islam, countering all forms of illegal trafficking, and maintaining domestic security.  Blank notes that Central Asian leaders, considering this rapid influx of foreign agency and patronage, have reaped a tremendous volume of material assistance.  In conclusion, he suggests that this myriad array of intervention should be thoughtfully managed and balanced in implementation.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Book Review: Crime-Terror Alliances and the State

Mincheva, Lyubov Grigorova and Ted Robert Gurr. 2013. Crime-Terror Alliances and the State: Ethnonationalist and Islamist Challenges to Regional Security. New York: Routledge.

Mincheva and Gurr’s work, Crime-Terror Alliances and the State explores a previously lightly examined subject: how and when criminal organizations establish alliances with terrorist groups, and how these alliances affect the state. Of particular concern to my research is the movement of terrorist organizations into human trafficking. While the trafficking literature is in broad agreement regarding the certainty of the complicity of criminal organizations in human trafficking, there is disagreement and uncertainty as to the level of collusion between criminal organizations and terrorist groups, and whether terrorist groups are even involved in human trafficking. Mincheva and Gurr argue in this work that “human trafficking… is a significant source of income for both militants and criminal networks.” Pragmatically, such activities make sense, “militant political movements require resources for arms, logistics, and sustenance and shelter for militants. Consequently they frequently engage in criminal activity to finance their activities, relying on robbery, kidnapping for ransom, extortion, and trafficking in drugs and humans.” Moreover, “criminal and armed organizations… have discovered and used the wide range of opportunities to share the international/global economic and financial infrastructure.”

                The authors conducted a case study analysis in 2013 that observed “the dynamics of trans-border alliances in which political violence is joined to criminal enterprise”, focusing on criminal groups in Kosovo, Kurdish nationalists, militant Islam in the Bosnian civil war, the Algerian revolutionary war, Serbia in the 1990s, and post-communist Bulgaria. By building on the Minorities at Risk project, which “monitors the status of 283 minority groups across the globe and focuses specifically on groups that suffer collective discrimination and have the capacity for collective action in defense of their self-interests”, they are able to identify areas that are at high risk of fostering criminal-terror alliances.

The alliances that are created between criminal organizations and terrorists are facilitated by the environment they operate in. “State weakness provides… low risks and high opportunities” for both criminals and insurgents. The ungoverned spaces of failed states open up a “hospitable environment” for these groups. The authors describe how ungoverned spaces in Algeria, Bosnia, Turkey, and Kosovo have allowed criminal enterprises and terrorist groups to operate and expand with little interference from authorities. Criminalized states, where the state has become a “thinly disguised protection racket whose leaders use power to pursue their private interests” make collusion easy between officials, criminals and terrorist groups. A prime example used by the authors was Serbia in the 1990s and post-Communist Bulgaria, where state officials would align with both criminals and militants to pursue both political and ethno-national objectives, and criminal and predatory goals based mainly on profit.

Ultimately, the authors conclude “that trans-border ethno national and religious identity groups provide the basis for militant organizations that use insurgency and terrorism for political objectives.” Militant networks will seek out or establish their own criminal enterprises in order to gain access to funds and weapons. The authors refer to these trans-border networks as “unholy alliances”. These networks are used to gain access to additional economic and political resources. The ethnic or religious nature of such alliances allow them to target and exploit sympathetic officials wherever local communal networks extend. This can result in state agencies playing a major role in “sponsoring and facilitating these networks and in turn profit from them.”

Based on their research, Mincheva and Gurr create a typology of terrorist and criminal collaboration. They classify types of cooperation into four categories (ideological, pragmatic, predatory, and opportunistic-interdependent) based on the goals and methods used by the organization to pursue those goals. The first, ideological, is characterized by militants keeping their ideological objectives foremost, and continuing to focus on instigating political change. In order to fund their political agenda, they do conduct illicit economic activities, but profit does not become their main objective. The Provisional IRA is an example. The second, pragmatic, is characterized by terrorist-criminal cooperation leading to a “pragmatic shift” in the militant group’s agenda. Their political goals are not entirely abandoned; however, the focus on material gain begins to take primacy. FARC – the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – is an example. The third, predatory, is characterized by the terrorist organization’s agenda shifting completely away from its previous political objectives and instead focusing entirely on material gain. The authors describe these groups as “social bandits”, who generally manifest themselves as “marginalized rural groups for whom banditry displaced explicit political objectives.” A prime example is the Sicilian Mafia. The last category is the opportunistic-interdependent. This pattern of collaboration is focused on opportunism, neither political goals nor material gain take primacy, but are pursued relatively equally. Such organizations shift from one goal to the other easily and quickly adapt to changing circumstances. The authors refer to such groups as “political-criminal hybrids”. These collaborative endeavors are distinctive from the others by the pursuit of both political and criminal objectives at once. A good example are the various hybrid groups that have operated in the Balkans.

                Mincheva and Gurr’s work focuses primarily on the characteristics of the “opportunistic interdependent” phenomenon, which they claim is “engendered by trans-border (trans-state) identity movements that provide networks for collaboration between trans-state terrorists and organized crime.” These movements “straddle interstate boundaries and make renewed claims for ethno-national liberation at times of nation-state building or boundary adjustments.” Their research found several factors that make “alliances” between terrorist and criminal organizations more likely: “the existence of trans-state nationalist, ethnic and religious movements”; “the occurrence of armed conflict, which provides incentives and opportunities for interdependence”; and “the constraints that facilitate or impede complex transnational exchanges of illegal commodities, exchanges that frequently involve third and fourth party intermediaries and corruptible internal security forces.”

                Crime-Terror Alliances and the State is a relatively distinct work given its attempt to systematically describe, characterize, and exemplify collaboration between terrorist organizations and criminal networks. Few other works have addressed this phenomena. Given its uniqueness, it is difficult to compare it. However, this reveals the need for additional research in this field, and Mincheva and Gurr have taken a big step in establishing a typology that future research can build and improve upon. Overall, the work is straightforward and effectively helps the reader understand their argument by applying it to several examples. It has already been a very useful work for me by providing a framework to apply to terrorist and criminal involvement in Central Asia, and would be useful to anyone attempting to analyze criminal-terrorist collaboration in regions across the globe. Hopefully, others will step in and continue to build this research agenda by applying this work to other areas, and progressively improve it.


Book Review: Gender Politics in Post-Communist Eurasia

Racioppi, Linda and Katherine O’Sullivan See, eds. 2009. Gender Politics in Post-Communist Eurasia. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.

Linda Racioppi and Katherine O’Sullivan See gather a diverse array of viewpoints from various authors on the little discussed topic of gender politics in Eurasia. Given my focus on human trafficking in Central Asia, this has been a very valuable work for my research by providing me with a stronger understanding of the difficult and unique role women have in an increasingly globalized but resiliently traditional post-Communist society. Apart from the editors, nine authors provide their individual perspectives on the topic, and I will go through and provide a brief annotation for each to give a general understanding of each author’s argument.
                First, the editors Racioppi and See introduce the issue by emphasizing the dramatic change that occurred following the collapse of the Soviet Union that altered not only the economic and political landscape, but the social as well. There is a broad consensus that the status of women has deteriorated significantly since the fall of Communism. Other arguments aside, the Communist system made a noticeable push for gender equality. While certainly not realized, the importance of this effort has been made more noticeable by the lack of gender equality initiatives by former Soviet states.
                Barabara Einhorn takes this issue further by elaborating on the consequences the lack of gender equality has created in Eurasia. A state cannot claim to be socially just if half of their society does not enjoy the rights of the other half. Both opportunities and difficulties have been created by globalization, and greater exposure to the West. The values and rights espoused by the West has encouraged a change in perspective in Eurasia. However, while Eurasian leaders have often publicly embraced these ideals, in reality little progress has been achieved, it could be argued that the situation has even digressed. Many of the nascent economies of the former Soviet Union have eagerly sought greater economic ties with Europe in order to reap the financial benefits for the economy, but there is certainly a noticeable lack of enthusiasm for comprehensive social reform. Elites in the region are content, and are often able to temporarily satisfy their international critics, by espousing free market ideals and economic reforms, and paying lip service to implementing measures for greater equality, when in fact little is tried or accomplished. Instead, economic benefits are realized and social demands ignored.
                Amanda Sloat emphasizes the double standard that was present across the Communist countries of Eastern Europe. While creating class, gender, and ethnic distinctions was discouraged on the face of the system, in reality divisions remained and were exploited. Particularly gender distinctions, “socialist women had more duties than rights.” While symbolic reforms were made and women placed in decision-making positions, less change was established than originally appeared. Women did enjoy many more perquisites than their Western counterparts, such as paid maternity leave, nurseries, kindergartens and other entitlements, yet within the labor market, regulatory fine print still restricted, in the name of ‘protecting’, women from many career paths.
                Eniko Magyari-Vincze focuses on a specific aspect of female entitlements in post-Communist Eastern Europe by analyzing the reproductive health of women in Romania, particularly the Roma population. The author characterizes this issues as a “small problem” but argues that it illustrates the much larger problem of social exclusion of the female Roma population in modern Romania. Political and ideological policies from the Communist-era have had a particularly lasting impact on this segment of the population. The Roma population, women especially, were heavily persecuted by the Communist government in Romania. While not as rampant in modern times, it has created a Romanian society that is inordinately anti-Roma and discriminatory towards their fellow Roma citizens. This has resulted in a vastly unequal system that provides little reproductive support for Roma women and has had a drastic impact on the Roma population as a whole.
                Mary Buckley compares and contrasts efforts to curb human trafficking with efforts to curb terrorism. She argues that unlike the war on terror, which many have claimed serves a guise for US expansionism; a US led effort against trafficking would garner worldwide support. Moreover, given the unique diplomatic and economic resources that the US possesses, leadership from Washington will be essential for the success of anti-trafficking efforts at the international level. Lessons learned from over a decade of counter-terrorism should be applied to counter trafficking initiatives. Particularly identifying the fundamental source of the problem, understanding that the source is often contextual, and designing appropriate policy that targets the source. Finally, policy design cannot be effectively implemented unless the needed resources are available. Therefore, the US should take the lead not only in creating innovative solutions to human trafficking, but also in coordinating the needed financial, logistical, and diplomatic resources.
                Nadezda Shvedova looks at the troubling state of gender rights in Russia, and makes a similar argument to that of Sloat. Russia has made many symbolic gestures at enhancing gender equality, Moscow has signed nearly all major international agreements that promote women’s rights. However, reality resembles much of the rest of the world. Russian women are saddled with a disproportionate share of domestic responsibilities, and face difficulties balancing family with their career. This is made more difficult by lower salaries, less promotions, and undesirable occupations. Key to bridging the gender gap is the interplay between political equality and socioeconomic equality. More women need to gain political power in order to enact the needed changes, yet societal demands that women take on most of the familial responsibilities will continue to hinder the progress of Russian women across both political and professional fronts.
                Timur Kocaoglu challenges the Western-held stereotype that women in Muslim Central Asia are submissive and make little effort to improve their station. In asserting their new identity and embracing Islam to a point, the societies of Central Asia have challenged the Soviet ideology that emphasized gender equality, and have maintained a patriarchal society that often places women in subordinate roles. However, this should not be seen as an inevitable end-state. Before the imposition of Soviet rule, there were several examples of attempts at reform in Muslim Central Asia led by politically active women that focused on bettering female education and encouraging progressive changes in societal expectations, and it should not be considered an impossibility that similar action will emerge today.
                Ayse Gunes-Ayata and Ayca Ergun expand the discussion to both Central Asia and the Caucasus, by looking at gender politics in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Across both regions, dealing with the incredible difficulties inherent in transforming to a market economy and struggling with sluggish economic growth has pushed gender reform to the background. Efforts to bring the issue to the forefront are often ignored or brushed aside by giving economic policy primacy. Any reforms that are perceived as possibly economically jeopardizing, such as gender equality in labor policy, are neglected and provide a useful excuse for any segments of society that object to reforms. However, the more urbanized and heterogeneous population in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have encouraged progress and enhanced the role of women in their societies relative to Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan.
                Eleonora Fayzullaeva looks at a key issue that Eurasia has faced since independence, labor migration. Two levels of states have emerged in the region due to differences in economic and political development, and historical experiences. The first group struggles to provide adequate employment for its citizens, i.e. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and offer a source of readily available cheap labor who are desperate for income to send back to needy families. The second group consists of the destination countries, whose economies are performing well enough to encourage hiring labor from out of country to perform jobs that the native populace is unwilling or unable to fulfill, i.e. Kazakhstan and Russia. The migration of labor from source to destination countries creates unique challenges for the entire region. The plight of migrating laborers often leads them into exploitative situations that are particularly dangerous and harmful for women. This is compounded by the inferior status of women across the region, which pushes more women into situations that increase their vulnerability.
                Finally, Zulaikho Usmanova focuses on gender identities in Tajikistan. As Gunes-Ayata and Ergun observed, the status of women is significantly better in urban areas where much larger segments of the population embrace more progressive gender roles. Usmanova also points out that certain areas of Tajikistan impart special status and authority on certain women. An example is Khujand, the regional center of the Sughd region in northwest Tajikistan. Women designated as otunbachas there are highly respected within their communities. They are vested with a variety of unique authorities, from presiding over certain religious events to functioning as a counselor for families in difficulty.
                Each of these authors bring out a different aspect of Eurasian gender politics that has proved very valuable in enhancing my understanding of women in the region. Building this understanding is crucial to analyzing human trafficking across the region, given the increased vulnerability of Eurasian women to trafficking. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a comprehensive look at the challenges women face in Eurasia today.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Drawing Conclusions

           Three conclusions can be drawn from the available information concerning Uzbekistan’s approach to border security: (i) Uzbekistan receives substantial financial, material and logistical support for its national security programs from a diverse party of benefactors, (ii) Uzbekistan selectively seeks to bolster its national security apparatus through multiple multilateral and bilateral partnerships, and (iii) Uzbekistan, despite some measured success in combating transnational terrorist and narcotics trafficking activity, still struggles to effectively prevent and prosecute trafficking in human beings.  Recognizing these trends, where in this equation is the United States currently factoring, and what should be considered as we move into the future?
            As has been noted, Uzbekistan receives a considerable amount of support from a multitude of state and international organizations for its national security apparatus.  The UNODC has contributed a substantial amount of resources and organizational effort, especially with the establishment of the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Center (CARICC).  Even Uzbekistan’s northern neighbor of Kazakhstan contributed over $8 million [1] to the establishment of CARICC’s infrastructure and operations, while Uzbekistan is not recorded to have donated anything.  In addition to the UNODC's efforts in Central Asia, the OSCE has contributed to Uzbekistan's new biometric passport system and human trafficking prevention training.
            Although there was much speculation on Uzbekistan’s suspension of activities with the Russian-backed Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Uzbekistan is pursuing bilateral arrangements with Russia which include arms sales through 2020 [2].  While it should be noted that Mr. Karimov signed the deal in a pledge to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that there would be no future US bases allowed on Uzbek territory, there is no guarantee that Uzbekistan will apply these parameters to its national security policy.  Even if Karimov’s administration does maintain the agreement to not allow any US bases in Uzbekistan, it could still appeal to the United States and other benefactors for other forms of support.
            Indeed, that seems to be the latest trend.  In 2013, Karimov appealed to Washington for military armaments, insisting he preferred them over the date Soviet stockpiles [3].  It’s fair to say that Mr. Karimov will pursue similar requests.  In fact, he is already requesting used equipment from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) prepares for its 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan [4].
            Uzbekistan is also seeking stronger partnerships and benefits from its relationship with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and its Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS).  Uzbekistan is still committed to fighting the “3 evils” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism, and is pursuing further military and logistical collaborations with the SCO RATS [5].  SCO members also recognize a mutual intra-organizational treaty on extradition, which expedites the transfer of suspected criminals between member states.  It’s safe to say that Uzbekistan is collaborating extensively with the SCO RATS, and plans to continue to increase this level of collaboration. 
            Despite all of this overlap in military and law-enforcement donations from numerous international partners, Uzbekistan’s performance in prosecuting and preventing human trafficking is still suspect and at low levels [6].  Recognizing the duplicity in law-enforcement and military support and the opacity in Uzbekistan’s reports on human trafficking, the United States should consider reducing its military and technical contributions to Mr. Karimov’s regime. The OSCE, which aims to increase civil democratic reforms throughout Europe and now Eurasia, should work with the United States to change the Western focus of foreign policy in Central Asia from technical projects and military assistance towards the direction of funding and protecting groups dedicated to improving civil democratic society.  This, in turn, would cause a push for transparency in reporting the results of law enforcement operations, thus providing an uncensored assessment of the performance of Uzbekistan’s national security apparatus.

11.       Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Center
22.       Arkadiy Dubnov, RIA NOVOSTI, Dec. 19, 2012.                                                                   http://ria.ru/analytics/20121219/915462042.html
33.       Regnum Informatsionnoye Agentstvo, Mar. 04, 2013.
44.       RP Defense, Mar. 24, 2013.
55.       Samarkhan Kurmat, Kazinform, Feb. 04, 2011. 
66.       US Trafficking in Persons Report 2013