CONTENT PREVIEW
Country Risk

Russian president's visit to accelerate bilateral economic integration but Uzbek membership in Russian-led organisations remains uncertain

26 October 2018
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev (R) attend the groundbreaking ceremony for Uzbekistan's first nuclear power plant in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on 19 October 2018. Source: Photo by Kremlin Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Editorial #: 1052524846

Key Points

  • Putin is spearheading Russia's closer economic integration with Uzbekistan to contain the expansion of Chinese economic interests and to prevent the establishment of trade and investment ties with the US.
  • Despite Putin's efforts, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev remains noncommittal regarding Uzbekistan's accession to Russian-led economic (Eurasian Economic Union -EEU) and political-military (Collective Security Treaty Organization) organisations.
  • Russia's increased focus on Uzbekistan is likely to elicit an adverse reaction from other EEU member-states which view themselves to enjoy a lower priority: this increases the likelihood of their questioning the merits of their continued membership, weakening EEU internal cohesion further.

Event

On 18-19 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a state visit to Uzbekistan, resulting in an impressively lengthy list of business deals and the start of construction of the first nuclear power plant in the Central Asian region.

President Vladimir Putin's visit to Uzbekistan on 18-19 October marked the Russian government's most important effort to date to reassert its influence in Uzbekistan. This was evidenced by the unprecedentedly large number (785) of business deals signed during the First Uzbek-Russian Forum of Inter-Regional Cooperation in Tashkent, timed to coincide with Putin's state visit. Alongside Putin, the President of Tatarstan (a constituent republic of the Russian Federation) Rustam Minnikhanov and the heads of 18 of Russia's other regions participated. The combined value of business deals reached totalled USD27 billion, including USD20.8-billion-worth of investment agreements and USD6.2 billion in trade contracts. Although such numbers are inflated as some agreements will probably not materialise, the scope of the contracts signed is impressive. The "roadmap" generated envisions the establishment of 79 joint ventures and 23 trading entities.

Putin has been actively courting his Uzbek counterpart, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, shown by the six meetings they have held since September 2016. Russia's increased attention towards Uzbekistan is likely to reflect geopolitical factors, particularly its desire to counter the further expansion of Chinese economic interests and to prevent the US from building trade and investment ties with Uzbekistan.

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