Russia and the Cis
Equally unclear is the long-term direction of Uzbekistan's relations with Russia. Having had independence thrust upon them by events in Moscow in 1991, the new Central Asian states, Uzbekistan among them, pressed to become "founding members" of the CIS on December 21, 1991. It was clear that none of the countries in that group could soon disentangle the complex of economic and military links that connected them with the Slavic members of the new CIS, and especially with Russia. In Uzbekistan's case, this limitation was characterized mainly by the significant Russian population in Uzbekistan (at that time, nearly 2 million people in a population of 22 million), by certain common interests in the region, and by the close entanglement of the Uzbek economy with the Russian, with the former more dependent on the latter.
Since achieving independence, Uzbekistan's foreign policy toward Russia has fluctuated widely between cooperation and public condemnation of Russia for exacerbating Uzbekistan's internal problems. Serious irritants in the relationship have been Russia's demand that Uzbekistan deposit a large portion of its gold reserves in the Russian Central Bank in order to remain in the ruble zone (which became a primary rationale for Uzbekistan's introduction of its own national currency in 1993) and Russia's strong pressure to provide Russians in Uzbekistan with dual citizenship. In 1994 and 1995, a trend within Russia toward reasserting more control over the regions that Russian foreign policy makers characterize as the "near abroad," boosted by the seeming dominance of conservative forces in this area in Moscow, has only compounded Uzbekistan's wariness of relations with Russia.
In its period of post-Soviet transformation, Uzbekistan also has found it advantageous to preserve existing links with Russia and the other former Soviet republics. For that pragmatic reason, since the beginning of 1994 Uzbekistan has made particular efforts to improve relations with the other CIS countries. Between 1993 and early 1996, regional cooperation was most visible in Tajikistan, where Uzbekistani troops fought alongside Russian troops, largely because of the two countries' shared emphasis on Islamic fundamentalism as an ostensible threat to Central Asia and to Russia's southern border. And 1994 and 1995 saw increased efforts to widen economic ties with Russia and the other CIS states. Economic and trade treaties have been signed with Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakstan, and collective security and/or military agreements have been signed with Russia, Armenia, and other Central Asian states. Largely because of its important role in Uzbekistan's national security, Russia has retained the role of preferred partner in nonmilitary treaties as well).
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