Sunday, December 6, 2009

Family Business

The Central Asian Republics squabble like any good family, as early-stage Kanye could tell us.

Uzbekistan is acting the confident teenager, trying to build up its own energy infrastructure to leave the Soviet era behind them. From the Jamestown:
While every Central Asian country wishes to separate from the Soviet-inherited regional electricity transmission network, the costs remain too high. Tashkent’s decision was mostly political and Uzbek TPP’s will experience severe problems in the delivery of the necessary amount of electricity during peak and non-peak hours. Unlike TPPs, hydropower plants in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are better able to regulate electricity supplies during daily fluctuations in the electricity demand.
Its the sort of ironheaded leap at modernization that it takes an autocrat to do. In democracies, people would vote you out of office if you cut off their electricity in the name of nationalism and geopolitical grandstanding. Karimov has nothing to long as the Tashkent Open can still run. [As an aside, Karimov has a rough google hit list. I'm surprised there's nobody at some embassy somewhere to make sure HRW isn't #2]. There's plenty of interesting angles to the story to take. For one, Tajikistan is now going to demonstrate (whether they can or not is a different question...I haven't gotten a clean word on how complete and effective dams like Rogun are). Tajikistan is instead getting their energy from Kazakhstan for now.

I also thought it was interesting that the article touts that the energy will come from thermal power plants. Mostly because I couldn't find much information on thermal plants in Uzbekistan...gas and some hydro makes the most of it. All the same, it opens an interesting window into Uzbekistans's interest in foreign investment. Their Government Energy Website is in Uzbek, of course. But their "Clean Development Mechanism" pages has English and Russian options, as well (and defaults into English). And there's information about TPP there. There are also loads of fun charts that I don't have the time to go into now, but will hopefully be able to get to in a few weeks. [Unless someone wants to beat me to it...paging Mr. Visotzky?] But I guess with the new openness that Western governments are showing to Uzbekistan, the government is trying to get hip with the new environment movement. I'm not sure how sincere that can be, what with the Aral and the Cotton and all, but at least it shows forward-thinking from Tashkent, which has been seemingly lacking for a while.

I've openly taken this story from the twitter of the writer, Erica Marat, but I wanted to peek around to see what's going on since then. As well as my conjectural Euro-friendliness, Uzbekistan's been meeting with Chinese and Pakistani businessfolk. Whew, Turkenistan its not.

Finally and terrifically unrelatedly, the latest US Casualty update made me do a double take: " As of Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009, at least 855 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan..." Wait, what? The article lists 13 other countries that talk about deaths on base (but 4 deaths in those 13 countries "as a result of hostile action") so apparently the casualties in Uzbekistan are more related to the War in Afghanistan then the casualties in, say, Tajikistan. So the American losses in Uzbekistan weren't on bases, and were the result of hostile action. Did I just stumble into a tacit acceptance of US troops fighting in Uzbekistan, or am I missing some head-slap obvious thing? Can the more military-focused folks clue me in, please?

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