Monday, February 8, 2010

Roghun Rage

Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have been feuding over energy rights, gas rights, and other natural resources for a bit now. Over the weekend, though, things took another step in the direction towards weird. Shots were almost fired, reportedly, over a cow.

By its actions, the Tajik side severely violated generally accepted international norms and bilateral agreements to keep the inviolability of the state borders. The intrusion could have been described as an armed invasion…

The detainee admitted that he must have stolen cattle from Uzbek citizens under his commanders’ instructions. According to him, they had to do this because they had not been supplied with food for a long time.

That is, in case you couldn't gather, the Uzbek National Security Service's official presser. The Tajik version is much more along the lines of "A cow wandered over the border, a Tajik guard ran to grab it, and they both were detained." And Alpharabius asks "Has a war ever started like this?" to which I can only answer, "Yes. Sorta."

The truth is obviously somewhat clouded and somewhat irrelevant. Both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are running out of the sorts of resources they want, and if they're not cow-stealin' desperate, they're still looking at things as a zero-sum game.

Tajikistan's attempts to move forward with Roghun, ~40 years later, through nationalization is bold, sure. And even if Rahmon only wants to get two turbines done with, that's still likely two turbines-worth more than the people of Tajikistan are able to spend.

It's a tough line to walk. I'm sure he's getting tired of reading stories like David Trilling's year-in, year-out no matter how good the pictures (and reporting) are. I'd like to think he earnestly believes that if Tajiks just tighten their belts a bit more and put in the money, they'll be able to go ahead without outside funding, at least for a bit. At least until Uzbekistan's self interest gets quieted, I suppose.

At the same time, Roghun funding makes a convenient excuse/scapegoat any time Rule of Law questions come up, as they have from time to time. The outside world historically doesn't like a nationalizing state leader, whether or not the country is less than 15 years past a civil war. There's enough Tajik experts on the internets these days to let us know if the local reaction differs from how NewEurasia puts it.

Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are both trying to build themselves up and want to use all of their resources to do it. They just happen to have issues over whose resources are what. But the squabbling seems more to save face and instill pride than it does to solve issues. I don't mean this as a prayer for mutual understanding and cooperation, but rather a statement of fact. The best foot forward for both countries is with each other. There's no Party Boss for 'em to impress anymore.

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