Russian and Uzbeki military forces are engaged in joint exercises for the first time in 12 years after a reversal of nationalist policies enacted by the late president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, who died in September 2016.
He was succeeded by Shavkat Mirziyaev, who has cautiously begun to ease back Karimov’s policies that saw the former Soviet Union member state shun Moscow.
According to TASS, the exercises began Oct. 3 and are expected to last for five days.
“The exercise takes place within the framework of the agreements reached during a state visit of the Uzbek president to Moscow on April 4-5, 2017,” said officials from the Russian Embassy in Tashkent.
The Russian team includes an operational group from the headquarters of the Central Military District and units of a mountain motorized rifle brigade stationed in Russia’s Tuva republic.
The military of the two countries are expected to simulate a joint operation to fight terrorist groups and will also train practical skills of blocking and destroying illegal armed groups in the mountains.
The agreement to conduct the above-mentioned joint exercise was concluded in July, during a working meeting in Tashkent between the commander of the troops of Russia’s Central Military District in Tuva, Colonel General Vladimir Zarudnitsky, and Uzbekistan’s minister of defense, Colonel General Kobul Berdiev.
Analyst comment: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to piece together as much of the former Soviet Union as possible continues, though this opportunity essentially sought him out. There is a significant contingent of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) jihadists and militants in neighboring Afghanistan, so the Uzbeki government sought assistance from Moscow before Tashkent has to deal with them. At one point Uzbekistan enjoyed good relations with the U.S. military, but that relationship has faded over the years, so turning to Russia for assistance in dealing with militants on its border seems a prudent move.