Uzbekistan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States in December 1991. However, it is opposed to reintegration and withdrew from the CIS collective security arrangement in 1999. Since that time, Uzbekistan has participated in the CIS peacekeeping force in Tajikistan and in UN-organized groups to help resolve the Tajikistan and Afghanistan conflicts, both of which it sees as posing threats to its own stability.
Previously close to Washington (which gave Uzbekistan half a billion dollars in aid in 2004, about a quarter of its military budget), the government of Uzbekistan has recently restricted American military use of the airbase at Karshi-Khanabad for air operations in neighbouring Afghanistan. Uzbekistan was an active supporter of U.S. efforts against worldwide terrorism and joined the coalitions that have dealt with both Afghanistan and Iraq.
The relationship between Uzbekistan and the United States began to deteriorate after the so-called “colour revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine (and to a lesser extent Kyrgyzstan). When the U.S. joined in a call for an independent international investigation of the bloody events at Andijan, the relationship further declined, and President Islam Karimov changed the political alignment of the country to bring it closer to Russia and China.
In late July 2005, the government of Uzbekistan ordered the United States to vacate an air base in Karshi-Kanabad (near Uzbekistan’s border with Afghanistan) within 180 days. Karimov had offered use of the base to the U.S. shortly after 9/11. It is also believed by some Uzbeks that the protests in Andijan were brought about by the UK and U.S. influences in the area of Andijan. This is another reason for the hostility between Uzbekistan and the West.
Uzbekistan is a member of the United Nations (UN) (since 2 March 1992), the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), Partnership for Peace (PfP), and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It belongs to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) (comprising the five Central Asian countries, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan). In 1999, Uzbekistan joined the GUAM alliance (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova), which was formed in 1997 (making it GUUAM), but pulled out of the organisation in 2005.
Uzbekistan is also a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and hosts the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) in Tashkent. Uzbekistan joined the new Central Asian Cooperation Organisation (CACO) in 2002. The CACO consists of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. It is a founding member of, and remains involved in, the Central Asian Union, formed with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and joined in March 1998 by Tajikistan.
In September 2006, UNESCO presented Islam Karimov an award for Uzbekistan’s preservation of its rich culture and traditions. Despite criticism, this seems to be a sign of improving relationships between Uzbekistan and the West.
The month of October 2006 also saw a decrease in the isolation of Uzbekistan from the West. The EU announced that it was planning to send a delegation to Uzbekistan to talk about human rights and liberties, after a long period of hostile relations between the two. Although it is equivocal about whether the official or unofficial version of the Andijan Massacre is true, the EU is evidently willing to ease its economic sanctions against Uzbekistan. Nevertheless, it is generally assumed among Uzbekistan’s population that the government will stand firm in maintaining its close ties with the Russian Federation and in its theory that the 2004–2005 protests in Uzbekistan were promoted by the US and UK.
In January 2008, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva was appointed to her current role as Uzbekistan’s ambassador to UNESCO. Karimova-Tillyaeva and her team have been instrumental in promoting inter-cultural dialogue by increasing European society’s awareness of Uzbekistan’s cultural and historical heritage.