Uzbekistan has temporarily pulled out of the seven-nation Collective Security Treaty Organization, the group's spokesman announced today, reported The Associated Press.
The decision was submitted to the organization by letter, according to spokesman Vladimir Zainetdinov, who declined to comment on any possible motive, said AP.
The move reflects the fickle leadership of authoritarian Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who frequently uses the country's vital resources and strategic positioning to play a cat-and-mouse game between Russia and the West.
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This marks the second time Uzbekistan has suspended its membership with the troubled security organization, a weak union of fractious ex-Soviet states united by Russia in a move widely seen as a response to NATO. The small Central Asian nation left in 1999 and re-joined in 2006, said AP.
Voice of Russia described Uzbekistan's decision as a "very risky step" for the nation, which borders a total of five Asian countries, among them Afghanistan.
The Institute of the Commonwealth of Independent States' Andrei Grozin told Voice of Russia that while “Tashkent’s foreign policy is zigzagging," the move reflects Karimov's eagerness to position Uzbekistan as a key transit link for cargo through Afghanistan's western border ahead of the planned withdrawal of foreign troops for the country.
Karimov has allowed the United States to use a key air base in Uzbekistan, according to AP.
Political analyst Vladimir Zharikhin told RIA Novosti news agency that the incident reveals "a clear desire of President Karimov to flirt with the United States."
Uzbekistan's 27 million people live in one of the most oppressed countries in the world. Karimov's brutal rule and poor rights record -- notably the 2005 Andijon massacre -- has long strained relations with the West.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization formed in 1992 and is comprised of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.