U.S. Bases and Democratization in Central Asia

Abstract

Under the Pentagon’s current Global Defense Posture Review (GDPR), the United States is reducing its forces in several major Cold War base hosts and establishing a global network of smaller, more flexible facilities in new areas such as Central Asia, the Black Sea and Africa. Drawing upon recent evidence from the Central Asian base hosts of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, this article cautions that these new U.S. overseas bases, despite their lighter footprint and regardless of the prevailing security situation, risk becoming enmeshed in the local struggles and political agendas of elites within these hosts. Periods of turbulent democratic transition and regime instability may encourage host country politicians to challenge the legitimacy and terms of the U.S. basing presence for their own political purposes. These are important lessons for U.S. planners who are simultaneously promoting democratization while they negotiate basing and military access agreements in these same politically volatile hosts.

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