On the 8.28 a.m. train to Terespol, a Polish town at the border with Belarus, Ali watches the barely changing landscape with indifference. This might be the twentieth time he has taken this train with his wife and three kids. Or maybe the twenty-first, he cannot quite remember.
Germany is ending its controversial military cooperation with Uzbekistan over the Termez airbase. Germany used the base for 13 years to transfer troops and equipment to Afghanistan, but this logistics hub is no longer necessary, according to the German military. Termez does not play a role in Germany’s plans, announced earlier in December, to extend its operations in Afghanistan.
The re-election of Angela Merkel as German chancellor in a grand coalition government means the return of Frank-Walter Steinmeier to the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. Among his main challenges is the need to recalibrate Germany’s – and, by extension, Europe’s – foreign policy towards Russia.
The opening act for this year’s Eurovision song contest is a war of words. State-controlled media outlets in the host country, Azerbaijan, are assailing Germany, complaining that Berlin is behind a “large-scale aggressive campaign” to politicize the Eurovision event and discredit Baku.
In what appears to be an awkward attempt to humor Uzbekistan, the German Ministry of Defense has classified information already in the public domain concerning Berlin’s payments to Uzbekistan for the use of a military base in Termez, near the Afghan border.
As a senior Uzbek government official touches down in Berlin on May 24, he is heading into a storm of controversy over Uzbekistan’s human rights record. The release of an Uzbek dissident ahead of the trip has not tempered the row, with revelations of his ill treatment behind bars further stoking the ire of activists.
The German government appears willing to pay a very high price for use of the Termez air base in Uzbekistan, more than doubling its yearly payments to the authoritarian but strategic Central Asian state.
At a time when Uzbekistan was under European Union sanctions relating to the Andijan massacre, the German government paid 67.9 million euros from 2005-2009 for use of the Termez air base in the Central Asian nation.