Uzbekistan on Tuesday praised its growing defence ties with Washington, as US officials visited the Central Asian country in Russia’s traditional sphere of influence.
Ex-Soviet republics including Uzbekistan have increasingly turned away from historic partner Russia towards the US for security guarantees, a process that has accelerated since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Friendly relations between our two countries in the field of defence are strengthening every year,” Uzbek Defence Minister Bakhodir Kurbanov said during a meeting with US defence officials.
He was welcoming a delegation that included US Armed Forces Central Command chief Michael Kirilla.
“During the meeting, the parties discussed achievements in the military sphere and opportunities to continue cooperation,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
Uzbekistan, a Central Asian country of about 35 million people, was once a member of the Russia-led CSTO security alliance, but pulled out in 2012 amid speculation it was looking towards the United States as a strategic ally.
Tashkent allowed US forces to use its Soviet-era “K-2” air base during the early 2000s to launch military operations into neighbouring Afghanistan, and in 2020 held joint exercises with US troops.
The US and Uzbek talks come days after CSTO-member Armenia, another ex-Soviet republic, criticised Russia over its failure to intervene in Azerbaijan’s offensive against Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh.