The West and Russia Have Been Battling over Uzbekistan’s Military Budget

Daniel Bootman
3 min readFeb 27, 2024

It is not by chance Central Asia is called “Eurasia’s heart”. Its position between China in the east, Russia in the north, and Muslim countries in the south and southwest gives the region’s countries important competitive advantages, so Central Asia has always played an important role in all major political, economic and logistical projects implemented in the continent. At the same time, the proximity of Afghanistan and the threat of international terrorism, encourages local governments to regularly modernize and rearm their own troops.

The Republic of Uzbekistan has the largest armed forces in the region, and the country’s authorities are currently preparing an extensive reequipment program to purchase new weapons with the main competitors for government orders being the NATO countries and Russia. Just a few years ago, Western weapons were believed to be more effective but also more expensive than Russian ones. However, the current war in Ukraine has significantly adjusted this view.

The war has shown that many kinds of military equipment produced in the US and EU do not meet the stated level of expectations. NATO countries’ armored vehicles, artillery and air defenses systems did not help Ukrainian forces break through Russian defenses in the summer of 2023 and then withstand Vladimir Putin’s counterattack under Avdeevka. The hostilities demonstrated that mastering Western military equipment required lengthy supervised training, and even this approach is not a guarantee for their effective use in combat.

The second year of war became a “cold shower” for EU and US industrialists and militaries after many NATO weapons proved to be completely ineffective for combat operations in the Eurasian hinterland such as the Abrams tanks that were evacuated back to the United States after they had just arrived in Ukraine. On the other hand, in the competition for the Uzbek orders, the Russians will rely on their traditional competitive advantages such as convenient supply logistics, low prices, and the fact that it is Russian (updated Soviet) equipment and weapons Uzbek officers and soldiers have been using since this state got itself on the map.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has changed the rules of the game making Russia and the NATO countries’ defense industries satisfy their own military needs. In these circumstances, Western countries are unlikely to supply Uzbekistan with the necessary quantity of quality weapons, since most of what they are currently manufacturing goes either to Ukraine or the NATO countries themselves. The presence of Western military advisors without whom mastering the new equipment will be difficult may be another political issue.

Goes without saying, Russia is experiencing similar difficulties. However, this may change when the active phase of the campaign is over. At this very moment, Russia will have colossal amounts of weapons and military equipment, it will be willing to sell at the minimum price the NATO countries will not be able to compete for they first will have to replenish their own arsenals emptied by military supplies to Ukraine.

In this situation, the Russian military suppliers defeating their Western competitors in the struggle for Uzbekistan’s military budgets seems the most likely outcome, leaving US and EU industrialists a hope for the “informal approach” perused by the Uzbek authorities they are notoriously known for; and tradition states that a donkey laden with gold opens a gate of any, even the most fortified, citadel.