HOST: Earlier this year, Uzbeks celebrated their 10th year of independence from the Soviet Union. But they had fewer causes for celebration than for anxiety.
FIONA HILL: Serious economic decline, the increase of very serious social problems, and a great deal of political instability.
HOST: Fiona Hill, a central asia expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, says these five countries [Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgystan, and Tajikistan] deeply distressed each other.
FIONA HILL: Uzbekistan has actually started to mine its border with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. There have actually been a number of Tajik and Kyrgen civilians killed by mines, just crossing over the border for routine visits to relatives, or tending livestock. On the Uzbek/Turkmen border, there have also been a series of problems, people crossing the border shot and similarly with Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, in fact, over the last several years, all of the borders have become increasingly fortified.
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[The resignation of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Wess Mitchell] is surprising news, which seems to have caught everyone off guard. He doesn’t appear to have shared this news with his ambassadors, who were in Washington last week for a global chiefs of mission conference. His deputy is also slated to retire soon, which raises question of near term leadership on European policy at a time of challenges there.
[Wess] Mitchell was a strong supporter of NATO, particularly in Eastern Europe where he will be sorely missed. His departure comes follows the resignation of senior Pentagon officials – Robert Karem and Tom Goffus – working on NATO along with Secretary Mattis. Without this pro-alliance caucus, NATO is now more vulnerable than at any time since the beginning of the Trump administration.