Cpc Memoir In Vodka Veritas: Diplomacy In Central Asia


Its first president, Islam Karimov, had been a senior Communist Party official, and Uzbekistan was still very, very Soviet when I first arrived in 1993. Our U.S. embassy, in a pleasant, leafy neighborhood, south of the middle of town and simply off a large park, was the former Komsomol headquarters constructing. In these early days, the administration employees of our embassy was having nice issue finding enough flats or homes to rent for the newly arrived American diplomats and their households. And so, for the first six months that I was in Tashkent, I was assigned to stay quickly in a rustic—very rustic—cottage on the previous KGB compound.

This one-on-one formal lunch with the minister of defense was unusually lengthy, and my vodka shot glass was constantly refilled. His rocks glass that he emptied with each toast was kept absolutely refilled with Glenfiddich scotch. The dialog was fascinating as a result of the minister, over time, and in a number of different ways, made clear that his sympathies had been most certainly to the far north, in Moscow, and that he was most positively not a fan of NATO. In fact, he said that he hoped the Shanghai Cooperation Organization would quickly take on a military face and turn out to be strong enough to place NATO back as an alternative. On the opposite hand, he stated that Tajikistan hoped to enhance its army relationship with the United States.

As all undressed, positive sufficient, my American colleague left on his T-shirt and briefs, confirming one of the Russian stereotypes. There was one other round of vodka photographs before we entered the wood-fired sauna itself. Once everyone was profusely sweating, we stepped outdoors the sauna for extra vodka before the second, sweltering session. —we stepped again outside, had another round of pictures, and made a dash for the swimming pool the place we dove in for the normal cooling down. Then we dressed and returned to the dinner table for the following courses—first soup, then shish-kabob, then large servings of conventional Central Asian pilaf, and then—finally!

With my “minder” inevitably in tow, I first discovered the intricate protocol of Soviet vodka toasts. The Russian Embassy’s nation home was in the far northern suburbs of Tashkent behind tall and anonymous partitions. And like many homes in that part of the world where public life and personal european mps targeted by calls imitating life are distinctly separated, once via the heavy metallic gate, one other delightful—and private—world awaited. The path to the house was covered by a tall steel trellis heavy with grapevines and pendant clusters of ripening grapes.

– we stepped again outdoors, had one other spherical of shots, and made a dash for the swimming pool where we dove in for the traditional cooling down. Then we dressed and returned to the dinner desk for the subsequent programs – first soup, then shish-kabob, then large servings of traditional Central Asian pilaf, after which – finally! – ice cream and fresh fruit for dessert, with a shot or two of cognac to close out the evening. My cable to Washington the next day, analyzing the conversation and reporting the ambiance of this lunch with the Minister of Defense, eventually took on a life of its personal. It was among the many first batch of cables that WikiLeaks dumped to the general public, and The Guardian within the U.K.

Today, I look again on that far-distant past and am immensely grateful I had the chance to look at history within the making – even if it was well-lubricated with vodka toasts. (See? That’s how they do enterprise.) Of course, that wasn’t true, however my Tashkent minder most certainly would have had that little bit of misinformation handed to him when he was first assigned to “cover” me. It’s the method in which she throws within the toast like that’s LOGICAL. Like, she doesn’t play it to be arch, or funny, or conciliatory — just that it’s breakfast, so in fact it’s vodka and toast. Now, a technology later, you possibly can stroll into any Kazakhstani authorities office or non-public enterprise and meet young individuals who converse overseas languages and actually do perceive how the West works. This is much less true within the different 4 nations of Central Asia.

What is little known is that we had also significantly considered a third U.S. army facility, in Tajikistan. But when the second came to make the ultimate choice, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld decided that two websites could be sufficient, and we withdrew our request to the federal government of Tajikistan. The second degree was rather more personal and very often utilized by intelligence agents, typically at one-on-one dinners. As we turned extra acquainted with each other, my minder would typically invite me to dinner at a fantastic Tashkent restaurant. His objective was to see what he may drag out of me about what was the actual purpose of the us embassy and what was actually taking place behind its fastidiously guarded walls.