Geopolitics of the Kyrgyz Crisis

by Laurence on 3/23/2005 · 6 comments

Anna Artunyan interviews political scientist Igor Ryabov about the geopolitics of the Kyrgyzstan showdown, for MOSNEWS.COM. He blames the United States in general, James Woolsey and John McCain in particular, for the current situation:

The OSCE did not really condemn the elections, neither in the first round nor the second. It recognized the elections as valid. Of course, it noted violations in the first round and in the second, but it did not see those violations as grave enough to invalidate the elections. Mostly it was the Kyrgyz opposition that spoke out about the violations, and certain politicians in the United States. U.S. influence is very strong in Kyrgyzstan — a number of non-governmental organizations are active on its territory, and they they are financed by U.S. organizations. They are the Soros Foundation, and Freedom House. The printing press that prints opposition newspapers is actually owned by Freedom House. The head of this organization is James Woolsey, the former CIA director. And congressmen who have criticized the Kyrgyz government are in fact quite close to these power structures.

In particular, such statements were made by Senator John McCain.

Of course, tensions didn’t start to escalate right away. But three days after the first round McCain came out with some harsh critical statements, and in effect issued an ultimatum: either Akayev corrects the violations, or the country will face “consequences”. After this rather aggressive public statement, the OSCE distanced itself, and repeated that it recognized the elections as valid.

The radicalization in Jalal Abad coincided with the statements by the U.S. senator. But the people that are running about Osh and Jalal Abad with sticks and bottles are residents of very poor neighborhoods in the outskirts. Theoretically, the same thing can happen in [the capital] Bishkek. Right now, the fact that the opposition is being urged to negotiate is rather strange, because they don’t have any control over the situation. And it’s unclear where all of this may lead in the future.

And this on what America has done inside Kyrgyzstan itself:

For many years, Akayev had friendly relations with both the United States and Russia, it was his particular skill to maneuver between the two. From the United States he got investments, and also money from the use of the military bases. And of course the Americans really invested a lot in building a civil society there. This network of NGO’s was being used by the U.S. as its political base. But the thing is — this whole approach towards a civil society is really an American model that is more natural in European countries. But to dig deeper — into the clan relations, for example — and you realize that the Americans just don’t understand how their society is built. That is why all these NGO’s are there to eat up money, hold seminars and don’t have anything to do with real life in the country.

For example, a “human rights activist” was recently arrested there — he was called a human rights activist because he headed one of the NGO’s. And he was arrested for provoking the violent unrest. Also, he had close ties with the U.S. ambassador Stephen Young. When the opposition lost during the first round of elections, there were rumors that Young was being relocated to Taiwan. That’s how big his status is. He is a very public figure there, he travels the country freely, and often the government doesn’t even know his given location. And now, when all this unrest developed after the second round of elections, he offered himself as a mediator between the opposition and the Kyrgyz government. The offer was pretty much ignored.

For the Americans, Kyrgyzstan is important on a geopolitical scale. This means that it neighbors China, it neighbors Afghanistan, and the United States wants a strong position in this region. How the domestic events are going to turn out after everything they’ve done there — they’re not really concerned about that. They need a government that they can control. Taking this into account, it’s not clear why they’re ruining their relations with Akayev, because he’s been loyal to them all this time. And it’s Kyrgyzstan where the U.S. has its military base.

In Kyrgyzstan the scenario of an attempted “bloodless revolution” like in Georgia and the Ukraine could lead to a Tajikistan, with civilian casualties, anarchy, and a flourishing narcotics trade…

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Laurence March 23, 2005 at 2:10 pm

While certainly from the Russian perspective, there is a lot to think about here, especially the question: Why is America ruining relations with Akayev? If he comes out on top, he will undoubtedly kick the US military out of the country and shut down the NGOs. It won’t be too good for US business, either (though there isn’t too much business in Kyrgyzstan).

Nathan March 23, 2005 at 2:36 pm

We’re only ruining relations in the sense that we’re supporting NGOs and suggesting that Kyrgyzstan follow through on agreements it’s made with the West.

Laurence March 23, 2005 at 4:10 pm

And are NGOs supporting Islamists who are trying to overthrow Akayev?

Nathan March 23, 2005 at 4:48 pm

Well, if we get down to brass tacks, there’s not one damned reason that the United States, or hell, I’ll be generous and include Europe, needs to walk on egg shells around Kyrgyzstan. He made promises and he should follow through. If that hurts his feelings, fine.

Being so obsessively concerned with staying in power (and it’s not like he’s ever been much of a guarantor of stability in the region) that civil society is squeezed out is long-term counterproductive and will have much worse consequences than allowing breathing space.

Batyr April 7, 2005 at 8:56 am

You Americans really think that your administration will control that country, no matter through so-called NGOs or through any other entities. I am not a citizen of Kyrgyzstan and I am not supporting any of sides, but I think that it is inevitable that new government will be doing about the same that previous did. It is the matter of mentality and sooner or later that country would be under influence of Russia.
There is nothing interesting in Kyrgyzstan except gold, but all resources have been already stolen.
By the way I don’t respect what your administration does all over the world and I cannot understand how you could vote for this idiot again. What he is doing now? just earning money to himself and to his family making up stories about terrorism and weapons of mass destructions.(That is my personnel opinion)

Nathan April 7, 2005 at 9:27 am

Nope, don’t think we will.

And you Russians accusing us of anything in this regard is kind of like the pot calling the kettle black.

Considering your pessimistic, fatalistic, regressive worldview, I can see why you believe conspiracy theories for which you have no evidence and dislike our government Batyr.

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