Kyrgyzstan Expels Two US Diplomats

by Nathan Hamm on 7/11/2006 · 15 comments

The BBC, AP, and RIA Novosti are all reporting that Kyrgyzstan has ordered two US diplomats to leave the country for “inappropriate” contacts with leaders of NGOs. There is, as can be seen in the BBC’s report, some confusion over what is going on.

The news agency AP quoted an unnamed Kyrgyz official as saying the expulsions were down to “inappropriate” contacts with NGOs, and the US embassy used the same word in its statement, which referred only to “reports” of the expulsion.

AP also quoted Tursunbek Akun, head of the official Human Rights Commission, as saying: “A decision has been taken, but the diplomats remain in the country.”

But the local news agency said “reliable sources” said two US citizens had been deported. It quoted one as saying that the expulsion was due to “gross interference in the internal affairs of the sovereign Kyrgyz Republic”.

The US embassy has a response on its website calling the accusations “an attempt to intimidate embassies and silence the voice of civil society” that are “in the interest of those who would wish to harm relations” between the US and Kyrgyzstan. The embassy maintains that no improper contacts have taken place, and it said that it will continue to engage all sectors of Kyrgyz society.

The AP notes that a final round of talks over the price for the use of Manas by the US military are scheduled between the US and Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday. With the talks on the horizon, it is hard to see the expulsions as anything other than a not-so-subtle message to the US side. In response though, the US embassy made clear in its response that such moves do not “serve the long-term interest of Kyrgyzstan.”

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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guy in Kgz July 11, 2006 at 10:49 pm

I’ve heard from reliable sources that embassy was only told there was credible evidence to suggest wrongdoing, but no evidence was put forth. It is the 1st and 3rd Political Secretaries that are being expelled.

This clearly is being directed and controlled by Moscow. I understand that there is a Russian KGB colonel here collecting so called evidence of western infiltration of civil society and working with his Kyrgyz counterparts.

It’s quite astonishing that the MFA would do this and I don’t think they understand the ramifications of this decision. The NGO’s here all believe that now is a worse time than under Akayev.

The US-Kyrgyz relationship is at an all-time low and shows no sign of improvement. It is clearly moving into Moscow’s corner and emulating many of the activities of its neighbors.

from bishkek

carpetblogger July 11, 2006 at 11:10 pm

This is a weird story. Surely there’s more to it than this.

Nathan July 11, 2006 at 11:31 pm

I certainly think there is more to this. I if I were to guess, I’d say that nothing out of the ordinary prompted the expulsion and that it is, as I said above, connected to the negotiations over the base. (I seem to recall reading something in the last few weeks in which Bakiev was bitching about how long the deal was taking.) While I’m not so sure I’d say this is clearly being done at Moscow’s request, it would not surprise me in the least. (And I only hesitate because I’m the cautious type when it comes to making assertions without evidence.) It would, after all, be par for the course for Bakiev to fold at the slightest hint of pressure from Moscow.

Nick July 12, 2006 at 2:39 am

During the Cold War, it was widely-known that “Political Secretaries” (ahem!) and “Military Attaches” (ahem! ahem!) were often members of the intelligence service and hence were the first targets of diplomatic expulsions. Has there been any speculation that the aforementioned political secretaries were suspected of being intelligence officers?

Kuda July 12, 2006 at 2:55 am

It is about time that the Kyrgyz caught up with some of rest of the world and played hardball. The Americans have no respect for the Kyrgyz and so why shouldn’t the Kyrgyz have reciprical feelings.

The US should meet the Kyrgyz demands and pay up in full – even if the money may not trickle down to the people. Hopefully more of the American organisations will be forced out and Kyrgyzstan can build itself without having to always go cap in hand to the World Bank, IMF et al.

Laurence July 12, 2006 at 5:09 am

Nathan, Do any Registan readers know the names of the reportedly expelled diplomats? The Washington Post had this story today–but without any names…

Laurence July 12, 2006 at 5:11 am

Here’s a list of key officers at the US Embassy in Bishkek. If any readers know which of these officers are involved, please post?

Key Officers

Deputy Chief of Mission Donald Lu
Public Affairs Officer William James
Defense and Air Attaché Thomas Plumb
Political/Economic Chief Salvatore Amodeo
Security Assistance Officer Mark Campbell
Regional Security Officer David Eberhardt
Consular Officer Aaron Luster
Acting Information Management Officer Ralph Pollard
Management Officer Mona Kuntz
USAID Country Representative Clifford Brown
General Service Officer Daniel McCullough

Laurence July 12, 2006 at 5:15 am

BTW our Ambassador seems to have a Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” credential on her resume:

Ambassador of the United States of America to the Kyrgyz Republic

Marie L. Yovanovitch

Ms. Marie L. Yovanovitch of Connecticut, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, was nominated on June 3, 2005 to serve as the next Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kyrgyz Republic, and confirmed by the Senate on June 30, 2005.

Prior to her appointment as U.S. Ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch was the Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from August 2004 to May 2005. From August 2001 to June 2004, she was the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy Kiev, Ukraine. Prior to this assignment, from May 1998 to May 2000, she served as the Deputy Director of the Russian Desk. Her previous overseas assignments include Ottawa, Moscow, London, and Mogadishu. Ms. Yovanovitch joined the Foreign Service in 1986.

Ms. Yovanovitch is a graduate of Princeton University where she earned a BA in History and Russian Studies (1980). She has studied at the Pushkin Institute (1980) and received an MS from the National War College (2001).
Ms. Yovanovitch speaks Russian and French and is learning Kyrgyz.

Nick July 12, 2006 at 8:13 am

Hmmm. Reminds of the Central Asian joke that was doing the rounds last summer:

Q: “Why will there never be a revolution in the USA?”
A: “It doesn’t have a US embassy.”

Another Guy in Bishkek July 12, 2006 at 8:38 am

Aki Press names the two Americans:

I spoke with a highly placed KG government official today and my sense is that the expulsions are far from a universally supported move — neither within the government broadly nor within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

There are many interests within the KG government, many that are in conflict, and it might help to view this development within the context of competing KG government factions.

For those interested in conspiracy and the “electronic pulse” of KG news addicts, this makes for interesting reading:

Nathan July 12, 2006 at 9:13 pm

By the by, if anyone comes across more information about this story that they want to pass along (such as, information of the kind one may not feel comfortable leaving in the comments), drop me a line.

And, for those who don’t read Russian and haven’t seen it elsewhere, the names of the two officials appear to be Kaku Kimara and Paul Polites. (These may not be the correct spellings. Correct as necessary.)

Dolkun July 12, 2006 at 11:42 pm

Kudos to Kuda for some unconventional thinking!

This incident gives me two thoughts, which while more boring than suggesting that the ambassador played a role in the Orange Revolution (and presumably the abortive Maple Revolution during her stint in Ottawa) … are all I could come up with.

First, Kyrgyzstan is rolling out some classic weak-power negotiating techniques. Despite the U.S. power in all its forms, in this particular negotiation the Kyrgyz hold the territory and by acting rashly can produce some assymetric advantages. Without drawing too sharp a comparison, one of N. Korea’s clear advantages in negotiations is that they are perceived as rash and unpredictable. Better give them what they want before they do something really insane.

Second, there seems to be a difference of opinion about how much access diplomats should have to the locals. The Kyrgyz move apparently reflects a view that diplomats should deal only with their government counterparts. Yet the U.S. counters that they should be able to talk with anyone they please. Does anyone know if one view or the other is favored in international law?

Nathan July 13, 2006 at 12:11 am

I would say access to locals is open to interpretation under the Vienna Convention. (Does anyone know what other international agreements would govern this?) To me, Article 41 seems to be the most relevant article that addresses the question. It is, I suppose, quite fair to ask whether or not working with local NGOs should necessarily be taken to constitute interfering with a country’s internal affairs. (Of course, there are easily imagined circumstances in which it clearly would be.) Too expansive a definition could mean that, just for the sake of argument, the US could declare persona non grata an official from the Kyrgyz mission who hypothetically planned a US tour for Kyrgyz musicians. After all, that is kind of interfering in the US labor market and possibly taking away opportunities for US performers. Or, to be less silly, an overly expansive definition could apply to embassy officials who gave speeches to US civic groups in which a hypothetical embassy employee said that a particular organization of political and social organization is preferable and a model to be emulated here. And again, perhaps that’s not a terribly serious example, but “interference” can be extremely broadly interpreted and should probably be only apply to clear instances of interfence.

I would guess that the US has one of the more “activisty” foreign services, though I’m sure I don’t give the Europeans enough credit. The direct contact with the public is probably more untraditional than it is verboten.

That said, Kyrgyzstan was well within its rights to do this and it didn’t even have to give a reason. I think you’re entirely correct, Dolkun, that the reason for the decision was more a weak-power negotiating technique than anything else.

Yet Another Guy in Bishkek July 16, 2006 at 8:10 pm

So, Another Guy in Bishkek , what were their names?

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