Friday, December 31, 2010

Deciphering Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan, a country that we, in the West, hardly identify on the map, is not only a mystery, but a place – as many in the world – where you could read the Cold War, the latest impact of globalization and the geopolitical reassessments. More than Belarus, it is a benchmark in the regional configuration, given its potential and the crossings of various interests.

Since December 2001, it was opened here a base – Manas Air Base, currently the Transit Center at Manas - to support U.S. military operations in the ongoing war in Afghanistan. As in the case of other countries from the former Soviet empire, as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the US and international presence in general, was considered an important assets in getting more money and recognition – despite the poor record in the area of corruption, democracy and human rights. But, for small countries, it is almost impossible to play alone. Russia and China have been pushing often for the closure of the base and the local Parliament voted in December 2009 in favor of such a move. The base will continue to be hosted until 2014.

When it is not in the cards of the big power-brokers, Kyrgyzstan is trying, not always successful to build its own path. And we will hear again in the news about the country when there are violent coups – as it was this April, when the former president Kumanbek Bakiyev was removed from power and fled to Belarus. The country is facing economic problems, but also an ethnic conflict in the South, with the Uzbeks, where during the last summer there were registered several clashes, leading to the death of hundreds and displacement of thousands. But in a country where you don’t have free media and full democracy, it is difficult to estimate the situation.

In the last years, people went out in the street fighting for reform – as it was the case in 2006, where the current prime-minister Almazbek Atambayev participated to the protests of the movement За Реформы (For Reform). But it is hard to understand from the first sight why the reform couldn’t be accomplished. The latest parliamentary elections leaded to the creation of a coalition of opposition parties, who could play a big role in promoting democracy, given the increased powers of the Parliament since this summer.

As in the case of other ex Soviet members – as Moldova – the first trip overseas of the new prime minister was in Moscow, for meeting Vladimir Putin and got back the promise of more investments and loans. On the other hand, the West is trying to do its best, with fewer financial resources in comparison with the beginning of 1990s, for helping the country, but after more than 20 years of experience in the transitional processes in the former communist countries, not too many wonders to be expected.

The tensed relations with the neighbors – Belarus is hosting the former president, Uzbekistan just raised the natural-gas price, despite the Kyrgyz promise for a nomination of the president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, for the Nobel Peace Prize - are increasing the level of dependency of the country of Russia. But what it is the advantage for Russia to keep all those “satellites”, apart the illusion of the glorious “old good times” of the Soviet Union?

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