RUSSIA'S CHOICES IN KYRGYZSTAN: A COMMENT
"OSH Kyrgyzstan (Reuters) Renewed turmoil in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, has fueled concern in Russia, the United States and neighbor China. Washington uses an air base at Manas in the north of the country, about 300 km (190 miles) from Osh, to supply its forces in Afghanistan....
Several units of paratroopers arrived on Sunday to protect servicemen and families at Russia's Kant airbase in the north of the country, a Kremlin spokesman said. A Defense Ministry spokesman said 150 armed paratroopers had been sent, while ITAR-TASS news agency, citing ministry sources, said at least 300 were dispatched....
The interim government in Kyrgyzstan, which took power in April after a popular revolt toppled president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has appealed for Russian help to quell the riots in the south.
Led by Roza Otunbayeva, the interim government has sent a volunteer force to the south and granted shoot-to-kill powers to its security forces in response to the deadly riots, which began in Osh late on Thursday before spreading to Jalalabad....
The upsurge in violence has killed more people than the riots that accompanied the overthrow of Bakiyev. Otunbayeva, whose government has only limited control over the south, has accused supporters of Bakiyev of stoking ethnic conflict. Bakiyev issued a statement from exile in Belarus, describing claims he was behind the clashes as 'shameless lies....'
Otunbayeva has asked Russia to send in troops. This appeal was renewed on Sunday by interim defense minister Ismail Isakov, who said Russian special forces could quickly end the conflict. Russia has said it will not send in peacekeepers alone but will discuss the situation on Monday within a Moscow-led security bloc of former Soviet republics known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday called Otunbayeva to discuss the violence, the Kremlin said".
"Kyrgyz ethnic clashes spread, Russia sends troops," 12 June 2010 in www.reuters.com.
"Russia will not send peacekeeping forces to Kyrgyzstan, which has been hit by deadly inter-ethnic clashes in recent days, Russia's envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Tuesday.
'Such a step would be unjustified as we are taking here about an internal conflict,' Anvar Azimov said. At least 170 people have been killed in the south of the Central Asian republic in five days of ethnic violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbek groups. Tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks, who make up about half the population in the area, have fled to neighboring Uzbekistan. Azimov said extra troops had already been sent to Kyrgyzstan to ensure the safety Russian servicemen and their families at the Kant military base, some 20 km from the capital Bishkek".
"Russia will not send peacekeepers to troubled Kyrgyzstan," 15 June 2010, in www.en.rian.ru
"STRATFOR often discusses how Russia is on a bit of a roll. The U.S. distraction in the Middle East has offered Russia a golden opportunity to re-establish its spheres of influence in the region, steadily expanding the Russian zone of control into a shape that is eerily reminiscent of the old Soviet Union. Since 2005, when this process began, Russia has clearly reasserted itself as the dominant power in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Ukraine, and has intimidated places like Georgia and Turkmenistan into a sort of silent acquiescence....
Therefore, the Russian relationship with Kyrgyzstan is based neither on military strategy nor on economic rationality. Instead, it is based on the need to preserve a certain level of credibility and fear — credibility that the Russians will protect Kyrgyzstan should push come to shove, and Kyrgyz fear of what Russia will do to it should they not sign on to the Russian sphere of influence.
It is a strategy strongly reminiscent of the U.S. Cold War containment doctrine, under which the United States promised to aid any ally, anytime, anywhere if in exchange they would help contain the Soviets. This allowed the Soviet Union to choose the time and place of conflicts, and triggered U.S. involvement in places like Vietnam. Had the United States refused battle, the American alliance structure could have crumbled. Russia now faces a similar dilemma, and just as the United States had no economic desire to be in Vietnam, the Russians really do not much care what happens to Kyrgyzstan — except as it impacts Russian interests elsewhere".
Peter Zeihan, "The Kyrgyzstan Crisis and the Russian Dilemma," 15 June 2010, in www.stratfor.com.
The Russian reluctance to intervene in the troubled and relatively worthless ex-Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan is rather interesting. As it seems to up-end those analysts (such as myself to a degree) who stated that the overthrow of the Bakiyev regime in Bishkek a few months back was in part, a piece of Russian handiwork. This was a place after all in which Monsieur Putin, felt free to give over a Billion dollars in aid only last year. With the particular aim (or so it appeared at the time) of convincing Bakiyev to kick the Americans out of their Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan. A sotto voce agreement (if in fact thats what it was), which Bakiyev relatively quickly felt free to renege on. Ergo to some, the political & economic pinpricks and rhetorical attacks which Moskva launched immediately prior to the uprising that overthrew Bakiyev, had all the makings of the politics of overthrow and revenge to it. If in fact this surmise is true, why is Russia now reluctant so suddenly to intervene to assist its new clients? While some commentators state that the riots were in fact produced by Bakiyev himself in order to encourage Russian intervention (although one may reasonably ask, why would Bakiyev encourage Russia to intervene in any case?), that still does not answer the query why Putin, Medvedev, et. al., are so reluctant to restore order in this former Soviet Republic (on the idea that the riots were encouraged by criminal gangs who have ties to Bakiyev, see: Sanobar Shermantova, "Kyrgyzstan unrest timed to coincide with SCO Summit," 15 June 2010, in www.en.rian.ru/analysis)? While some state that Russia is reluctant to meddle in a relatively worthless and troublesome country, for no ostensible gain, others (myself among them to a degree) think that Moskva will eventually intervene in force, but only when the degree of unrest truly mandates it, and when it will have an entirely free hand to do what it wants in this not very important country, from the surrounding regimes in Tashkent, Astana and even Peking (for a differing reading of Russia's behavior than what I posit, see: Charles Clover, "Moscow wary of appeals for military aid to quell violence, 15 June 2010, in www.ft.com & Deirdre Tynan,"CSTO indecisive on Kyrgyzstan Intervention," 14 June 2010, in www.eurasianet.org). Otherwise one is tempted to add, that the rhetorical claims by both Medvedev and Putin that Russia has some type of 'sphere of influence', in former Soviet spaces (provided one assumes that they are not members of NATO & the EU...) will ring rather hollow. Au fond, if Russia wishes to be considered a Great Power, rather than simply a Great Power manque, then it will have to assume those troublesome burdens that only Great Powers can assume and undertake. Pur et simple (for a view similar to my own on this topic, if not in all its particulars, see, the article by an ex-Indian Ambassador who has served in both Moskva & Tashkent: M. K. Bhadrakumar, "Russia peers into the Kyrgyz Void," 15 June 2010, in www.atimes.com).