Home > Uncategorized > Diplomatic Memo – Value to Big Powers May Not Save Kyrgyzstan – NYTimes.com

Diplomatic Memo – Value to Big Powers May Not Save Kyrgyzstan – NYTimes.com

MOSCOW — A year and a half ago, the world’s great powers were fighting like polecats over Kyrgyzstan, a landlocked stretch of mountains in the heart of Central Asia.

The United States was ferociously holding on to the Manas Air Base, a transit hub considered crucial to NATO efforts in Afghanistan. Russia was so jealous of its traditional dominance in the region that it promised the Kyrgyz president $2.15 billion in aid the day he announced he was closing Manas. With the bidding war that followed, Kyrgyzstan could be forgiven for seeing itself as a global player.

And yet for the past week, as spasms of violence threatened to break Kyrgyzstan apart, its citizens saw their hopes for an international intervention flicker and die. With each day it has become clearer that none of Kyrgyzstan’s powerful allies — most pointedly, its former overlords in Moscow — were prepared to get involved in a quagmire.

Russia did send in several hundred paratroopers, but only to defend its air base at Kant. For the most part, the powers have evacuated their citizens, apparently content to wait for the conflict to burn itself out.

The calculus was a pragmatic one, made “without the smallest thought to the moral side of the question,” said Aleksei V. Vlasov, an expert in the politics of post-Soviet countries at Moscow State University.

“We use the phrase ‘collective responsibility,’ but in fact this is a case of collective irresponsibility,” he added. “While they were fighting about whatever — about bases, about Afghanistan — they forgot that in the south of Kyrgyzstan there was extreme danger. The city was flammable. All they needed to do was throw a match on it.” He referred to the city of Osh, which suffered days of ethnic rioting.

Kyrgyzstan might have unraveled anyway, but competition between Moscow and Washington certainly sped the process.

To lock in its claim on the base after the threat of expulsion, the United States offered President Kurmanbek S. Bakiyev $110 million to back out of his agreement with Russia, which had already paid him $450 million. Congratulating itself on its victory, Washington raised the stakes by announcing the construction of several military training facilities in Kyrgyzstan, including one in the south, which further irritated Moscow.

This spring, the Kremlin won back its lost ground, employing a range of soft-power tactics to undermine Mr. Bakiyev’s government. Mr. Bakiyev was ousted by a coalition of opposition leaders in April, and conditions in Kyrgyzstan’s south — still loyal to the old government — hurtled toward disaster.

“Let’s be honest, Kyrgyzstan is turning into a collapsing state, or at least part of it is, and what was partially responsible is this geopolitical tug of war we had,” said Alexander A. Cooley, who included Manas in a recent book about the politics of military bases. “In our attempts to secure these levers of influence and support the governing regime, we destabilized these state institutions. We are part of that dynamic.”

How inter-state conflict contributes to the failure of weaker states and sets off ethnic violence

Posted via web from Ted’s Nothing but Net Explorations

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