Thursday, June 24, 2010

Kyrgyzstan: Picking up the pieces

Kill the victim and go to his funeral. Is NATO poised to move into the heart of Central Asia, even as its war in Afghanistan implodes, marvels Eric Walberg

Kyrgyzstan joined the rank of failed states this month: its central government lacks legitimacy and depends heavily on external aid, with the US base looming large, while the people are largely destitute, harassed by local thugs and drug barons, and looking to Moscow for a way out.

Clashes in the south are worse than earlier reported, responsible for more than 300 killed, mostly Uzbeks, and setting off a massive wave of refugees, with 100,000 people crammed in camps on Kyrgyzstan’s border with Uzbekistan and tens of thousands more displaced. The clashes are almost certainly the result of a provocation organised by the clan of ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

The issues at stake are the referendum next Sunday to legitimise the interim government, and the drug trade, which Bakiyev’s clan still controls and is loathe to give up. Heroin comes from Afghanistan via Tajikistan and is repackaged in Osh before being transported west to Uzbekistan and north to Kazakhstan and Russia, according to the UN. The killing two weeks ago of Aibek Mirsidikov, one of the drug kingpins in the area, threatened the Bakiyev clan’s control. The rest is history.

Jalalabad province commandant and first Deputy Chairman of the Kyrgyz State National Security Service Kubatbek Baibolov charged that a group of Tajik citizens, hired by the Bakiyev clan, opened fire indiscriminately on both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks sparking the riots. Former Kyrgyz president Askar Akayev told that Bakiyev’s brothers Ahmad and Janysh paid criminals and unemployed youths “in suitcases of cash to start bashing people up and set everything on fire.” Bakiyev had cleaned out the banks and the Finance Ministry when he was ousted in April. Days before the current uprising unemployed youth were suddenly flush with cash, said Akayev.

The ex-president’s son Maxim’s indictment by Italian investigators is what sparked his father’s overthrow in April. That the US was not the culprit this time (as opposed to the Tulip Revolution in 2005) is suggested by the fact that the new government continues to threaten to close down the US airbase -- this time, if Britain refuses to hand over Maxim, who was arrested Sunday at Farnborough airport when he arrived by private plane, fleeing an Interpol arrest warrant on charges of corruption and misusing state funds. He is of course seeking political asylum in Britain. “England never gives up people who arrive on its territory. But since England and the US fight terrorism, and the arrangement with the airbase is one of the elements of that fight, then they must give over Maxim Bakiyev,” warned Azimbek Beknazarov, deputy leader of the interim government.

This is not just a tragedy for the normally peaceful Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, but also an alarming development for the entire ex-Soviet space. Russia is now faced with the worst post-Soviet political crisis in its “near abroad”, where it insists -- rightly -- that it has special claims, having millions of Russians scattered throughout those countries, with intimate economic and cultural links from centuries of both imperial and state socialist development. But where there are claims, there are also responsibilities.

This is no better illustrated than the call by both sides, Uzbeks and Kyrgyz alike, for Russian peacekeeping troops to be deployed as disinterested mediators who understand the region and can communicate with locals, unlike NATO forces in Afghanistan. The spectre of Russians policing the streets of Osh raises none of the loathing and fear that US and NATO troops patrolling, say, Marja, prompts. The peoples of virtually all the ex-Soviet quasi-states (except the Baltics) would rejoin a Soviet-type union in a flash as opinion polls continue to confirm two decades after its ignominious “collapse”. When Kyrgyzstan twitches, Russia feels it, and vice versa.

Trying to put Humpty-Dumpty together again is impossible at this point. Instead, the Russian strategy since Yeltsin has been to do everything possible to keep these quasi-states stable, whatever their political leanings. Even the Georgian bete noire Saakashvili was left in place during his war with Russia in 2008. But this hands-off approach has left a vacuum that the US has been filling, with its “democracy building”, colour revolutions and bases, oblivious to the fact that the new states it helped give birth to in the first place are more like premmies -- fragile and needing careful nurturing, always in danger of dying.

Russia’s approach amounts to propping up dictators no matter how ruthless or bloodthirsty, as long as they acknowledge Moscow’s interests. The nicest of the lot, Kyrgyzstan’s ex-president Askar Akayev, was overthrown in the US-inspired 2005 coup, which the US now surely regrets, leaving one tolerable one -- Nursultan Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan, with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan frozen in a very nasty timewarp.

Can Russia act as “an agent of change, as a force for genuine modernisation, cautiously nudging the local authoritarian regimes to transform, democratise and broaden their socio-political base?” asks Igor Torbakov of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. If Russia keeps referring to this crisis as merely an “internal conflict,” it risks losing face, prestige and the right to claim the leading role in the post-Soviet Eurasia.

Recent weeks have witnessed several other signs of a Russian retreat in foreign policy. It failed to respond to the Brazil-Turkey proposal to defuse the Iranian crisis, voted for sanctions, and cancelled the S-300 missile deal with Iran, admitting to US pressure.

The Arabs have a saying about the rascal who kills the victim and then goes to his funeral. US involvement in Kyrgyz affairs exemplifies this well: destabilise the state and now, like former US ambassador to Russia James Collins and Carnegie Russia and Eurasia Programme deputy director Matthew Rojansky, call for NATO and the US to “immediately engage with regional partners to help restore security.” There are no lines to read between here: NATO should expand even further eastward through its Partners for Peace. Collins/Rojansky magnanimously acknowledge that this is “a responsibility NATO must share with the CSTO and the OSCE”. They blandly call for “the United States and Russia to put aside outdated stereotypes and focus on their fundamentally shared interests in Eurasian security”.

Considering the disarray of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), it is hard to fault the US for using this window of opportunity to move further into the region. This crisis has shown that the CSTO is not a serious regional organisation. The squabbling and suspicious “stan” dictators, Russia, and China have little in common other than their proximity. The CSTO’s response, according to its General Secretary Nikolai Burdyuzha, is to send “specialists who know how to plan and organise an operation to prevent mass disorder, which would unmask its instigators and localise bandit groups who provoke the situation.”

Is the OSCE an intermediate option, with its 56 member states, including both NATO and CSTO members? Hardly. Russia is the main actor here, with the other Central Asian states also having a pressing need to try to salvage a viable statelet from this tragedy. The NATO quagmire in Afghanistan needs no farcical replay. So the Collins/Rojansky call is really just a call for NATO expansion, pure and simple.

Another possibility is for Turkey to step in. Kyrgyz and Kazakh are both Turkic peoples, whose languages are mutually intelligible. Kyrgyz territory was, in the khanate past, once one with that of the Kazakhs -- the entire region was known as Turkestan. During a visit to Kazakhstan this week, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and the Kazakh president supported Kyrgyz plans to proceed with the referendum next Sunday. Davutoglu said, “Immediately after the referendum, we plan together with Kazakhstan to prepare joint actions to show our assistance to Kyrgyzstan.”

If all else fails, there is China, though its presence is problematic, given its suppression of the Uighurs across the border in Xinjiang. But Beijing’s self-confidence and massive economy inevitably give it an outsize influence, especially if Russia and the West continue to flounder.

Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly You can reach him at


Carlo said...

For Russia, it is much better to have the Central Asia as "sovereign" states, than as part of a bigger Russia. During Soviet times, there was a huge flow of resources from the most developed areas to Central Asia and the Caucasus, as the Soviet Union was directly responsible for their prosperity and security. But now, all Russia has to do is to pay the local elites, and watch as these countries continue gravitating around Moscow, which is much easier and cheaper.
But, like Eric correctly notes, "where there are claims, there are also responsibilities", and by refusing to act, Russia may lose influence in the region. Will they act like they did in South Ossetia? I hope so. For Russia, a peacekeeping operation in Kyrgyzstan would be much easier and less bloody than the 2008 campaign, as they wouldn't fight against a well-equipped regular army, and could easily legitimize their operation through the CSTO.
I miss Russia like it was between 2005-2008. Those were great times, when Putin made Robert Gates leave angrily the Munich peace conference over his harsh critics of US imperialism, when Russia didn't care about US/Israeli pressure and sold Tor-ME air defense systems to Iran, when Russia didn't fear NATO's cherished child in the Caucasus and responded militaryly against the Georgian attack on South Ossetia. But since 2009, Moscow seems to believe Obama's plegde to "reset relations", and has a much more fearful foreign policy, as if they were back in the nightmarish days of the 1990's.


@Carlo: I miss Russia like it was between 2005-2008

I very much agree here. I wonder what the hell happened. Following the 08.08.08 war my feeling what that Russia was finally "back". I am getting the feeling that this was too optimistic...

sic transit gloria mundi!

Anonymous said...

Eric Walberg: "Recent weeks have witnessed several other signs of a Russian retreat in foreign policy. It failed to respond to the Brazil-Turkey proposal to defuse the Iranian crisis, voted for sanctions, and cancelled the S-300 missile deal with Iran, admitting to US pressure"

The Brazil-Turkey proposal came a bit too late - now it would leave Iran with enough material to make a nuclear weapon. Last year, 1200 kg were 2/3 of all Iran’s nuclear material capacity, at present time it’s less then a half do to Iran accelerating it‘s production. Russia is not interested in letting Iran or any other regional power obtaining nukes. So American pressure has nothing to do with that.
S300 deal has not been cancelled officially it's still on the table.

“If Russia keeps referring to this crisis as merely an “internal conflict,” it risks losing face, prestige and the right to claim the leading role in the post-Soviet Eurasia.”

I hope the Russians are not going to send troops to Kirgizia. The US, NATO, EU - the whole pack of jackals will cry bloody murder the very moment a first Russian soldier enters the country. And then there are the stan’s leaders including Lukashenko Russia wouldn’t want to get them scared too much with her role in overthrowing one of them in Kirgizia and then moving troops in.

And the Kirgiz people need to get a legitimate government for starters. Afghani government in question asked the USSR for military help once too.

Carlo: “But since 2009, Moscow seems to believe Obama's pledge to "reset relations", and has a much more fearful foreign policy, as if they were back in the nightmarish days of the 1990's.

Russia’s isn’t playing a tough guy just in spite. Russia has it’s interests and sticks to them. The Russians were doing not too bad recently - the NATO expansion is frozen for a while, nobody is demanding to give back Abkhazia and SO anymore. Ukraine is back, so is Kirgizia, ABM in Poland has been cancelled at least for now. Reset with the West is announced t least officially. And what Russia had to give for that? Didn’t sell S300 to Iran? But the contract was signed back in 2007 exactly when according to you Russia was at it’s best playing the tough guy. And no delivery even then. So - not selling S300 has nothing to do with the softer Russia perhaps. Perhaps there are other reasons we don’t know about. I see Russia getting what she wants and not even paying for the table. So the softer image is just what should be natural considering the reality.

kozeol said...

I believe that current Russian administration, namely the Putin-Medvedev clique is controlled by Western-sympathizers left from Yeltsin. The signs of anti-russian policy are all over. People who made millions suffer, directly responsible for catastrophes like with Sayano-Shushenskaya HydroElectricStation - Chubais, people who are involved in destruction of army and defense facilities - Serdyukov ... are not in jail!

Russia is loosing its grounds not because of economic causes but because of mis-management.

CIS countries mostly have populations loyal to Russia, the ratings of Putin-Medvedev are much higher in CIS countries than in Moscow.

In Kyrgyzstan, the ex-presidents Bakiev has left many of its followers plush with green $$$ USD sums ready to destabilize the country and diminish the efforts of the current Kyrgyz government.

First of all, the narco-traffic. Kyrgyzstan is a big transit station of afghan opiats on their way to Russia and EU - with the blessings of NATO/US. People controlling this business get rich fast and Bakiev's regime people who controlled them can not just leave it. There is a serious information from national security of Kyrgyzstan about affiliations of Bakiev family with Pakistan-Afghanistan narco-traffic dealer-families and that these people have hired mercenaries from wild mountain regions of Afghanistan-Tadjikistan to provoke ethnical violences in south regions of Kyrgyzstan.

Second comes the business interests in draining the natural resources of Kyrgyzstan. Gold mininig - controlled by Berezovsky - whose link with Bakiev family has is now officially surfaced after the attorney firm who helped get Berezovsky the asylum in London is helping to do the same for Maxim Bakiev the former Prince of Kyrgyzstan, the son of ex-president Bakiev. To this we can add silicon (quartz, exported to Israel), uranium and other valuable resources.

And the US is not happy with the revolution of 7th April 2010. US was so happy with Bakievs regime that they completely relied on ties with them and Tatiana Gfeller the US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan was I believe praised many times. But, US has put all the eggs in one basket - and we, the people of Kyrgyzstan, tossed the basket on 7th of April and now US is fucked.

US needs another Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iraq-Kurdistan controlled chaos region to build more military bases.

It would have been better if we had hanged whole Bakiev family - than the ethnic violences would not happened and so many people could stay alive.

By now, military is cleaning out the south region. Situation is almost normal now, no more killings and refugees are already returning home. Ethnic uzbeks and kyrgyz nationals now fully understand that peace is above all.

This ethnic violence has fulfilled interests of Bakiev family, the US and of course Israel which is happy even for risen aliyah numbers from Kyrgyzstan and Central-Asia regions.

If Bakiev-US-Israel continue to destabilize Kyrgyzstan I will be writing from the battle field and trenches :)

Carlo said...

Kozeol, correct me if I'm wrong, but are you in Kyrgyzstan? If you are, could you give us more first-hand information?
Also, what do you think about the Lukashenko-Bakiyev links? Why is the Belorussian president supporting the ousted Kyrgyz leader?

Anonymous said...

Carlo: "Why is the Belorussian president supporting the ousted Kyrgyz leader?"

Belorussia’s economy depends on Russia even more then the Kirgiz one. Lukashenko couldn’t help but notice how easily the whole repressive system which looked pretty strong fell apart just within a few days. And the spark that ignited the riot came from Russia - the rise of fuel export taxes for Kirgizia. Russian subsidies for Belorussia amount a few billion dollars a year through Russia‘s energy supply policy. Plus the Russian market is open for Belorussian goods. Lukashenko knows that Belorussian economy can simply collapse if Russia wants a new leader for her neighbour. By backing up Bakiev Lukashenko makes a statement for the Russians that he knows the game and is not gonna be intimidated too easily. And by the way, giving a safe heaven to a comrade he expects to get a friendly response from one of the little dictators in the stans in a case if he eventually will have been kicked out off his own country.

kozeol said...

Carlo: it isn't the only reason.

You see, Boris Berezovsky, a long time US/Britain affiliate, and now a refuge with political asylum in London, is also a close friend of Lukashenko same as Bakievs' son, the Prince Maxim Bakiev.

Maxim Bakiev has close "business partners" - Valery Belokon (Latvia), Sergei Nadel (Israel), Evgeniy Gurevitch (US) who are all have close ties with Boris Berezovsky. They all are of jewish descendant and are much smaller caliber than the Berezovsky himself, consider them as a capo de regime of Berezovsky.

Berezovsky controlled his business interests in reaping Kyrgyzstan with the help of his capo de regimes:

1. Maxim Bakiev, as a Prince the son of President, had enormous power that he used to create a new state department Central Agency for Investments and Innovations (CAII) that took control of the budget of the Kyrgyzstan in order to rotate the money in various stock operations.
2. Gurevitch Evgeniy, created MGN Group (MGN Investment, MGN Capital etc... MGN-fuck-shit) and miraculuously obtained the rights to operate from the name the CAII and manage its funds.
3. Sergei Nadel had a bank AsiaUniversalBank (AUB) here in Kyrgyzstan, and with CAII had obtained the rights to process state banking operations such as salary transfers, budget transfers, payments and etc. Only the processing price is estimated to 20 mln COM (0.5 mln $ USD) a month.
4. US/NATO has an air-base, which needs enormous amounts of petrol. With the US side affiliate Maxim Bakiev managed obtain the supply tender, not without the help of Gurevitch-Berezovksy.

Ties of Berezovsky and Lukashenko are not a secret, they are often referred as long-time close friends.

And, yes, Lukashenko sees in Bakiev his possible future too. Think about it, both married unofficially second-third times, both have young pre-school children from these marriages...

kozeol said...

Carlo: and now, about the whole situation here in Kyrgyzstan.

Ferghana valley, to which Osh-Jalalabat south cities of Kyrgyzstan belong, were always a boiling hells kitchen of many nations intermixing. The president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, manages to control a 23 mln nation with a hard fist, most of Ferghana valley is under Uzbekistan rule. After the massacre in Andijan, uzbek people sit with anuses so tight they cut the steel rods in a sec. South of Kyrgyzstan and Kyrgyzstan itself is a safe-heaven for any uzbek running away from oppression in Uzbekistan. Considering that, Kyrgyzstan is buffer zone for Uzbekistan to keep radical-and/or-liberal uzbeks away. In Kyrgyzstan nobody opresses anyone, except for the former governments who opressed the whole nation.
Anyone could speak anything, except for cursing the Bakiev-Akaev regimes. Ethnic uzbeks, after living in a free country like Kyrgyzstan started saying things like that they want autonomy from the rest of the republic, that they want uzbek language as a second official language and cut the south of Kyrgyzstan and declare autonomy!

Most of the people do not understand, why ethnic uzbeks want and need such an autonomy in the borders of Kyrgyzstan, why ethnic uzbeks do not want to cut the south and join Uzbekistan for that matter?! They want autonomy with uzbek language as second official BUT they do not want to join their HOMELAND - Uzbekistan.

Uzbeks do not form a large population in Kyrgyzstan, they just live in the cities and have accesses to schools and even universities teaching in Uzbek language.

They are afraid of Karimov and still they want to enjoy the freedom in Kyrgyzstan.

The local uzbek leader Kadyrjan Batyrov with a mob of 1-2 thousand people went and burnt the houses of Bakievs family in Jalalabat. Nobody liked this, since many wanted to make a schools or kindergartens from the houses of the Bakievs family, since they ran away their houses belong to people the robbed.
After burning the house Kadyrjan Batyrov gave a series of interviews on local TV telling about oppression and that they want to protect their rights on their language and that they want autonomy...
The second I heard this, I understood that this will turn ugly, a blood will spill and all of this because of some dumb fucks like Kadyrjan Batyrov.
Kyrgyzstan has more than 80 ethnics living peacefully in Kyrgyzstan - nobody tells about autonomy. We have large corean, uighur, dungan, turkish and other diasporas - still nobody is oppressed. If they want they build their schools, their cultural centers - nobody gives a damn what language they talk or which god they pray.
Its' only uzbeks who wanted this.
After sometime, Batyrov was forced to appear on TV to deny all his words he said before, since south began turbulences, it was a miracle ethnical violences did not start those days.

And after that, in June, happened what was going to be happened. Only that Kyrgyzstan has lost information war - so many NGOs were transmitting from the side of uzbeks showing only uzbek refugees showing only that uzbeks have suffered.

Nobody said that so large numbers of ethnic uzbeks CAN NOT appear so fast on the border of Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan - right after the beginning of ethnical violences. As if they did not have to travel through enemy territories. I believe ethnical uzbeks have prepared beforehand to this massacre, prepared weapons and organized and began evacuating their families long before the massacres.

kozeol said...

They say that local army stationed in the south have joined the mobs and started crushing the ethnic uzbeks. And rumors that kyrgyz men did not have weapons while uzbeks had both automatic and rifles, the kyrgyz soldiers seeing this gave them opened the weaponries and gave them to kyrgyz men and joined them since in the beginning it was a massacre from ethnic uzbeks! Only later uzbeks retreated to defence.
Right now, ~80% of the kyrgyz victims are women and children. I do not believe that kyrgyz men after seeing their beloved ones dead, mutilated, will forget this just now.

I am sure, not long time after, if ethnic uzbeks will not leave the Kyzgystan land and still have their dumb idea of autonomy while they have their homeland just outside the borders - they will be massacred. Massacred both in revenge and as a natural reaction of the body to an infection or virus.