What’s Next for U.S. Policy in Kyrgyzstan? Easy….Not Much
Remember that brief post I put up a week ago about the uprising in Kyrgyzstan?
Well guess what… there is more news about the small Central Asian nation surfacing from the wires. Evidently, the interim government has announced that the former president of Kyrgyzstan- Kurmanbek Bakiyev- has decided to fax over his official resignation (as if he had a choice).
So I guess the revolt is over; Bakiyev has been transported to neighboring Kazakhstan, his relatives are in exile, and his defense minister has been arrested. The interim government is now in firm control over the capital (ironically headed by a former member of Bakiyev’s administration), and Kyrgyz analysts are jumping up and down in celebration of a new era.
The question that is now on everybody’s mind is what the U.S. response will be. With a brand new government in power, bloggers (including yours truly) are jumping on their computers, pounding on their keyboards and trying to predict what will happen next.
So without further hesitation, here is my take; anyone who is expecting some sort of new renaissance in U.S. foreign-policy towards Kyrgyzstan will be disappointed. It’s going to take a lot more than the collapse of a feeble and corrupt government to change how the United States looks at Central Asia.
Historically, Washington has never really cared about what leaders in Central Asia have done. For over two decades, the region has been dominated by authoritarian governance, human rights abuses and political patronage; the epitome of corruption and nepotism. Independent media outlets have been routinely shut-down by government authorities, journalists have been imprisoned by the state, and internet access is usually cut-off when dissidents try to organize rallies against political elites. Yet all this time, the United States hasn’t blinked an eye to the abuses.
For the past half-decade, the main priority for the U.S. was making sure the Manas air-base in Kyrgyzstan was open and ready to rock. 50,000 American troops passed through the base last year on their way to Afghanistan, and with more troops on their way to Kandahar this summer, you can bet that Washington is going to do everything in its power to keep it functioning.
As long as U.S. troops are fighting in Afghanistan, this will be America’s primary objective in Central Asia, regardless of what type of government exists. The promotion of democratic reform may have to wait for a few more years. Come July 2011, then we’ll see if this calculus changes.
-Daniel R. DePetris
**Comments courtesy of FP’s Shadow Government**