Alexander Cooley: Manas Airbase, the geopolitical game in Central Asia and the merchant Kurmanbek Bakiyev (III)
(Concluded). Lack of such thinking was twofold: firstly, the political system of Uzbekistan and its development after independence differs from that in Kyrgyzstan. Authoritative-generic way of Uzbekistan remained tight since the beginning of 1990. Political power is concentrated in the hands of the president and the reformers were extremely slight attraction or space. President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov with its powerful internal security haunted by all forms of political opposition to his regime earning a reputation as one of the most repressive in the world.
On the other hand, the political culture in the Kyrgyz Republic has remained much more open, despite her bouts of incapacity, to the extent of how this small country in Central Asia, preserved the civil society, some independent media and political space for struggle at the national level for power competing elites and regional factions. Moreover, the “tulip revolution” in 2005, during which President Askar Akayev was overthrown after popular protests, is the latest evidence of the vulnerability of the ruling regimes in Kyrgyzstan. Unlike the situation in Uzbekistan, the Kyrgyz security services at the time of the confrontation between Protestants and waves of street demonstrations did not intervene to support any regime Akayev, Bakiyev’s regime and no. Thus, there never was a single standard “Central Asian” political culture, which would be applicable to all countries in the region.
Secondly, the case of Kyrgyzstan also shows that the desire to reach a compromise between the often cited support for “political stability” in the authoritarian governments and the promotion of good governance and democracy, is often the wrong choice. U.S. officials mistakenly came to the decision to accept authoritarianism Bakiyev as evidence of political stability in Kyrgyzstan, while the cumulative effect of its repression and corruption in itself has brought the country to poverty as well as to destabilize it. What is characteristic, namely, public discontent with high levels of corruption and mismanagement, particularly in the energy sector, led anti-government protests in the northern cities of Naryn, and Talas, and their overthrow of the regime with such suddenness. It is obvious that excessive corruption of power and mismanagement have contributed to his downfall fleeting.
Recommendations and comparative lessons
U.S. officials, in case they want to guarantee the future of “Manas”, must take seriously the growth of anti-American sentiment in Kyrgyzstan. Decision interim government will automatically extend the lease for another year is progress, which should be welcomed. It provides those who make policy decisions in the U.S. several months of review and implementation of new policy priorities, which in the case of a thorough mining can provide the “Manas” a more solid legal and political framework. But it is vital that U.S. officials do not fall into the trap of thinking that access to the “Manas” can be guaranteed only a simple redirection of the same questionable payments for the base to the new interim government or its successor. If the new treaty will not be quickly concluded with the provisional government headed by Rosa Otunbayeva, the status of the base will become a major problem in the next presidential campaign in Kyrgyzstan through the six-month period. A number of these candidates as head of the Communist Party and the new speaker of parliament Iskhak Masaliyev, will base a campaign on a platform against the base, introducing himself as “pro-Moscow” candidates, “antibakievskih” Democrats or new trustees posed a threat to the sovereignty of Kyrgyzstan.
First, the United States needs to take bold and decisive action to restore its shaky public perception in Kyrgyzstan. With only 80 million dollars, which are reported to remain in the state budget of Kyrgyzstan, a good first step would be to provide humanitarian assistance and the positive response to the request of the Kyrgyz support of priority issues, including the funding of forthcoming elections. Russia has already promised to provide $ 50 million in emergency assistance, and the United States is doing the right thing, if you select the same amount or exceed it. Continued instability and the fall of the interim government would not be in the interest of neither the Kyrgyz people, nor the United States.
Second, U.S. officials must publicly declare their readiness to cooperate with any investigation of the Kyrgyz-related business practices on the basis of the reign of Bakiyev and provide data on these cash transactions to the public. Such an investigation will undoubtedly embarrass the officials of the base, but it is very important to base and the embassy publicly perceived as ready to cooperate in this politically sensitive time. U.S. officials should also explore ways in which they can draw associated with the “Manas” payments and maintenance contracts for the benefit of society in Kyrgyzstan as a whole, rather than a private source of income for those with communication on individuals. One option might be to guarantee that revenue from maintenance contracts will fall directly into the Kyrgyz national budget, rather than individuals with offshore registrations.
Third, U.S. officials should use the situation in Kyrgyzstan to build a more constructive relationship with their Russian counterparts. If we put an end to the competitive dynamics of the “Great Game” by the “Manas”, and ideas from both sides that Russia and the U.S. got involved in a zero-sum struggle for influence in Central Asia, it will be crucial for the stability of any future government of Kyrgyzstan . Of course, in the Russian military community, there are factions who will never accept the legitimacy of the U.S. military presence in post-Soviet space, regardless of the purposes of such presence. But it is also clear that if a consultation, the Kremlin can be persuaded to play a constructive role. In this context, recent discussions with the Obama presidency, Medvedev and Nazarbayev have contributed to migrate Bakiev of Kyrgyzstan, are an example of how important it is for Washington to maintain open lines of communication and, where possible, coordinate their policies with other important regional players.
Fourth, as Obama himself, and the U.S. Congress must as soon as possible to improve relations with the public in Kyrgyzstan, expressing commitment to resuming full economic, political and social cooperation with the U.S. this impoverished Central Asian state. Assistant Secretary Blake has already promised to double aid to civil society and democracy in Kyrgyzstan, which is a welcome step that should be supported by Congress.
Finally, it is important that we understand that what happened in Kyrgyzstan, is one example of a recurring historical picture of the political perception of U.S. bases overseas. Again and again we see how the new government in moving towards democratization of the state in which there are U.S. bases, can quickly cool down to the U.S. military presence, linking it with support from the United States the previous authoritarian regime. The events in Kyrgyzstan repeat similar political developments in the Philippines, Thailand, Greece, Spain, Turkey and Korea, where the new government as part of anti-US related to democratization, the backlash challenged the validity of any U.S. presence, or in fact expelled from the United States of important objects.
These lessons are especially important now, when those responsible for planning, the Ministry of Defense continues to expand the global network of bases in the new regions, including Central Asia and Africa, in which the U.S. has traditionally had no ground military presence. The case of Kyrgyzstan is not unique. A couple of years ago the United States failed to achieve new contract to deploy the base in Manta, Ecuador, due to unforeseen domestic civil society campaign and its allies in the Parliament of Ecuador, which questioned the legal status and political legitimacy on the base. If the U.S. wants to maintain an extensive global network of military facilities, it is imperative that the Defense Ministry planners were thinking more in the strategic plan on how the presence of base interacts with local political conditions and be ready, and not to oppose the democratic political change in the host countries.
1. Alexander Cooley. «Base Politics: Democratic Change and the US Military Overseas». Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008.
(I spent on-site interviews on the “Manas” during separate research trips to Kyrgyzstan in 2005, 2008 and 2009. I used to live in Kyrgyzstan in 1998, when conducted field research for my dissertation on the impact of international assistance to the Kyrgyz interior political structures and taught at the American University in Kyrgyzstan (currently it is the American University in Central Asia).
2. Estimates of net economic impact received from the articles Roger McDermott. «Reflections on Manas». «Eurasia Daily Monitor», June 30, 2008, and Alexander Cooley. «Depoliticizing Manas: The Domestic Consequences of the US. Military Presence in Kyrgyzstan ». PONARS Policy Memo 362, February 2005.
3. David Cloud. «Pentagon’s Fuel Deal is Lesson in Risks of Graft-Prone Regions». «New York Times». Nov. 15, 2005.
4. Andrew E. Kramer. «Fuel Sales to US at Issue in Kyrgyzstan». «New York Times», April 11, 2010.
5. Jim Nichol. «Kyrgyzstan and the Status of the US Manas Airbase: Context and Implications». Congressional Research Service Report, July 1, 2009, p. 4.
6. Deirdre Tynan. «US Intends to Construct Military Training Center in Batken». «Eurasianet», March 4, 2010.
8.Alexander Cooley. «Base Politics». «Foreign Affairs», Vol. 84, No. 6, November / December 2005.
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