October 30, 2011 presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan have drawn over 80 candidates into much anticipated race that has been a subject of political debate in and around the country for quite some time in the republic. Aside from a several dozen of "wannabe" candidates only a few bare chances of getting through the process of a real deal campaigning nationwide. But regional experts and analysts including a number of domestic political figures say there is a likelihood of drastic change towards authoritarian model of the state rather than parliamentarian republic that came after coup in April 2010. What makes situation in Kyrgyzstan unique is that this is the only country in Central Asia with a record of trying to establish a multi vector political system in the region where such form of statehood is not welcome.
Besides a "bouquet" of political inconsistencies with neighboring authoritarian regimes, Kyrgyz Republic shares an "unlucky" geography which happens to be right in middle of the Ferghana Valley. Kyrgyzstan's landlocked location, in the region where western conflict prevention projects haven't been proven effective up to this point (1), creates a whole host of economic and social implications that are crippling country's "long suffered" economy. Kyrgyzstan's two major neighbors such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan continue to be a main source of economic activity with which come along a by-products like border lock downs in the times of instability and the games of playing "natural resource" asset as in the case with Tashkent's tightening screws on natural gas supply to Kyrgyz Republic from time to time during a cold season. (2)
Central Asia has been seen in the West as a conglomerate of highly divisive regimes without core strategy on vital fields of cooperation such as regional security, conflict prevention, social and economic development, trans border and water resource disputes, arms and drugs trafficking, religious extremism and many other impending topics. Kyrgyz political expert Mars Sariyev in a recent interview with Bishkek based news agency Aki Press said that current domestic politics of dividing the country into North and South fits exceptionally well with a trend of the foreign state interference in the Kyrgyz Republic. (3) Sariyev told journalist that local political elite does not realize a significance and the scale of the geopolitical situation that is taking place in Kyrgyzstan highlighting the engagement of the outside force in the Kyrgyz politics. According to Sariyev, the foreign entity might use the "soft power" in Bishkek pitching for possible "Afganisation" of Kyrgyzstan after the US-NATO troops withdrawal from AfPak region or the use of the country's projected split scenario into two parts consequently annexed by neighboring republics.
Similar views to Sariyev's opinion are shared among other analysts in Bishkek. And the question remains open on identity of the foreign state that is playing aggressively in Kyrgyzstan? Widely believed to be assassinated in the spring of 2009, the ex-chief of President Bakiyev's administration Medet Sadyrkulov in interview with the Wall Street Journal before his death in highly suspicious car accident told WSJ journalist that he (Sadyrkulov) was worried over disturbing pattern of the Kremlin's meddling in Kyrgyzstan. (4) Sadyrkulov's point of view was reinforced by another source close to the ex-President Bakiyev's inner circle Oksana Malevanaya who has managed the Presidential Secretariat in 2008-2009. The Wikileaks published the script of the diplomatic cable from US ambassador in Bishkek, Tatyana Gfoeller who interacted with Mrs.Malevanaya after Sadyrkylov's death. According to wire transcript, Mrs.Malevanaya believed that Russia's advisers to ex-President Bakiyev have been working on the Moscow's objectives in the country but Malevanaya did not think that Sadyrkulov was assassinated by the Bakiyev's security services simply for a reason of incompetence to conduct such high profile operation. (5)
Marat Imankulov, a deputy chief of the Kyrgyzstan's Intelligence Service (GKNB) and the Secretary of the State Security Board of the Kyrgyz Republic recently announced his plans on running for Presidency in upcoming presidential elections.(6) Imankulov known as Russia's Intelligence Service (FSB) man in Kyrgyzstan after being spotted as a close associate of the FSB General Ushakov who was removed from service by President Medvedev's direct order. (7) General Ushakov was in charge of the Kremlin's 'Kyrgyz" project and according to news sources in Moscow, Ushakov has been a robust force behind Imankulkov's rise in the Kyrgyz Republic.(8) However, to run the 'Kyrgyz" project more efficiently, Moscow replaced "fallen" FSB specialist with another ex-General from Russia's Internal Affairs Vladimir Rushailo, according to RIA novosti news agency. Rushailo coordinates the Kremlin's efforts in the Kyrgyz Republic since May of 2010. Sources in the Government of Kyrgyzstan say Rushailo is still running the "Kyrgyz" project. The Kremlin's new appointee, Rushailo has managed to press the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic for positive outcome with a pending issue of additional Russian military installment in the southern province that resulted in permanent deployment of 45 the FSB servicemen in the city of Osh. (9)
Moreover, Moscow has been successfully utilizing "petroleum" card on Kyrgyzstan, giving impetus to the Kremlin officials with resolution of the disputes with Kyrgyz Government on strategically important sectors of the country's industry such as Kambar-Ata water dam cascade and Dastan torpedo factory in Bishkek. (10) On particular note, defense factory Dastan in Kyrgyzstan was at the center of the international scandal in 2006 when Tehran publicly tested surface-to-sea missile that appeared to be similar to Russian Shkval torpedo (11) produced in Bishkek. But according to Arms Control Association it was unclear weather Moscow assisted Iranians with a purchase of Shkvals neither world arms trade experts were sure enough on Kyrgyzstan's role in transaction. (12) Tension around Dastan resurfaced last year once again after Moscow decided to raise the issue of the torpedo plant's ownership with newly installed Kyrgyz Government in April 2010. Russia's Regnum newspaper came out with article in January 2011 citing unconfirmed sources and claiming Iran's purchase of unknown number of torpedoes from Kyrgyzstan before ex-President Bakiyev's ouster. (13)
Besides existing irregularities between Moscow and Bishkek, the Kremlin has not been completely satisfied with the future of the US/NATO airbase "Manas" in Kyrgyzstan that was a subject of a serious matter for Russia's leadership in 2009. It is widely known fact that the Kremlin was involved in attempts to close Manas airbase once and for all. (14) But after Moscow's apparent miscalculation with then the President Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan who "went off the grid" on Manas airbase closure, the Kremlin swallowed uneasy pill that has created side effects for Bakiyev in April 2010. As we know now, Russian Prime-Minister Putin has taken part in April 2010 coup in Bishkek. Ariel Cohen, Ph.D. Senior Research Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy and Senior Analyst with the Heritage Foundation, in his article for the Wall Street Journal writes: " Vladimir Putin distanced himself from Mr. Bakiyev and offered help in quelling unrest. That, coupled with the provisional Kyrgyz government’s publicly expressed “gratitude” to Moscow for its “assistance” to the revolution, indicates that there may be deeper Russian involvement than meets the eye." (15)
On August 12, 2011, Kyrgyz Prime-Minister Atambayev in interview with Russia's Rosbalt agency, declared the end date of the Manas airbase operations in Kyrgyzstan, unsurprisingly indicating shift toward Moscow's ambitions in Central Asia. (16) Prime Minister Atambayev also known for his pro-Kremlin initiatives in the country in various fields of cooperation including worldwide publicized embarrassment over naming the mountain in the Kyrgyz Republic after Vladimir Putin (17) and his more than often "traveling" accommodations to Russia's capital for meetings with the Kremlin officials.
Recent unofficial meeting of the CSTO members in Astana, Kazakhstan (18) outlined yet another round of misunderstanding among members of the organisation. President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov didn't attend the gathering of leaders of the states which is not new "ordeal", indeed. Uzbek President has been critical of the CSTO plans of intervention in the "frozen" ethnic conflicts within the military organisation's jurisdiction as well as military actions in any other political disturbances in the ex-Soviet republics. According to Karimov's statement, at the joint session of the CSTO in December 10, 2010 in Moscow, CSTO's priority mission is to protect member states from the outside aggression but not to be involved in the internal matters of the independent country. (19) President Karimov in his speech also stressed unnecessary initiative with the Collective Rapid Reaction Force deployment in the crisis zones that doesn't fit the Uzbekistan's policy of non-intervention in the internal conflicts of the neighboring republics which was the main reason for not signing the agreement of the CSTO's peacekeeping mission strategy. Karimov backed his disagreement over CSTO's peacekeeping frame with instance of long brewing territorial conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia which in his opinion could have been resolved presently if then neighboring states would not have let the situation to be escalated.
About author: Ryskeldi Satke is a freelance contributor with research institutions and news organizations in Central Asia, Caucasus and Turkey.His contact e-mail: [email protected]
1. Preventive Development Program UNDP
2. Uzbekistan 'Cuts Natural Gas Delivery' To Kyrgyzstan, RFERL; Kyrgyzstan's Energy Alternatives http://www.sras.org/kyrgyzstan_energy_alternatives
3. Лидеры, разыгрывающие региональную карту, могут не понимать, что они являются пешками в игре внешних сил http://thenews.kz/2011/08/11/889428.html
4. Russians Outfox U.S. in Latest Great Game http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124467909278604353.html
5. Cable 10BISHKEK98, HEAD OF SECRETARIAT ASSERTS SADYRKULOV DEATH http://wikileaks.ch/cable/2010/02/10BISHKEK98.html
6. 54 people run for the presidency in Kyrgyzstan http://eng.24.kg/politic/2011/08/12/19694.html
7. Kyrgyz Project Remains Task Priority in Moscow http://www.usak.org.tr/EN/makale.asp?id=2193
8. Вылетел с ветерком http://rospres.com/specserv/7954/
9. Ошский виртуальный рубеж ФСБ http://www.ng.ru/cis/2010-10-04/1_osh.html
10. Kyrgyzstan Rations Gasoline After Russian Deliveries Halted, RFERL
11. Iran tests second new radar avoiding missile, Khaleej Times
12.Security Council Mulls Response to Iran http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2006_05/IranSecurityCouncil
13.Секретные российские торпеды проданы из Киргизии в Иран?, Regnum
14.Kyrgyzstan's Closure of the Manas Air Base:Context and Implications by Jim Nicol; Congressional Research Service http://opencrs.com/document/R40564/
15.What's at Stake in Kyrgyzstan?, Wall Street Journal
16.«Базу ВВС США выведем в 2014 году» http://www.rosbalt.ru/exussr/2011/08/12/878759.html
17.Kyrgyzstan to name mountain after Vladimir Putin, Telgraph
18.CSTO to strengthen cyber defense after Arab unrests – Russian newspaper http://news.am/eng/news/70877.html