Kyrgyzstan: Revolution Revisited
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Strategic Ties: Kyrgyzstan's longstanding pledge to maintain good relations with Russia, China and the US makes for a complex juggling act. But how balanced is the new government's foreign policy? While some observers argue the country now favors Russia, others cite the ongoing US military presence as proof that Bishkek still looks westward.

PROMISES:

Immediately after ousting Askar Akayev, the country's new leadership assured the international community that Kyrgyzstan would honor all previous commitments. In particular, shortly after the March 24, 2005 uprising, Acting President Bakiyev pledged that the US and Russia could maintain their military bases, located some 30 kilometers from each other. During two subsequent visits to Moscow, Bakiyev identified Russia as Kyrgyzstan's main investor, stating the possibility of creating a joint venture with major Russian businesses to complete two hydropower plants and construct an aluminum plant in Kyrgyzstan. The new leadership also sought what it called a "strategic partnership" with China.

RESULTS:

The completion of negotiations with the US in July 2006 for its lease of the Manas military base outside of Bishkek was the headline grabber for 2006. In the spring, Bakiyev had threatened to end the lease if talks were not completed on schedule, and had requested $200 million in annual rent. A large increase in July in the rent paid -from $2 million to $20 million -- secured the lease, but the reciprocal expulsion of US and Kyrgyz diplomats suggested that rough edges remain in the two states' relations. The rent made up part of a $150 million aid package to Kyrgyzstan for 2007.

Ties with Russia grew stronger as well. After his April 2006 trip to Moscow, President Bakiyev announced that Russia could invest at least $2 billion into the completion of Kyrgyzstan's two hydropower plants and an aluminum plant. The country's new leaders have also welcomed Russia's plans to double its military presence in Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan has announced plans to "enhance bilateral military ties" with China, and launch a highway linking Kyrgyzstan's south with western China. One of the cement plants being built in the south of Kyrgyzstan is said to be financed by a Chinese company that disbursed some $80 million for the project.

Overtures have also been made to neighbor Uzbekistan. In late July, the two countries agreed to cooperate in fighting international terrorism, religious extremism, narcotics trafficking and organized crime. Following the agreement, a joint Uzbek-Kyrgyz security operation in southern Kyrgyzstan on August 6 resulted in the death of a prominent ethnic Uzbek mullah who had allowed members of the radical Hizb-Ut Tahir sect to worship at his mosque. Three days later, four Uzbek refugees and one asylum seeker allegedly connected with the 2005 Andijon uprising in Uzbekistan are deported from Kyrgyzstan amidst international outcry.


Watch a News Broadcast of This Promise:
March 24, 2006 press conference by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev
Credit: NTS Television

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