Forty-two percent of Kyrgyzstanis consider the United States the biggest threat to their country, says a new study by a Bishkek polling agency.
Afghanistan is the only country feared by a greater part of the population: 54 percent.
Why the negative feeling about the US? In part it’s probably because of the Manas air base outside Bishkek, which is regularly pilloried in the local press -- often unfairly, though it has engaged in shady business deals with two deposed autocrats. Negative Russian press also leaves an impression on the population.
By contrast, Russia comes across very well in Kyrgyzstan. Perhaps because of a deep dependence on Russia for jobs and aid, 90 percent of the population thinks “Russia plays a very positive role in the region,” says the new study, conducted in late summer by M-Vector.
M-Vector’s publicly available findings also draw some interesting comparisons between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, two former Soviet republics that have taken wildly different paths since independence. Kazakhstanis tend to agree on the part played by Russia: 74 percent applaud its role in the region.
But people in the two countries have markedly different feelings about their nations’ leadership: Sixty percent of Kazakhstanis feel their country is stable, while only 16 percent of Kyrgyzstanis feel the same way about their country, which has seen two leaders toppled in street riots in the past seven years. Moreover, 69 percent of Kazakhstanis trust President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has overseen 20-plus years of increasing prosperity thanks to a hydrocarbon windfall. By contrast, only 19 percent of Kyrgyzstanis trust their newish president, Almazbek Atambayev, who has inherited rampant corruption, widespread poverty, and a deeply divided polity.
Polling in Central Asia is an inexact science, to be sure. But as far as research outfits go, M-Vector is one of the local majors, often doing projects for the US Agency for International Development (USAID).