Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev meets NATO Secretary General in Brussels. (photo: NATO)
Just days after finishing up his duties as a host of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev headed to Brussels to meet with the heads of the SCO's would-be geopolitical rivals, the European Union and NATO.
From the EU, Atambayev got money -- 30 million Euros in economic aid and another 13.5 million for projects to help build the rule of law -- and some guarded praise for its decision "to pursue political and economic reforms and to consolidate a democratic multiparty system."
And from NATO, Kyrgyzstan was offered an expansion in security cooperation activities, particularly in combatting drug trafficking. Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after their meeting:
Now, also beyond our ISAF operation, I think there is the potential for cooperation and partnership. One thing is our counter-narcotics projects. Within the NATO-Russia Council we have trained and educated counter-narcotics officers from across the region, including Kyrgyzstan, and I do believe that also beyond our ISAF mission there is a need to continue those counter-narcotics efforts.
Today I have also mentioned disaster response, logistics and defence reform as possible areas for enhanced cooperation.
For his part, Atambayev used his remarks to encourage NATO to cooperate with the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Russian-led ex-Soviet security bloc. The CSTO has long sought cooperation with NATO, probably for the sake of credibility: it would make the young, yet unformed bloc look like an equal to the sixty-plus-year transatlantic alliance. (A series of Wikileaked diplomatic cables provided some fascinating details of the behind-the-scenes discussions between Rasmussen and U.S. officials on this subject.) And Atambayev said he invited NATO representatives to a meeting on Afghanistan that the SCO is holding next month in Bishkek.
So it sounds a bit like Atambayev was carrying Russia's water by encouraging the CSTO cooperation. (If so, he got no thanks from the condescending Russian press coverage.) But the fact that he went to Brussels and met with Rasmussen at all could be seen as a shift from last year, when Atambayev blew off the NATO summit in Chicago.