Leading article: The world has an interest in a stable Kyrgyzstan

This nation needs an assurance that the future will be brighter

Related Topics

The initial failure of Kyrgyzstan's new government to take control of the country, with the ousted president holding out in the south, has raised worrying prospects of further bloodshed in a strategic part of Central Asia, close to Afghanistan.

It would certainly have benefited everyone had Kurmanbek Bakiyev left the country immediately, allowing the opposition politician, Roza Otunbayeva, to make a fresh start. Instead he lingered on, speech-making in Osh near the Uzbek border, before finally leaving for Kazakhstan yesterday. We must hope the threat a stand-off posed to the Western airbase at Manas, which supplies Nato forces in Afghanistan, is over. But these are early days. The West will need to keep its eye on a country, which, though poor and small, holds a strategic position on the crossroads between Russia and China, and the West and Afghanistan.

Some see Russia's hand in Bakiyev's overthrow, citing the feelers that the Kremlin extended to Otunbayeva and the offer of a Russian loan. Such theorists believe Bakiyev angered the Kremlin by trying to strike a balancing act between Moscow and Washington and by allowing the Americans to retain Manas against Russia's wishes. Exciting stuff, worthy of a Le Carré novel, but misplaced. Bakiyev was no plucky independence leader, trying to wriggle out of the Russian bear's embrace. He was a corrupt leader whose inability to tackle his country's grinding poverty exhausted his people's patience. The Kyrgyz got rid of him, not the Russians – and if his successor has sounded a pro-Russian note, such words accord with the pragmatic sentiments of most Kyrgyz.

This confuses those Kremlinologists who tend to view Russia through East European and Baltic spectacles and assume its dominant role in any region must always be bitterly resented. But the Kyrgyz felt less liberated than abandoned after the Soviet Union collapsed, handed an independence they never demanded and left with few resources. Its main ace has been its strategic position. But far from using this to snuggle up to Washington, Bakiyev played hardball, wrangling over the rent for the airbase and threatening to evict the Americans if they didn't pay. After winning this poker game, Bakiyev gave up threats to close Manas. But the airbase is not a make-or-break issue for the Kremlin these days. Whatever Russia's deep misgivings about US bases being planted in former Soviet republics, it does not want to sabotage the Western military effort in Afghanistan and dreads a Taliban victory, appreciating the knock-on effect this would have on restive Muslim Chechnya. There has, in other words, been no great shift of the strategic tectonic plates along the old Silk Road as a result of events in Kyrgyzstan. The crisis has not created new opportunities for Russia in the region but has merely exposed a role it already had, a mostly stabilising one at that.

What we need now, therefore, is for the US and Russia to co-operate, not compete, in restoring peace to Kyrgyzstan. There are welcome signs that they are doing that; they worked together with Kazakhstan to get Bakiyev out of the country for a start. Now they need to go further, putting together an aid package well beyond Russia's offer of $50 million. Purses may be tight right now. But if the Kyrgyz receive no assurance that the future may be brighter than the dismal recent past, Islamic insurgents will scent the opportunity and try to establish a foothold in a part of Central Asia in which they have yet to make headway – an undesirable outcome for the region, for Russia, and for us too.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Manager

£55,000 - £65,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accountant with ...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

£45,000 - £55,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified accountant...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: opening round in the election contest of the YouTube videos

John Rentoul
Anthony Burgess, the author of 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'Earthly Powers,' died 17 years ago  

If Anthony Burgess doesn’t merit a blue plaque, then few do

John Walsh
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor