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

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions