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Understanding Kyrgyzstan

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mgc1961 Donating Member (874 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-10-10 11:47 AM
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Understanding Kyrgyzstan
Rahm Emanuel faced his first major Kyrgyz crisis as President Obama's chief of staff in February 2009. The president of Kyrgyzstan, Kurmanbek Bakiev, had just announced the expulsion of American forces from a Kyrgyz airbase that supported NATO operations in Afghanistan. The announcement came during Bakiev's visit to Moscow, where President Medvedev promised to provide $2 billion in debt relief and $150 million in cash to an impoverished Kyrgyz government.

The announced expulsion was the latest disappointment in U.S. relations with a country that in the early 1990s had been touted as a model of democratic development for Central Asia. While neighboring countries moved from communist republics to personal dictatorships, Kyrgyzstan, under the leadership of a former physicist, Askar Akaev, embraced elements of the open society and competitive politics that Western governments were seeking to export to post-communist lands.

Kyrgyzstan's distinct developmental path owed something to Kyrgyz culture itself. One opposition leader told me that the Kyrgyz are "the most insubordinate, rebellious, and mutinous nation" in Central Asia. Another insisted -- in a slight toward their neighbors -- that it's harder to govern three Kyrgyz than 300 Uzbeks. But Kyrgyzstan's status as the darling of the West in the 1990s also reflected the pragmatism of President Akaev. Without the energy resources of other Central Asian countries, such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, the leader of this remote mountainous country of 5 million people peddled to the West an image of Kyrgyzstan as the Switzerland of Asia. In return, he received hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and loans from Western governments and private donors.

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