Home > World News > The Obama administration and Kyrgyzstan

The Obama administration and Kyrgyzstan

I’ve been trying to keep up with what’s going on after last week’s coup and ouster of President Bakiyev

That the US has an airbase in the country that is key to supplying our troops in Afghanistan doesn’t seem to be as important to our mainstream media as say, Tina Fey making yet another joke about Sarah Palin.

Surely, the Obama administration didn’t see this coming and nobody is asserting as much.  As Dan Larison notes, the longstanding US attitude towards the region is culpable:

…[T]he latest events there should serve as yet another reminder that the Bakiyev regime has been significantly worse for Kyrgyzstan than the government Western governments and media outlets were so happy to see overthrown in yet another “color” revolution.

Of all the governments challenged by “people power” protests in the last decade, Akayev’s was probably the most inoffensive and Akayev himself was a fair sight better than some of the other Central Asian rulers Washington continues to embrace to this day.

More recently however, under the Obama administration, nothing has changed.  Simon Tisdall of the Guardian warns:

[…]Washington’s self-interestedly insouciant disregard for the regime’s egregious human rights abuses and disregard of democratic norms earned the US few friends among the opposition groups that now wield power.

In his pragmatic dealings with Iran, Burma’s generals, North Korea and other unsavoury regimes, Obama has shown himself at home in the compromised world of realpolitik. Kyrgyzstan demonstrates how the turn-a-blind-eye approach can rapidly backfire. Even as Bakiyev was fleeing for his life on Wednesday, the US government was gearing up to entertain his heir-apparent, Maksim, on a visit to Washington.

Obama has no excuse for being unaware of what was going on. According to Human Rights Watch, several of Kyrgyzstan’s best-known opposition leaders were jailed on politically inspired charges in the past year. Amid intensifying street demonstrations in March, opposition websites and independent radio stations were blocked or jammed, and the publication of three newspapers was suspended. Two prominent journalists were killed last year.

Let’s hope the situation doesn’t grow any worse than it already is.  But if it does, I doubt the Obama administration will know how to react.

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