March 29, 2005
KYRGYZSTAN'S REGIME 'COLLAPSED LIKE A HOUSE OF CARDS'
** A "powerful cocktail...of state-dissolving elements" toppled Kyrgyz President Akayev.
** Was it a "democratic revolution," internal "revenge" or triggered by outsiders?
** A small, poor "strategically important" Central Asian nation is running the "risk of chaos."
** America, Russia and China vie for influence; do not want to "face a radical Islamic regime."
'Pent-up anger at corruption' was capped by 'falsified elections'-- A Kazakh communist observer opined that it was "unthinkable" that Akayev by-passed the "votes and expressed will of the people" while he installed his son and daughter in parliament. He also angered "former cabinet ministers and confidants" who joined a "fragmented" opposition "pulling in different directions," but "whose [sole unified] aim" became the ouster of Akayev. A German writer summed up "corruption, personal enrichment, and the transformation of the state into a family business" created dissatisfaction; thus, Akayev's regime "crumbled like a sandcastle."
'Events in Bishkek' evolved after 'changing by the minute'-- Despite comparisons with democratic events in Georgia and Ukraine, "it remains to be seen how much [the Kyrgyz] struggle is about real democracy," opined Austria's tabloid Neue Kronenzeitung. In concert with an Italian analyst who held the events to be "simply the revenge of members of the former political establishment who were ousted by Akayev," a Munich observer judged it "a long way from Kiev to Kyrgyzstan." Turkey's leftist Cumhurriyet and Thailand's conservative Siam Rath joined with China's official World News Journal in asserting that the U.S., with troops in the country, contributed to the "breaking point" in Kyrgyzstan.
'Among the world’s poorest countries' but 'a choice morsel...on the geo-strategic chessboard'-- Called the poorest among Turkic Republics by a Turkish observer and "one of the poorest countries among the former Soviet nations" by Japan's liberal Asahi, analysts expressed consensus that the situation there "remains alarmingly fluid." Kazakhstan's pro-government Aikyn, along with Chinese and Japanese papers echoed concerns, expressed by an Italian writer, that "extremists will use the situation" to carry out terrorist acts during periods of unrest and instability. "The stakes are high in Kyrgyzstan," Italy's center-right Il Giornale concluded.
'Tug-Of-War Over Kyrgyzstan To Escalate Among U.S., Russia And China?'-- Writers noted Russia and the U.S. have "military outposts" in Kyrgyzstan and, according to Austria's independent Der Standard, will "influence the outbreak of spring" in Kyrgyzstan. A French commentator opined that "Washington and Moscow, with both their armies present, are now engaged in a ferocious war of influence, on China’s border, in a Muslim land, in the midst of oil fields." Russia's reformist Izvestiya countered however, that Washington and Moscow agree the "Kyrgyz revolution...can be any color but [Islamic] green," while a Chinese observer scored the U.S. for "infiltration into Central Asia" and "lying in the background of the Kyrgyzstan crisis."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Rupert D. Vaughan
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 89 reports from 18 countries over March 16-29, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed by the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Russia, China And The U.S. Should Not Interfere In Kyrgyzstan"
The independent Financial Times editorialized (3/23): "Kyrgyzstan is small and poor, but it is strategically important on the north-western border of China, and boasts important military bases both for the U.S. and Russians. The former services American operations in Afghanistan. That latter has been rebuilt, no doubt to demonstrate that Moscow is not going to relax its influence just because the U.S. has moved in. There is a danger that both may seek to meddle in an increasingly chaotic situation.... Mr. Akayev should admit the failings of the latest parliamentary elections and accept a rerun where fraud was most blatant.... The greatest service he can do for his country is to demonstrate that a peaceful transition to a new regime is possible. That means ensuring fair presidential elections. The greatest service Moscow, Washington and Beijing can do is to stand back and underwrite the outcome.
FRANCE: "Russia’s Loss Of Influence"
Gerard Chaliand wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/29): “For years now Washington has been helping in the rollback of Russia’s influence in countries from the Warsaw pact.... Three Baltic nations have become NATO and EU members. NATO has become, in addition to a military pact, a diplomatic instrument.... America’s popularity in these nations close to Russia is considerable. This is not the case, except for a few exceptions, in public opinion in the Middle East. One might even say that in the Greater Middle East, the more a regime is pro-American, the less the population favors the U.S. Nothing of the kind is happening on Russia’s doorstep.... Everything is pointing to Russia being unable to be more than a regional power in the future.... Under Washington’s influence, America’s allies are sticking together in that region.... Washington’s foreign policy seems to have garnered more success in Russia’s periphery than in the Middle East. Iraq is a huge mess, Syria has for a long time been the weak link and Lebanon is still a nation where religious groups put their partisan interests above the national interest.”
"A Much Sought Out Little Country"
Lorraine Millot opined in left-of-center Liberation (3/25): “A choice morsel shifted yesterday on the geo-strategic chessboard. The U.S. saw it coming. Since opening its military base there in 2000, the U.S. has invested massively to promote democracy in this country. Without the population’s rebellion, nothing would have been possible. But the extraordinary success of the ‘revolution of the tulips’ is also due to the long drawn-out preparations and techniques which look very much like those used in Georgia and Ukraine. These three revolutions have in common the fact that the regimes were torn between Washington and Moscow, and in exchange for financial offsets, they allowed the U.S. to inoculate the population with a taste for freedom and democracy.... The ease with which the revolution came about is a clear warning signal for all neighboring dictators. It is also a new warning for Putin, who is haunted by these popular rebellions in his former empire.”
"Influence And Oil In A Muslim Land"
Dominique Bromberger said on government-run France Inter Radio (3/25): “The U.S. Embassy (in Kyrgyzstan) supports the revolution. The Russians can’t help but show their disappointment. Washington and Moscow, with both their armies present, are now engaged in a ferocious war of influence, on China’s border, in a Muslim land, in the midst of oil fields which leave no one indifferent.”
GERMANY: "Transformations In The Establishment"
Michael Ludwig said in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/29): "In Kyrgyzstan, politicians are well on their way to finding an agreement. If all sides involved stick to the agreement from Monday, there will be no parliamentary dual rule of two competing assemblies.... If the ouster of the Akayev regime was the goal of the revolution, then this goal has almost been reached now.... But the Kyrgyz revolution is also a test for the international community. Thus far, it has played its role well. Russians and Americans have gotten out of their way, and the OSCE offers important assistance to pacify the domestic revolution. Russia has hardly to fear anything from this revolution. Moscow cultivated good relations not only with Akayev but also with the opposition. And the latter was a lesson from the misguided Russian revolution. Russians and Americans supported Kurmanbek Bkiyev against an autocrat. This gives reason to hope for democratic change in Central Asia."
"New Unity In Kyrgyzstan"
Business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg argued (3/29): "Unlike in Ukraine, it is at this time difficult to recognize new structures in this transformation process in Kyrgyzstan. Which of the two parliaments is legitimate? What are the goals of previous opposition leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev?.... But there is a development that gives reason to hope that the country will not go down in chaos and civil war. The U.S. and Russia are determined to act together not against each other. The two powers...have asked the OSCE to intervene and to settle the conflict. This new unity between Russia and the U.S. may have become easier because Russia's strategic interests in Kyrgyzstan are limited. It may also be possible that, following the experience in Georgia and Ukraine, a realpolitik approach is more promising than insisting on the status quo. In any case, it will help Kyrgyzstan with its five million inhabitants if the major powers follow the same policy. As the new interior minister said, the country needs both: from the U.S. it will get money to democratize, and from Russia it will get jobs."
"No Democrats, No Democracy"
Katja Tichomirowa opined in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (3/29): "Was it a democratic revolution in Kyrgyzstan? If we were to give a positive answer, then we would have to presuppose that Akayev's ouster correspondent the will of the Kyrgyz people.... Over the past few years, the ousted president did everything to prevent the development of democratic institutions. There is no opposition party, let alone a party leader who can rely on the support of the majority of people. There is no parliament that could give political business a democratic framework. To put it briefly: there is no political personnel that could safeguard the success of this revolution for a majority of people."
"The Kyrgyz Crisis"
Karl Grobe opined in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (3/24): "This crisis has specific reason and make comparisons with the transformations in Ukraine and Georgia, to which spin doctors and Russian political managers like to refer, not very credible. There is also a lack of neighboring states and groups of states from where democratic experiences and ideas could spring over to Kyrgyzstan. And a generally accepted hero of renewal is not seen either in the country.... But one argument cannot be used in this context: the one of international Islamic terrorism. This may be possible in neighboring Uzbekistan where leader Karimov describes every opposition politician as an Islamic terrorist. Kyrgyzstan can develop a different example: the one of a people's movement without a bedeviled ideology. This can become infectious and then in addition to Akayev, Karimov will falter, too."
"Falsifying Elections To Stay In Power"
Right-of-center Sächsische Zeitung of Dresden remarked (3/24): "Kyrgyz President Akayev will recognize a 'well-known pattern' in the events. 'Foreign forces' are again at work to destabilize the country and to lead the country astray from a previous successful path. He has not yet presented evidence of this claim, but with respect to the well-known patterns, he is right, but in a different way than he thinks. Similar developments in other former Soviet republics like in Georgia, Armenia, or recently in Ukraine all have the same reason, which Akayev does not mention for a good reason. Everywhere the powers-that-be felt too safe and tried, according to the bad Soviet pattern, to falsify elections in order to stay on power.... But they have underestimated the grown self-confidence of their citizens."
"Unrest In Kyrgyzstan"
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger noted in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/23): "Kyrgyz's leader Akayev is reacting to protests and unrest in the country as authoritarian leaders used to react: with denigration, criminalization, and with the allegation that the unrest would be remote-controlled from abroad. The fact that Akayev is resorting to this tritest of all explanations reveals his political and intellectual poverty of his rule. The opposition does not require any stimulus from the outside. The social and economics situation in southern Kyrgyzstan is evidence of a creeping disintegration of the state, even though the opposite is spread in the West. In addition, Akayev irritated the opposition with widespread election fraud. The result of the election of the parliament according to the political (and commercial gusto) of the president is nevertheless, valid. This will continue to anger the opposition, an opposition with whom we would side much more if it were a club of democratization friends-of-Kyrgyzstan, which it is not. Opening, economic boom, political modernization, in Central Asia this combination is not entirely but commonly unknown."
"The Long Way From Kiev To Kyrgyzstan"
Daniel Brössler opined in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/23): "Since, following Georgia and Ukraine, people in Kyrgyzstan are taking to the streets, the temptation is great to proclaim an era of democratization for the countries of the former Soviet Union. Some indications speak for it, but many more arguments speak against it. The unrest in Kyrgyzstan is evidence of the fact that the revolutionary virus from Kiev is infectious, but it also shows that its effect is different depending on the patient. One reason for the protests in Kyrgyzstan is a pent-up anger at corruption and the self-enrichment of the ruling clique...but the turmoil was in the end caused by election fraud.... But now the parallels to previous events come to an end. According to the Ukrainian model, the beginning of the unrest should have started in the university district in Bishkek...but it was not the students and residents of the capital who formed the fertile ground for resistance. It was dissatisfied people in the south, and in this context, the clans play a great role, since they, like the opposition, influence the policy of the powers-that-be. Thus far, the critics of the Kyrgyz government are not very convincing for the democratic world. They are former supporters of President Akayev...and it is a much greater problem that the opposition has overcome its fragmentation only with a highly fragile opposition alliance, whose aim it is to oust Akayev. That is why the conquests of cities and airports in Kyrgyzstan carry features of a revolt rather than a soft revolution. Protests against election fraud deserve our support, but the western world must make clear to the Kyrgyz opposition that this is not a support based on credit. Those who do not do enough to prevent the development of violence, will quickly lose this bonus. It is not enough to refer to the 'orange revolution' in Ukraine. The same premises must also be true, including the renunciation of violence. And President Akayev must understand that violence would lead him quickly to the pool of international outcasts, despite the U.S. outpost in his country.... We wish the people in Central Asia an era of revolutions, but this is not very likely."
"Uprising Of The Decent"
Karl Grobe had this to say in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (3/23): "The revolts in the southern and western parts of the country are an expression of a smoldering negligence of the regions..and the fact that police and administration in the centers of the rebellion have changed sides to the rebels is based on the concentration of power in the hands of clans in Bishkek and the Akayev family in particular. Thus far, it has not been a national movement like in Georgia and Ukraine. The division of the country is now creating a different, even more serious, problem. If Akayev sends soldiers or if Russia is prompted to intervene, they will risk the existing semi-democratic structures in the entire region to fall apart."
"Protests Without Democrats"
Marcus Bensmann opined in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (3/23): "The unrest in Kyrgyzstan shows that the people are unwilling to accept every brazenness.... Corruption, personal enrichment, and the transformation of the state into a family business have created an enormous dissatisfaction. The electoral fraud was only the last straw that broke the camel's back. The protests in Kyrgyzstan are also a variant of the revolt against post-Soviet kleptocrats and will frighten other despots in Central Asia. But thus far, the revolution has not been carried by a self-confident middle class or students in the cities but by Kyrgyz farmers and nomads. They follow their clan leaders to the political front against President Akayev."
"Writing On The Wall for Neighbors"
Erhard Pölting noted in an editorial in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (3/16): "Falsified elections can, as Georgia and Ukraine proved, become dangerous for the forgers. Like a conflagration, similar movements have now also spread to Kyrgyzstan.... Even Kyrgyz President Alijev said Georgia and Ukraine are warning-writings on the wall. In the Central Asian successor states to the Soviet Union, autocrats rule, and they rely on their families, regional clans, and on repressive apparata. Even in Turkmenistan, where such bizarre tyrannies did not exist, democratic reforms turned into a thin coat, and democratic opposition movements were suppressed. But all of them are now faced with a militant Muslim activism, which cannot easily be pushed back.... Of course, the protests in Kyrgyzstan are justified. It is paradoxical but the protests show how liberal the Alijev regime has been and they could give reason to be optimistic. In Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, such protests would be impossible in view of the repression that could be expected. Certain forms of political self-organization could develop in Kyrgyzstan, which are now directed against the increasingly autocratically governing president."
ITALY: "Crisis Of Two Kyrgyz Parliaments Resolved"
Leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore declared (3/29): “Kyrgyzstan is emerging, albeit slowly, from the political chaos that is affecting one of the poorest and most marginalized of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia. The mediation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) allowed for the resolution of the most urgent problem, that of the two ‘Parliaments,’ which was, indeed, creating a dangerous power vacuum in the country.... Many problems still remain but, according to European experts, the new leadership must currently focus on ways to resolve the crisis, and not analyze its origins or try to find out who is behind it.... Two weeks after the beginning of the popular revolt, the situation in Kyrgyzstan is still very complicated and may entail surprises. According to some sources, ousted President Akayev is negotiating with the opposition the conditions for his return to Bishkek.”
"Asian Revolution Is Not A Velvet Revolution"
Piero Sinatti analyzed in leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore (3/26): “The concerned reaction of the State Department and of the OSCE observers shows that Washington and European capitals perceive...different goals behind developments in Kyrgyzstan. South Kyrgyzstan--the epicenter of the revolt--borders the Uzbeki region of Ferghana, a long-time cradle of Islamic armed extremism and fundamentalism. This is also the region that links two areas with a strong Uzbeki and Ujgura majorities. One area is Uzbeki. The other one is Chinese, the Xinjiang, where Turkish Mongolian Muslim minorities oppose the Han dominion exerted by Bejiing.”
"Domino Effect In The Last Reserve Of The Red Autocrats"
Massimo Introvigne maintained in pro-government, leading center-right Il Giornale (3/25): “The stakes are high in Kyrgyzstan.... The possible international repercussions explain the great interest with which Condoleezza Rice--an expert on the area--is personally following three crucial aspects of the Kyrgyz situation. The first is the additional confirmation that Bush’s strategy that democracy should be promoted everywhere is correct. There are no exceptions for certain regions or for ‘the friends of friends,’ for example Vladimir Putin’s friends: whoever hinders democracy must step out of the way. This rule applies to Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan as well. And there is full consciousness of the fact that if Akayev falls...the Kazhaks, Turkmens and Uzbeks will follow. The second problem--which distinguishes Bush and Condi Rice from Vladimir Putin--is how to handle al-Qaida and Islamic terrorism. The tolerance in the years following 9/11 shown for dictators, who presented themselves as the only alternative to the possible electoral victories of ‘fundamentalists,’ is over. Bush II...has irreversibly chosen democracy. Elections must be free and without fraud, may the best person win and what happens, happens.”
Vladimir Sapozhnikov asserted in leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore (3/25): “Another former Soviet Republic changes political regime. Following Georgia and Ukraine, a lightning revolution has triumphed this time in Central Asia, in Kyrgyzstan, where President Askar Akayev crumbled like a sandcastle.”
"The Tulip People Win--President Akayev Flees"
Conservative, top-circulation syndicate Il Resto del Carlino editorialized (3/25): “The ‘Tulip Revolution’ in Kyrgyzstan has conquered its place in history following the Rose and Orange revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine.... Unlike the liberal-democratic revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, that it tried to stop, Moscow stood by and watched while Akayev’s regime fell. This caution is probably also due to the many peculiarities of this country- the only one in the world to host both a Russian and American base in a particularly sensitive strategic area.”
"A Desire For Transparency in Kyrgyzstan"
Marco Guidi wrote in Rome's center-left Il Messaggero (3/25): “The revolt or revolution in Kyrgyzstan is troubling the major powers. The Americans, who have a large military base in Manas; the Russians, who not only have military bases there, but also handle the country’s security; and China, which has always accused Kyrgyzstan of too easily allowing the transit of drugs and Islamic guerrillas.... We must await developments on whether Akayev’s departure will lead to democracy, as in Georgia and Ukraine, or whether this is simply the revenge of members of the former political establishment who were ousted by Akayev, or if behind all this is the hand of a neighbor with personal interests.”
'A New Map Between Gas and Koran"
Alberto Negri remarked in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (3/25): “From a political and strategic point of view, Kyrgyzstan is a paradoxical but emblematic symbol of the new Asian era.... What are the possible scenarios? The dangers in Kyrgyzstan and in the region are tied to a lack of cohesion among opponents and to possible chaotic developments and Balkanization. The United States supports democratic movements, but fears the rise of Islamic parties active in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan as well. One thing is certain: Eurasia is no longer on the margins of history, but has become part of our daily interests.”
“Electoral Fraud, Kyrgyzstan Rebels”
Vladimir Sapozhnikov remarked from Moscow in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (3/22): “Moscow, which sees the crumbling of its old empire, seems to have learned the lesson from Ukraine’s presidential elections and for the time being has limited itself to condemning the violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. At the same time, Kremlin sources have made it clear that Russia is closely following the United States’ actions in the region: both powers have military bases near the Kyrgyz capital, while the U.S. Ambassador in Bishkek has said that he is willing to mediate between Akayev and the opposition.”
RUSSIA: "Chaos Is Worse Than ‘Wrong’ Leader"
Leonid Gankin commented in business-oriented Kommersant (3/29): “All ‘velvet revolutions’ in post-Soviet republics are alike. A rise in popular discontent with the ruling ‘top’ precedes revolutions that always follow elections, parliamentary (as in Georgia or Kyrgyzstan) or presidential (as in Ukraine). But for that to happen, the elections need to be proclaimed illegitimate. Those behind a ‘velvet revolution’ will necessarily include a lady to lend a noble image to the event.... Similarities in how it went in three post-Soviet republics confused many. Some suggested a guiding center overseas [i.e., the U.S.] was involved. It did not apply to Kyrgyzstan, though. The trouble with its revolution is it took everyone, the Americans included, by surprise.... A conclusion suggests itself: with rumors of revolution flying around in a post-Soviet republic, we need to engage the opposition. From some U.S. statements, the Americans must think so, too. Clearly, the same is true of the Kremlin. Next we should realize that chaos right across the border is worse than the ‘wrong’ leader.”
"Setting The World On Fire"
Maksim Sokolov held in reformist Izvestiya (3/29): “Staging ‘velvet revolutions’ and advancing the cause of democracy across the world is akin to using a tank mine as a trampoline. As Bishkek reeled from pogroms, U.S. congressmen spoke of winds of change and freedom in Kyrgyzstan, with progressive newspapers cautioning against trying to check the onslaught of revolution. A conflagration near Russia’s southeastern border is bad enough. Waking up to the fact that our enlightened Western partners are clinical idiots is even worse. An idiot is unaware of what playing with fire means. A sane person, seeing the results of ‘Middle East reform’ in Iraq, would have had doubts about the wisdom of spreading it any further. It turns out that Washington arch-strategists Wolfowitz and Condi have no more gray matter upstairs than the Bishkek revolutionaries who set the city on fire, declaiming ‘We’ll eat the bread and burn the baker’s.’ After Bishkek, rabid warmongers will be called rabid warmongers, which is proper politically and humanely. It’s like calling a spade a spade.”
"Revolt Against Injustice"
Reformist Izvestiya editorialized (3/28): “The looting and bloodshed that are part of the Kyrgyz revolution can’t overshadow the fact that its causes are the same as in Georgia and Ukraine. Since former Soviet republics share a lot politically and economically, for all their differences in culture and traditions, hardly any of them can feel protected against revolution. What they have in common is an unfair social system, more precisely, the democratic revolution started by Mikhail Gorbachev and left incomplete--with poverty and disappointment, on one side, and selfishness and shortsightedness on the part of the powers that be. This hampers the development of the middle class, making it prone to revolution. Unless the elites heed the interests of ordinary people, things like elections and relative freedom of speech will continue to trigger social antagonisms, rather than helping resolve them.”
Sergey Strokan commented in business-oriented Kommersant (3/28): “The former authorities in Kyrgyzstan, as well as in Georgia and Ukraine, were legitimate, but theirs was a formal legitimacy. With administrative resources used extensively and rigged elections, common in post-Soviet semi-democracies, legitimate authorities don’t really qualify as lawfully elected or legitimate, if only because their legitimacy does not stem from a free expression of popular will.... There is nothing worse than invoking the Constitution for the purpose of sealing one’s own virtually illegitimate rule. The vacuum of power in Kyrgyzstan is no payment for the adventurism of the opposition. It is a payment for a semi-democracy offering nothing by way of rights, freedoms or order. It turns out that only a velvet revolution can break the vicious circle.”
"Weak Regimes Fall First"
Andrey Ryabov observed in reformist Gazeta (3/28): “Obviously, a weak or ‘unconsolidated’ regime falls victim to revolution first. A strong regime can’t feel safe, either, unless it really tries to resolve problems. External forces were always a factor in revolutions, including the bourgeois revolutions in the Netherlands, Britain, the United States, and France. What is important is that peoples eventually pick the regimes that most suit them.”
"Clouds Over Horizon"
Azhdar Kurtov held in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (3/28): “The relative ease with which the opposition prevailed promises a cloudy future for Kyrgyzstan. The country is short of resources, so there is little hope it will soon overcome the socio-economic crisis. Also, the opposition does not have a considered concept of economic reform. Most probably, the new authorities will again have to ask other countries for assistance. Speculation about a split, or war with neighbors, is a fantasy. None of this is possible. Even so, the opposition is in for hard times. As hatred of Akayev is all his opponents have in common, they may well fall out with each other once they start dividing positions of influence.”
"Moscow, Washington Agree On Color Of Revolution"
Dmitriy Litovkin and Natalya Ratiani wrote in reformist Izvestiya (3/28): ”Referring to the Kyrgyz revolution, people in Moscow and Washington say it can be any color but green. The United States, chief producer of democratic revolutions in post-Soviet republics, is mostly concerned about a rise in Islamist sentiment in Kyrgyzstan. Russia, too, is willing to cooperate with a reasonable opposition, fearing the possible export of Islamic revolutions to that region. The question is who, Moscow or Washington, will become the chief contractor in normalizing the situation in Kyrgyzstan.”
"Now It Comes To Kyrgyzstan"
Mikhail Vinogradov stated in reformist Izvestiya (3/25): “After Georgia and Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan has become a third CIS country hit by revolution. The Kyrgyz power structure has collapsed like a house of cards.”
"It Wasn’t Expected So Soon"
Arkadiy Dubnov said in reformist Vremya Novostey (3/25): “Askar Akayev’s regime has fallen. This came as a surprise. While the latest events suggested something of that kind, it was not supposed to happen so soon, not in just the few hours, when Akayev lost power through a lack of will.”
"Revolution The Color Of Blood"
Aleksandr Bannikov and Yelena Korotkova wrote in youth-oriented Moskovskiy Komsomolets (3/25): "After yesterday, definitions like ‘tulip,’ ‘yellow,’ and ‘apricot’ applied to the Kyrgyz events seem out of place. Amidst bloodshed, such euphemisms sound sacrilegious. Many, including people in Georgia and Ukraine, saw the distinct nature of the Kyrgyz scenario. Georgia’s Mikhail Saakashvili the day before yesterday virtually sided with Akayev, urging the opposition to listen to reason. The U.S. State Department and the EU insisted on talks, too. Somehow, all seemed to forget that once the ‘cart of popular unrest’ starts rolling, it won’t stop until it runs into something firm and steady or until its wheels get stuck in a heap of its victims.”
"Moscow Chanced To Act Wisely"
Leonid Gankin commented in business-oriented Kommersant (3/25): “Beaten armies learn fast. Who knows how Moscow would have acted, had it not been for Ukraine’s ‘orange revolution’. Kyrgyzstan was different. Moscow behaved itself this time. While obviously sympathizing with the tottering regime, it tried not to show it in public. Moscow might have been proud of its ‘wise stand,’ had it not done so by chance.”
"Moscow Is Better Than Caliphate"
Sergey Solodovnik opined in reformist Moskovskiye Novosti (3/25): “The one thing that is sure about the opposition is that it does not intend to split the country into the north and south. The opposition doesn’t want to upset the balance between U.S. presence and Russian presence in Kyrgyzstan. Nor is anyone in that country going to forego its anti-terror commitments because the only alternative to Russian and American presence there is an Islamic caliphate.”
"Attempt At Civil War"
Sergey Dunayev commented in reformist Izvestiya (3/24): “Southern Kyrgyzstan is attempting a civil war, not a democratic revolution. The true motives for it may be regional, social or nationalistic. Opponents of the current authorities have no political program, even though their demands may sound political. The opposition has ceased to exist. Its post-electoral activities, while sparking unrest, left it without ideological content. Unrest in the south has put forward new leaders, not from among the traditional opposition. What’s going on has little to do with public pressure on the government, as those involved in disturbances obviously constitute a minority, no matter how aggressive. ‘Orange’ scenarios have not come to pass. The opposition did not just lose the elections, it lost them by a large margin, too large for it to claim a remake of the Kiev revolution. The ongoing thing has the makings of a classical lumpen revolution, senseless and ruthless... As they present their ultimatum, the rebels don’t really oppose the President, they oppose civil society.”
"Climax Is Close"
Vyacheslav Tetekin commented in nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (3/24): “Statements by U.S. officials suggest that the West will not support the opposition, which is essential, considering that the early stage of the unrest in the south threatened another revolution of the type we saw in Georgia and Ukraine. Greater Middle East ‘democratization’ is Bush’s favorite geopolitical toy. With the Greater Middle East’s borders obscure, Kyrgyzstan might well have been listed among countries wanting ‘democratization.’ But that did not happen. Why? Washington must understand that it is playing with fire. There is a chance that extremists will use the situation so that, eventually, the West, rather than dealing with outwardly pro-Russian Akayev, who maintains very warm relations with the United States, will face a radical Islamic regime.... The Kyrgyz crisis is nearing its climax. Obviously, Akayev will retain power and probably offer the pro-Western opposition a few seats in the government and parliament so they can ‘watch’ him from inside. In the meantime, the opposition, divided and slightly demoralized by a lack of direct support from the West, is losing control over the situation.”
"Revolution Misses Chance To Become 'Velvet'"
Sergey Strokan judged in business-oriented Kommersant (3/24): “For all the statements by President Akayev about his commitment to peaceful means, hopes for a non-violent settlement dim by the day. Unlike the Georgian and Ukrainian revolutions, the Kyrgyz one has ever fewer chances to turn ‘velvet.’ Even if the authorities manage to scatter the clouds, they can’t make the weather clear and sunny again.”
Vitaliy Tretyakov said in official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (3/24): “What is coming does not look like democracy. Against it, Akayev’s regime will look liberal.”
"What Is It?"
Valeriy Panyushkin commented in business-oriented Kommersant (3/23): "Revolutions spread in post-Soviet republics like plague--if seen from the Kremlin--or like spring--if seen from Matrosskaya Tishina [a well-known prison in Moscow]--unstoppable. It is enjoyable to theorize on causes behind revolutions, but one must admit that their mechanisms are obscure and hard to interfere with, at least from Russia. One thing is clear: you can stop plague, theoretically; but there is no stopping spring. Whether a revolution is plague or spring is a matter of faith. Or time."
Sergey Yuryev contended in youth-oriented Komsomol'skaya Pravda (3/23): "Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev has always been the black sheep of the family of former Soviet rulers, a Europeanized intellectual, doctor of mathematics, averse to authoritarian ways. He was the first among the leaders of former Soviet republics to support democratic reform in Russia. Under Akayev, Kyrgyzstan became the most advanced country in Central Asia democracy-wise. His present situation looks desperate, indeed. He can't (it goes against the grain for him to) use force to put down the unrest. The international community won't help him, either. Remarkably, none of the numerous international outfits claiming to stand for democracy and human rights has said a word to condemn recent pogroms in Jalalabad and attacks on police stations and officials. Is that what you call the triumph of democracy? The 'almond revolution' in Kyrgyzstan is just the beginning of big changes in Central Asia. Russia is losing influence in that important area, making way for two potent players, the U.S. and China. Moscow, unlike Washington, exercises restraint, calling the belligerents for talks, willing to cooperate with any legitimate authorities in that country."
"Who Will Cool Hotheads?"
Official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta commented (3/23): "It looks like neither Bishkek nor the leaders of the opposition can rein in hotheads flushed from the realization that they can get away with anything."
"CIS: New Stage Of Development"
Sergey Strokan commented in business-oriented Kommersant (3/22): "President Akayev's ship has gotten a huge hole in the hull. The crew's desperate attempts to close it can't do more than putting off the moment when the ship sinks. Obviously, the events in Kyrgyzstan will provoke more discussions on how to stop the wave of 'velvet revolutions' in post-Soviet republics.... Brushing aside the 'external conspiracy' theory will reveal entirely different, internal causes of such conflicts and methods to avert 'velvet revolutions' that have nothing to do with screw-tightening and special operations to neutralize the opposition and break up the protest electorate. Kyrgyzstan is another reminder that, one-and-a-half decades after the disintegration of the USSR, former Soviet republics have irreversibly entered a new stage of development. Not seeing that is fraught with a major defeat when Moscow discovers that fraternal republics have ultimately broken away to sail free."
Viktoriya Panfilova, Ivan Sas and Anatoliy Gordiyenko contributed this view to centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (3/22): "The decision of the opposition leaders to focus on the province and mob may prove very dangerous, according to many analysts. In a way, the current situation in Kyrgyzstan is similar to that in Georgia and Ukraine recently, with the opposition taking advantage of popular protests against doctored election results. Besides, just like their Ukrainian and Georgian forerunners, the leaders of the Kyrgyz opposition seriously count on the West for support."
"Revolution In The Making"
Nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya remarked (3/22): "It seems like a long-awaited 'velvet' revolution in Kyrgyzstan has gotten under way. Inspired by their Russian partners' 'exploits,' the Kyrgyz authorities attempted to form a pliant parliament similar to Russia's state Duma."
"The Tulip Revolution"
MaksimYusin wrote in reformist Izvestiya (3/21): "Basically, the situation in Kyrgyzstan differs from that in Georgia and Ukraine in that (President) Akayev is in control of the capital. While Tbilisi turned away from Shevardnadze, and Kiev from Kuchma, Bishkek, by contrast, remains a bulwark of the authorities. Leaders of the opposition try to present the latest events as a 'popular uprising,' which is clearly not the case. So far, it looks like local, if potentially very dangerous, unrest. Akayev will only have to think of capitulation if his opponents pull off in Bishkek what they did at their outposts in the south. How things will go, in large measure, depends on how loyal the country's 'power structures' are to the President. If they manage to bring order to key cities, localize the 'revolt,' and head off the opposition quickly and painlessly, revolutionary fervor will gradually blow over, at least until the presidential elections in October.... Kyrgyzstan faces the danger of dual power and an eventual split."
"Laws Of Nature Need To Be Observed"
Boris Volkhonskiy commented in business-oriented Kommersant (3/21): "Even the hardest of metals will yield when the pressure of steam becomes too high. The stronger the pressure the more devastating the explosion. Experience shows that neglecting elementary laws of physics is fraught with the most catastrophic consequences. So far, not much blood has been shed in power transition in post-Soviet republics. Nor does it seem that President Akayev (incidentally, he is a doctor of physics) is apt to run counter to the laws of nature. The question is, who is going to be next, and how he is going to act under similar circumstances. Whoever he is, he would do well to consult a textbook in physics before it is too late."
AUSTRIA: "Putin's Fallacy"
Foreign affairs editor Christian Ultsch observed in centrist Die Presse (3/29): "The pace at which the freedom virus is spreading throughout the former Soviet republics is breathtaking, making it difficult for Russia to intervene on the wrong side in a timely fashion. On Friday, Vladimir Putin had no choice but to make his peace with the undesirable new regime in Kyrgyzstan.... However, Putin is not ready to give up his ambition to rule the Russian backyard . He has already formed a new Kremlin department that is responsible for 'cultural relations with foreign countries.' According to media reports, this is only a harmless cover behind which quite different intentions are hidden: The department is supposed to prevent further revolutions in Moscow's sphere of influence. Everyone draws their own conclusions from the current wave of democratization: Despots draws different ones from it than democrats do. At any rate, Putin seems to have a sure instinct for error."
Foreign affairs editor Livia Klingl wrote in mass-circulation Kurier (3/29): "In Kyrgyzstan, expert assessments are divided between 'political spring' and possible danger of a civil war. It would not be the first time that the people of southern Kyrgyzstan have caused bloody riots and opened up power vacuums that local drug bosses or even the Taliban could exploit. And it would not be the first time that opponents of a despised potentate, once their enemy image is gone, take to devouring each other instead of creating a solid structure for a better future. A bitter side effect of the events in Kyrgyzstan is that the Presidents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan--really not democrats--can only conclude they had better not loosen the reins, or else their power will be gone."
"Spring In Kyrgyzstan"
Foreign affairs writer for independent daily Der Standard Markus Bernath offered the following opinion (3/25): "Too quickly was the clan empire of head of state Askar Akajev toppled; too uncoordinated were the protest actions in the cities; the political opposition groups, which--in contrast to Georgia and the Ukraine--did not agree on one leadership figure and had too little profile. However, the opposition leaders--all of them former cabinet ministers and confidants of the toppled head of state--got the most help from Akajev himself.... Akajev used up all political capital he originally had because he did not succeed during his 14-year reign to get the country out of its economic stagnation, but instead let his family clan profit from the privatization of the former state-run enterprises. The opposition politicians in the capital protested against the manipulated parliamentary elections, the people protested against social conditions. Which government the revolutionaries in Kyrgyzstan will now set up is an open matter. At any rate, those who are ready to orchestrate are already present: Russia and the U.S. have quietly established a condominium in the country and hold military bases there. Both are going to influence the outbreak of spring in Kyrgyzstan."
Commentator for mass circulation provincial daily Kleine Zeitung Nina Koren wrote (3/25): "There is at least a chance for change in Kyrgyzstan. Moreover, the people there could have succeeded in instilling a desire for democracy in their neighbors in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tadchikistan, and Kazakhstan, all of which have authoritarian governments. However, their rulers are not the only ones that show a nervous reaction. With the toppling of his vassals in the former Soviet republics, Russia's President Putin sees his influence in the region dwindle. And he prefers winter to a possible democratic spring awakening in his own country."
"Democracy Is Infectious"
Foreign affairs editor for independent daily Salzburger Nachrichten Martin Stricker editorialized (3/25): "That was fast. After only two days, the President of Kyrgyzstan packed his things and disappeared. The overthrow happened so quickly that it left even the Kremlin speechless. Maybe even Moscow has resigned in the meantime.... Nothing remains under wraps any more. TV pictures of successful 'velvet revolutions,' of presidential palaces under attack, of jubilant people and security forces that show restraint or have even switched sides, find their way into every little hut everywhere in the world. This is one of the things that makes democracy so infectious."
Ernst Trost commented in mass-circulation tabloid Neue Kronenzeitung (3/24): "As in a chain reaction, the people power movement spread from Georgia to the Ukraine, from there to Lebanon and after the dubious parliamentary elections of March 15, also to Krygyzstan. In the meantime, the entire south is in the hands of the opposition. President Akajev is desperately trying to preserve his power and that of his clan. For this is where the country's money is invested as well.... Every enterprise with more than a million dollars in annual revenue allegedly belongs to the Akajev clan. This is what the masses are rebelling against. It remains to be seen in how much their struggle is about real democracy. Nothing has been decided as yet. However, all the other high-handed heads of state of the former Asian Soviet Republics are getting nervous as well."
"The Kremlin's Fear Of Democracy"
Foreign affairs writer Wieland Schneider editorialized for centrist daily Die Presse (3/23): "The fact the Ukraine is nowadays governed by a President who wants to lead the country into the EU and NATO as soon as possible is a heavy blow for Putin. He really does not need Kyrgyzstan to take the same road. Moscow has been watching with suspicion as the U.S. became involved in Russia's southern edge after 9/11--it has military bases there for a mission in Afghanistan. One of these is located in Kyrgyzstan--not far from a Russian base, for the President of Kyrgyzstan has so far done good business with both Moscow and Russia. However, what would a possible successor from the opposition do? Would he even prefer having more Americans within and more Russians outside the country's borders? Or will perhaps an Islamist come to power and send them both packing? The big superpower game for influence in the strategically important region of Central Asia, however, is only one reason for Moscow's nervous reaction to the events in Kyrgyzstan. There is still another reason: If everywhere in the realm of the former Soviet Union people are demonstrating for more democracy, might not this give the Russians ideas, too?"
CZECH REPUBLIC: "On Kyrgyzstan"
Petruska Sustrova comments in the center-right daily Lidove Noviny (3/24): "After the collapse of the Soviet Union, yet another of its former republics has set off on the route to democracy.... Expression of public dissatisfaction in Kyrgyzstan was logically only a matter of time …as the network of civic and non-governmental organizations there was the thickest and most developed in Central Asia."
"Kyrgyzstan Will Feel Pressure From Authoritarian Rulers"
Adam Cerny opines in the business daily Hospodarske Noviny (3/24): "Russia certainly has its interests in the Central Asia, so does China, unlike Europe, in case [of the revolution in] Ukraine. The U.S. has been present in the region since the start of the fight against international terrorism. Kyrgyzstan will also feel strong pressure from authoritarian rulers of its neighboring countries. Interests of superpowers and neighbors are more obvious than the goals of the Kyrgyz revolution which is without a clear program and leader. And revolutions [usually] do not end with the toppling of the ruling regime."
HUNGARY: "Watchful Eyes"
Endre Aczel pointed out in top-circulation, center-left Nepszabadsag (3/29): “[In the case of Kyrgyzstan] we are talking about the strategic center.... Russia 'soft underbelly' where, in principle, there is no room for sharing, but history has compelled the Russians to share. Although the mutual fight against terrorism is the foundation of the Russian-American strategic alliance (for you, the Chechens, for me, Iraq), it cannot develop--or rather, cannot degenerate--into Central Asia becoming a chain of pro-U.S. regimes. Much better than that is even the survival of the Kazak, Tajik, Turkoman power formations that are autocratic but at least loyal to Moscow. And let there be no misunderstanding: Moscow sees President Akayev’s ‘giving free rein’ to his opposition as the main cause of the problem that broke out next door. Something they [the Russians] are not going to do tomorrow even less than they did yesterday.”
"Tbilisi, Kiev, Bishkek"
Foreign affairs editor Gabor Stier stated in right-of-center Magyar Nemzet (3/25): "The world considers [Kyrgyzstan] the most liberal country in the region, and Akayev tried to maintain a balance between the large powers present in the region. Thus, in 2001, he became a military ally of the United States and allowed a [U.S.] air base to be built; then he also asked Russia to build its own base, barely 30 kilometers away from the American one.... Akayev’s demise was caused by the fact that he became too fond of power and, like many of his colleagues in the region, was unable to give it up.... In the meantime, in spite of the indubitable reforms, Kyrgyzstan rates among the world’s poorest countries.... All of that has proved to be explosive enough material for the next domino to fall in the post-Soviet region, and for Akayev to have to leave.”
“Kyrgyz Link In Chain”
Endre Aczel pointed out in top-circulation, center left Nepszabadsag (3/23): “Contrary to the Ukrainian and Georgian opposition, the Kyrgyz opposition does not have a leader and is pulling in many different directions. The pro-Western elite and the reformers want peaceful development accompanied, naturally, by Akayev’s departure. The Southerners, however, who have nothing to lose broke out in bloody revolt, breaking with the pattern of ‘peaceful revolutions’ thus far. Consequently, there is a threat of civil war in Kyrgyzstan, the defusing of which is in the interests not only of Akayev and his Northern political opponents, but also of two very large powers. One is Russia, the other is the United States. Both have separate interests (the Russians a much stronger economic one), but a shared interest as well: both are operating military bases in Kyrgyzstan. Approximately forty kilometers away from one another.”
KAZAKHSTAN: "The Weak Will Of Akayev"
The pro-government weekly Novoye Pokoleniye published (3/25): "It’s obvious that people live in dire conditions, while the president is accused of robbery and nepotism. This, and the weak will of Akayev, are fully exploited by the opposition forces and by U.S. Ambassador Steven Young, who supported them. By the way, the latter presumably had a big influence on Akayev, because contrary to all agreements with neighboring countries (Security Collective Treaty, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, etc.), U.S. spy planes will be based in Kyrgyzstan..... It’s obvious that money came from abroad.... It’s hard to say how much the disorder in Kyrgyzstan cost, but it’s known that help from the West to NGOs bossing the Ukraine around during their third round of elections was $3 million.... Presumably less money was spent in Kyrgyzstan. It should be remarked that power doesn’t cost much."
"An Example For Kazakhstan"
Dos Koshim, president of the Republican Network of Independent Monitors commented in daily pro-government Aikyn (3/25): "The situation will definitely have an influence on Kazakhstan, because Kyrgyzstan is not as far away as Georgia and Ukraine.... Their protest may be considered an example to local [Kazakhstani] opposition."
"Islamic Influence In The South"
Political scientist Dosym Satpayev opined in daily pro-government Aikyn (3/25): "The influence of Hizb-ut-Tahrir and Islamic organizations is very strong in the south of Kyrgyzstan. These organizations were active in the elections and sided with candidates with whom they could make a deal in the future.... The influence will be felt here, first of all, through refugees passing through our territory, including groups with terrorist and extremist intentions. Second, Kazakhstan may suffer economically, because it has investments in some of sectors of the Kyrgyz economy, such as the banking system."
"Kazakhstan Is Different"
Political scientist Murat Laumulin remarked in daily pro-government Aikyn (3/25): "Kazakhstan has a different economic and political situation from Kyrgyzstan.... Our opposition has no ability to organize a situation similar to the Kyrgyz one."
"Lesson For Dictators In Suits"
Communist party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin provided the view in the opposition weekly Respublika (3/25): “I would compare events in Kyrgyzstan with analogical events in Ukraine. In both cases, the votes and the expressed will of the people were boldly stolen.... Akayev forced his son and daughter through to parliament, this is unthinkable! He created an absurd situation and got what he deserved. Let this be a good lesson for dictators of all suits!”
"Kazakhstan's President's View"
President Nazarbayev commented at a business forum in Astana published in Interfax (3/25): "It is absolutely obvious that the socio-economic problems that were accumulating in that country for years led to mass poverty and unemployment. This triggered spontaneous protests in many regions of the country. The weakness of the authorities, who were unable to prevent the rioters and vandals from doing whatever they wanted, also played a negative role."
NORWAY: "Central Asia On The Move"
Newspaper-of-record Aftenposten maintained (3/29): "Clearly, what we are seeing here [in Kyrgyzstan], like we have also seen in Georgia and Ukraine, is that the leaders who had or were close to achieving power when the Soviet Union broke down, are clinging to their positions from election to election--but that they are now being driven from their posts. It is not happening voluntarily, as is expected in a democracy, but first and foremost after the opponents have demonstrated their popular support. The best we can say about these states is that they are in a democratic learning process. It’s only just started, now that the leaders from the Soviet era have disappeared. The method in use is democratic elections. The new and revolutionary part of it is that the voters today follow the international rules of the game for democratic elections.... Leaders from the Soviet era rule also in the remaining Central Asian countries. Now the area has started to move politically, and we have to count on more revolutions. It is then an advantage that the three superpowers, which are present in different ways in the area, Russia and China as neighbors and the U.S. with its airbases--are cooperating, like they clearly have done so far. No one wants this to become a new arena for international unrest.”
"Hope Is Orange"
Independent Dagbladet commented (3/23): “The weapons are sticks and Molotov cocktails. The goal is a peaceful revolution like those that swept over Georgia two years ago, and Ukraine before Christmas. But Kyrgyzstan could be a different kind of ex-Soviet republic. For while demonstrators in Tbilisi and Kiev gave flowers the to the security forces of the regime in power, the pictures from Osh and Jalal-Abad show that the demonstrators are going after the regime’s security forces with sticks. Hope in Kyrgyzstan is probably orange--the color of the Ukrainian revolution--but the reality may soon become a lot darker. Another reason to fear...is that President Askar Akayev yesterday chose to confront the rebels.... There is a powerful cocktail here of possible state-dissolving elements. So far President Akayev has shut himself in the capital Bishkek in the north. Large numbers of soldiers from the domestic ministry were deployed there yesterday. Meanwhile everybody is awaiting orders. Will the opposition’s incarcerated leaders--or their adjutants--command that their foot soldiers enter the streets of Bishkek? Will troops be ordered to remove them? Will they follow the orders? It is serious now, in this land of incredibly beautiful mountains. Because there is one thing we still have not seen in Kyrgyzstan: Flowers.”
POLAND: "Lesson To Putin"
Leopold Unger asserted in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (3/29): “President Putin is not in good form. He has made mistakes...and his popularity is decreasing. He is no longer the strongman Russians yearned for, the savior who would assure peace, prosperity and national pride. On top of this, he tolerates...diminished influence of Russia in its traditional zone of domination.... [The example of Kyrgyzstan] validates to some extent the main provision of U.S. strategy, which says that even countries without any democratic traditions are able to learn democracy under certain circumstances.”
"A Warning To Dictators"
Jerzy Haszczynski wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (3/25): “The developments in Kyrgyzstan differ in some aspects from what happened in Georgia and Ukraine. Therefore, it is not easy to assess what happened in Bishkek. Not all participants of the Kyrgyz revolution can be called the proponents of a pro-Western course. While Moscow’s influence in this country will most likely be smaller, this does not mean that the West will win a new ally. The revolution began in the Fergana Valley, a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalists. A scenario not in favor of the West cannot be ruled out: increased Islamic influence, ethnic conflicts and destabilization.... The crowds tired of poverty and enraged by election fraud won in Kyrgyzstan yesterday. It should be a warning to all leaders with dictatorial inclinations.”
"A Street Revolution"
Wojciech Jagielski held in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (3/25): “Roses in Tbilisi, oranges in Ukraine, now tulips in Kyrgyzstan have become the symbols of street revolutions heralding the end of the era of rulers who learned politics in the times of communism and Soviet empire.... Their only credit is that they did not defend their thrones at any cost. They quickly accepted that their time is over.”
SPAIN: "Change In Kyrgyzstan"
Conservative daily ABC wrote (3/28): "The time for change has arrived in Kyrgyzstan.... The fall of such a nepotic and a fossilized regime as Akayev's can be a stimulus that helps to turn the parts of the (former) USSR into a more open and plural field. But it should be remembered that uncontrolled change of this dam of fundamentalism can also have unlucky consequences for everybody's security."
TURKEY: "Is This Spring Time For Kyrgyzstan?"
Turgut Tarhanli speculated in liberal-intellectual Radikal (3/29): “As Kyrgyzstan prepares for a new election process, it should take into account a recent report by the OSCE. The report was drafted after the February 27 elections, the root of the current situation, and highlighted irregularities and violations in the Kyrgyz electoral system.... Currently, anti-Akayev figures are debating over the future of the parliament. Naturally, fresh elections are pronounced to be an immediate solution. However, Kyrgyzstan will suffer even more instability unless the electoral system is revised before it is implemented. Kyrgyzstan happens to be a country to which every major international player pays utmost attention. Given the circumstances, it is now very important to watch how strong the transitional administration will be and if it will be able to embrace the whole country.”
"Reform In Kyrgyzstan And Eurasia"
Hasan Celal Guzel observed in conservative-sensational DB Tercuman (3/29): “The main problem in Kyrgyzstan is poverty and popular unrest. Kyrgyzstan is the poorest country in this area and the unhappiest with its government among all the Turkic Republics. Under these conditions, it was not possible for the Akayev administration to continue ruling any longer without the support of the US and the dollars of George Soros. It seems that the activities of the US, Russia and China played a major role in this revolt. While, for the time being, it looks like the pro-US opposition groups are leading the revolution, the picture is not yet clear. There is one fact, which is that the reform process in Eurasia is moving away from the Russian Federation and toward American interests.”
"Hot Times In Central Asia"
Zafer Atay wrote in the economic-political Dunya (3/28): “Being a neighbor of Iran, Afghanistan and Iran puts Kyrgyzstan in a strategically very important location. Akayev’s leadership created a working balance between the world powers surrounding the country, which has both an American and a Russian military base. It was important that security forces, just like in Georgia and Ukraine, did not intervene in the street demonstrations in Kyrgyzstan. Akayev did not use the option of asking Russia’s help to stop the incidents. Whether Russia would have been responsive to such a request, had it occurred, is another question. Given the current circumstances, it is very hard to predict whether Kyrgyzstan will end up as a democracy. Looting still overshadows efforts for normalization. Everything seems to depend on the common sense of the Kyrgyz leaders. Without that, the so-called ‘tulip revolution’ could get completely out of hand.”
"Democracy In Central Asia"
Yilmaz Oztuna commented in the conservative Turkiye (3/28): “The countries that freed themselves from USSR’s merciless clutches now exert every effort to avoid falling into a similar hell ever again. They tend to declare their commitment to NATO or the EU openly. Those that haven’t reached that level yet are running to the streets in order to bury their dilapidated regimes in the dirtiest pages of history. That is what happened previously in Georgia and Ukraine. Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan opened themselves by presenting the U.S. broad privileges and military bases in their territory. Kyrgyzstan, the poorest among the Turkic Republics, failed to adopt itself to the modern world in a timely fashion. Moreover, it exerted efforts in order to get closer to Beijing and Moscow. Democracy is a fire that burns the ones who defy it, and now the people of Kyrgyzstan have started to move in that direction.”
"Time For Change In Bishkek"
Sami Kohen wrote in mass-appeal Milliyet (3/25): “Events in Bishkek yesterday very much resemble the ‘orange revolution’ in Ukraine and the ‘velvet revolution’ in Georgia. Unlike Georgia and Ukraine, however, there is no leadership yet with the charisma and popularity necessary to motivate and lead the movement in Kyrgyzstan. The success of the opposition movement and the ultimate defeat of President Akayev will require a more convincing leadership. Otherwise, Kyrgyzstan will suffer from a lack of stability. It is hard to predict the fate of the current opposition, because the situation is changing by the minute. At this point, the best hope is that the winds of reform and democracy will not bring instability and unrest to Kyrgyzstan.”
"Russia Is Helpless"
Erdal Safak noted in mass-appeal Sabah (3/25): “I am happy to note that the ‘good virus’ of democracy has now reached as far as Kyrgyzstan. Given the recent speech by President Bush in Bratislava, in which he said that freedom is like a magnet for all peoples, current developments in Bishkek are not surprising. In fact, they should have been expected.... Russia seems to have taken a lesson from the case of Ukraine, and has remained cautious and silent regarding Kyrgyzstan. So much so that Putin declined to meet with Akayev when he secretly visited Moscow on March 20 in the hopes of getting more Russian support. It remains to be seen whether Russia has really understood that the corrupt leaders of the former Soviet republics will not be supported by their people any longer. It also remains unclear whether the Russians are planning some kind of retaliation. The most likely next stops for the ‘democracy’ virus will be Belarus and Armenia.”
"Will The Orange Revolution Be Successful In Kyrgyzstan?"
Akif Emre observed in Islamist opinion-maker Yeni Safak (3/25): “Strategically speaking, Kyrgyzstan is located in a very sensitive and fragile region. Because of its location, the country has a strategic military importance. Sharing a border with China makes the country very important not only for the U.S., but for Russia as well. Therefore, Kyrgyzstan is the only country in the world that hosts both Russian and American military bases on its territory. During the occupation of Afghanistan, the U.S. military fully settled itself in the country. Currently, both American and Russian military bases are actively operating in Kyrgyzstan. Last year, Akayev announced that he was not going to run for the presidency again. The White House responded immediately with a statement saying that the U.S. was ‘pleased with Akayev’s decision.’ However, Akayev tested his power during the last election, and the successful results encouraged Akayev to sit for this year’s presidential elections. The opposition’s concern was under the rule of this government, the western support they were hoping for would never come. Actually, Russia had already rejected the opposition’s request for assistance. I really think that these two countries (Russian and the U.S.) cannot take the risk of chaos in Kyrgyzstan. Furthermore, the opposition in that still hasn’t articulated clearly what it really wants.”
"The Breaking Point In Kyrgyzstan"
Mustafa Balbay wrote in leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet (3/24): “The current situation in Kyrgyzstan is similar to recent events in Ukraine and Georgia. After the demise of the Soviet Union, independent Turkic republics emerged and achieved independence. Today they seem to engaged in an effort to reshape their future. Turkey has significant experience in this process as it went through a series of similar events following the war of independence. This is not an easy task for the Turkic republics, especially given the efforts of outsiders--the U.S., the EU, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and China--to exert their influence.... The U.S. has developed its relations with Kyrgyzstan in a comprehensive way, including security and economic dimensions, and wants to do even more. Currently the number of U.S. troops in Kyrgyzstan is nearly 5,000. But Russia remains influential in the capital. A few months ago Bishkek and Moscow decided to enhance their ties, a move that was not viewed positively in Washington. Kyrgyzstan is also a member of the Organization of Shanghai Cooperation. Therefore, the internal balances in this country are very important in the race for influence in the Central Asian region.”
UAE: "After The Coup"
The expatriate-oriented, English-lanaguage Khaleej Times remarked (Internet version) (3/28): "The situation in Central Asian republic Kyrgyzstan continues to be alarmingly fluid. However, what is encouraging is the resolve of the new leadership of the country to restore order and normalcy in the country--not a small feat for the politicians who until three days ago were leading the street protests against ousted president Askar Akayev. People's relief at Akayev's exit has turned to concern and apprehension about the country's future as unruly mobs rule the streets. This is why restoring order should be the top priority of Kyrgyzstan's new rulers. While the interim leadership's plan to hold new elections as early as June may not exactly be pragmatic, what should be lauded is acting president Kurmanbek Bakiev's willingness to usher in genuine democracy and seek people's mandate. This is what democracy is all about."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA: "Five Central Asian Nations Step Towards Split"
Beijing-based official Beijing News (Xin Jing Bao) editorialized (3/29): "Central Asia, which is sometimes called the second Middle East due to its plentiful oil resources, is also a region that the U.S. is closely watching. After 9/11, central Asia’s importance rapidly increased on the U.S. strategic chessboard. Uzbekistan is often described as the closest country to the U.S. in terms of military cooperation among central Asian nations. A new center of strength led by Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan has formed to fight against Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan-Tadzhikistan. Due to the iron governance of the current government, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan haven’t been influenced by the orange revolution. More importantly, the U.S. doesn’t want to see real democracy in the two countries since it may destroy the U.S. plan to set up a series of air bases in the region.”
"U.S. Infiltration Into Central Asia"
Shi Chunjun commented in the China Radio International-sponsored newspaper World News Journal (Shijie Xinwenbao) (3/28): “Lying in the background of the Kyrgyzstan crisis is the U.S. U.S. infiltration into Central Asia is far more pervasive and complicated than people have imagined.... U.S. expansion and infiltration jeopardizes the security of West China. U.S. military bases in certain central Asia countries lie near the border of western China. Once the Taiwan contingency happens, U.S. military bases in neighboring countries could act as an important containment on the PLA. Russia is also facing greater U.S. pressure in its backyard.”
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Neighbors Counting On A Peaceful Kyrgyzstan"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post remarked (3/27): "The revolution in the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan has been sudden and swift. Unfortunately, it has also been accompanied by violence. Stability now depends on whether former opposition leaders--suddenly swept to power--can restore law and order. The situation is tense and uncertain.... Kyrgyzstan was once seen as one of the most democratic states to emerge from the collapse of the Soviet Union and Mr. Akayev was regarded as a relatively liberal leader. But he became increasingly authoritarian, locking up opponents and cracking down on dissent. The election of his son and daughter in the disputed polls appears to have been the final straw for his frustrated people. The revolution has created a chaotic situation which will not be easy to resolve. But the sooner peace and order are restored the better - for Kyrgyzstan, its neighbors, and the world."
"The U.S. Will Step Up Its Pace To Intervene In Central Asia"
Pro-PRC Chinese-language Wen Wei Po stated (3/26): "As a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the political situation of Kyrgyzstan is undergoing a dramatic change. Within a two-year time, the authorities of three countries which belong to the Commonwealth of Independent States were overthrown respectively. Corruptions and economic and social problems have led to the 'color revolutions' in the three countries. However, people should also notice that western countries like the U.S. have used financial and other support to intervene in the overthrowing of the three regimes. The political coup in Kyrgyzstan and the incidents in Georgia and Ukraine reflect the strategic intention of the U.S. to restrain the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and to contain China and Russia. As a friendly neighbor of Kyrgyzstan, the coup will affect the economic connections between China and Central Asia as well as China's national security.... The intervention of the U.S. in the political situation in Kyrgyzstan, the amendment of U.S.-Japan defense cooperation to include the Taiwan Strait as a common strategy and stopping the European Union lifting the weapons sale ban on China shows that the U.S. is striving to check China's peaceful development."
"Color Revolution Succeeds Again; Central Asia Certain To Become U.S. Achievement"
Independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Journal editorialized (3/25): "It is an open strategic target of the U.S. to include areas in the Central Asia into the West's security arrangement. After the U.S. launched the war in Afghanistan, the importance of the geo-strategy in Central Asia has largely increased. The U.S. set up a military base close to the Manas International Airport at the capital of Kyrgyzstan with more than 1,000 soldiers from the U.S. and Spain. However, Russia also followed suit and set up and base three miles away from the U.S. military base and stationed 700 soldiers and staff together with warplanes. Foreign countries are surprised at how a small country like Kyrgyzstan can hold military bases of two super nations. The U.S. and Russia are striving for the interests in Central Asia. They are trying their best to keep their influence in that area.... From Georgia to Ukraine and to the present Kyrgyzstan, Russia seems to be helpless in turning around the fate of pro-Russian faction from being toppled. The U.S. is gradually nibbling at places where they belonged traditionally to Russia's sphere of influence. China and the five countries in Central Asia have always had friendly relations. China's oil pipes mainly pass through these countries. After the changing of power, whether this pro-U.S. government Central Asia is still willing to remain a good relationship with China will affect China's resource supply and national security. Thus, people must pay attention to the development of the situation."
JAPAN: "Democratization The Only Way To Stabilize Kyrgyzstan"
Liberal Asahi editorialized (3/28): "The 15 year-old Akayev regime in Kyrgyzstan collapsed quickly in the face of growing public anger at the recent parliamentary elections. Former President Akayev, said to have fled to Russia, was considered to be a democratic leader in his early days in office. However, he reportedly became corrupt during his long rule over the nation. Kyrgyzstan is the third former Soviet Union nation, following Georgia and Ukraine, whose autocratic regime has collapsed in the past year. In contrast, most Central Asian countries, including Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan, remain under dictatorial rule. The rise in democratic interest in Kyrgyzstan is likely to send a warning signal to authoritarian leaders in the region. However, the future of a new 'democratic' leadership in Kyrgyzstan appears dim because of the unknown ability of the new Kyrgyz government to promote democratic reform. Kyrgyzstan, one of the poorest countries among the former Soviet nations, could become a hotbed for radical Muslim terrorists. The situation in Kyrgyzstan could also trigger unrest in the entire region. The U.S. and Russia, both of whom have troops in Kyrgyzstan, need to work together to help bring stability to the nation. President Bush, who has pledged to spread democracy throughout the world, needs to make a sincere effort to help the Kyrgyz people nurture the seeds of democracy."
"Revolution Spreading To Central Asia"
Liberal Asahi's correspondent from Moscow remarked (3/25): "Independence movements in former-Soviet Union nations such as Georgia and Ukraine appear to have influenced the recent unrest in Kyrgyzstan. In the northern part Kyrgyzstan, where the capital city Bishkek is located, troops from both the U.S. and Russia are stationed. Meanwhile, the nation is also witnessing growing Muslim influence from neighboring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in its southern regions. Unlike political revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, the opposition rally in Kyrgyzstan has so far not received any support from the U.S. and Europe. The anti-government movement in Kyrgyzstan could undermine other totalitarian regimes in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. President Putin, who created controversy by opposing Ukraine's 'Orange Revolution,' appears to be taking a cautious position on the on-going unrest."
"Tug-Of-War Over Kyrgyzstan To Escalate Among U.S., Russia And China?"
Liberal Mainichi's Moscow correspondent determined (3/25): "The U.S. and Russia are competing for influence over Kyrgyzstan. Moscow seems to be concerned about possible support from the U.S. and Europe for opposition groups in the Central Asian nation. The Kremlin also appears worried that Kyrgyzstan's move away from Russia's influence might prompt other Central Asian countries to take a greater interest in complete independence. Kyrgyzstan decided in 2001 to allow the U.S. to deploy forces there as part of the Afghanistan mission. Russia also decided to station its troops in Kyrgyzstan in 2003 as a means of countering the U.S. presence. If Kyrgyz protesters decide to take a pro-U.S. position, rivalry between Washington and Moscow is likely to grow. China's possible interference could also further complicate the situation."
"Akayev On The Verge Of Collapse"
Top-circulation moderate Yomiuri's correspondent remarked from Kyrgyzstan (3/24): "A power struggle between President Akayev and opposition parties has caused recent unrest in Kyrgyzstan. Akayev seems to be trying to maintain his power and wealth even after his presidency ends in October. His 'overconfidence' in backing from the U.S., which deploys troops in the Central Asian nation, appears to have fueled opposition anger against the president. Akayev decided to accept the U.S. troop deployment in his country after 9/11. He must have thought that Washington would 'overlook' his dominance in Kyrgyzstan politics in return for his acceptance of U.S. forces. Will the opposition alliance topple the Akayev government or will the president overcome the current crisis? The Akayev dynasty is on the verge of collapse."
THAILAND: "Behind The Overthrow Of The Kyrgyz Leader"
Rachan Husen commented in conservative, Thai language Siam Rath (3/26): “Kyrgyzstan is the third former Soviet Union’s satellite state after Georgia and Ukraine that saw a leadership change in two years. The leaders of Georgia and Ukraine were toppled because their policies did not see eye to eye with the U.S. Akayev is no different. The U.S. had supported the oppositions in these three countries until the governments were toppled... Interestingly, the locations of these countries are strategically meaningful in that they can block the Russian influence and they are adjacent to China’s border. The U.S. itself has explicitly showed interest in the situation in Kyrgyzstan.... Another country that is oil-rich and located next to China is under the U.S. influence again!"
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