Crisis in Central Asia

Radio Free Europe and the International Crisis Group held a discussion yesterday on the state of Central Asia given recent turmoil in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Speakers Daniel Kimmage, Eric McGlinchey and Paul Quinn-Judge discussed the issue to a full house of representatives from the Hill, State Department, international groups in the D.C. area and media.

RFE live tweeted and live blogged (as in, I did this) the event on this page to a worldwide audience. http://www.rferl.org/content/event_looking_beyond_kyrgyzstan/2039703.html

The event came on the same day that ethnic clashes rose in Kyrgyzstan after the overthrow of the Bakiyev government. Two people were killed in street riots in the southern part of the country—read RFE’s story here http://www.rferl.org/content/Kyrgyz_Rally_Urge_Arrest_Of_Local_Uzbek_Leader/2046500.html

Quinn-Judge, who currently reports from Bishkek, said RFE’s service “played an exceedingly important role in recent events in Kyrgyzstan. It provided a remarkable degree of reliable information which is in short supply in the region.”

He said he hoped recent events in Central Asia have been eye openers to the U.S., who have called totalitarian leaders “diplomats” because we work with them.

What we’ve seen happen in Kyrgyzstan recently is a series of events that has discomforted the United States. I would hope there’s going to be a little more humility in looking at our analyses of these countries in the future.

A journalist from Uzbekistan, who could not attend the event due to pressure from the government, provided RFE with vivid photos of poverty from the country that were on display at the event.

President of RFE Jeff Gedmin asked how a democracy could unfold in countries that face heavy corruption, poverty and religious extremism

“These countries by and large, at the top have governments and political systems that are dominated by political patronage, nepotism and corruption. At the bottom, they have weak civil societies and extremists,” he said.

Panelists discussed the roll of Islamic extremism influencing unstable governments in Central Asia. Quinn-Judge said the subject of the U.S. comes up rarely because of how discreet the air base seems to be. China, on the other hand, causes great worry among the people because of its growing role in subsidizing their territory with natural resources.

Kimmage said the U.S. needs to be more cautious before supporting authoritarian regimes in Central Asia because history shows they are unstable. Once new powers overthrow the authoritative governments, the people will then question the U.S.’s role in the area, which could compromise our interests.

“We really need to call things by their real name. Don’t call dictators democrats just because they’re helping you out,” said Kimmage.

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