Kyrgyzstan: pawn in the new Great Game?

As Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution is being consolidated, with a modicum of order returning to Bishkek, the capital, ousted president Askar Akayev has emerged in Moscow, and formally resigned–after having pledged from hiding that he wouldn’t. He said that he hopes to return to Kyrgyzstan to participate in new presidential elections now slated for June–but just as a voter, not a candidate. (Pakistan Daily Times, April 4)

Akayev denied rumors that he would seek asylum in Turkey, telling Turkish media: "If Kyrgyzstan reinstates constitutional order, and offers life guarantees and at least the smallest possible respect of human rights, my family and I shall certainly come back, If not, I have made my choice in Russia’s favor. Russia has always been my second motherland, and my two children were born here." (Novosti, April 4)

Russia also denied reports that it had been preparing military intervention to prop up Akayev. "We did not examine any theoretical plans for interfering in Kyrgyz affairs," Nikolai Bordyuzha, Secretary-General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, told Rossia TV channel April 3. (Novosti, April 4)

It is becoming increasingly clear that the U.S. supported the Tulip Revolution to remove Akayev, an ethnic Kyrgyz trained in Russia as a nuclear technician, who had attempted to play both sides in the new Great Game for strategic control of Central Asia. An analysis in the Turkish Weekly notes that his Kyrgyzstan was "the only Turkic republic in Central Asia that has both a Russian and an American base, as all the others have either one or the other." (This excludes Tajikistan, which also hosts both U.S. and Russian troops, but is not Turkic.) The real proof of the pudding will be in the weeks and months to come, when we shall see whether Russia will be allowed to maintain its troop detatchment at Kyrgyzstan’s Kant air base.

Another piece in the informative Turkish Weekly notes that other regional leaders fear a "domino effect" in the wake of the Tulip Revolution–especially Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbaev, who has also sought a precarious path equidistant from Moscow and Washington. "It is impossible to call what happened a revolution," Nazarbaev said as Akayev was destabilized, describing it instead as "banditry and looting." Notes the Turkish Weekly:

Following the events now termed Kyrgyzstan’s "tulip revolution", the authorities in the Kazak capital Astana swiftly removed rows of tulips which had been decorating the main streets for a public holiday. The flowers were artificial, but perhaps the authorities were in no mood to tempt fate.