Monday, April 19, 2010

Medvedev Forecasts a Repeat of ‘Kyrgyz Scenario’

By Giorgi Kvelashvili

On April 16, Russian media quoted President Dmitry Medvedev as saying that events similar to what recently happened in Kyrgyzstan might take place “on the territory of the post-Soviet space or in some other territory” in the future. Commenting on the deadly uprising in the impoverished Central Asian state, the Russian leader said, “The same scenario may happen…when the authorities lose contact with the people.” He warned that in order to avoid a repetition of the “Kyrgyzstan scenario,” governments “should skillfully administer their own states.”

Medvedev used harsh words to describe the humiliating fiasco of Kyrgyzstan’s ex-president Kumanbek Bakiyev’s regime, calling it “corrupt” and “clan-based” and linked the future of the Russian-Kyrgyz partnership to the newly-established government’s ability to “free itself from the shortcomings of the past.” The Russian leader who had earlier stated that Kyrgyzstan was “on the verge of civil war,” said that Bakiyev’s decision to leave his country and Moscow’s permitting him “to be escorted by Russian military” into neighboring Kazakhstan was instrumental in “avoiding further bloodshed.” According to Medvedev, the solution to the Kyrgyz crisis was closely discussed between him, U.S. President Barack Obama and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC on April 12.

Medvedev’s point that he would not rule out a repeat of the Kyrgyz uprising in the post-Soviet space found broad media coverage and a series of commentaries in Georgia. Levan Vepkhvadze, vice-speaker of Georgian Parliament from the opposition Christian-Democratic Movement, said that Medvedev’s words were “indirect proof of Russia’s interference in Kyrgyzstan’s internal affairs” and a clear warning that “Bakiyev’s fate awaits every leader” across the post-Soviet space if they “do not obey Russia’s ‘kind advice.’” Vepkhvadze ruled out that possibility of the “Kyrgyzstan events” being repeated in Georgia. “We are immune to the Russian scenarios given our bitter experience with them in the chaotic years of the early 1990s when Russia was successful at creating anarchy in Tbilisi and across Georgia.”

Irakli Alasania, another oppositionist and a candidate for Tbilisi mayor in the upcoming local election said, “It is exclusively our people’s business to decide the future of the country…No one else can make a decision on how the events should develop in Georgia…It would be better if those people take care of their own problems in their own countries.” At least one Georgian oppositionist, Gubaz Sanikidze from the National Forum, claimed that “Medvedev meant Georgia when he spoke on the possibility of Kyrgyz scenarios.” But he was prompt to add that “there is no significant force in the Georgian opposition that could take the situation in that direction.”

Several Georgian political analysts interpreted Medvedev’s words as some sort of “choice” offered to Georgia, either to “cooperate,” and follow Ukraine’s road by choosing a pro-Russian leadership, or face the possibility that this would be done in a “gory Kyrgyz way.”

Georgians are not alone in their fears for a peaceful development of their nation. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenka, whose quarrelling with the Russian leadership has only intensified recently, was the only leader to openly call the Kyrgyzstan events an “anti-constitutional coup d’état.” “Bakiyev did not know what to do…He was the leader of a very poor nation…Russia first promised him money but then refused to give.” The Belarus leader was apparently hinting at the manipulations to which the ex-Kyrgyz president was subjected by the Russians.

It is only ironic that the Russian president named corruption and clans as maladies that determined Bakiyev’s fate. Russia’s record in those categories is arguably no better than Kyrgyzstan’s. While Belarus is doing much better in those terms and Georgia is the clear champion in the post-Soviet space as the least corrupt country with the freest economy, they nonetheless cannot expect to be praised by Medvedev or his prime-minister, Vladimir Putin. For the Kremlin, it is the sovereignty issue in the post-Soviet states that matters most and, besides, Russia has not yet come close to the point where it could teach other nations how to live in modernity without corruption and nepotism.

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