News / Asia

Kyrgyzstan Seeks, But is Denied Outside Military Help

As Kyrgyzstan struggles to contain an outburst of ethnic blood-letting, the government is beginning to accept the harsh reality that outside military assistance is not on the way.

Last week, President Roza Otunbayeva requested Russian military intervention soon after the violence in Osh erupted. On Tuesday, she acknowledged neither Russia nor the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization would send troops.  

But she made the case for martial law. The embattled president said martial law is not just a mere pronouncement that is meant to frighten. Martial law, she said, requires constant patrols, a physical presence, a certain number of soldiers, as well as military and physical force to inspect people.

Russia has sent humanitarian aid, but not troops.  President Dmitri Medvedev on Tuesday set a high threshold for military intervention. Mr. Medvedev says if the situation gets worse, he does not preclude calling another Collective Security Treaty Organization meeting of national security chiefs, and even a special summit meeting of the organization's heads of state.

In other words, Russia will do a lot of talking before it commits troops to Kyrgyzstan.

Alexander Konovalov, an independent Russian military analyst said Moscow is avoiding intervention.  Getting in, said Konovalov, would be a lot easier than getting out.  For example, an outside force would get blamed for supporting one side or the other, and withdrawing it would be difficult. Once it  starts, it needs to create a semblance of stability.

Konovalov notes the classical understanding of peacekeeping means separating conflicting sides and creating a barrier between them, something that is not possible where people of warring ethnic groups live side by side.

Kyrgyzstan is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the country's interim leaders hoped it would also send troops to quell the violence.  But the mandate of the Moscow-led security alliance is to fight foreign invasion, not domestic unrest.  

Analysts note CSTO members have no common policies.  Armenia, for example, has no interests in Central Asia and Belarus supported ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.  

Military analyst Alexander Golts says events in Kyrgyzstan revealed CSTO to be an empty organization.  According to Golts, it was clear from the start that the Collective Security Treaty Organization was meant to support Russian imperial illusions; to show Russia has a military bloc of its own just like the United States.  In practice, he said, the organization in practice cannot withstand reality. CSTO countries simply are not prepared to defend one another, said Golts.

Member countries have rival claims, particularly those in Central Asia, he said, pointing out another problem: members also do not have the resources to ensure each other's security.

The borders of Central Asian countries often run between ethnic groups, which creates animosities over jobs and access to power. Uneven distribution of water and oil resources are also points of friction.

Analyst Konovalov notes that Kyrgyzstan has presented Moscow with a very difficult choice: either getting bogged down through intervention, or suffer the consequences of chaos on that country.

Konovalov said if things develop in Kyrgyzstan as they have in recent days, the country's already poor economy will continue to collapse.  Kyrgyzstan, like Afghanistan, will expand its role in illegal drug trafficking, adding that the traffic goes, first of all, through Russia.  Konovalov also warned that drug trafficking could be accompanied by radical Islamic ideas.

The United States has an air base near the capital city of Bishkek in northern Kyrgyzstan to supply the NATO military effort in Afghanistan.  

The United States is also discussing the Kyrgyz situation with Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  America has provided the Kyrgyz government with about $1 million in emergency medical supplies from an embassy contingency fund.  Russia and other countries have also been sending humanitarian assistance to Kyrgyzstan.

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