Kyrgyzstan: End of the “Tulip Revolution”

The “Cedar Revolution” of Lebanon and the “Orange Revolution” of Ukraine were democratically brought to an end.  A “Green Revolution” in Iran that Washington hoped for has turned out to be just a figment of its geopolitical fantasy.  And now there goes another color revolution.

It is clear that the political revolution in Kyrgyzstan caught Washington flatfooted, given how Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State, handled questions about it (Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC, 7 April 2010):

MR. CROWLEY: . . . And finally, before taking your questions, clearly we are monitoring very closely the situation in Bishkek regarding these protests.  We are deeply concerned about reports of civil disturbances and possible loss of life.  We deplore the violence and encourage full investigation and accountability in any incidents of death or mistreatment.  We have reached out to government and civil society leaders to urge calm, nonviolence, and respect for the rights of citizens, especially under emergency situations.  We urge all parties to show respect for the rule of law and resolve differences in a peaceful, orderly, and legal manner.  We steadfastly uphold the integrity of the Kyrgyz Republic and continue our firm support for the people of Kyrgyzstan.

With that, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah.  Well, on that, what do you make of the opposition going on television and saying that they’ve formed their own government?  Is that problematic — something that’s problematic for you?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are continuing to monitor the circumstances.  I believe we continue to think the government remains in power, but — and I’ll anticipate one question.  Can we — there have been reports of loss of life, particularly involving the interior minister.  We are not at this point able to confirm that.

But we will be continuing, through our Ambassador Gfoeller in Bishkek, to be in contact with the Kyrgyz Government as well before —

QUESTION: Is there any concern about the Manas base?

MR. CROWLEY: As I understand it, right now the transit center at the Manas airport is functioning normally.  We’ve put out a Warden Message regarding our own Embassy personnel and all Embassy personnel remain accounted for.

QUESTION: Well, can you be more — can you say — well, what does that message say?

MR. CROWLEY: It just — it expresses concern about — to steer clear of demonstrations.  But we — the Warden Message just was to reach out to the American community, and all of our personnel are accounted for.

QUESTION: Were the demonstrations in the neighborhood of the Embassy or other American installations?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have that kind of clarity, Charley.

QUESTION: Can you say specifically what information leads you to think that the government is still in power, what that’s based on and why?

MR. CROWLEY: We have no indication that the government has ceased to function.  I mean, we are in contact with the government, and, obviously, the situation is difficult.  But I’m not — to the extent that there are claims that the government has fallen, we don’t have that information.

QUESTION: You mentioned just a moment ago that the transit facility at Manas is still up and running.  Do you expect that you’re going to diminish any of your operations there?  Are you concerned that if things get worse, you may have to do so?

MR. CROWLEY: Right now, I don’t think that there’s any — it’s an important facility connected to our Afghan operations and is functioning normally.

QUESTION: I mean, can you tell anything about the status of the Embassy?  Is it going to be open tomorrow?  How is it going to be functioning?

MR. CROWLEY: Good — I mean, right now, as far as I know, the Embassy is functioning normally.  But obviously, that will depend a little bit on the situation outside the gate.

QUESTION: Move on?

MR. CROWLEY: Charlie.

QUESTION: Yeah, also on that, can you be any more specific about how we’re in touch with the government, whether the ambassador has spoken with any official?  If so, at what level?  Is this the foreign ministry?  Is it the president?  Is it — is this by email?  I mean, what kind of contact have we had?

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say.  I assume it’s by phone, but I’ve got relatively little information.  I would say Foreign Minister Sarbayev and Maxim Bakiyev, the son of the president, they are actually on their way to the United States.  We expected to hold annual bilateral consultations with Kyrgyzstan tomorrow.  We have postponed those consultations for obvious reasons, but I expect that while the foreign minister is here, we’ll have some meetings with him here in Washington.

QUESTION: This was pre-planned?

MR. CROWLEY: Pre-planned.  I mean, they’re literally still in the air coming here from —

QUESTION: Are you sure about that?  They haven’t turned around?

MR. CROWLEY: It’s a fair question.  As far as I know, they will arrive here and we expect probably we’ll have meetings with them while they’re here.

QUESTION: Who are they meeting with?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we (inaudible) going to have extensive bilateral consultations with them.  Those — I’ll — I don’t have information, but we’ll — I’m sure involving Assistant Secretary Bob Blake — but I think we’ll use that opportunity to consult with them on the situation in Bishkek.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iran?

QUESTION: No, can we go back — you said it was with the foreign minister and the son of the president?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, who is responsible for international development?

QUESTION: And so you can’t — but going back to Charlie’s question is, there’s all these reports of people who have resigned, have left the capital, they’re dead, we don’t know.  It sounds like total chaos.  How can you be sure that that government is still in control?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I think we — notwithstanding current demonstrations, notwithstanding intrusions into various government buildings, we believe that the government continues to function.  I can’t tell you we know that because of A, B, C, D, and E.  We have — our able ambassador there is in touch with the government.  I don’t know how.  I assume it’s in a variety of ways.  We are reaching out to the government.  We’re reaching out to civil society.  We’re doing what we can to help them work through this.  But as to reports that the government has fallen, we have no information to verify that.

QUESTION: And the U.S. supports the government?  They’re not supporting the opposition that’s stepping in, claiming that they already are taking into their own hands the government?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, there is a sitting government.  We work with that sitting government.  We have — as we’ve outlined in various reports, including the Human Rights Report, we have concerns about issues, intimidation by the government, corruption within the government.  We want to see Kyrgyzstan evolve, just as we do other countries in the region.

But that said, there is a sitting government.  We work closely with that government.  We are allied with that government in terms of its support for international operations in Afghanistan.  But we identify with the concerns that the people of Kyrgyzstan have about their future.  But obviously, as we said, their concerns should be a matter for peaceful dialogue, as opposed to violent demonstration.

Meanwhile, Russia has already recognized the new Kyrgyz government, promising the new Kyrgyz premier aid to her country (“Putin Speaks on Phone with Kyrgyz Opposition-nominated Premier,” RIA Novosti, 8 April 2010):

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held a telephone conversation with Kyrgyz opposition-nominated premier Roza Otunbayeva on Thursday, his spokesman said.

Dmitry Peskov said Otunbayeva had told Putin that her country needs economic assistance to deal with “the difficult situation” in the country, and that Putin said Russia is ready to offer humanitarian aid.

“It is important to note that the conversation was held with Otunbayeva in her capacity as the head of a national confidence government,” Peskov said.

Some people know what time it is, some people don’t.

By the way, the Kyrgyz Revolution happened just in time for a vote on a $33 billion war supplemental for Afghanistan, which is likely to take place in the next several weeks.  Be sure to mention this Cyrillic writing on the wall as you call your representative and senators.

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