Kyrgyzstan Revolution and Russia
The Kyrgyzstan revolution seems to be proceeding, although the old ruler has not bowed out. The law is still somewhat murky about which Parliament has power, the old one, or the new one, and thus about which one has the authority to appoint an interim leader. Nevertheless, if no one seriously challenges the new leader, Bakiyev, it would appear that he will stay and rule.
The LA Times had an excellent article about what the revolutions in former Soviet empire — Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan — mean for present day Russia. Georgia was led by former friend of the US, Shevardnadze, who had been Russian foreign minister under Gorbechev during the peaceful fall of the Soviet Union. After years in power in Georgia, he apparently went bad and was replaced by Saakashvili, who studied law at Columbia and worked for a US law firm before returning to Georgia. It sounds as if Kyrgyzstan is a somewhat similar case. The old president, Akayev, was seen as somewhat enlightened for a leader in his part of the world, but also may have gone bad by letting his relatives and cronies take too much in power and corruption. In any case, it seems that the political system in Krygyzstan was better than the current systems in its neighbors, such as Kazakhstan. So what does this overthrow mean for them?
The LA Times article says Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Moldova all appear vulnerable to revolutions. Ironically, some of the hardline dictatorships, Belarus, for example, appear less vulnerable because they are more willing to forcefully crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. The LA Times says that Russia failed to step in when it could to peacefully prevent the revolution in Kyrgyzstan, and that therefore, other former countries of the Soviet empire no longer fear Russian interference.
However, I think we have yet to see how this will develop in Russia. It depends on Putin’s personality and on the influence of other Russian factors, such as the military and popular opinion. Ukraine is the biggest loss, and was handled the worst by Russia, making it the biggest blemish on Putin’s record. It was part of Russia for centuries; it is big and has natural resources. If Putin believes that as a result of these three revolutions, especially Ukraine, he is perceived as too weak by the Russian people, he may feel that he has to act more strongly. On the other hand, Russia has not been able to cope with the rebel turmoil in Chechnya, which is still (much to its dismay) part of Russia. If it can’t cope with this rebellion at home, how can it cope with revolutions beyond the Russian borders?
In these calculations, don’t forget that Russia still has enough nuclear armed missiles to destroy most of the populated world — Central Asia, the US, Europe, China, whatever it wants. It’s not clear how useful these nuclear weapons are in the current situation, but no doubt there are some Russians thinking about how to gain advantage from them.