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Cold War Hot Again?

Kyrgyzstan's on fire.

12:56 PM, Jun 17, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
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James Kirchick in the Wall Street Journal:

So far, Russia has shown no interest in alleviating the situation in southern Kyrgyzstan, and is operating under the calculus that the longer Kyrgyzstan burns, the more pliable its shaky government will become to Russian demands. On Monday, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a sort of Russian-led NATO for former Soviet republics, ended an emergency session without a pledge to send any sort of peacekeeping force to quell the violence and assist with humanitarian relief. Russia has deployed only 300 troops to the country, solely for the purpose of guarding its military base. All this in spite of Mr. Medvedev's statement on Monday that the situation in Kyrgyzstan was "intolerable." 

Also benefiting from the unrest are the region's dictators, who can point to the inability of Kyrgyzstan's government to maintain order as proof that the region is unsuitable for democracy. Compared to its neighbors, Kyrgyzstan has a relatively open political system with a vocal opposition, independent media and active civil society. Its 2005 "Tulip Revolution" brought Mr. Bakiev, who then held some promise as a liberal reformer, to power. It was an important democratic opening in one of the world's most illiberal regions. 

Whereas its neighbors are consistently ranked "Not Free" by the human-rights watchdog group Freedom House, Kyrgyzstan has occasionally received a ranking of "Partly Free." Kyrgyzstan's tumultuous and mostly unsuccessful experiment with democracy—it has been preparing for a June 27 constitutional referendum, which is unlikely to proceed in light of the current chaos—has always been a threat to its authoritarian neighbors, who are no doubt celebrating the country's disorder. 

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