Weekly Standard contributor Dan Twining offers his insight on the push for democracy east of the Black Sea:
In the new 'Great Game' underway in the Caucasus and Central Asia pitting the United States, Russia, and China in a bid for strategic influence and access to natural resources, not only America's power but its democratic ideals give it a decisive advantage against the designs of regional countries' great power neighbors. In this Washington Post piece on the upcoming elections in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan -- both autocracies, both oil-rich, and both keenly interested in moving closer to America strategically and economically -- Jackson Diehl highlights the welcome price the Bush Administration is setting for strategic partnership with Washington: a commitment to free and fair elections. Democratic revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan -- as in Eastern Europe in 1989 -- demonstrate that people free to choose, choose to partner with America. The crushing of the popular uprising in Uzbekistan, and consequent rupture in U.S. strategic relations with Tashkent, demonstrates the danger of alliance with fickle autocrats. The West has a lot to offer transitional and emerging democracies, and we should be confident in the power of our values to attract them to our cause, not insecure that our values handicap us in any geopolitical contest. Holding leaders in Baku and Astana to democratic standards is not only right; it is good policy.