Friday, June 18, 2010

Can the Kazakhstan-chaired OSCE Step up to the Plate in Southern Kyrgyzstan?



With violence subsiding in southern Kyrgyzstan, the real dangers to regional stability are only starting to come into perspective. Yesterday's announcement by the UN that the refugee problem had ballooned to about 400,000 seems to have awakened the international community, but its response remains unclear. What is clear is that the scope of the problems that could now emerge as a result of population displacement and lingering animosity between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks are significant and potentially could spark a much more serious regional conflict. While the international community was unable to adequately respond to the unrest that rocked the region this past week, it is now critical that there is an international response aimed at stabilizing the situation and preventing it from spiraling out of control any further.

Both Russia and the US have avoided responding militarily despite requests from the interim Kyrgyz government for assistance in stabilization. While one would expect more willingness on the part of these larger powers to assist Kyrgyzstan with establishing stability given that both have airbases in the country, it is also understandable that such bilateral action could inflame other geopolitical tensions regionally and even globally. What is needed now in southern Kyrgyzstan is a multilateral commitment to keeping the peace. The question is which multilateral commitment? The United Nations is theoretically the most neutral source of peacekeeping, but the UN bureaucracy can make response slow and poorly coordinated. Furthermore, since the situation has yet to escalate into a full-out war, it is questionable whether the UN would even deploy and, if it did, whether it would be the appropriate response.

On a more regional level, however, there are multiple possibilities. There is the CSTO (The Collective Security Treaty Organization), which is made up of former Soviet states, but it is unclear whether this organization has the capacity to field the type of peacekeepers who are needed. The same can be said of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which brings together a diverse group of regional powers, but has neither experience with peacekeeping nor a clear mandate to form a joint peacekeeping force. That leaves the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), which, despite declining in its influence on the former Soviet Union, has a history of deploying peacekeeping observers in the Caucasus and the Balkans and has long had a substantial office in Osh staffed with regional experts. Furthermore, the OSCE's present chairmanship is held by Kazakhstan, the one power in Central Asia with the capacity and relative neutrality to take on a lead role in mitigating further conflict in the Ferghana Valley.

If the OSCE were to respond quickly now and establish a strong stable of peacekeeping observers for the south of Kyrgyzstan, it could have a substantial impact on the situation. Such an organization could mediate between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities, protect the properties of refugees from further looting or usurpation, help reintegrate Uzbeks who have returned to protect their properties, and monitor the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. Such quick and decisive action would be the perfect opportunity for Kazakhstan to demonstrate a positive leadership role within the OSCE and for the OSCE to show the former Soviet states that it can deliver support when critically needed.

The question that remains is whether Kazakhstan has the capacity to take on such a leadership role and push through the OSCE bureaucracy in order to field a professional, effective, and knowledgeable OSCE-led peacekeeping group in time to make a difference. If it did so, it would do much to reaffirm international confidence in Kazakhstan, re-establish a prominent role for the OSCE in the former Soviet Union, and potentially ease some of the geopolitical tension in Eurasia that the proponents of the “new great game” theory so enjoy promoting.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Russell Zanca said...

Hi Sean,

Just read both of your recent posts. I think your analysis of Ferghan v. is close to perfect. You do not, however, directly discuss the economic imperatives, though you certainly imply them.

Since the collapse of Soviet power, the southern Kyrgyz often feel that the Uzbeks lord it over them in terms of entrepreneurialism, savviness, etc. In addition, there are aspects of Uzbek culture that the Kyrgyz they simply dislike, and vice-versa reigns. In relying on the nomadic-settled thesis, the cultural references, e.g. too much respect for age and authority vs. too little respect...the case is good. My point is that when you throw in the overall economic disaster that has characterized the past 20 years for most s. Kyrgyz folk, you have an incredibly bad cocktail.

Back in the mid-1990s, I worked specifically on inter-ethnic issues in the wake of Osh 1990. What I think I learned is that Kyrgyz resented the hell out of the Uzbeks in occupying the best lands and reproducing at the rate they were. Kyrgyz felt this is "our country" and the Uzbeks live better than we.

I also knew academics at Osh U who were trying to prove through historical scholarship that s. kyrgyzstan FV had always been Kyrgyz. Laughable perhaps, but these guys were dead serious.

At least while Akayev held power, there were real efforts to maintain a strained peace, even though the Uzbeks were not particularly well represented politically in KG.

Alas! Lack of intelligent political leadership combined w/ the garbage that is the Bakiyev family take us to this moment.

Your ideas re: Kazakh role for mediation is good, and it seems Nazarbayev relishes playing this role of late.

As for Karimov and Co., I think they are simply scared doo-dooless because of this crisis. They hate instability and problems. But how they are going to react...just unpredictable.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Sean R. Roberts, PhD said...

Russell,

Thanks for bringing up the economic issues. I often view the economic inequalities as being a part of the sedentary/nomadic legacy. The Kyrgyz, as most former nomads, tend to be less adept at profiting from agriculture and trade than the Uzbeks, or other sedentary peoples. That being said, I am sure that you can speak to more of the subtleties related to this issue, especially with regards to the legacy of the Soviet period. As you rightly point out, it is the economic inequalities that really make the relationship personal and volatile. Perhaps, I can get you to write a guest post on this for the blog??

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Mjusa said...

Russel Zanca said:
Your ideas re: Kazakh role for mediation is good, and it seems Nazarbayev relishes playing this role of late.

As for Karimov and Co., I think they are simply scared doo-dooless because of this crisis. They hate instability and problems. But how they are going to react...just unpredictable.

Well, I disagree with KZ potential for mediation. Nazarabev's decree to close off the borders to fleeing Uzbeks rather shows he's cowardly washing off his hands in this crisis. So who is playing scared doo-dooless because of this crisis?
And re Uzbekistan and your prejudiced remarks - I think Uzbekistan (and now Tajikistan) showed commendable maturity and civilized behavior so far - this in spite of understandably high level of emotions among ordinary Uzbeks, regardless of tens of thousands pouring into the most densely populated region in CA.
And why is international community in this humanitarian crisis staying so distanced and just standing by? Comparing this to Kosovo exodus in 1999 - all neighbors and even distanced countries reacted to appeal to offer temporary shelter to feeling Kosovo Albanians. And the Kosovo massacre was less shocking/brutal as what we are witnessing in the south of KG these days.
Why aren't any airlifts for refugees being organized now?
Is irrational prejudice against Uzbeks the main reason we all seem to be smart and distant during the moments when calls for immediate help to those being persecuted should be our first thought?

10:03 PM  
Blogger Russell Zanca said...

Mjusa, please point out the one occasion when Karimov ever lifted a finger to do anything on behalf of the Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan. For nearly 20 years he ignored just about every request that was ever made by these people to meet with him, or to be made to feel that Uzbekistan cared about them.

The news we are receiving is that the first Uzbek reaction--not on the part of Uzbeks themselves--but on the part of Karimov & CO. is that we are too poor, and we have no room or ability to deal with this crisis.

Jeez, you'd think with all of the F-ing $ he's stolen from the Uzbek people, he'd have some funds to help out the co-ethnic women and children fleeing violence.

Nazarbayev has at least provided gainful employment for tens of thousands of Uzbeks who have fled Karimovistan because they have no jobs, thanks to, you guessed it, Karimov.

Please enlighten us further about what the Great Dictator's plans are to help fellow Uzbeks.

WOuld it be to beg the international community to help after years of telling them to F-off. Perhaps he can appeal to CHina or S. Korea. Oh, wait, their only concern is to make money, not do a blessed thing in pursuit of humanitarianism.

So you are left wondering why the international community, i.e., the U.S. and the U.S. isn't gung-ho to go into the Ferghana valley and kick some Kyrgyz butt on behalf of the Uzbeks?

Let's see now, how have our Marines and SOliders been greeted for doing this in the past in Yugoslavia, SOmalia, Afghanistan, etc.?

Funny, that the people of Kyrg., Uzbeks included, begged for the Russians to help. Strange and hard to fathom that the RUssians didn't run right in there with peacekeepers.

I'd be more than curious to hear your international peacekeeping plan? Please don't suggest the U.N., if you hope to maintain a shred of respectability?

1:07 AM  
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at first I wasn`t aware about any details except that this unformal OSCE meeting took place. Your post actually was the reason why I got interested. Thank you for sharing, I will folow this with more atention now, and leave a reasonable comment when I get more informed.

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The news we are receiving is that the first Uzbek reaction--not on the part of Uzbeks themselves--but on the part of Karimov & CO. is that we are too poor, and we have no room or ability to deal with this crisis.

Jeez, you'd think with all of the F-ing $ he's stolen from the Uzbek people, he'd have some funds to help out the co-ethnic women and children fleeing violence.

Nazarbayev has at least provided gainful employment for tens of thousands of Uzbeks who have fled Karimovistan because they have no jobs, thanks to, you guessed it, Karimov.
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