Saturday, November 12, 2011

Withstanding the Stans' and Ukraine

The former satellites of the Soviet Union are becoming embroiled in internal and civil conflict. Particularly, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have had recent episodes of violence. Ukraine, another former Soviet Union satellite, is carrying out political oppression against political oponents. As this chaos ensues, amidst Putin's recent declaration about a Eurasian Union, it seems that the caucusus and Ukraine are starting to resemble for of the Soviet Union than modernizing with the West.

Kazkhstan has been recently attacked by islamist extremists, from the June al-Khilafa terrorist organizaiton. M.K. Kariyev killed two Kazakh securivty service offices, a weapons store guard and a customer. He was then wounded in a shootout. As police went to apprehend Kariyev, he blew himself up, killing a police captain. The country's autocratic ruler has already "passed" legistlation clamping down on religious activites. Russia's news organizations have reported that Kazakhs are afraid to leave their homes amid this growing threat. Kazakhstan has immense oil reserves and has generally been supported by the United States. It will be interesting to see what kind of support the United States gives to Kazakhstan to fight this growing terrorist threat, while leaving an autocrat in office. In a country, that should be wealthier due to its oil reserves, one has to ask if terrorism is taking place due to poverty or the inability to raise political questions. If it is the latter, is the U.S. acting in its best interest by funneling money into Nazarbayev, the President.

In Kyrgyzstan, the government is being accused of harassing the Uzbek ethnicity within its borders. Many Uzbeks have stated that a Kyrgyz government raid took place on civilian homes in an attempt to intimidate a portion of Uzbeks who protested the government earlier this year. Uzbeki houses and businesses were set ablaze by the security forces. Further, the police have been accused of detaining and torturing ethnic Uzbeks, while allowing their release on the condition of bribery. Again, the principles we associate with Western government are seemingly being ignored by Russia's former satellite. It will be interesting to see if Russia is able to exert continued influence over Kyrgyzstan in opposition to the United States intervening for issues of human rights. Although, little has been done thus far, I would argue the United States should be involved.

Finally, Ukraine is seemingly leaning towards a repaired relationship with Russia. First, Ukraine's leader Viktor Yuschenko has brought up charges against political opponent Yulia Tymoshenko for giving Russia natural gas deals at under market prices. She has been sentenced to seven years. She has further been accused of tax evasion just recently. The political oppression of Yuschenko again leads the government of Ukraine to look more like the government of Russia than of the West. This country is not as stable as one might hope and relationships seem to be growing with Russia again. Arch Puddington has said that Yushcenko has been able to play the United States and Russia well, but will the U.S. stand against Yuschenko's political strong hand, or will they again cower in their support for freedom inturn for access to resources and keeping Russia out of the fold?

Overall, the caucusus seems to be coming undone. Civil conflict, although not new is growing. Political freedoms are lessening and corruption is increasing it seems. Thus, the United States cannot trust that its interests are secure and should invest more in the region. The containment strategy of the Soviet Union should not necessarily be done with for Russia. We can stop adverserial growth and influence as opposed to communism. However, the United States must decide which is more important: supporting democracy and human dignity, in which case it will stand against Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine. Or relationships that constrain Russia, in which case it may tolerate such political oppression. Overall, the U.S. needs to set a policy and enact it, and not ignore the political unrest that is taking form within the aforementioned countries.

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