Events Transcripts Policy Insight Video

What Lies ahead for Kyrgyzstan after the Presidential Elections?

By CAP

Transcript

of the CAP workshop What Lies ahead for Kyrgyzstan after the Presidential Elections?, October 19, 2017

Erica Marat, National Defense University

Eric McGlinchey, George Mason University

Paul Stronski, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Erica Marat:

Good afternoon everyone. Let me know if you don’t hear me, in the back. I’ll be speaking from my seat. You’re hearing me? In the back? Okay.

So, I’m Erica Marat from the National Defense University, and I do agree that since 2010, Kyrgyzstan stood out as its dynamic electoral process and elections in 2010 and 2011, 2015 even were a good testament to dynamic and diverse electoral process in Kyrgyzstan that brought to power political parties that otherwise, in an autocratic system, would not be able to gain representation in the parliament.

With that said, October 15 elections this year were not only an interruption in this process of dynamism. I think they were a departure from the course that was established in 2010. The elections this year, they reminded more of the power switch or power transfer that we saw in Russia from Putin to Medvedev in 2008, than a democratic process, a genuinely democratic process.

What we see is a victory of uncharismatic, uninspiring, a person with a lack of any remarkable ideas, who’s very rude, very brash against his opponents, shows some autocratic tendencies in the way he addresses his opponents, winning this election with a slight majority. The way he was able to prevail over 50% of votes in the first round was largely thanks to the Social Democratic Party’s influence across the country, among local government and in the public sector, locally and nationally.

The turnout for the election was quite low again. It was one of the lowest, even lower than for local elections and a constitutional referendum last year. So we can assume that the influence, the pressure of social democrats on public sector employees across the country could have played a role in this victory. The Central Electoral Commission refused registration for some candidates on very dubious grounds.

The president participated in campaigning by smearing Babanov. I’m not saying that Babanov was a strong candidate, nevertheless, the president again used very animated language against Jeenbekov’s opponents. On the election day, there were violations across the country. Journalists were not allowed to monitor the electoral process. It seems like the police officers worked in favor of the status quo, as opposed to a secure, a fair process, competitive process.

Let me not blame social democrats, which is the strongest political power in Kyrgyzstan today, just the social democrats. There were other processes in play. I’d like to identify two bigger processes that were also in play beyond social democrats’ influence. They, nevertheless, were able to leverage these systemic factors that played in favor of status quo.

First is fairly technical and, should there be political will, it can be fixed in the next elections, even before parliamentary elections, but more importantly, before presidential elections, hopefully, in 2023. That is the time period allocated for campaigning. Right now, it’s only five weeks. It’s not enough for candidates who did not occupy prime-ministerial position to gain nationwide recognition.

There were very inspiring candidates, who were not represented in the parliament, but who, nevertheless, have interesting and inspiring ideas for Kyrgyzstan. So I think extending the campaigning period to several months, to half a year probably would allow for more political debate in the context of campaigning, would allow for different candidates to win elections not only through the support of their big political parties, but thanks to their political ideas.

In this campaigning period, there should be more regular political debates, televised political debates. They prove to be quite effective in shaping public opinion and so on. So the campaigning period should be extended because currently, from the five weeks allocated for campaigning period, they sort of favor the handpicked successor for a political that’s most powerful in the country. That’s one. That’s more technical.

The second one is broader and will require greater constitutional amendments, further constitutional amendments, and then also a shift in just general political culture in Kyrgyzstan. That is the following. So, here’s my argument. Kyrgyzstan had so far five presidents. Including Jeenbekov, that would be five presidents. That’s obviously different from neighboring countries.

The way every single president came to power was not necessarily through popular support. At the core of the selection of those presidents were inter-elite pacts. They were not as closed as in Uzbekistan, behind closed doors. They’re not going to be probably as closed as Kazakhstan was, but every single candidate came to power thanks to a circle political elites, sometimes competing with each other and trying to find a consensus, and sometimes not really competing, being more excluding towards other political elites. Then, their pick was confirmed through a popular election.

Whereas Atambayev and Otunbayeva came as a result of a broader political consensus between political elites, Jeenbekov was handpicked by Atambayev. It’s not really a consensus among political parties, but it’s a possibly imposed consensus within Social Democratic Party. As a result, what we see, again, a very dubious and weak mandate for Jeenbekov, who will be facing strong opposition based on personal grievances from other candidates, but also possibly within Social Democratic Party.

It doesn’t seem like Atambayev is going to retire that quickly. I hope he is, will hold to his promise and distance himself from politics, but it seems like he will have influence in politics, maybe not through an official position, but his loyalists are still in the government, those who pulled the shots and who are possibly even stronger than Jeenbekov at this point.

So what will happen, what I think will happen in Kyrgyzstan in the coming years? Jeenbekov, being a weak candidate with a weak and dubious mandate, he will try to suppress his opponents, both within SDPK and outside of SDPK. We will see a tightening of freedom of speech in the media, some suppression … He, indeed, sued the media outlets and won those lawsuits before elections. Greater effort to make the judicial branch even more loyal and security structures loyal to his office, to his personality.

Yeah, and also possibly adopting legislature that will be limiting civic rights and human rights in Kyrgyzstan. So I don’t think we’re set on the trajectory of greater political debate from now on. I think we will be seeing the political space for debates narrowing under Jeenbekov.

Let me just finish by saying this. Where does it leave with the expert community here? The narrative we apply to Kyrgyzstan is … and I’m guilty as charged. In 2015, before the elections, I had an article named “The Best It Gets In Central Asia”. So I think it is about time we distance ourselves from saying that it’s the best it gets in Central Asia because I think it is a disservice, both to Kyrgyzstan and to Central Asia.

It is a disservice to Kyrgyzstan because it’s not the best it gets in Kyrgyzstan. There could have been better procedures in place installed by Atambayev and by SDPK to be more neutral in these elections. So, we can compare Kyrgyzstan to Kyrgyzstan and see what can we do in the future to avoid previous mistakes.

Also, for Central Asia, I think the message that we’ve sent is that by adopting rhetoric of free and competitive, unpredictable elections were able to still promote the status quo. I’d like to finish with a quote that was published by Sergey Abashin, an anthropologist based in Russia. He said, “The outcomes of these unpredictable elections were the most predictable.” So I think it sums up what happened this last Sunday.

Eric McGlinchey:

Okay, let me know if this gets too loud. I have a tendency to speak … I get excited about Kyrgyzstan. I always get excited about Kyrgyzstan.

First, let me say my thanks to Marlene and GW. Also, I’d like to thank RFE/RL for cosponsoring this. I’d like to extend a sincere note of appreciation to Ambassador Toktogulov. He kind of stepped into the boxing ring here and I appreciate that.

One of the things that I’ve come to learn with my research and Marlene’s, our research on US soft power in Central Asia is that the outreach of ambassadors is important. We’ve had a great success with this in Kyrgyzstan and Ambassador Toktogulov has always engaged. This is a strong credit to him and a strong credit to Kyrgyzstan. So I appreciate that.

I was very happy to hear Erica’s comments and I’m looking forward to Paul’s comments. I’m really excited to see the difference of opinions that are being articulated here. I know that there’s a lot of expertise here in the audience, so I hope we have time for soliciting and discussing your thoughts as well.

I want to flag two points … One point that came up in Kadyr’s talk and one point that came up in Erica’s talk are the things that I want to fly for us to think about and kind of weave these points into my conversation as well.

First, Kadyr talked about the conclusion, I think that was the word you used, the conclusion of a transition process in essence. I think that’s something that deserves a lot of thought. Is this a conclusion? First, I’m going to challenge that assessment, but not deny the considerable progress Kyrgyzstan has made towards political reform. So, that’s one thing I want to focus our attention on.

Then, Erica, I think very rightfully, pointed out something that Kadyr didn’t talk too much about in his presentation, which was the pre-ballot period. I think the ballot was probably pretty well run and clean, but it was this pre-ballot period that I think deserves a lot of our attention and some of the things that happen. So I’ll try to weave those two points in.

More broadly, I will focus on three areas. The first is the assessment of the Kyrgyz regime, what kind of regime type is it today? Is it a democracy? I want to talk about why this assessment is important. To let my ultimate conclusion out of the bag here, I don’t think it is a democracy yet, and I’ll try to illustrate with empirical logic why I don’t think Kyrgyzstan is yet a democracy.

The second thing I want to talk about is tensions between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, not so much because of what these tensions are and how interesting this spat is, but really what it says about Kyrgyz politics. I think this is an interesting lens with which to understand Kyrgyz politics and some of the quite substantial changes that are happening here. So I’m not going to spent too much time on the actual debate between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, but really I want to focus on what this says about Kyrgyzstan.

Then, the last thing is only I hope I wouldn’t have to talk about today, but towards the end of the campaign, this issue arose and that is the issue of nationalism in Kyrgyzstan. I was hopeful that the rule of the Uzbek minority, the political football that the Uzbek minority has been would not come up in this election. It seemed like for a long time it wasn’t going to come up. Ultimately, it did towards the end, and I think we should pay careful attention to this as we look to Kyrgyzstan’s future.

Okay, so, first, this issue of regime type, the first issue there. Praise, I think there’s considerable reason for praise, and so I’ll just briefly repeat some of the praise that has been mentioned by international observers. The OSCE said the election was, “competitive”, candidates campaigned freely. Tactical aspects of the election were well-administered. Voting was orderly and well-organized. I extracted that from the report. I have a dots on my period here. There’s a lot of words in between those phrases that I quoted for you. There’s other things that were said about the elections as well. I’ll return to those other things later on.

The US embassy in Bishkek said … I looked for some statement. I think there’s people from the State Department. I looked for a statement, an official statement from Tillerson. I didn’t find anything. So I don’t think there has been any official statement from … But the US embassy did issue a statement, where they said that this was a peaceful conduct. The high voter turnout, and this is something that I just ever dispute, clearly affirmed the Kyrgyz public’s commitment to pursuing a democratic path. The Kyrgyz government and people can be proud of the successful conduct of these elections. Again, there’s things that I left out of this that came out of the embassy’s statement. We’ll return to those later on.

Then, one more, Russian President Putin. [inaudible 00:16:34] is in the back, so I thought I’ll throw this out. The results of the election demonstrate the high regard with which the Kyrgyz people hold Jeenbekov and their confidence in his ability to advance Kyrgyzstan’s social and economic development. Not much about democracy, though perhaps you wouldn’t expect Putin saying much about democracy these days.

Okay. I think it’s considerable reason to look at this as a good news story. The election was competitive. The sitting president did willingly agree to follow the constitution and give up power. This doesn’t happen in Central Asia, right? So this is important to know and to recognize. This was a peaceful transition of power.

Kadyr mentioned 2005-2010. These were not peaceful transitions of power. This, in contrast, was a peaceful transition of power. So I think there is a lot we should praise Kyrgyzstan for and I don’t want to brush over these considerable points where Kyrgyzstan does deserve praise. At the same time, I think we have to be careful not to celebrate Kyrgyzstan’s arrival at democracy prematurely.

So, typically what we use in social science to evaluate whether a country has achieved democracy is what we call the two turnover test. What do we mean here? What we mean here is that there are two turnovers of power among competing parties. Let me stress that again. There’s turnovers of power among competing parties. This is actually a point that Erica talked about.

So, we have to see a party in power lose to an opposition, and then we have to see that opposition lose to another party. So we have to see meaningful transfer of power among different parties. Otherwise, we’re in a situation, potentially, and I would say Kyrgyzstan may be heading in this direction of the Mexico under PRI or Japan under LDP, right?

So, these are regimes that, for a long time, we couldn’t really assess whether they were democratic, precisely because there was not a peaceful turnover of power among competing parties. I think that’s where we are with Kyrgyzstan today. The logic behind this, and I think this is an important logic to think about, it’s an ideal I keep coming to, is would Atambayev, would SDPK have held the election if they honestly thought that they wouldn’t win? So, that’s the logic behind the two turnover test.

It’s not hard for someone like Nazarbayev to hold an election. He knows he’s going to win, right? It’s not hard for Karimov to hold an election. He knows he’s going to … well. You’re getting the point, right? Were he alive, right? The question is are we in a similar situation in Kyrgyzstan? I don’t know what the answer to that is, but the reason why we hesitate to say that this is a democracy … and I’m not picking at Kyrgyzstan here. This is across the board. You hesitate to conclude that a country is a democracy prior to the two turnover tests. We can’t answer that question. We can’t answer that.

I think there’s a few things that raised considerable concern. Erica began talking about this. I imagine that Paul will talk about this. Kadyr mentioned this himself. There were questions about the misuse of administrative resources, particularly in the pre-election period of the campaign. In particular, I’d like to direct your attention to the media, the near monopoly control of the media by the sitting government, and also the role of applying judiciary, something that Erica talked about and actually predicted this is going to become even more client under the new government, and the role of the Central Election Commission.

These are the administrative resources that were marshaled, I would argue, to ensure that the desired outcome was achieved. I’ll just give you a couple of data points here. There was one prominent potential opposition candidate, Tekebayev. He was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in prison. Found guilty in August of bribe taking.

With regards to Babanov, he was portrayed in a very unflattering way, perhaps justifiably so, for his September 28 speech in Osh, for allegedly … Now, I’ve only seen what’s on YouTube, and it seems like an interesting splice job of his speech, but for potentially inciting inter-ethnic hatred. The Central Election Commission used to this beef to issue a reprimand. This is immediately before the ballot itself. The Prosecutor General’s Office, on October 13th, two days before the election, concluded that his speech, this is Babanov speech, contained elements of incitement of ethnic hatred.

Babanov was alluded to, not directly, but everybody knew who the president was talking about. Atambayev discussed a, quote-unquote, flunky that was being supported by Kazak oligarchs. All this stuff was circulating in the Kyrgyz press in the weekend right before the election. So we have a combination of the threat of the use of the judiciary, prosecutor general, with the combination of the media in tandem going after the opposition candidate. Use of administrative resources to ensure the desired outcome, in fact is the outcome.

I’d like to pose a counterfactual. What outcome might we have expected, had we not seen this use or misuse of administrative resources? We can’t answer that, right, but it’s an interesting counterfactual to think about. It’s the counterfactual that precludes us from concluding that Kyrgyzstan is a democracy.

I think only reading the commentary, one of the assessments from the Kyrgyz colleague Edil Baisalov that particularly struck me is he attributed Babanov’s loss to Babanov’s strange reluctance to actually criticize SDPK. I think Baisalov is right to a certain degree, but I think he misses the point. Babanov has a lot to lose. If you drive around Bishkek, you see that. He’s got some pretty major investments. He’s got a lot of money. He, I think, was effectively cowed by the media and by the judiciary.

Yes, he did agree to the outcome, but what position does he have? What can he do? He could continue to fight and potentially lose a lot of his investments or he could be a good sport or be portrayed as a good sport and go along his merry way. I think that’s essentially what we have here.

So, regrettably, I don’t think we’re in a position yet to conclude that Kyrgyzstan is a democracy. I think Kyrgyzstan has made considerable steps. I want to illustrate one particular considerable step that Kyrgyzstan’s made through the lens of this Kazak-Kyrgyz tension. This is the second point.

I think we’ve all been somewhat disheartened to see the images of big trucks on the border not getting through. It’s going to be the height of the fall harvest. Farmers talking about losing thousands and thousands of dollars as their harvest spoils inside of the trucks. For me, as an outside observer, it’s almost unthinkable to see this kind of tension between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Sure that the daughter and son of presidents of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, they may marry and get divorce, but the bond between the Kazak and Kyrgyz people otherwise is unbreakable, right? So that’s a reference to Akayev, for those who know. The point is that we have, for a long time, thought that this relationship between the Kazakhs and the Kyrgyz is a strong one. In some of the survey data that Marlene and I are looking at, indeed, that it’s reflected, right?

When Kyrgyz are asked what do they think about Kazakhstan, 83% of them, that’s a poll from 2011, said they hold Kazakhstan in a high regard, right? This is second only to Russia which, curiously, 97% hold in a high regard. The point is that these are perceived as fraternal countries, very close countries. The kind of spat that we see right now is unthinkable if it weren’t for what we saw following the September 19th meeting between Nazarbayev and Babanov, right?

This spat is all about this meeting between Babanov and Nazarbayev and this allegation, potentially correct, that Atambayev thought Nazarbayev was throwing the weight of Kazakhstan behind Babanov. I think there’s probably just cause for Atambayev to be upset. He said some very unflattering things about the Kazakh president, I think probably true things about the Kazakh president, but nonetheless unflattering. Nazarbayev responded by essentially shutting down a critical border point.

So, what’s the importance of this incident? For me, what this shows is that Atambayev was actually afraid that, despite the administrative resources, despite his control of the media, despite his control of the judiciary, he might not win, right? Why would you go after Kazakhstan? Why would you shoot yourself in the foot? Why would you challenge Nazarbayev? You would only do this if you were truly concerned that Babanov might win. So he went to this extreme measure because I think he actually thought that Babanov might win.

So the question Marlene posed was, what do we think about the future of Kyrgyzstan? One thing that I think is Kyrgyzstan may actually one day arrive at democracy, not because some politician wants it to arrive at democracy, but because they miscalculated. Atambayev miscalculated, right? I think Atambayev was afraid. Right after the election, the apology, there’s the apology to Nazarbayev. It could have been a little bit better phrased, kind of a Trumpian apology, but we get the apology to Nazarbayev. This was an ephemeral conflict based on Atambayev’s concern that Babanov was actually going to win.

So, yeah, I think we’re going to get to democracy in Kyrgyzstan, not by design, but by miscalculation. I think we almost saw that happen this time around. Okay, so that’s point two, and then the last point … I’m a little bit over. Just Uzbek factor. I’ll be short here.

Again, I don’t fully know the content of Babanov’s speech in Osh, in September 28th. I only know it was up there on public media. I only know how his speech was used by the current administration to sully Babanov’s image, right? This charge of Babanov trying to rally Uzbeks to his support, and then the using of this, the manipulation of this in the public media to turn people against Babanov.

What this shows is that, regrettably, Kyrgyzstan is not past this period of ethno-nationalism. What we saw in the 2010 parliamentary elections, what we saw in 2011 presidential elections. No candidate could have won if he or she did not raise the ethno-national flag. I thought we were past that in this election. Unfortunately, it came out again. This is still an issue that political elites calculate as salient and something that they can manipulate, move [inaudible 00:28:58] reopen that had partially healed.

That said, I am optimistic that perhaps a new president in Uzbekistan, a new president in Kyrgyzstan can build on some of the positive steps that happened over the past year and return to improving these relationships.

So, just to sum up, Kyrgyzstan, not yet a democracy, but might become one, and ethnic tensions still remain a political issue. That’s it.

Paul Stronski:

Okay, one of the problems with coming last is a lot of what you’ve planned to say has been said. I have fallen in the middle ground in this debate over the trajectory that Kyrgyzstan is going. I would agree with some of the positives of the story. I would agree that the election was held peaceful. Campaign was very unpredictable, exciting at times. Results were a surprise, at the same time, some of those results raised some questions.

The loser accepted the results, but I would agree with Eric that I’m not sure he had much choice, given the sort of political dynamics and everything that was at stake for him personally. The population has respected it and everything’s been peaceful since then.

When you look at the past, and I know it’s a low bar to compare it to, but it passed the test from what happened in the past. Given the history of political violence in the country, I’m just happy we’re not talking about that as opposed to the debate that we’re having here today. But I do agree, there are negatives. The election day violations, where they occurred, the use of administrative resources, judiciary targeting opposition, the black PR campaign that was vicious against Babanov. The focus on more personalities and the intrigue as opposed to policies, as well, I think is a troubling negative.

However, when you look at this, all this stuff, this really shouldn’t be a big surprise. We always compare Kyrgyzstan to its neighbors in Central Asia, but I think to see where it is on this democracy route, I think you can compare it to some of its neighbors, former Soviet states outside of Central Asia.

I think when you look at places like Georgia and Ukraine, they sometimes still struggle with this. I fully buy into the Atambayev was nervous because they can see how Saakashvili miscalculated and what ended up there. One of the places that every time I think about it, and this election has made me think about it even more, is that we never compare or bring Armenia together with Kyrgyzstan, but in many ways they’re quite similar.

They are both extremely poor, dependent on migration to Russia. They both are neither democratic, neither authoritarian, but somewhere in between. They have vibrant civil societies. They have oppositions which are allowed to go so far. They have political elites, who are tied to business elites, who have a deep desire to continue to hold and firmly hold on to power. Interestingly, they’re both moving towards a parliamentary system.

So I think this is something that we can watch and I think both of these countries are better than some of their neighbors, but they’re still a long way from the goal of where many of us in the West would like to see Kyrgyzstan.

I would also agree with Erica. I think civil society was quite engaged, but the choices that they really represented were people from the past. I didn’t see any new, fresh faces and I didn’t see any new real ideas out there on how to solve the problem. A lot of this was, “Let’s just keep the stability going”, but they’ve got huge economic problems. They have structural problems in their economy. I had no clue of what the answer that this new government and new president is going to take for that.

The country needs big lifeline investments and I don’t see any real move, either on the judiciary or anti-corruption fronts to deal with that. I think there are some possible concerns about extremism, not right now in the front, but when you look at what happened in Saint Petersburg last year, the connection to Central Asia, connections to Kyrgyzstan of some of these extremists. The government clamped down on the suspected extremists. I think there is some concerns that probably need to be addressed.

The fact that we really weren’t talking as much and have no clear vision of how the new president is going to deal with some of these issues I think is a negative coming out of this campaign. I also feel that the row with Kazakhstan, very similar to Eric, is troubling. It indicates that Atambayev and the party are willing to play the nationalism, play the populism for domestic grandstanding and also to tie the foreign policy to some of those same issues, which I think is very dangerous. Particularly when Kazakhstan is one of your most important neighbors, key investor, key market, key transportation route out of the country, it’s not the best fight to pick.

I also think Kazakhstan also raises questions about Uzbekistan. Both of these countries are large powers. Both of them can meddle in Kyrgyzstan if they want to. I’m very unclear if that’s what Kazakhstan is doing, but there’s been a lot of positive momentum between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and the willingness to play, either within Kyrgyzstan itself, with the Uzbek minority population, or within its foreign policy. There’s this idea that stronger powers are coming to board us. It’s troubling for the new hopes that we have for greater regional cooperation in Central Asia.

Now, what does this mean for the United States? First of all, it’s no surprise if I say that relations between Kyrgyzstan and the US have been strained in recent years. If you go back a decade, there’s frustration on the American side from this never ending bargaining on Manas. There’s continued frustration on the Kyrgyzstan end as well. The decision to close Manas, then the human rights [inaudible 00:36:14] of 2015. It’s been a sort of topsy-turvy couple of years.

I think any new president, and we have a new one here in the US too, is a time when you can just turn the page and start fresh. I think there’s probably some hopes among some Central Asian watchers here in Washington that now’s the time to do that. I also looked for a Tillerson statement. I didn’t see it and I was not surprised because this is a time when we have an administration that is looking inward. It’s an administration that is not valuing even some of our closest European and Asian allies. To think that it is actually going to be focusing much on Central Asia, I think is unrealistic.

I think Central Asia is always a hard lift to get senior people, either … better luck at the State Department than you do, from my experience, at the White House, where it’s difficult to get senior leadership attention on the region. Kyrgyzstan is more difficult than others.

I would also argue that this row with Kazakhstan reminds me and the people here of how prickly and difficult the relationship can be with Kyrgyzstan. So, I think that fight doesn’t do a lot of help even in distant parts of the country.

In just sort of preparing this, I was reading some stuff and I also read a “Time” Magazine interview with President Atambayev. He doesn’t have very nice things to say about the United States and both our current and our past president. If you haven’t read it … highly critical, saying United States doesn’t really care about democracy, all it cares is about its oil and gas and our own interests. Then, Trump’s the same way, except Trump is an isolationist and he’s just as bad. That’s not a way to … as a firing shot as you’re out the door, it’s not a way to set up an easy way to turn the page with your neighbor.

I think basically we are saying and it could very well expand, a growing vacuum of Western interest and Western and US power in the region. I don’t know what the ballast, particularly with Kyrgyzstan is to firm up the relationship. There’s greater ability to do that with some of Kyrgyzstan’s larger neighbors, but I’m not quite sure what that ballast is for Kyrgyzstan itself.

Finally, I also think what is interesting. We are seeing the US disengage. We’re seeing Russia had economic difficulties in its capacity to deal with Central Asia on the economic front. Its track record, at times, on the security front is not as strong as it has been in the past. This just brings me to whether Kazakhstan was meddling or not and what is Kazakhstan trying to do. It just raises the question of whether Kazakhstan, which is the economic power of the region, was it trying to throw its weight and is it seeing this vacuum of capacity on the Russian side, vacuum on the US side? Is this the start of a new era where we’re seeing Kazakhstan, maybe Uzbekistan down the road as well, really trying to take a greater role in the region? When you look at Kyrgyzstan, it’s the perfect place for Kazakhstan to start to do that.

Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgiIVSNfdhU

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