Kyrgyzstan’s president-to-be, Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev, and his political allies seem intent on calibrating the cash-strapped country’s foreign policy so that it aligns with Bishkek’s dire economic needs. This is likely to force Kyrgyz officials into a delicate balancing act in which they are challenged to keep the country’s two largest trading partners -- Russia and China – happy.
Atambayev made membership in a Moscow-led customs union, along with a general orientation toward Russia, a cornerstone of his successful presidential campaign, even though making good on such a pledge could threaten the crucial trade relationship with China by muddling tariff policy. At the same time, Kyrgyz policymakers, including Atambayev’s allies, are taking steps to assuage potential Chinese concerns by helping Beijing fulfill an old dream: construction of a Chinese-Kyrgyz-Uzbek railway.
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Chris Rickleton is a Bishkek-based journalist.