Last autumn, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kyrgyz counterpart Almazbek Atambayev tried to clarify the Kremlin’s energy ambitions in Central Asia: Putin promised massive Russian investment in the impoverished country’s hydropower sector in return for an Atambayev pledge to enhance economic and security cooperation. But back in Moscow, reservations about the wisdom of investing in Kyrgyzstan are strong.
On the surface, the hydropower project has received the green light at every turn, coming a step closer to reality on April 16, when the Russian State Duma passed a resolution affirming intentions to build both Kambarata-1 – a giant dam that Kyrgyzstan hopes will turn the country into a major electricity exporter – and four smaller generators further upstream on the Naryn River.
Nevertheless, the costs and risks, the uncertain economies, and neighboring Uzbekistan’s perennial opposition still have the potential to turn feet cold in Moscow, say analysts.
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Chris Rickleton is a Bishkek-based journalist.