Russia, Uzbekistan and Osh
The move by Kyrgyzstan's interim president, Roza Otunbayeva, to appeal for Russian military intervention to stop the ethnic violence in Osh and the rest of southern Kyrgyzstan, could be a geopolitical watershed for the country and for Central Asia in general. The last twenty years have shown that, when Russian troops intervene somewhere in Eurasia, they tend not to leave (see: Tajikistan, South Ossetia, Abkhazia). As of now, Russia says it is only considering intervening:
A spokeswoman for President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia said that no decision on providing military aid would be made until at least Monday, when Russia will consult with other members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a regional security alliance of former Soviet republics.
“A decision about deploying peacekeeping forces to Kyrgyzstan can only be made collectively with all members of the C.S.T.O.,” the spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, said Saturday evening. She also said that Russia was continuing to ship humanitarian assistance, including medicine, to Kyrgyzstan.
But 24.kg reports that additional Russian military planes have already been arriving at Kant air base near Bishkek:
According to the sources of the NA 24.kg in the Kyrgyz Ministry of Defense, three aircrafts Il-76 are landing at the Kant air base, they departed from Ramenskoe Airport, located in Moscow region (Zhukovsky city). According to information that requires to be clarified, they are delivering to Kyrgyzstan not only humanitarian commodity, but also Russian militaries.
(Those militaries, it should be noted, are likely just protecting the Russian forces now at Kant; the same thing happened when the original revolution happened and lots of Russophobes freaked out, so some caution is required here.)
Meanwhile, some civil society groups have asked the UN instead for help, while others have appealed to Russia. And no one appears to be asking the U.S. for its intervention. (It's not in that online story, but in the U.S. ambassador's interview on TV, she said "the U.S. doesn't do military aid," which is of course laughable in general and also particularly in this case, since a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Bishkek said just five days ago that the U.S. was paying $5.5 million to renovate a training base in Osh.)
A couple of days ago, before all this happened, someone who knows Otunbayeva told me that she is in over her head. "She is an intelligent, sophisticated woman, who is not corrupt and genuinely wants democracy. But she is unsuited for this situation. Kyrgyzstan needs someone tough now."
The move to invite Russia in appears to be made from fear, and possibly from fear that Uzbekistan might get involved on the side of its ethnic kin. Analyst Erica Marat, who has good contacts with the Kyrgyzstan military, said that the military has contributed to the problem: it is dominated by ethnic Kyrgyz, as the authorities do not trust Uzbeks, and the military has been implicated in some of the recent violence in Osh.
Uzbekistan, however, has made an attempt to tamp down tensions, and is basically accusing Russia of being behind the violence:
There is every reason to conclude that such actions are organized, managed and provocative character, they have an ambitious goal to provoke inter-ethnic confrontation, create intolerable conditions for national minorities living in southern Kyrgyzstan.
We have no doubt that all this takes place at the instigation of forces, whose interests are totally remote from the interests of the Kyrgyz people.
All that is happening today in Osh, in any measure does not meet the traditional centuries-old, tried and tested history of the relations of friendship and cooperation between all nations and nationalities in Kyrgyzstan.
The situation now in Osh, and in the rest of Kyrgyzstan, is so fluid that any analysis is bound to be incomplete. But the Kyrgyz appear to have a (mostly unfounded) fear of the Uzbeks and Uzbekistan has a (mostly unfounded) fear of the Russians. And that bodes ill for the good people of Osh.