OCT. 31 2014 (The Conway Bulletin) – In an article for a policy website, the US ambassador in Bishkek, Pamela Spratlen, appeared to cement Kyrgyzstan’s place as an ideological sparring ground between Washington and the Kremlin.
In particular, Ms Spratlen, who has been the US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan since April 2011 highlighted the differences between Washington and the Kremlin over Russia’s aim to pull Kyrgyzstan into the Eurasian Economic Union as well as their divergent views over gay rights.
“Another challenge to our efforts to support Kyrgyzstan’s democracy is its growing partnership with Russia,” she wrote on Council of American Ambassadors website, a website for essays written by senior US diplomats. “It remains an unanswered question how Kyrgyzstan can maintain its democratic trajectory while pursuing this partnership.”
Ms Spratlen specifically said the Customs Union, which will become the Eurasian Economic Union next year and grow to include Kyrgyzstan and Armenia alongside Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, was as much about politics as economics.
Legislation passing through Kyrgyzstan’s parliament bears all the hallmarks of Russian political influence. A parliamentary bill forbidding “positive attitudes towards non-traditional sexual orientations” was overwhelmingly endorsed at its first reading last month, echoing a similar bill passed in 2013 in Russia.
Importantly, Ms Spratlen said Kyrgyzstan may be sleep walking into membership of the Eurasian Economic Union because it feels like it has no choice, especially as it is surrounded by more authoritarian countries in Central Asia.
“Both officials and business leaders appear unenthused, but resigned to this choice, seeing a lack of better options,” she wrote.
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(News report from Issue No. 207, published on Nov. 5 2014)