Kyrgyz Republic - Foreign Relations
Kyrgyzstan's foreign policy has been controlled by two considerations--first, that the country is too small and too poor to be economically viable without considerable outside assistance, and second, that it lies in a volatile corner of the globe, vulnerable to a number of unpleasant possibilities. These two considerations have influenced substantially the international position taken by Kyrgyzstan, especially toward the developed nations and its immediate neighbors.
Akayev and his ministers traveled the globe tirelessly since independence, seeking relations and partners. In the first four years of independence, Akayev visited the United States, Turkey, Switzerland, Japan, Singapore, and Israel. His emissaries have also been to Iran, Lebanon, and South Africa, and his prime minister made a trip through most of Europe. One consequence of these travels is that by 1996 Kyrgyzstan was recognized by 120 nations and had diplomatic relations with sixty-one of them. The United States embassy opened in Bishkek in February 1992, and a Kyrgyzstani embassy was established in Washington later that year. Kyrgyzstan is a member of most major international bodies, including the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the World Bank, the IMF, and the EBRD. It has also joined the Asian Development Bank, the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), and the Islamic Bank.
Akayev stressed repeatedly that the principle behind his search for contacts is strict neutrality; Kyrgyzstan is a small, relatively resource-poor, remote nation more likely to seek help from the world community than to contribute to it. Especially in the first months of independence, Akayev stressed Kyrgyzstan's intellectual and political potential, hoping to attract the world community to take risks in an isolated experiment in democracy. Akayev referred to making his nation an Asian Switzerland, transformed by a combination of international finance and the light, clean industry, mostly electronic, that he expected to spring up from conversion of the Soviet-era defense industries. Largely because of Akayev's reputation and personality, Kyrgyzstan became the largest per capita recipient of foreign aid in the CIS.
However, the decay of the domestic economy and increasing dissatisfaction among constituents made the Akayev government distinctly less optimistic about the degree to which it can rely upon the distant world community. At the same time, political and social developments in the republic's immediate area directed the republic's attention increasingly to foreign policy concerns much closer to home.
The Kyrgyz Republic maintains close relations with other former Soviet countries, particularly with Kazakhstan and Russia. Recognizing Russia's concerns about the Russian-speaking minority in the Kyrgyz Republic, President Akayev was sensitive to potential perceptions of discrimination. For example, although the 1993 constitution designates Kyrgyz as the state language, an amendment to the constitution in 2001 granted official status to the Russian language. The amended December 30, 2006 constitution reaffirmed the status of the two languages, which was subsequently reaffirmed in the 2010 constitution.
While the Kyrgyz Republic initially remained in the ruble zone, stringent conditions set by the Russian Government prompted the Kyrgyz Republic to introduce its own currency, the som, in May 1993. Withdrawal from the ruble zone was done with little prior notification and initially caused tensions in the region. Both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan temporarily suspended trade, and Uzbekistan even introduced restrictions tantamount to economic sanctions. Both nations feared an influx of rubles and an increase in inflation. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan's hostility toward the Kyrgyz Republic was short-lived, and the three nations signed an agreement in January 1994 creating an economic union. Economic cooperation within the region, though, is still hampered by unilateral barriers created by the Kyrgyz Republic's neighbors. The Kyrgyz Republic has been active in furthering regional cooperation, such as joint military exercises with Uzbek and Kazakh troops.
Turkey has sought to strengthen its cultural and ethnic links to the region and has found the Kyrgyz Republic receptive to cultivating bilateral relations. The Kyrgyz Republic is a member of the OSCE, the CIS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the WTO, and the United Nations. Since December 2001, the Kyrgyz Republic hosted the Transit Center at Manas International Airport, an important logistical hub for the coalition effort in Afghanistan.
Kyrgyzstan is looking to deepen its military cooperation with China, the Central Asian republic's president said on 15 June 2012. "We have received evidence that China is a country which earnestly wants to see the stability and economic development of Kyrgyzstan," President Almazbek Atambayev said following talks in Bishkek with Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the general staff of China's People's Liberation Army. "We are determined to develop our relations in all spheres. I hope the Chinese People's Liberation Army will expand cooperation with our army." Emphasis will be laid on fighting "terrorism, extremism and separatism," Atambayev said.
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