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April 12, 2010
Obama's upside down foreign policy in Kyrgyzstan
What are the consequences of having a president who doesn't know what he's doing with regard to our foreign policy?
For one thing, he makes Vladmir Putin look like a champion of human rights:
In a remarkable role reversal, Russia has positioned itself as a supporter of democratic reform and the protests that toppled this nation's autocratic president, while the United States is increasingly viewed here as a cynical bully, backing a corrupt, abusive leader who refuses to resign.
Those perceptions, expressed by ordinary people as well as members of the opposition coalition now in control of most of Kyrgyzstan, have been fueled by Moscow's quick embrace of the new government and Washington's more cautious response -- and it could spell trouble for a U.S. air base here critical to the NATO campaign in Afghanistan.
Opponents of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who has gone into hiding in the nation's south, have long accused the United States of refraining from criticizing his record of political repression out of fear of losing access to the Manas air base. Now they are asking why the Obama administration has yet to endorse their interim government -- and whether such hesitation might embolden Bakiyev to attempt to retake power by force.
At the same time, the new Kyrgyz administration has thanked Russia for ratcheting up economic pressure on Bakiyev in the months before this week's protests and for publicly describing his government as ridden with corruption and nepotism. In remarks that might surprise Russia's own hard-pressed democratic opposition, several members of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling party have called for Kyrgyzstan's interim leaders to undertake political reforms.
Anyone see a pattern here? The US fails to embrace the Iranian reformers, favoring the mullahs instead. We have also been nearly silent as Hugo Chavez has cracked down on dissent even further, arresting independent media leaders and opposition figures. From the Americas to the steppes of Asia, this administration has utterly failed to back the forces of reform - even, as in Kyrgyzstan, where vital American interests are at stake.
This is the topper; the thug Russian autocrat is seen as being on the side of democracy while Obama's America is hesitant and confused.