Bush Foresees Changes in the Caucasus, Central Asia

St Petersburg Times, Russia
May 23 2005

Bush Foresees Changes in the Caucasus, Central Asia

By Anatoly Medetsky
STAFF WRITER

MOSCOW – U.S. President George W. Bush predicted more democratic
changes across the Caucasus and Central Asia and pledged Washington
would help new democratic governments.

Speaking at a Washington dinner on Wednesday evening given by the
International Republican Institute, Bush recalled the arrival of
democratic governments in the former Soviet republics of Georgia,
Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan as well as in Iraq and Lebanon in the last 18
months and said more countries would follow.

“These are just the beginnings,” Bush said, according to a transcript
of his speech published on the White House’s web site. “Across the
Caucasus and Central Asia, hope is stirring at the prospect of change
– and change will come.”

The comments appeared aimed at the former Soviet republics of Armenia
and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus and Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan,
Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in Central Asia.

Bush also announced a plan to create an Active Response Corps within
the State Department by 2006 that would be on call to quickly deploy
staff to crisis situations in countries that overthrow “tyranny” and
elect pro-Western governments.

The U.S. federal budget for 2006 will request $24 million for this
office and $100 million for a new Conflict Response Fund, Bush said.

The IRI, a pro-Republican Party nonprofit organization dedicated to
advancing democracy worldwide, was helping Poland, Lithuania and
Latvia in an effort “to bring freedom” to Belarus, he said.

Russia is jittery about conceding ground to the United States in the
CIS, its traditional sphere of influence. Federal Security Service
director Nikolai Patrushev said last week that the revolutions in
Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan showed that “certain forces in the
West were trying to weaken Russia’s influence” over its neighbors.

He also claimed that IRI had earmarked $5 million to finance
opposition groups in Belarus this year, but an IRI spokeswoman said
the organization spent about $500,000 annually on programs in Belarus
and that none of it went to political parties.

No official reaction to Bush’s comments came from Moscow on Thursday.
The chairman of the State Duma’s International Relations Committee,
Konstantin Kosachyov, could not be immediately reached for comment,
and the Foreign Ministry had no comment, a spokesman said.

Independent political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky said Bush’s
predictions and promises of help to possible new democracies in the
former Soviet Union would not hurt relations between Russia and the
United States.

“We haven’t been making any efforts to stabilize the situation in
these areas,” he said, referring to last week’s uprising in
Uzbekistan, which left hundreds dead, as an example of the region’s
instability. “That’s why [the United States] began to deal with
this.”

Timofei Bordachyov, deputy editor of the Russia in Global Affairs
journal, said the Active Response Corps would most likely help new
pro-Western governments handle refugee crises, rein in public
disorder and build Western-style institutions.

The promise of such help would not, in and of itself, necessarily
spark new revolutions because what really causes them is corruption
and poverty, he said.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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