The member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) finally took resolute action to assist fellow member, Kyrgyzstan, which remains vulnerable to further mass violence and other disorders due to its multiple difficulties. At a meeting this weekend, the foreign ministers of the 56-state grouping endorsed a package plan to increase the OSCE's presence in the region as a catalyst to mobilize additional international support for the beleaguered country. The same governments will meet again in a few days, at a session of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, where they should endorse the intervention package.
At the session, Kanat Saudabayev, the foreign minister and state secretary of Kazakhstan, which currently holds the annually rotating OSCE chairmanship, said that the organization's ability to stabilize the situation in Kyrgyzstan will be "a test of the OSCE's vitality." This is certainly true, but it is also unfortunate, since the OSCE lacks the resources or coherence of other multilateral security institutions active in Central Asia. That said, these other institutions have studiously avoided deep involvement in the Kyrgyz morass. So the OSCE represents the best mechanism at this time for restoring stability in a country situated in a vitally important region.
The specific precipitating factor for the most recent round of fighting, which began on June 10 in the southern city of Osh, remains unclear. But the underlying causes for the continuing instability in Kyrgyzstan are apparent. It is an impoverished country with artificial borders and a weak and divided political class, penetrated by drug dealers and Islamist extremists. It is also of little intrinsic importance to the great powers, who see Kyrgyzstan primarily as a transit route to and from Afghanistan and other countries.