Apparently when Hillary was in Astana there were about 200 people in her delegation. I was just at the Radisson today where she and all others stayed for two days. Some other guys and I brought in 15 boxes for the book sale tomorrow for the Charity Bazaar. People are STILL talking about the summit, getting back to normal. (If you call way below zero temps normal?) At least the wicked wind isn’t blowing as hard as it was during the summit.
I had an epiphany moment this morning when I woke up. I had talked to my PDP class yesterday about people back in the U.S. not hearing or knowing about this summit conference that involved up to 65 nations. I know that realization was insulting to some Kazakhs who saw all the money that was poured into this extravagant show in order to make it happen. Perhaps if a bomb or something had blown off somewhere, the media might have been all over it. Kind of like what happened at Tianamen Square back in 1989, that is when CNN and 24/7 news coverage really took off. But no, this was a peaceful conference and it stayed that way because of all the extra precautions to keep everyone safe.
My epiphany is that journalists have their Mr. Bottomlines editors and publishers. Too much expense would go into the airfares alone to get to this summit by the most earnest of journalists. Astana isn’t cheap once you try to find food and shelter either! I know one blogger recently wrote she would have gladly come to Kazakhstan but it would have cost her $4,000 roundtrip. That’s what we are talking about people, Kazakhstan is close to the “ends of the earth” Through no fault of its own, and I know some Kazakh people would be greatly offended by this statement, but it is NOT easy to get to Kazakhstan.
Hillary was here in Central Asia back in 1997, she kept referring to that last trip she took in her speeches, interviews and town hall meetings. She could have come on other junkets a lot earlier but she got a lot of mileage out of this most recent trip to Astana and then to Bishkek. Hillary seemed genuinely pleased to be in both places and I kept looking for her to emphasize even more strongly about human rights issues.
I was very interested in what Hillary said in Bishkek when she made a quick trip there after spending a few days in Astana. She was answering someone’s question about the color revolutions. I thought her answers were well-informed. That is the kind of person we need in office right now, someone who knows their history and stands up and talks about hard issues. Very difficult issues face Central Asia because it takes many years to untangle all the webs of deceit that went on during the Soviet period.
Apparently Hillary is not going to run for the President’s office in 2012, which I find hard to believe. But she made that announcement in the last few days. I can’t imagine keeping up the pace she did in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere. She has been doing just that for the last 20-30 years. I think she wants to rest and maybe retire from public scrutiny.
That’s the thing about democracy, I can say or write if I don’t like her and people are okay with that. To each his own. But there are places, even in Central Asia, where you would not DARE to say something against your elected official in office. I found it very interesting to read through the Larry King interview of Putin. Yes, now THERE’s an election to watch in the next few years. Read on what Hillary said to her Bishkek audience about democracy and elections and revolutions. I got this off of this blog with the screen name of “Still4Hill.” Loyal Hillary supporter.
SECRETARY CLINTON: “Well, first, let me say we did not control or direct any of the Color Revolutions. The United States has always stood for democracy. We have always encouraged people to speak out for human rights. And we were very pleased when the former Soviet Union dissolved, and people were given a chance to go back to their own country, have their own governments, and chart their own futures. But that’s a relatively short period of time in human history, because, remember, it was 1989, 1990, 1991 when all of this happened. So 20 years is not a lot of time for countries to have a stable, functioning democracy.
But I think if you look at all of the countries that came out from under the Soviet Union – Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, all of these countries – they are functioning very well. They are members of the European Union, they have solid democracies, they have free market economies, they respect human rights. I think Georgia has economically developed very well…
Well, there is a lot to admire about what Georgia has accomplished. Georgia has accomplished economic growth, Georgia has accomplished some important reforms against corruption. Georgia has some challenges. And, of course, they have a real problem with Russia. They had a war in 2008, and they had lost two of their provinces, which Russia claims are not independent nations that they have recognized. So, Georgia, under very difficult circumstances, has accomplished quite a lot.
Ukraine, after the Orange Revolution, had an opportunity. But I will tell you, one of the problems in Ukraine is that the people in the government could not figure out how to cooperate, and they could not make decisions. And, as a result, they did not produce the kinds of changes that people expected after the Orange Revolution. They have a new government now. Their new president is trying a different approach, because, of course, they neighbor Russia. Russia was quite concerned about the Orange Revolution and about the elections that brought reformers to power. So now the new administration in Ukraine is trying to get along with Russia, Europe, and the United States, everybody. And they are trying to do a balancing act. We will see how it works. Not clear yet how it will work.
Kyrgyzstan, in my view, has a second chance with what you have just done. You had some real difficulties with coming out of the authoritarian regime imposed by the former Soviet Union. And many of the people who have come to power immediately out of the old Communist Party apparatus knew nothing about democracy. You can’t really expect someone whose only experience was in a totalitarian system, a command economy, to automatically understand everything about how complicated democracies are.
So, I think you are off to a good start, but it is just a start. Elections are just the beginning, they’re not the end of the democratic process. So you have a lot of work ahead. And the people have to hold the leaders accountable for getting together to solve problems, because that’s what democracies have to do. So, I hope next year, year after, in 5 and 10 years, we will look back and say that Kyrgyzstan is setting the model for this part of the world. And that’s what I would like to see.” (Applause.)