- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 16, 2010

GREAT GAMESMANSHIP

Britain’s outspoken Prince Andrew shocked the U.S. ambassador in the Kyrgyz Republic with “astonishingly candid” comments at a hotel brunch, when he compared France to corrupt Central Asian governments, complained about meddling journalists and proclaimed a new round of the “Great Game” between London and Moscow for influence in the region.

Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller described the brunch with Andrew, the British ambassador in Kyrgyzstan and several British business executives in a confidential cable to Washington in October 2008, which was released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

“Astonishingly candid, the discussion at times verged on the rude (from the British side),” Mrs. Gfoeller said.

British Ambassador Paul Brummell organized the brunch in a hotel dining room to brief Andrew on his meeting with Igor Chudinov, Kyrgyz prime minister from 2007 to 2009.

British corporate executives complained about the difficulty of doing business in a corrupt country where they were “harassed and hounded by Kyrgyz tax authorities,” Mrs. Gfoeller said.

“In an astonishing display of candor in a public hotel where the brunch was taking place, all of the businessmen then chorused that nothing gets done in Kyrgyzstan if President [Kurmanek] Bakiyev’s son Maxim does not get ‘his cut.’ “

Mrs. Gfoeller, referring to Andrew by his title, the Duke of York, said he laughed “uproariously, saying that: ‘All of this sounds exactly like France.’ “

The businessmen also complained that the Kyrgyz government will not attract more Western investment unless it respects business contracts and adopts transparent and predictable policies; however, they said Chinese, Kazakh and Russian businessmen seem not to mind the chaotic government practices.

“Returning to what is obviously a favorite theme, Prince Andrew cracked: ‘They won’t need to make any changes to attract the French, either,’ ” Mrs. Gfoeller reported.

She quoted Andrew complaining about “[expletive] journalists … who poke their noses everywhere” and expose corruption among British companies in Central Asia.

Andrew also laid down a challenge to Russia, which is trying to exert its influence in Central Asia, by declaring a second round of the “Great Game,” a reference to the 19th-century competition between the British and Russian empires to expand into that region.

Mrs. Gfoeller added, “More animated than ever, [Andrew] stated cockily: ‘And this time we aim to win!’ “

SOUP TO NUTS

In her own candid report on the Kyrgyz leadership, U.S. AmbassadorTatiana Gfoeller revealed that Maxim Bakiyev, the president’s son, has his own computer hackers who regularly read communications from the Russian secret service.

At a lunch last year with Mr. Bakiyev, the ambassador noted that the man described in the Kyrgyz press as the “power behind the throne” presented himself as “pro-U.S., well-educated and dedicated to the betterment of his country.”

“Of course,” she added, “we have information from many other sources suggesting that he is also very dedicated to his own advancement and corrupt financial interests.”

Mr. Bakiyev complained that the Russians “play an unhelpful role in many issues,” Mrs. Gfoeller noted in her report to the State Department, which was released by WikiLeaks.

“However, he said, ‘I have my own very good computer experts, and we are able to intercept and read FSB communications,’ ” she said, referring to Moscow’s Federal Security Service by its Russian initials.

Mr. Bakiyev also grumbled “that the Russians are racist in their view of the Kyrgyz,” she said in her report, titled “Soup to Nuts.”

*Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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