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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Foresees Changes in Caucasus, Central Asia

U.S. President George W. Bush predicted more democratic changes across the Caucasus and Central Asia -- areas that were once part of the Soviet Union -- 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" on 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.