Thursday, February 5, 2009

US Out of Central Asia

It looks like the Kyrgyz and Russian elites are collaborating to make the US's war plans in Afghanistan more difficult. A recent NY Times article reports that the Kyrgyz president ordered a US base at Manas, in Kyrgyzstan closed, and the Kyrgyz parliament is expected to second the decision.

This means that "the Obama administration" is going to have to "come up with an alternative to a crucial United States air base in Central Asia, used to supply the growing military operation in Afghanistan." The article underscored the importance of the base by noting that "about 15,000 personnel and 500 tons of cargo pass through Manas each month. The base is also the home of large tanker aircraft that are used for in-air refueling of fighter planes on combat missions over Afghanistan."

Russia is presumed to play a key role in the move. The article noted that it "was using an offer of more than $2 billion in loans and grants to Kyrgyzstan to force the United States out of the region" In short, a State Department official summarized the situation by saying that "fundamentally it comes to money, and the Russians are trying to buy us out."

This is the latest episode in an ongoing, subtle chess match between the US and Russia throughout Central Asia and Central and Eastern Europe, extending all the way back to the fall of the Soviet Union, and more recently including the "color" revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyztan, as well as the recent rumblings about independence for Kosovo and the semi-autonomous regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia within Georgia.

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