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Russian and U.S. Cooperation in Kyrgyzstan
BayBak, Azerbaijan | 814 days ago | Thursday, 3rd March , 2011 , 07:33 [am] | Azerbaijan
|.||As the United States and Russia have strengthened ties since their â€œresetâ€ in relations, one country that has witnessed significant developments between the two â€” in the form of deals and visits â€” is Kyrgyzstan. Russia, which has developed a more complex and nuanced foreign policy as a result of its strong geopolitical position, has an interest in cooperating with Washington and NATO in the war effort in Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan is an important component of such cooperation. But Russiaâ€™s partnership with the United States coincides with its own increased military and political presence in Kyrgyzstan, which gives Moscow the final say on what transpires in the country.|
As the United States and Russia have strengthened ties since their â€œresetâ€ in relations, one country that has witnessed significant developments between the two â€” in the form of deals and visits â€” is Kyrgyzstan. Russia, which has developed a more complex and nuanced foreign policy as a result of its strong geopolitical position, has an interest in cooperating with Washington and NATO in the war effort in Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan is an important component of such cooperation. But Russiaâ€™s partnership with the United States coincides with its own increased military and political presence in Kyrgyzstan, which gives Moscow the final say on what transpires in the country.
Kyrgyzstan is not the most important issue for Moscow and Washington, but it is a strategic part of their relations because it hosts the only U.S. military base in Central Asia, the Transit Center at Manas . The base functions as an important logistical hub for NATO air operations in Afghanistan and runs aerial refueling operations in Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan is also part of the Northern Distribution Network , which transits non-lethal supplies and cargo through Russia and its former Soviet republics and serves as a supplement to supply routes running through Pakistan.
A recent spate of deals involving Kyrgyzstan and important visits by U.S. and Russian officials to the country indicate that Washington and Moscow are increasing their ties in the Kyrgyz arena. Kyrgyzstan and Russia reached a deal Feb. 18 to form a joint venture, Gazpromneft-Aero-Kyrgyzstan, which will supply fuel to the Manas air base. This follows an agreement between the United States and Kyrgyzstan that will allow Kyrgyzstan to supply the Manas air base with up to 50 percent of its gasoline and jet fuel needs, though STRATFOR sources say Russia will actually supply 100 percent of the baseâ€™s fuel, but 50 percent will be distributed through nominally Kyrgyz entities.
Also, an agreement has been reached for Russian crude and refined products to be supplied to the United States in Kyrgyzstan for re-export to Afghanistan. According to STRATFOR sources, the Russians will be doing this for free as a favor to the United States. However, it is not clear whether Kyrgyzstan will be getting payment or tax revenues from this deal, as this is a result of bilateral discussions between the United States and Russia, with Kyrgyzstan largely left out of the talks.
Furthermore, only two days before the fuel supply joint venture was created, the commander of Russiaâ€™s Kant air base in Kyrgyzstan, Oleg Molostov, paid a visit to Manas air base. This was the first such visit from a Kant official to Manas, even though the bases are only roughly 30 kilometers (20 miles) from each other. U.S. and Russian military officials have discussed increasing communication between the two sides and pledged to hold future visits between the two bases. Molostovâ€™s visit will likely not increase military ties in any significant manner, but the visit was symbolically significant, as the Russians always refused previous invitations to visit Manas.
These signs of rapprochement between Moscow and Washington come amid Russiaâ€™s plans for the unilateral expansion of its military footprint in Kyrgyzstan. Russia has announced its intention to create a unified Russian base structure in Kyrgyzstan , which would consolidate Russiaâ€™s military facilities in the country under a single, joint command. A deal was signed between Russian and Kyrgyz defense officials to this effect in September 2010, though it is unclear when exactly this will come to fruition or what the unified base will entail. Russia also plans to open a military training center in southern Kyrgyzstan, where instability has been highest , though STRATFOR sources say there is already a substantial contingent of Russian troops in the region temporarily stationed outside of Osh. There had been plans under consideration for the United States to build a training center in this region, though those plans were scrapped after the April 2010 uprising that swept former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev from power. Russia could include the United States in some way in its plans for a new training facility. How this plays out will be a true test for U.S.-Russian relations in Kyrgyzstan.
Ultimately, Moscow and Washington have an interest in working together to keep Kyrgyzstanâ€™s simmering problems from boiling over. Ethnic tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks remain, and fresh instability could erupt due to poor economic conditions, rising food prices, and the weakness of the current government and security forces . Russia also wants to show that it is a reliable partner for U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan, where rising levels of violence threaten the southern frontier of Moscowâ€™s sphere of influence. Indeed, the significant progress made by the United States against the Taliban in Afghanistan could reduce militancy in Central Asia. Russia knows it is in a strong position in Kyrgyzstan â€” it has entrenched its influence in the country over the past year, and Kyrgyz political delegations frequently fly to Moscow to gain approval from the Kremlin â€” and does not need to strong-arm Western states to prove its point.
In the coming months, it is highly likely that cooperation will increase between Russia and the United States in Kyrgyzstan. However, the Kyrgyz issue is just one area of Russiaâ€™s evolving foreign policy strategy with the West â€” one that Moscow will continue to use as a lever in the larger game with the United States.eurasianet, Voice of a Nation