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Russia: Bishkek set us up!

Russia is not happy that the government of Kyrgyzstan changed their mind and decided to allow the U.S. to continue operating at Manas airbase. But then, if I gave someone $2.1 billion for nothing, I’d be pretty upset too:   “The news about the preservation of the base was an extremely unpleasant surprise for us. ...

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (R) talks to his Kyrgyz counterpart Kurmanbek Bakiyev during a signing ceremony in Moscow on February 3, 2009. The Kyrgyz government has decided to set a deadline for the closure of a US air base that serves as a key supply route for NATO forces in Afghanistan, but the United States hoped to continue using an airbase in Kyrgyzstan despite threats to close it, a Pentagon spokesman said, calling it "hugely important" for the resupply of US forces. AFP PHOTO / POOL/ ALEXANDER NEMENOV (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia is not happy that the government of Kyrgyzstan changed their mind and decided to allow the U.S. to continue operating at Manas airbase. But then, if I gave someone $2.1 billion for nothing, I'd be pretty upset too:

 

Russia is not happy that the government of Kyrgyzstan changed their mind and decided to allow the U.S. to continue operating at Manas airbase. But then, if I gave someone $2.1 billion for nothing, I’d be pretty upset too:

 

“The news about the preservation of the base was an extremely unpleasant surprise for us. We did not anticipate such a dirty trick,” the foreign ministry source told Kommersant.

[…]

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the decision to close the base in February during a visit to Moscow — on the same day that Russia unveiled a generous aid package to his impoverished country.

In the package, Russia agreed to settle an estimated 180-million-dollar debt owed by Bishkek to Moscow, extend Kyrgyzstan a grant worth 150 million dollars, and loan it two billion dollars more, news agencies reported at the time.

Russia has consistently denied playing any role in Kyrgyzstan’s decision to close the base. But the base’s presence had long irritated Moscow, which sees it as an intrusion into its former Soviet domains in Central Asia.

I understand why keeping Manas open is important to the war effort in Afghanistan, but being played like this by Kyrgyzstan against Russia for the personal enrichment of Kurmanbek Bakiyev (the U.S. is paying three times the original rent in order to keep the base open) can’t feel like much of a victory for the Pentagon.

AFP/Getty Images 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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