Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has a good article today on the – shock, shock – “Russia connection” to this week’s uprising in Kyrgyzstan. An icky aspect of this tale is that the US is widely perceived to have been bolstering the cartoonishly corrupt regime of ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiev, by paying him big bucks to lease the air base at Manas for support to NATO operations in Afghanistan.
Bakiev, who was approved by Moscow when he seized power in 2005, has been steadily disappointing Russians ever since. Moscow gave him a long leash when it came to Kyrgyz debt and the inflow of much-needed natural gas, electric power, and infrastructure investment; but everyone has known Bakiev was pocketing pretty much anything in Kyrgyzstan that walked and talked like a commercial profit, and skinning the country’s people and independent businesses to service debt.
Still, he was Moscow’s S.O.B., until he decided in June 2009 – against his own previous announcement and his parliament’s vote in February 2009 – to let the US Air Force keep using the Manas base, so that he could keep raking in the lease money. The US lease was renewed again, with little fanfare, in mid-March 2010. Russia’s ambition remains getting the US out of the former Soviet republics entirely, and Bakiev kept heading the wrong direction. Given the expectations Moscow has for the new government in Bishkek, closing Manas to our forces will now get easier.
A strange l… >>>