Russian Official Urges Interim Kyrgyz Government to Shut US Air Base
A billboard, displaying Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev (R) and former Kyrgyz leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev, is seen in the town of Jalalabad in southern Kyrgyzstan April 10, 2010. Kyrgyzstan on Saturday buried several of those killed in the overthrow of the government, while security concerns prompted the U.S. military to halt troop flights from its base in the Central Asian state. (REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov)
A Russian official urged the interim Kyrgyzstan Government to shut the US air base in Manas this week. Russia is suspected in having a hand in the unrest in the Central Asian nation this week after pro-Russian opposition forces took over the government. Vlad Putin was the first world leader to recognize the opposition as the legitimate government following the bloody street battles.
Russian-backed coup or not, the uprising in Kyrgyzstan means the United States may have to bargain hard to keep its last military base in Central Asia.
Turmoil in Kyrgyzstan has thrust the fate of the Manas air base — which is crucial for fighting the Afghan war — to the forefront of rivalry between the United States and Russia.
Russia has long dreamed of evicting the United States from Central Asia and a Russian official said on Thursday that Moscow would urge the interim Kyrgyz government to shut the U.S. base.
Suspicions of the Kremlin’s hand in the unrest were raised when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin became the first world leader to recognize the authority of the self-proclaimed government, just hours after it took power.
Washington has been more guarded, refusing to endorse either President Kurmanbek Bakiyev or the self-proclaimed government leaders, some of whom have already raised the specter of shutting the base.
China, which shares a land border with Kyrgyzstan, has been largely silent.
Barack Obama signed a nuclear agreement with Russia this week.