Russia and China are concerned about the US military presence in Asia
The USA is not going to withdraw the military base from the republic of Kyrgyzstan, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stated yesterday after the completion of negotiations with the Kyrgyz administration. “I would not be packing the bags,” Rumsfeld told US military men at the base deployed on the territory of Manas airport in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital.
The US Defense Secretary told reporters later that there was no threat to the US army base in Kyrgyzstan. The US troops were deployed in the post-Soviet republic on the base of bilateral and mutually beneficial agreements in December of 2001, Rumsfeld specified.
Acting Defense Minister of Kyrgyzstan, Ismail Isakov, confirmed the fact that the US Air Force army base would be preserved on the territory of Manas Airport in Bishkek. “The presence of the American army base on the territory of Kyrgyzstan solely depends on the situation in Afghanistan. Mr. Rumsfeld was correct when he said that the situation in Afghanistan had not been stabilized completely,” Isakov said.
The USA deployed the Gansi base in Kyrgyzstan in December of 2001 in connection with the military operation in Afghanistan. There are about 1,000 US military men serving at the base, nine KC-135 tanker transport planes and C-130 cargo planes.
The scandal around the base occurred on July 5th, when leaders of the countries included in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (incorporates Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) demanded the USA should specify terms for its air bases to stay in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The newly elected Kyrgyz President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, stated soon after his victory at the election on July 10th that there was no need for such considerable contingent of US Armed forces to be present in the region, for the situation in Afghanistan had experienced a radical change.
The US administration reacted to the above-mentioned events immediately. The President of the Nixon Center, Dmitry Simes, said in an interview with Vremya Novostei that the Russian administration showed a certain pressure on Kyrgyz authorities. Furthermore, the US Congress believes that the decision of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was based on Russia's and China's intention to oust American military men from the region. Richard Myers, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that Russia and China forced their colleagues to pass such a resolution.
US Defense Secretary personally arrived in Central Asia to look into the matter with US army bases. It is noteworthy that Rumsfeld visited Kyrgyzstan a short time ago – soon after the Kyrgyz revolution and the collapse of Askar Akayev's regime in the republic.
Major-General Vladimir Dvorkin, the senior specialists of the Institute of World Economics and International Relations told Vremya Novostei that “the statement from the new Kyrgyz administration could probably be initiated with Beijing's and Moscow's requirements.” “However, the pressure was not that strong to resist a possible contribution in the Kyrgyz economy on the part of the USA,” the expert said.
The USA has already assigned 750 million dollars of financial help to Kyrgyzstan during 14 years of the republic's independence. Apparently, the US administration is not going to stop these activities. However, as Mr. Rumsfeld put it, each state in the region should make its own decisions regarding relations with other states. The US defense secretary obviously implied that post-Soviet Asian states are supposed to take Washington's interests into consideration, pushing the ones of Moscow and Beijing aside.
Stephen Sestanovic, Bill Clinton's special advisor on the former Soviet states, said that the new Kyrgyz administration was highly interested in Mr. Rumsfeld's visit to Bishkek. “Kyrgyz President Bakiyev wanted to let Washington know that Kyrgyzstan was not going to put obstacles on NATO and the USA's way in their attempts to succeed in Afghanistan,” said he. According to Mr. Sestanovic, Moscow and Beijing made a mistake when they decided that they had obtained wider opportunities to win the support of Central Asian governmental regarding the question of US military bases. “I think that Kyrgyzstan has many reasons to value the cooperation with the USA. It is not all about the money here,” Stephen Sestanovic said.
The new Kyrgyz administration is skillfully using Moscow and Washington's confrontation in the region. Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has recently referred to Russia as the “explicit leader on the post-Soviet space.” “Achieving reciprocal security guarantees is a very important aspect of the Russian-Kyrgyz cooperation,” the Kyrgyz president emphasized. Mr. Bakiyev exemplified the statement with the fact that Russia opened its air base in the town of Kant in October of 2003.