A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Manas Story Continues to Develop

The behind-the-scenes maneuvering over the Manas Air Base (earlier postings here) gets another twist: a Kyrgyz politician not only says that the US may well stay at Manas, but adds that the issue will be worked out between Washington and Moscow, not Washington and Bishkek.

Ah, the Great Game's afoot again. Lord Curzon would be impressed. Russia seems to have shown its power here by pressuring Kyrgyzstan, but then perhaps realized that undercutting US operations in Afghanistan is not exactly in Russia's long-term interest if it helps the Taliban, so now Russia is going to deal directly, as the regional great power, with the US. At least that's one possible reading. As I've noted before, Manas is a critical logistical support base for the Afghan operation, especially with growing pressures on the land supply routes through Pakistan. The message is clear: if you want to play in Russia's back yard, work it out with Russia directly. At least that's what this story seems to suggest.

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