CHECKMATE UNDONE? A VIEW OF THE KYRGYZ BASE ISSUE
"I believe this will only benefit the common cause, the common fight against terrorism,"
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev commenting on the Kyrgyz government's renewal of the American air base, announced on the 23rd of June. See: "U.S. transit center in Kyrgystan to help fight terror," in www.rian.ru
"Hah? where? what Angle of the world is this? that I can neyther see the politik face nor with my refinde Nostrills taste the Footesteps of anie of my disciples, Sonnes and heyres as well as my designes as Institution, I thought theyde spread ouer the world by this time couerd the Earths face and made darke the Land like the
AEgiptian Grasshoppers; here's too much Light appeares shot from the Eyes of truth and goodnes neuer yet deflowrde, sure they were neuer here, then is theire Monarchie Unperfect yet, a just reward I see for theire Ingratitude so long to me theire father and theire Founder"
Thomas Middleton, The Game at Chess, 1624. Spelling and punctuation as in the original.
Checkmate indeed! So it appeared earlier this year, when after what appeared to be Kremlin pressure exercised via a massive loan (at least for Kyrgyzstan that is), granted to the near-bankrupt country lead the Kyrgyz government to announce the cancellation of American base rights at the Manas air base. The only remaining American military base in all of Central Asia. And, a key transit hub for American and NATO forces operating out of Afghanistan. So, it is not surprising that the Americans did endeavor in the time between the announcement and Tuesday's decision by Bishkek, to try to get the decision reversed. What is very surprising is that (at least on the surface) they had to offer so little, in return: approximately 130 Million dollars, in direct assistance. Less than ten percent of what Moskva offered. And, while Medvedev's statement tried to make it appear that Moskva approved of the decision, it is more likely that the real Russian reaction to the announcement, is that of Foreign Ministry sources quoted in Novesti: that Bishkek had played a 'mean trick', on Russia, and, that there would be in due course an 'appropriate response'. If one had to surmise a reason for this all in all, surprising decision, my own one would be that Matushka Russia, overplayed its hand, admittedly a strong one, in Bishkek, and, the Kyrgyz government did not wish to be seen or de facto to be, totally under the thumb of Moskva. Which once again points to a truism about the weakness of Russian diplomacy, both in Sovietskaya Vlast and after: an inability to utilize diplomacy in a constructive rather than destructive fashion. At least that is in Europe and now it would appear in Central Asia. Notwithstanding the fact that in terms of 'Soft Power', Russia is still by far the key player in the region. And, do let me state, that I think the Kyrgyz decision is a mistaken one, as it only will lead to futile American attempts to expand its influence in the region at Russian expense. Something which as I have suggested before is a serious and completely unnecessary distraction for American (as well as West European) diplomacy and stragegy. Both now and in the future.