Day 81, January 19, 2009
AND THE AMERICANS REMAIN IN KYRGYZSTAN
For a while now there has been a buzz that Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was going to close the US army base at Mana Airport in his country, if he could get economic and political support from Russia. This would mean the shutting down of the only US base in Central Asia, and an easing of Russian unease over US presence in its former republics. Moscow was reported to have recently offered $2 billion in investments to the Central Asian state.
Today though it was confirmed that the Kyrgyz airbase will remain open and a delegation will visit to continue further discussion on operations of the base. The Kyrgyz leader has also postponed a proposed trip to Russia.
This appears to be a wise move according to at least one analyst.
Mars Sariev believes that with President-elect Obama's renewed focus on Afghanistan and intended troop buildup, Kyrgyzstan has more to gain from the Americans than the Russian offer.
"We must understand that the American air base is a gigantic investment, not only from the USA, but also from the entire Western world."
This gigantic investment will be much welcomed by Kyrgyzstan.
It gets 150 million US dollars a year including 63 million dollars to cover rent, service and maintenance contracts, and local staff wages at the base. Russia though is potentially dangling a carrot of a 300 million dollar loan and a pledge of 1.7 billion dollars of investment in the Kyrgyz energy sector.
This is money well needed by the Kyrgyzs in the light of the global financial downturn and their inability due to an energy crisis to provide power all hours of the day.