Those "all due procedures" apparently didn't include letting America know. General David Petraeus went to Kyrgyzstan last month. One item on his agenda was to lobby the Kyrgyz government to let America keep using the base.1 As CNN put it: "He said he and Kyrgyz leaders did not discuss 'at all' the possible closure of the base and said local officials told him there was 'no foundation' for news reports about the issue."
Looking around the news a bit more, it seems that the American State Department hasn't received an eviction notice: but it does look like the base will be closing.
Million-Dollar Lease vs Billion-Dollar Loans?Here's the deal: America has been paying Kyrgyzstan $17,400,000 a year to lease the Manas air base. The lease agreement says that Kyrgyzstan has to give 180 days notice, if it wants to break the agreement: about six months. The current lease expires in July.
That lease agreement is part of a $150,000,000 payout from America to the Kyrgyz government. Which seems to be around a tenth as much money as Russia's offering.
Official eviction notice or no, my guess is that we've got a bidding 'war' on our hands. And Kyrgystan is in a powerful bargaining position.
Some Air Base in One of the 'Stans - Yes, It's ImportantPresident Obabama says he wants to double American troop strength in Afghanistan: which seems a reasonable move. Since someone destroyed a bridge in the Khyber Pass yesterday, and there aren't all that many ways into Afghanistan, the Manas air base has become very important.
Right now, each month, 15,000 Americans and 500 tons of equipment go through Manas, which is now one of the very few ways of reaching Afghanistan. (FOXNews)
Post-Cold-War Asia and the CSTOThe Manas air base wouldn't be idle if America stops leasing it. Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan have formed the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). They'll need an air base: and it looks like Manas is it. (CNN)
The CSTO has been around for several years. I suppose it could be an effort by Russia to re-build the Soviet empire: but since the smaller countries' leaders are talking as if they are negotiating independently, maybe it's not.
Anyway, it looks like keeping the Manas air base open for American military transports is going to be much more expensive than it was before. If it's possible at all.
This isn't the best news I've read this week.
In the news:
- "Post-Soviet nations to form military force"
CNN (February 4, 2009)
- "Kyrgyzstan Says U.S. Will No Longer Have Access to Critical Air Base"
FOXNews (February 4, 2009)
- "Reports: Kyrgyzstan to close key U.S. base"
CNN (February 4, 2009)
- "Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)"
1 "Lobby?" To "let" America do something? Doesn't sound like the Amerika that's supposed to go stomping around the world, oppressing the weak and generally throwing its weight around. Oh, well: chauvinists of any stripe aren't about to let mere facts get in the way of their assumptions.