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Medvedev Charms Central Asia

MedvedevKarimov.jpgFor some time now, it has seemed as though the Russian foreign policy decision making process has been guided by some very simple principles – 1) will this given measure make things more difficult for Washington, and/or 2) will it increase the probability that our “help” and direct participation will be required in finding a solution?  Some have called this a strategy of “creating problems, and then offering solutions,” while the more cynical realists point out that Russia really isn’t doing something “bad” that any other nation of its size and potential wouldn’t be also be doing to maximize its position, leverage, and influence in global events.  What is problematic is that there seems to be relatively little concern or regard for crafting a policy which actually plays to the national interest – such as security in Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear obsession, or weapons proliferation.  In Central Asia, the expansionist agenda is now spreading to Uzbekistan … something to keep our eyes on.

From Inga Sikorskaya at McClatchy:

Just last month, Medvedev was in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to sign an agreement increasing the amount of natural gas Uzbeks will be expected to provide Russia in the future.

But the real purpose of his visit may have been to encourage Uzbek President Islam Karimov to renew his country’s membership in various Moscow-based security and economic organizations.

And just this week, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan announcedhis country would no longer play host to a massive air base there, andtold about 1,000 U.S. military personnel they will soon have to leave.

Bakiyevmade his announcement while he was in Moscow, after Medvedev agreed toextend a $2 billion loan and $150 million gift to Kyrgyzstan.

SomeAmerican officials suspect that Bakiyev isn’t really serious aboutordering U.S. forces out of his country and is merely attempting topressure Washington into paying more than the current annual rent of$63 million for use of the air base.

Still, the twindevelopments, coming as the United States plans to substantially rampup its military efforts in nearby Afghanistan, are enough to makeWashington wonder about Moscow’s true intentions in the region.

Russia is now even prepared to sustain losses in order to remove the western presence from Uzbekistan” said Farhad Tolipov, an analyst in Tashkent.