Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and the Reset

John Lough, an associate fellow of the Russia & Eurasia Programme at Chatham House in London, has a very insightful piece on Russia’s play in Kyrgyzstan in the Moscow Times:

Rather than fighting over the long-term future of the Manas base, Russia and the United States may now need each other in this very dangerous situation. Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have already made it clear that Washington should not regard its base at Manas as permanent, but neither the United States nor Russia has an interest in seeing Kyrgyzstan break apart, risking destabilization across Central Asia.

At the same time, neither wants to assume responsibility forcontrolling the country. The United States is in the middle of its”surge” in Afghanistan and would probably prefer to hold on to Manas forthe time being, despite speculation that it has been urgently seekingan alternative. At the same time, Russia has limited military forces atits disposal for military operations outside its borders and littleappetite for a long-term commitment on this scale.

There is a strong rationale for a joint U.S.-Russian approach tomanaging the crisis in Kyrgyzstan that can help avert the country’sslide toward chaos. This cooperation can also create a foundation forother international organizations to make their contribution topreserving the country’s viability. The OSCE, which is currently chairedby Kazakhstan, will have an important role to play in Kyrgyzstan’spost-conflict rehabilitation.

As Medvedev and Obama meet on Thursday, Kyrgyzstan promises to testthe full potential of the “reset” in U.S.-Russian relations.