Russia’s Kyrgyzstan Folly

We’ve covered this Kyrgyzstan double-dipping story a couple of times here, but Alexander Golts latest piece over at RealClearWorld sums it up nicely – including the tale of the embarrassing trip made by Igor Sechin and Anatoly Serdyukov to go collect.  Golts lists the Kyrgyzstan folly as just one of Russia’s many recent conflicts with neighbors

In February, the Kremlin gave Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev $500 million for a promise to close America’s base in his country. Then the Americans offered Bakiyev $160 million a year, and now there may be no official base, but a “transit center” that serves the same functions. So the Kremlin paid out several hundred million dollars just to replace some signs.

Soon after this, Russian Vice Premier Igor Sechin and DefenseMinister Anatoly Serdyukov were sent to Bishkek in an effort to getsomething for Russia’s money. Bakiyev seems to have said: So, you areworried about the American military presence in Central Asia, and youwant to confront it. Fine, the Americans can have one base inKyrgyzstan, and Russia can have two.

The resulting “military asset,” however, is strategic gibberish,having been built in Kyrgyzstan’s near-lawless Osh region, with itsappalling poverty, drug trafficking, and ethnic tensions. Seizure of aRussian military base in order to acquire weapons is, indeed, likely tobecome a vital goal of “extremists.” But, in a way, the Russiansoldiers there are already hostages – not least to the Kremlin’sbankrupt foreign policy.