It’s a darned good thing that Barack Obama signed a new START treaty with Russia that allows them to put resources into areas other than competing on upkeep of nuclear weapons. Now that Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev have that behind them, they can concentrate on more appealing projects — such as continuing their efforts to rebuild the Russian Empire with puppet governments in former Soviet states. The Washington Post reports today that Moscow gave the violent opposition a big boost in Kyrgyzstan in the month before a coup sent its government packing:
Less than a month before the violent protests that toppled the government of Kyrgyzstan last week, Russian television stations broadcast scathing reports portraying President Kurmanbek Bakiyev as a repugnant dictator whose family was stealing billions of dollars from this impoverished nation.
The media campaign, along with punishing economic measures adopted by the Kremlin, played a critical role in fanning public anger against Bakiyev and bringing people into the streets for the demonstrations that forced him to flee the capital Wednesday, according to protest leaders, local journalists and analysts.
“Even without Russia, this would have happened sooner or later, but . . . I think the Russian factor was decisive,” said Omurbek Tekebayev, a former opposition leader who is now the No. 2 figure in the government.
Why did Putin go after Bakiyev? Last year, the Russians strongarmed him into agreeing to shut down an important American air base needed for a supply line into Afghanistan. After getting about a fifth of the aid promised him by Putin and Medvedev, he suddenly reversed course and agreed to keep it open, after Obama tripled the rent in a belated attempt to outspend the Russians. This is Moscow’s payback.
In retaliation, Russia began broadcasting stories about Bakiyev that compared him to Genghis Khan and calling him a corrupt thief. They also hinted that Moscow would expel a million Kyrgyz immigrants from Russia, whose money earned there is an important part of Kyrgyzstan’s economy. Less than two weeks ago, Russia continued its retaliations by cutting off special pricing on fuel and tying it explicitly to Bakiyev. It didn’t take long for the opposition to run Bakiyev out of the capital.
With Bakiyev gone, the Russians have a new puppet leadership in Kyrgyzstan who are only in power because of Moscow’s meddling. Does anyone expect the Manas air base to remain open to the US after that show of power? We’ll be out of there in almost no time, which is probably why the White House just cut a deal with Kazakhstan for overflights. It will deal a serious blow to our lines of communication in Afghanistan.
The big question now is why we should sign a new START treaty that will save the Russians hundreds of billions of dollars while they scheme to overthrow governments and shut down our supply lines in Central Asia. The only benefit that the US gets from START is an ego boost for Barack Obama.