Just two weeks after supposedly agreeing to expand supply lines into Afghanistan, Russia cut one of the more important supply lines available to NATO. Vladimir Putin gave Kyrgyzstan over $2 billion, and the Central Asian country not-so-coincidentally booted the US from their air base:
In a setback to the escalating U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan, the president of Kyrgyzstan said Tuesday that his government will shut down the American air base in his country.
U.S. officials say that the Manas Air Base is vital to plans to send an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan, a linchpin of President Barack Obama’s efforts to pacify the country.
The announcement by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev came in Moscow, not in his own capital, and shortly after the Russian government reportedly agreed to lend Kyrgyzstan $2 billion, write off $180 million in debt and add another $150 million in aid. Although the Russian government didn’t release a statement about the decision, the timing and place of the announcement indicated that the Kremlin had been involved.
Two weeks ago, Kyrgyz officials assured David Petraeus that they had no discussions with Russia about Manas. Two weeks and one presidential inauguration later, the US and NATO have lost a major supply route for their fight in Afghanistan, and Putin has a new BFF in Bakiyev. The Kyrgyz PM says that the US would not adequately compensate his country for the base, but that sounds pretty strange for a nation that gave such assurances before Obama took the oath of office.
The problem was never in Krygyzstan. Biden predicted that world leaders would challenge Obama and his inexperience within the first few months of the adminstration, but they’ve already started to line up in the first few days. Iran launched a satellite on an ICBM to show they could go ballistic once they have nuclear weapons. North Korea reportedly has set up another ICBM for a test. Now Russia has flipped an ally in the war on terror — and all of this in the first 14 days of Obama’s presidency.
Update: I originally wrote that North Korea set up the ICBM test to threaten Seoul, which is an example of poor writing and excessive unstated assumptions. Kim has recently broken off talks with the South and done a lot of saber-rattling, probably to extort more economic concessions. The rocket test is likely intended to bolster the saber rattling as well as to send a very clear message to Obama. Instead of actually writing all that, I wrote that Kim set up an ICBM to threaten a city less than 100 miles from his border … which is really ridiculous. Sorry about that.