Still time to bargain in Bishkek

Maybe Kyrgyzstan has seen too many Sham-Wow commercials.  According to the BBC, the sale of access to Manas AFB and one of our key military supply routes has not quite closed.  Operators in Bishkek are standing by to take Barack Obama’s calls — and get a little respect, too:

Kurmanbek Bakiyev said negotiations with Washington would have to take a different format, and cover new conditions of use.

His latest remarks, the first since announcing the closure last month, have yet to draw an American response.

President Bakiyev said the old agreement on the use of the base was no longer valid but Kyrgyzstan was open to negotiation.

“We are ready for any new proposals from the US government aimed at stabilising the situation in Afghanistan.”

Translation: The checks from Russia still haven’t cleared.  Moscow promised over $2 billion in aid and loans in an apparent trade for kicking the US out of its only base in Central Asia.  It took weeks to finalize the deal, during which time the new American administration never made any effort to counter the Russian bid.

Bakiyev tried to put a new spin on the sale, claiming that he rejected the American presence because of a “lack of respect” shown towards Kyrgyz input on the war.  If so, he picked a weird time to get huffy.  Why wait out the entire Bush administration, only to snub its successor, which explicitly promised to treat allies with greater respect and deference on policy decisions?

This is about the money, but now at least we have some entertainment value in the controversy.  Bakiyev wants us to treat him with more respect now that he’s sold us out to the Russians, while making clear that his loyalty to Moscow can also be reversed with a bigger cash drop.  Only in international diplomacy would this kind of brazen whoring increase respect.

Still, we’d better not miss this opening, especially since Bakiyev is making it this obvious.  If Obama calls now, perhaps Bakiyev will throw in a couple of extra Sham-Wows and a Snuggie for Michelle.