The following is a translation from Arabic.
بِسْـــمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰـــنِ الرَّحِيـــم
Recent Events in Kyrgyzstan have been engineered by Russia aimed at strengthening its influence in the Central Asian Republics and to weaken the United States’ hold
Kyrgyzstan, which has been relatively a peaceful place, has been subjected to arson since the toppling of the former president and Askar Akayev in various public uprisings especially of Wednesday and Thursday, 23rd and 24th March, 2007. What exacerbated the crisis were the state’s weaknesses on the military, politics, economics and resources front. This grew into a classic conflict between the opposition and the government as seen in the rallies and huge protest demonstrations which were carried to any side where the wind blew and resulted in heating in up the atmosphere.
The events of the recent past are nothing but political manipulations by Russia using the Western democratic means to eliminate its political foes, it thus dislodged the prime minister who was considered an adversary of the republic’s president who was pro-Russia. Prime Minister Kolov was able to launch a people’s movement to oppose the republic’s Russian-backed president Akayev by raising the banner of constitutional reforms and curtailing presidential powers. When this movement was on the verge of success, Russia pushed Akayev to himself announce restricting presidential powers and that he would accept such a move. He thus fell to the opposition because he agreed to their demands! The president then said that he had demanded constitutional reforms before the opposition and that the opposition was content without such reforms. He said: “If the opposition had not hindered his plan he would have asked for a referendum on such reforms in December last year and would have amended the constitution as per the people’s wishes in January 2007 C.E.” Now the ball was in the opposition’s court and they announced that their call for reforms was simply a ploy to secure people’s support, this forced the prime minister to resign. The president quickly moved to appoint Almasbek Atanbayev, a moderate who was counted among the opposition ranks under the opposition movement. This is how Russia manipulated the opposition and eliminated the prime minister who was opposed to president Akayev, because it was feared that the prime minister was leading the republic away from Russian hold into the US camp. All this was realised by resorting to democratic means such as the demonstrations, reforms, referendum and curtailing of presidential authority. Then, to counter the charge being leveled on him that he let down the opposition, he tried the usual tactics to get public sympathy by declaring in the parliament on 22nd May, 2007 that on 11th May, he was poisoned in his official chambers when drank water from his cup and was unconscious for two days and that his health was relatively better. He however did not reveal as to who might have poisoned him. He said that despite this, he will continue his work in the service of the people to achieve his noble political aims. It must be noted however that his revelation of the incident came a full eleven days after it happened.
Thus Russia consolidated its hold on Kyrgyzstan and challenged American influence there. This is why a government campaign was launched when information leaked that America intended to use Manas Airbase in Kyrgyzstan in the nuclear standoff with Iran and probably used to launch an attack. This campaign was so intense that the US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Mary Yuvanovich was forced to deny presence of any nuclear weapons for use against Iran at the airbase. She clarified this in her statement to the Russian Interfax news agency on 3rd May, 2007 C.E. She added that this airbase was used solely to carry humanitarian aid supplies to Afghanistan!
The Speaker of the Kyrgyzstan parliament Murad Sultanov organised a press conference on 21st May, 2007 in Bishkek and said that if their suspicions persist that the US is using the base for activities incompatible with the terms of usage, immediate action will be taken to cease all activity at the airbase. He added that the airbase was to be used for specified logistical supplies for the ‘alliance’ forces fighting terror in Afghanistan. He then meaningfully added that the ‘Kunt’ airbase in Kyrgyzstan must be strengthened.
During an exclusive interview with the Russian news agency ‘Rianovosti’, Sultanov stated that during his Moscow visit a week ago, he spoke to the Russian officials and if they wanted to activate the ‘Kunt’ airbase which is under the Organisation for Common Security Agreement, they will have to assist Kyrgyzstan to close America’s only airbase in the region. He also told the Russian officials that his country’s budget was inadequate to secure its borders. Did this not amount to inviting the Russian troops to march into Kyrgyzstan?
At the end of the past month of May, 2007, the new prime minister Almasbek Atanbayev announced that they will not permit the use of the Manas airbase for any military operation against wither Iraq of Iran and added that they will also not allow the Kyrgyz land to be used for launching any attack against Iran.
The Kyrgyz external affairs minister issued a statement that said: “The American military installations at the (Manas) International Airport may only be used for military operation in the case of Afghanistan, any other usage of the facility will be tantamount to annulment of the conditions of use and the concerned parties will be responsible for the same.” This prompted the US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan to issue a rebuttal, it said: “‘War Against Terror’ is of utmost importance in Kyryzstan, because of the probability of the terrorists’ activities into or from Afghanistan and other places, therefore the US considers Kyrgyzstan as its ally in the ‘War Against Terror’, therefore, for other purposes, the Bishkek airbase will be solely used for activities concerning Afghanistan only.”
In the aftermath of these, one of the civilian social organisations founded for the purpose of getting rid of the American presence from the Manas airbase announced that it will hold a demonstration on 2nd June, 2007 at the American Embassy in Bishkek and another protest later at the airbase.
As a result of these developments, the Kyrgyz parliament adopted a resolution that calls for studying the issue of closing down of the US base from the Kyrgyz soil and terminating the agreement reached between Kyrgyzstan and the United States.
Richard Boucher, the US Deputy Secretary of State for South and East Asia sensed the Russian hand in the airbase controversy, and on 12th June, 2007, during his address to a press conference in Bishkek, he said: “It is incumbent upon the Kyrgyz government to ignore the external influences concerning the future of the base…any decision regarding the base depends upon the agreement between the Kyrgyz and the US governments… This issue should not be raised at any other forum, especially at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).”
It is known that Russia has 25 military facilities scattered over the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) which separated from the former Soviet Union including ordnance depots, air force stations and reconnaissance systems, and apart from these, it also operates a base in Syria. Although most of these installations do not operate to their optimum capacity, they are a permanent reminder of the Russian influence there.
There are two military bases in Kyrgyzstan; one is the Manas airbase used by the American armed forces, while the other is the ‘Kunt’ air base that is used by Russia under the protocol of the Common Peace Agreement.
The first military base that Russia built after the collapse of the former Soviet Union was the ‘Kunt’ base, which was opened on 23rd October, 2003 and is a part of the air force for ‘Rapid intervention Forces’ of the Common Peace Agreement forces in Central Asia. During the former Soviet era, this was used for imparting military training to many countries. Hosni Mubarak and Hafez al Assad are graduates of this base.
There have been two agreements between Russia and Kyrgyzstan on this base; the first in 2002 and the second one in September 2003, which was ratified in July 2005. Under these agreements, Russia is allowed use of the base for a period of 15 years under the Common Peace Agreement. During the same time, at the SCO meeting, it was decided to close down the Han Abad airbase in Uzbekistan. Russia has some 500 troops stationed at the ‘Kunt’ airbase in addition to 400 civilian experts and 20 fighter aircrafts and helicopters.
Apart from the ‘Kunt’ airbase, Russia has a barrack and a training base for launching anti-ship torpedoes in Kyrgyzstan, a base for submarine communication and a station for monitoring tremors caused by Russian missile installations.
In Kazakhstan there are no bases, though Russia has strong military links with it. Russia has defence production facilities, some military training installations and an airbase remnant of the former Soviet era which was leased to Russia in 1994 C.E for a period of 20 years which was extended in 2004 until 2050 C.E. because Kazakhstan does not possess trained cadre for operating this facility.
Russia had shifted its mobile forces (201) in Tajikistan to its military base under a protocol attended by Putin in October 2004. This is Russia’s second military base in Central Asia after the ‘Kunt’ base, where it has some 7500 troops comprising three military regiments of its land army, military administration personnel, aircrafts and an air monitoring station (they say it is more advanced than even the US ones). Russia has some 11,000 troops patrolling the Tajik border with Afghanistan.
All these reflect the extent of Russian military presence in the Central Asian republics. Preliminary indications regarding the removal of American forces from Kyrgyzstan emerged in April last when President Akayev stated that they have deiced to expel the US forces from the military base if the US does not make increased payments. Even if the US agrees to the new conditions, the situation is rife and may in all likelihood ignite again.
When we see that the US forces on being expelled from the Han Abad (Uzbekistan) base in November 2005, were stationed at the Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan, we realise that were they to be expelled from Manas as well, they will be in a critical predicament. Uzbekistan had allowed Russians to use the Nawoiy Airport in exchange for developing Uzbekistan air defences. In addition, when the US forces were expelled from the Han Abad airbase, it came to be used by the Russian because it came under the Common Peace Agreement. Though the US was able to open its air bases in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, its efforts are likely to fail, and if it is expelled from Kyrgyzstan, it is highly unlikely that it will succeed in getting any new bases for itself in the region in the short term.
The United States has opened 19 new air bases in the aftermath of 9/11, three of which are in the Central Asian region; Han Abad in Uzbekistan, Manas in Kyrgyzstan and one in Tajikistan. It was expelled from Han Abad and if the indications are correct, it is likely to be expelled from Kyrgyzstan as well.
What is certain is that Russia will harness the Central Asian countries links with it to the hilt and exploit their weaknesses and their reliance on Russia. This is hugely apparent with regard to the defence production facilities and energy resources like petrol and natural gas. The US on its part is making all efforts to thwart this by offering alternative projects for energy resources on the one hand, and on the other hand it is trying to break their military relations by offering ‘Common Program for Peace’ under NATO which began in 1995.
Russia has been able to assert itself because of its bold ventures like; controlling the energy resources, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Common Peace Organisation and its relations with China. Therefore the treaties that Russia has signed recently with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan are being seen as its victory over America. These agreements were signed during a six-day visit of Putin May last to the Central Asian countries. On the other hand, the five countries that have problems with Russia are being prompted by America and are meeting in Poland to coordinate their efforts against Russia; they are: Azerbaijan, Georgia, Latvia, Ukraine and Poland.
Of late, Russia has been imitating American tactics; while it is on one hand supporting civilian social organisations on its soil to be an impediment for American efforts and bring in revolutions, and on the other hand it is trying to camouflage its colonialist greed on the former Soviet republics, and to be in tune with the current situation calls this as the ‘New Eurasia’. Putin, by pursuing the ‘New Political Centre’ aimed to eliminate the faction that flourished during the era of Boris Yeltsin and is called as the ‘Oligarch’ in Russia. However it cannot be said that he has met with complete success, he seems to have only succeeded in forcing them into hibernation because of Putin’s immense popularity.
Russia’s relations with countries other than those in its own backyard are only of economic nature; therefore it will be premature to say that Russia is a global player, it is rather a regional power that controls the region around it due to historical, religious and racial factors like in Serbia.
The US is making all efforts to maintain its relations with the countries of Central Asia for various reasons like protecting a strategic presence in the region, war on Afghanistan, border security, drugs, weapons and arms smuggling. It is therefore pursuing a classic policy of surrounding Russia which damaged American influence in Central Asia and trying to defeat Russia in countries that were once under the influence of the former Soviet Union like the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Therefore the military bases in Bulgaria and Romania, the proposed installation of missiles in Poland, the issue of the radar station in the Czech republic and the Kosovo separation dispute, all of these are the result of American interest in the region.
America is heightening the missiles dispute to achieve a tactical goal more than as a real issue; it is using this issue to distance Europe from Russia in several fields, most importantly, the energy sector. It is also harnessing this issue, and with help from Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy, it aims to further develop the trans- Atlantic cooperation. Thus it aims to encircle Russia, at least from the west. With this, the US also aims to divert attention from regions of its failures. However, Europe has extensive relations, especially in the energy sector with Russia and it is not possible to overcome these. The United States will have to offer alternate means if it wants to break those relations. One such important project is the ‘Nabucco’ which is also being supported by the European Union, under which natural gas from Iran will be transported to Europe via Turkey. This has increased the strategic importance of Iran and Turkey. It is uncertain to what extent the Europeans will trust their reliance on Iran & Turkey for their gas needs just as they rely on the Gulf States for their petrol requirement. This project’s completion and commissioning is however ruled out in the short term although the US is seeing this as an opportunity to develop relations with Iran and negatively affect the Russian- EU relations.
To conclude, the concept of establishing an economic alliance between the Central Asian countries proposed by Nazarbayev, the Kazakhstan president, during his visit to Kyrgyzstan on 25th and 26th April, 2007, is not a new idea. It was proposed during the last days of the former Soviet Union. However the ground reality after the collapse of the Soviet Union has resulted in igniting new conflicts, while Russia internal weaknesses have meant non-implementation of the proposal. Recently, since Russia has become relatively stronger economically, and the Central Asian countries have moved out of the US camp to ally with Russia, such an economic union cannot be ruled out.
29th Jumada al Ula, 1428 A.H
15th June, 2007 C.E.
 Manas is name of the Bishkek Airport, when it was being constructed it was named as the Ganci Air Base in memory of New York fireman Peter Ganci who died in the 9/11 incident. It was eventually renamed as Manas Air Base because of the USAF instructions that prohibit naming military facilities outside the US after national heroes. Although some continue to wrongly refer to it as Ganci Air Base.