An Offer they just Can’t Refuse?

   It’s not all about energy resources when it comes to Russian interests in its former Central Asian republics. As this RFE/RL article reports, the Russians are deploying further troops to their air base at Kant outside the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. Reportedly housing some 400 personnel currently, the base has a U.S. “rival”, the 1000 staff U.S. air base at Manas also on the outskirts of Bishkek.

Though the Americans are paying a steep rent for the privilege of being allowed to maintain their only remaining military base in Central Asia, local governments are less warm to U.S. aid initiatives for a number of reasons, not least of which that the money allocated is meant to support human rights NGOs and the building of democratic institutions, which challenge the very foundation of the authoritarian Central Asian governments.

Russia, on the other hand, is seen as the most viable foreign partner despite obvious increase in its military presence in the region. In addition to proximity, cultural and historical ties, Russia is a profitable destination for impoverished migrant workers from Central Asia. Add to that Russian political support for regimes of the Islam Karimov type in Uzbekistan and talk of merging CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) and Eurasec as a counterbalancing initiative to NATO and the EU, and the news of Russian further military deployment acquires the distinct taste of an offer Central Asian states just can’t refuse.

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