February 3, 2009

Putin Bootin' Obama Piñata

Hatched by Dafydd

One good thing about an entry-level president, a "citizen of the world" with no experience whatsoever, is that America gets smacked around like a tetherball by wilier players on the foreign stage, leaving the most powerful leader in the free world stunned and gobsmacked. Or maybe it's not a good thing... but it's entertaining, at least -- in a morbid, triumphalist, I-told-you-so sort of way:

Kyrgyzstan is ending U.S. use of a key airbase that supports military operations in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan's president was quoted as saying Tuesday.

Wha -- ? Huh? Where'd this come from?

Interfax and RIA-Novosti quoted Kurmanbek Bakiyev as making the statement just minutes after Russia announced it was providing the poor ex-Soviet country with billions of dollars in aid.

The amount in question is $150 million in direct payments to Kyrgyzstan plus $2 billion dollars of loan guarantees, dwarfing the $150 million we send to Kyrgyzstan annually (that figure includes the $63 million rent we pay for the airbase itself).

But what's the connection? What would hooking up with the Soviet Union Russia have to do with Kyrgyzstan booting American forces out of a base there?

A Kyrgyz decision to end the U.S. use of Manas, just outside the Central Asian nation's capital of Bishkek, could have potentially far-reaching consequences for U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, said during a trip to Central Asia last month that Manas air base would be key to plans to boost U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan by up to 30,000 soldiers in the coming months....

The United States set up the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan and a base in neighboring Uzbekistan after the September 2001 terror attacks, to back operations in Afghanistan....

Russia has long been suspicious of the U.S. presence in what it considers its strategic backyard.

The 'Stans

The 'Stans

Kyrgyzstan is the squiggly, little green country just to the left of China (speaking geographically, not politically); Uzbekistan is the equally squiggly but somewhat larger yellow country that pokes into Kyrgyzstan. Directly below those two are Turkmenistan (teal), Tajikistan (purple), and of course Afghanistan (brown). Russia is the big, orange blob at the top of the map.

Let's recall the sequence here:

2001: That 9/11 thing happens. President George W. Bush somehow persuades the notoriously isolationist and authoritarian Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to let U.S. attack and figher aircraft operate from airbases in those two Islamic former Soviet subect nations, providing air support for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, helping to crush and expel the Islamist militancy of al-Qaeda and expunge the sharia tyranny of the Taliban.

2005: A government trial in April of Moslem businessmen (or Islamist extremists, depending who is describing them) in Uzbekistan sparks large protests in the city of Andijan. (Uzbekistan routinely cites Islamic militancy as the reason for their repression of freedom and civil liberties.) Armed insurgents eventually break into the prison and free the defendants, take government officials hostage, and set some fires. In retaliation, the Uzbek troops open fire on the protesters; estimates of deaths range from 400 to 5,000 (Uzbekistan insists it only slew 187).

Most of the West utterly condemns the killings, but the Bush administration calls for a more balanced investigation, noting that the incident had begun with an armed insurrection against the Uzbek government that included killing, hostage taking, and the forcible release of many prisoners, including members of known Islamic terrorist organizations.

At this point, four moderate Republicans (John McCain, AZ, 80% in 2005; Lindsey Graham, SC, 96%; John Sununu, NH, 83%; and Mike DeWine, OH, 56%) join with two hardline partisan Democrats, Patrick Leahy, VT, 100% in 2005 and Joseph Biden, DE, 100% -- now Vice President of the United States -- demanding that Bush immediately break off all negotiations with Uzbekistan to make our airbase there permanent. In response to this pressure, Uzbekistan expels all U.S. forces; this leaves the airbase in Kyrgyzstan as Air Force's only home base for close-air support in Afghanistan.

The senators also urged the Bush administration to consider the repercussions of building a permanent base in Uzbekistan, and asked whether the US is exploring alternative military facilities in neighbouring countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in order to provide the US with more flexibility to alter its relationship with Uzbekistan.

"We appreciate that these are difficult questions that cut to the heart of our relationship with the government in this strategically important region," the senators wrote. "But we also believe that, in the aftermath of the Andijan massacre, America's relationship with Uzbekistan cannot remain unchanged."

2005: Meanwhile, despite the "Tulip revolution" in March, through all the changes of government, Kyrgyzstan continues to allow us to use the Manas Air Base so long as George W. Bush is president.

2005-2008: Russian President (until 2008) and Prime Minister (2008- ) Vladimir Putin grows increasingly aggressive and antagonistic towards the West while simultaneously buddying up to the Iranian mullahs and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; Putin also begins a much more proprietary policy towards the huge reserves of natural gas and oil in the Caspian Sea... which happens to be the nearest sea to the 'Stans; the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which flows through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea, begins at the Caspian, as do the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline, the Baku-Novorossiysk oil pipeline, and the proposed Trans-Caspian natural-gas pipeline, which would pump natural gas under the Caspian to Turkmenistan, giving the 'Stans their own source of energy not under the control of Russia.

Hydrocarbon pipelines originating at the Caspian Sea

Hydrocarbon pipelines originating at the Caspian Sea

This is all basic geopolitical common knowledge -- or it should be -- which Bush understands, as do Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her puppetmaster husband and even many senators and representatives in Congress (the brigher ones).

2009: Evidently, however, it all comes as a complete shock to President Barack H. Obama that the price of Russian financial aid might be to close the Manas Air Base and kick the Americans out of the country... which also has the side-benefit of isolating our forces in Afghanistan from the air support that is an indispensible component of contemporary American warfare.

I don't believe that Vladimir Putin has ever reconciled himself to the Soviet Union's loss in Afghanistan; I suspect he still sees that country as a natural part of the new Russian empire he is trying to recreate in the 'Stans, in Georgia and Ukraine, and in Poland and the former Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Worse for us, it appears that Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is not as comfortable in his relationship to Obama as he was with Bush. From the AP article linked above:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has made increasing overtures to Russia in recent weeks. His office released correspondence between the two countries saying Russia is ready to cooperate on defense matters.

"Recent weeks" appears to be a euphemism for "since November 4th," which was thirteen weeks ago today.

During his visit last month, Petraeus said that Manas would be key to plans to boost the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan. He also said the United States pumps $150 million into Kyrgyzstan's economy annually, including $63 million in rent for Manas.

Russia agreed Tuesday to provide Kyrgyzstan with $2 billion in loans plus another $150 million in financial aid.

...And then Kyrgyzstan immediately announced -- "just minutes" later -- that they were kicking us out. Gen. David Petraeus and Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell are acting as if this were nothing more than an attempt to extort more money out of the United States:

[Top U.S. Military spokesman in Afghanistan Col. Greg Julian] also dismissed Kyrgyzstan's threat to close access to the Manas air base as nothing but "political positioning." Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, met with officials in Kyrgyzstan last month and "came away with the sense that everything was fine," Julian said.

"We have a standing contract, and they're making millions off our presence there. There are no plans to shut down access to it anytime soon," Julian told The Associated Press.

But what if they do? So what if we have a "standing contract?" The Russians are offering them far more money than we ever have or than the Congress would enact or the public tolerate. What are we going to do if Kyrgyzstan jumps ship, sue that country in the International Court of Justice for not allowing U.S. military forces on their soil? That would drive them even deeper into Putin's pocket, along with the rest of the 'Stans, including the biggie: Afghanistan. Per above, Karzai seems already to be trying to insinuate his nose into Putin's tent pocket.

Yes, I certainly am glad that Obama is going to throw out all the old agreements and instead start treating Iran and al-Qaeda with respect, unlike the 600 times that George W. Bush reassured Moslems that we were not at war with all of Islam, which he routinely called "the religion of peace."

I'm ecstatic that Obama won't bully the world, as we've evidently been doing for eight years, but will start cooperating with Syria, Pakistan, and Russia, and with North Korea and Red China.

And thank goodness he won't go it alone, as Bush and 40 allied countries did, but will instead sign treaties and security agreements; Obama must have meant signing agreements with militant Islamists and resurgent Communists, since those were the only entities left out of the Bush administration's direct diplomatic efforts.

Maybe I should think it wonderful to have an inexperienced president who has never run anything before in his life, who is not locked into all that negative thinking -- you know, war, force, killing; maybe I should be more euphoric about the "courage" shown by Obama in eschewing all that doddering "experience" and the obsessive pursuit of America's selfish "interests;" maybe I should believe in miracles, all this hopey changitude, internationalism, and a visionary, high-minded concern for the world's interests, instead.

An awful lot of conservative Republicans didn't believe it when many of us said it was vital to bestir ourselves to vote... and to vote for the lesser evil (John S. McCain), not for Ron Paul or that supposed libertarian Babar, both of whom reassured third-party voters that it didn't matter whether McCain or Obama won, because theey were just Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dumber, representing Republicrats and Demoblicans.

But you know -- I told you so.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 3, 2009, at the time of 9:13 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Ken Hahn

I voted for McCain, reluctantly. Nothing he has done since has done much to convince me I made the right choice. It is only the disastrous policies of the Obama administration that keep my conscience clear. My first presidential vote was in 1968. In that forty years there has never been as poor a selection of candidates as last year, with the possible exception of 1992.

If the GOP doesn't produce better candidates than McCain, it will not survive.

The above hissed in response by: Ken Hahn [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 4, 2009 12:22 AM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

To rip-off the founding fathers - The tree of conservatism must occasionally be water by the blood of moderates. Or to be more precise, conservatism thrives when the moderates are expunged. A smaller, more focused Republican party will be successful, and have more compelling candidates.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 4, 2009 9:26 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Too bad there may not be much of a country left for them to run in.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 4, 2009 12:07 PM

The following hissed in response by: k2aggie07


Has reading Stratfor things changed the way you look at geopolitics? I know it has for me. Great article, I enjoyed it.

The above hissed in response by: k2aggie07 [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 4, 2009 4:52 PM

The following hissed in response by: BarbaraS

What is truly disheartening is the picture Dafydd has painted about the careful negotiations Bush had put in place only to have them torn down by idiots who didn't know about the whole picture. I am speaking not only of these two stans but the Dubai ports also. It seemed his administration spent all their time trying to get other countries on our side only to have them turn against us because of these idiots. Look at the dems being in favor of oustin Musharref on the basis of his regime was not democratic enough for them is another example. Too stupid for words.

The above hissed in response by: BarbaraS [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2009 5:08 PM

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