The Associated Press dutifully repeats Kyrgyz President-elect Almazbek Atambayev’s worry that his country will face retaliatory strikes from an imaginary U.S. war with Iran.
The base is subject of frequently extravagant rumors among local residents and politicians, who maintain that fuel dumps by U.S. planes devastate crops and cause illnesses. U.S. military officials have always strenuously denied such claims and say they make every effort to minimize their impact on the area surrounding the base.
Atambayev and other Kyrgyz officials have made similar warnings in the past, saying that the U.S. base must close by 2014.
The presence of the U.S. base has vexed Moscow, which views Kyrgyzstan as part of its traditional sphere of influence.
These “frequently extravagant rumors” also extend to the amateur geopoliticians who like to comment about Central Asia without really understanding it or knowing its recent history. Kyrgyz politicians making noise about not liking the U.S. presence at Manas is a tradition that goes back to the establishment of the base—and sketchy Manas supplier corporation Mina Corp has been unhappy at Atambayev’s talking this way before.
Atambayev, however, is a friend of Russia. And Russia likes making noise about the U.S. presence at Manas. Russia, however, also likes keeping the U.S. nearby so it can absorb any negative spillover from the war in Afghanistan. A full American withdrawal worries Moscow as much as it worries Afghanistan.
In reality, whenever a Kyrgyz politician talks like this, the U.S. coughs up a bit more money and everything returns to normal. If Atambayev keeps on talking like this, through 2014, that’s most likely the only thing that will happen. So let’s all cool off a bit, yes?