The Islamic Post Blog

Russian Influence Increases in Former Soviet Territories by ipinfo2
March 25, 2009, 6:11 am
Filed under: March Volume 2009, World | Tags: ,

Last month Russia announced new military initiatives. One involves the U.S. air base near Bishkek that American forces have used to supply military operations in Afghanistan. The Kremlin stated its $2 billion loan for the Bishkek base, as well as a $150 million aid grant, at the same time that Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said his country will be asking American forces to leave the base. The U.S. military was given six months to vacate Bishkek in late February.
All of the initiatives strengthen military ties with states that were once part of the former Soviet Union.
In another initiative, Russian President Medvedev and his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, agreed to create a new joint air-defense system involving five air force and 10 missile units. Russia’s Kommersant business newspaper reports Mr. Lukashenko’s agreement was conditioned by demands for Russian weapon subsidies and Russian orders from Belarusian defense industries.
In a third move Mr Medvedev secured the agreement of neighboring Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to create a rapid reaction force as part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO. The agreement confronts what the Russian president termed a wide range of challenges and threats: crime, terrorism and drug trafficking.
Victor Ivanov, head of the Russian Federal Narcotics Control Service did, however, express an openness to participate with the United States in eradicating the spreading illicit drug economy in the region. In an interview with the government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Mr Ivanov stated, “To reduce this danger, we are vitally interested in working with the new American Administration.”
Cooperation with the US is seen as a necessity, as LPAC News reported, due to the spread of drug crops and trafficking from southern Afghanistan to the whole area along the border with the Central Asian countries. Mr Ivanov called for convening a conference under UN auspices on Peace and Prosperity in Afghanistan, as a “first step.” All tribes, areas, and political forces “prepared for a constructive dialogue” should be invited, Ivanov said, proposing a special role for Russia, as a country “whose forces have not participated in this seven-years long war.”
The United States has reciprocated interest in cooperating with the Kremlin to deal with the crisis in Afghanistan. The U.S. State Department said that Washington is “looking forward” to working with Russia on Afghanistan. “It’s in both of our countries’ interest to try to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan and bring about more economic development and security in the country,” said State Department Spokesman Robert Wood.
Mr Wood was responding to a statement given to reporters by Mr. Medvedev in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Medvedev was quoted as saying: “We hope the new U.S. administration will have greater success than the previous one in resolving the Afghanistan issue. …We are ready to work on the most complicated issues.” The Russian president also commented that the “number of radicals is not declining” there.
President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, in turn, commented that he supports U.S. President Barack Obama’s plans to solve the Afghanistan crisis, and emphasized the importance of regional cooperation. “We offer to solve the problem through the involvement of regional states,” he said.
Russian envoy to NATO, Dmitry Ragozin, said on Echo Moskvy radio station, that cooperation is being re-established with NATO, and warned that were NATO to be defeated in Afghanistan, this would threaten Russia. –Sources: VOA, LPAC, U.S. State Dept.


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