After announcing $2 billion in loans from Russia, the president of Kyrgyzstan announced the United States will no longer have access to the Manas air base, the lone base U.S. commanders have permission to use in Central Asia and a key supply line for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
"More than once we have discussed with our American partners the subject of the economic compensation to Kyrgyzstan for the presence [of the U.S. base], but unfortunately, we did not find an understanding from the United States," Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said Tuesday. "For over three years, we have been talking of the need to review the terms of the agreement, which do not satisfy us completely, yet we have not seen an understanding from the United States."
Less than 24 hours later, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he and his ex-Soviet allies want to cooperate with Washington in Afghanistan in return for no expansion among NATO membership and a U.S. reversal on a missile defense shield for Europe that Russia opposes.
"Missile defense is a piece of it," said George Friedman, CEO of Stratfor Security. "The entire question that's on the table here is will the U.S. recognize the Russians' sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union in return for providing a supply line into Afghanistan?"
The Kyrgyz Parliament has started drafting legislation demanding the exodus of the U.S. military, which pays $17.4 million annually to lease the base that sees 15,000 U.S. personnel and 500 tons of equipment pass through its doors each month. That lease agreement is part of $150 million given to the Kyrgyz government for various programs.
U.S. officials, however, say they haven't received an eviction notice.
"We have not received any formal communication from the Kyrgyz authorities of any decisions to close the base," State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said.
The current lease, which expires in July, requires that the Kyrgyz give 180 days notice to break the agreement.
"Whether or not we pay more money is certainly a subject of discussion," Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said. "But that shouldn't be a surprise. In any negotiation, money is often at issue and hopefully we'll come to an agreement and can continue the use of the air base."
Morell said the Russian government is aware that the Obama administration wants to nearly double the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan this year and that the two land routes into Pakistan — through which the U.S. military receives 80 percent of its supplies — are increasingly vulnerable to attack. Insurgents destroyed a 100-foot iron bridge in the Khyber Pass Tuesday, cutting the main route for supplies bound for NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Supreme Allied Commander Gen. John Craddock has suggested NATO allies could approach Tehran about opening up an Iranian route.
Russia, meanwhile, is holding a summit in Moscow today with four former Soviet Central Asian states to arrange a Joint Security pact that would allow it to use the Manas air base and place 10,000 troops there.