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Russia, Allies to Aid U.S. in Afghanistan

Published: February 6, 2009 (Issue # 1446)


Russia and four former Soviet republics offered to help the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan on Thursday even as one, Kyrgyzstan, moved forward on a decision to cut off American access to an air base used for war supplies.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the five countries, including the Central Asian nations of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, are ready for “full-fledged and comprehensive cooperation” with NATO forces in the region. He spoke on state broadcaster Vesti-24 today.

At the same time, Kyrgyz Security Council Secretary Adukhan Madumarov said on the same channel that the U.S. air base at Manas airport near Bishkek must cease operations within 180 days. The base would be crucial to President Barack Obama‘s plans for a buildup of troops to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Kyrgyz Parliament will likely vote Feb. 6 on legislation formally renouncing the agreement allowing U.S. operations at the base, the Interfax news agency reported from Bishkek.

Andranik Migranyan, a Russian institute director with ties to senior officials in Moscow, said Russian cooperation on Afghanistan may be linked to progress on resolving differences over issues such as missile defense and NATO expansion.

“I am absolutely sure the Russian side is going to cooperate,” said Migranyan, director of the New York-based Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, in an interview. “But Russia needs some security guarantees. Not guarantees about dominance, but about its own security.”

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev disclosed the move to close the base in Moscow on Wednesday after receiving a Russian pledge for more than $2 billion in economic assistance.

The U.S. hasn’t received any notification from Kyrgyz officials about a base closure and still hopes to negotiate a way to preserve American access, spokesmen for the State and Defense departments said. “We’re having discussions with the Kyrgyz about this and we’ll continue to do so,” said State Department spokesman Robert Wood.

There may be basis for the hope of keeping the base accessible to the U.S., said an expert on the region, Stephen Larrabee of the RAND Corp. policy research organization in Arlington, Virginia.

“It is not clear if this is a final and formal decision or whether they’re playing hardball to try to get more money out of the United States,” said Larrabee, who is head of European security at RAND. “It’s just not clear whether the game is over.”

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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