US does not object to Russian base in Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK

The United States has no objections to Russia opening a second military base in Kyrgyzstan, a senior US diplomat said on Sunday during a visit to the Central Asian nation.

The comments came two days after a Kyrgyz government source said the country had agreed to let Russia open a new military base, a move that has been seen as a response to Kyrgyzstan’s decision not to close a US airbase.

“Any such decision is obviously the sovereign right of the government of Kyrgyzstan,” US Undersecretary of State William Burns told reporters, when asked about the possibility of a new Russian base.

“Our view is that any step that strengthens the sovereignty and independence and security of Kyrgyzstan is a sensible one,” Burns said at a press conference in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek.

A Kyrgyz government source told AFP on Friday that Russia had won permission to open a base in Osh, a city in southern Kyrgyzstan, which would operate under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).

The CSTO is a security grouping of Russia and six former Soviet republics that Moscow has touted as a counterweight to NATO.

The decision to host a new Russian base came shortly after Kyrgyzstan agreed to let US forces remain at the Manas airbase outside Bishkek, used to support operations in Afghanistan, effectively reversing a previous decision.

In February, Kyrgyzstan ordered the Manas airbase to close in a decision widely believed to have been made under Russian pressure. Moscow has long been uncomfortable with the presence of US troops in ex-Soviet Central Asia.

Some media reports have suggested that Moscow was angered by Kyrgyzstan’s reversal, and Russia’s Kommersant newspaper wrote Saturday that the Kremlin hoped to save face by opening the new base in Osh.

“Moscow’s ambition to open a new base in Kyrgyzstan is something of a response to the actions of the United States, which recently managed to maintain its military presence in Manas,” Kommersant wrote.

If Moscow opens a new base in Osh, it would be the second Russian base in Kyrgyzstan, after the Kant airbase outside Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan is the only country in the world to house both Russian and US bases.

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