The United States no longer has a military base in Central Asia after leaving an airbase in Kyrgyzstan. The move comes as tensions between Russia and the West continue to rise.
Kyrgyzstan is one of Russia’s closest allies and an ex-Soviet state. In 2013, the government told the US they had until July 11 to leave the base, which was at Manas airport. This airbase was one of the top connecting points between the US and 26 countries and Afghanistan.
“We were known as the gateway to Afghanistan on freedom’s frontier,” said Colonel John Millard, commander of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing and Manas base head. “We offloaded more than 1 billion liters of fuel to 136,000 coalition aircraft … We like to say we fueled the fight.”
“We literally moved 98 percent of all ISAF and coalition forces into and out of Afghanistan,” Millard said.
Russia said the US and NATO can use Central Asia after the attacks on September 11, 2001. But when Russia decided they did not want foreign military in their area Kyrgyzstan was eager to help out. In 2011, President Almazbek Atambayev told Moscow the airbase would be closed.
Kyrgyzstan stands to inherit “special airport vehicles, a new fire department and other equipment worth a total of around $30 million.” Russia owns bases in Kyrgyzstan for at least 15 more years.
However, while one country does not want an American base, another country voiced a desire to have a US base. Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine is causing rumbles throughout Eastern Europe and Poland is worried about national security. During a radio interview, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said the US should open a major base in Poland.
“For the first time since the Second World War, one European country has taken a province by force from another European country,” he said. “America, we hope, has ways of reassuring us that we haven’t even thought about. There are major bases in Britain, in Spain, in Portugal, in Greece, in Italy. Why not here? . . .”
“Russia is testing the strength of the international system set up by the United States after World War II,” he continued. “She tested it in Georgia, which was an implied ally of the United States. She has now tested it in Ukraine. And I don’t think we can discount the possibility that she will test it again. And therefore our security guarantees have be credible, which is to say physically enforceable.”
In 1997, NATO agreed not to build permanent bases in Eastern Europe if Russia did not violate another country’s sovereignty. Sikorski claims Russia violated this agreement first due to aggression towards Ukraine, which includes annexing Crimea in mid-March.
President Obama is in Poland to celebrate the country’s 25th anniversary break from communism. He told Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski he has a $1 billion plan to help Eastern Europe fight against Russia and promised a bigger military presence.
It should be noted that in 2009, Obama decided to eliminate a missile-defense agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic. Then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was very pleased to hear about Obama’s plan while Poles and Czechs were left worrying about their safety.