Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected a request by U.S. President Joe Biden to allow an American military presence in countries near Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
Biden reportedly made the request at the two leaders’ summit in Geneva, Switzerland, in June, hoping that Putin would allow the bases so that the U.S. could continue to carry out operations against terrorist groups. But the Russian leader, famously irritable at the U.S. presence in former Soviet territory, refused.
The Journal reported:
Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a June 16 summit meeting with President Biden, objected to any role for American forces in Central Asian countries, senior U.S. and Russian officials said, undercutting U.S. plans to act against new terrorist dangers after its Afghanistan withdrawal.
The previously unreported exchange between the U.S. and Russian leaders complicated Biden administration hopes of basing drones and other counterterrorism forces in countries bordering landlocked Afghanistan. That challenge has deepened with the collapse over the weekend of the Afghan government and armed forces.
The exchange also indicates that Moscow is more determined to try to maintain Central Asia as a sphere of influence than to expand cooperation with a new American president over the turmoil in Afghanistan, former and current U.S. officials said.
Without access to Central Asian nations, such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan, the U.S. would need to rely on bases in Qatar, other Arab Gulf states and U.S. Navy aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean to fly aircraft to Afghanistan. Flight times from the Gulf states are so long that a U.S. drone might spend more than 60% of its mission flying to and from Afghanistan from the U.S. base at Al Udeid, Qatar, a former senior U.S. military official said. This would limit the time for conducting reconnaissance or carrying out strikes over the country.
On Wednesday, the White House reiterated that the U.S. would maintain “over-the-horizon” capability to disrupt terror networks even after leaving Afghanistan.
In June, Russian Media declared the summit a “victory” for Putin over Biden. American media praised the two leaders for getting along — after blasting President Donald Trump for being cordial to Putin — but even friendly journalists struggled to understand what, if anything, the U.S. had gained from the meeting.
Notably, the summit took place before Biden met with the president of Ukraine, currently under military threat from Russia.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.