MOSCOW — President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that Russia and its ex-Soviet allies want to help the United States stabilize Afghanistan, saying Moscow wanted "full-fledged" cooperation with Washington.
He spoke a day after the ex-Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan announced it would evict the U.S. from an air base key to the Afghan war. Kyrgyzstan made the move after getting a promise for $2 billion in loans from Russia — which resents the American presence in a region Moscow regards as part of its traditional sphere of influence.
The possibility of the base closure poses a serious challenge to the new U.S. administration and President Barack Obama's plan to send up to 30,000 more American forces into Afghanistan this year.
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"Russia and other (alliance members) are ready for full-fledged comprehensive cooperation with the United States and other coalition members in fighting terrorism in the region. This fight must be comprehensive and include both military and political components. Only in the case will this have a chance to succeed," Medvedev said.
It was not clear if Medvedev's reference to "full-fledged" cooperation was an attempt to reassure Washington or an indication that Moscow would seek concessions in exchange for helping keep the Manas air base open.
Keep an eye on how our administration handles this. I spent a tour at Manas, and given my job I saw how vital that base was to what we do in Afghanistan. Quite frankly, Russia has us by the throat right now. Manas is vital to Afghanistan. It ferries troops and supplies in and out, and also refuels the aircraft that are performing the CAS (Close Air Support) missions there.
If we lose Manas, we get crippled. So this will be a huge test to how Obama handles not only foreign affairs, but military matters. For this situation, I'm hoping he's got his A Game on.