What’s Behind Russia’s Reported Joint Central Asian Base Offer To The US?
The reputable Russian business newspaper Kommersant cited unnamed Kremlin sources over the weekend to report that President Putin offered his American counterpart access to his country’s bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan during last month’s summit in Geneva for the purpose of obtaining drone-derived anti-terrorist intelligence about Afghanistan, which if true would strongly suggest that the Russian leader is serious about reaching a so-called “non-aggression pact” with the US.
Analysts are scrambling to interpret this weekend’s report from the reputable Russian business newspaper Kommersant which cited unnamed Kremlin sources who alleged that President Putin offered his American counterpart access to his country’s bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The proposal was supposedly made during their summit in Geneva last month and was intended to provided the US with drone-derived anti-terrorist intelligence about Afghanistan. Kommersant went on to say that the Russian side had yet to receive a clear response from the US, which continues to explore the possibility of unilaterally establishing its own military facilities in the region despite the Central Asian Republics (CARs) and Pakistan thus far rejecting it.
The Kremlin has yet to comment on the report, but considering Kommersant’s credibility, it’s possible that the information contained within it is accurate. If that’s the case, then it’s worthwhile wondering why Russia would extend what an unnamed insider described as such a “generous offer”. The only realistic explanation is that Russia is serious about reaching a so-called “non-aggression pact” with the US after their leaders’ meeting last month. It understands that both Great Powers have legitimate anti-terrorist interests in post-withdrawal Afghanistan due to their concern that ISIS-K and other international terrorist groups might exploit the ongoing Afghan Civil War in order to set up training camps, expand their regional influence, and plan foreign attacks.
Russia also wanted to test the US’ strategic intentions by presenting it with a “generous offer” that if accepted would show that it has no ulterior motives in unilaterally searching for regional bases. Moscow suspects that Washington simply wants to exploit its legitimate anti-terrorist interests in post-withdrawal Afghanistan as a pretext for retaining military influence in the Eurasian Heartland, which is now poised to host crisscrossing transregional connectivity corridors. These are the trilateral Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway that was agreed to in February and which might ultimately extend as far northward as Russia and the “Persian Corridor” between China and Iran via Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
Judging by what was reported about the US having yet to agree to this “generous offer”, it certainly seems like it still harbours ulterior motives in the region. Nevertheless, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov revealed last week that his country communicates with the US over the possible consequences of its impending military withdrawal. This suggests that the US still intends to pragmatically cooperate with Russia whenever it believes that their interests coincide even if it has yet to exhaust its unilateral search for regional military bases. Considering the likelihood of that said search failing, it can’t be discounted that Washington will ultimately take Moscow up on its “generous offer”, which could in turn set the basis for gradually repairing their relations.
The ideal scenario that Russia wants to see is of it and the US engaging in a serious of “mutual geopolitical compromises” all across Eurasia from Ukraine to Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, and North Korea. The Kremlin understands that the Pentagon wants to redirect the vast majority of its attention and forces towards “containing” China, to which end this influential faction of America’s permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) might be willing to make “politically uncomfortable” compromises with Russia. What an RT contributor rightly described as “Russia’s about-face on Syria’s Idlib” in a recent op-ed can be seen as a goodwill gesture towards that end on Russia’s side in light of Kommersant’s latest report.
If the US agrees to Russia’s “generous offer”, then Moscow would be assured that Washington won’t be able to meddle as much in Central Asia compared to if it was successful in unilaterally establishing its own military facility in one of the regional countries. This would in turn increase the viability of the crisscrossing transregional connectivity corridors that were earlier described, which would thus strengthen multipolarity in the Eurasian Heartland. The zero-sum geopolitical competition between the US on one hand and Russia and China on the other could then transition to a mutually beneficial geo-economic one as America considers relying on PAKAFUZ to expand its economic influence in the region as was suggested by last week’s creation of the quadrilateral connectivity framework between itself, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan.
Provided that Kommersant’s report is true (which of course remains to be seen), then Russia’s “generous offer” to the US to jointly use its Central Asian bases for obtaining drone-derived anti-terrorist intelligence about Afghanistan is a major move in the direction of its hoped for “non-aggression pact”. The ball would then be in America’s court and it might very well take Russia up on this since it’s unlikely to succeed in its quest to unilaterally establish its own military facilities in the region. Should that happen, then the close military cooperation between these Great Powers could lead to more comprehensive “mutual geopolitical compromises” all across Eurasia from Ukraine to Syria, Iran, and North Korea. It could also help transition their zero-sum geopolitical competition in the Eurasian Heartland to a mutually beneficial geo-economic one too.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Voice of East.