First of all-
Russia hosts ex-Soviet security summit
MOSCOW -- Russia sought to bolster its security alliance with six other ex-Soviet nations Wednesday by forming a joint rapid reaction force in a continuing effort to curb U.S. influence in energy-rich Central Asia.
The summit of the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization came a day after Kyrgyzstan said it would end the U.S. lease of an air base that supports military operations in Afghanistan. The eviction of U.S. troops would mark a victory for Moscow in a battle for influence in what it considers its historic backyard.
On Wednesday, Russia, Armenia, Belarus and four Central Asian nations - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - agreed to set up a joint rapid reaction force. The move would boost the military dimension to the alliance, which until now has served mostly as a forum for security consultations
hot on the heels of this news-
Kyrgystan to close US air base
Kyrgyzstan wants to close the US air base on its territory because the US government does not want to discuss pay more for its use of the complex. President Kurmanbek Bakijev has sent a bill to parliament which, if adopted, would give the US 180 days to evacuate the air base. The president made his announcement on Tuesday in Moscow, where he was promised more than 1.5 billion euros in Russian aid.
The US embassy in Kyrgyzstan says it was taken by surprise because negotiations on renewing the contract are still ongoing. The Kyrgyzstan air base is used to support the NATO military force in Afghanistan. Closure would mean a serious setback for the new US President Barack Obama, who wants to deploy more troops there. However, it would be a major diplomatic victory for Russia, which has strong objections to the US military presence in former Soviet states.