The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

The US keeps coming back for more…

June 23, 2009

US and Kyrgyz negotiators reach a deal on Manas:

Kyrgyzstan said on Tuesday it would temporarily allow the US to continue using a military air base on its territory that is critical to coalition forces fighting the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Kadyrbek Sarbayev, the Kyrgyz foreign minister, said Washington had agreed to more than triple the rent for use of the Manas base, a transit hub used for refuelling aircraft carrying troops to Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan gave the US six months to vacate Manas last February after accepting a promise of $2bn of financial assistance from Russia which objects to the presence of US troops in former Soviet central Asia.

Mr Sarbayev said a one-year agreement signed with the US would increase annual payments for use of Manas to $60m from $17m. The US would also provide $67m to improve the airport and contribute funds to combat drug trafficking and terrorism in Kyrgyzstan.

Did we get played?

You betcha.

I expect next year will deliver yet another “rinse and repeat.”

We can hope that the US intends to use the “breather” to develop alternative supply routes so as to enhance our leverage–or even exit from the arrangement ourselves–next time around.

Another bad aspect of the process: we let the negotiations become framed entirely in terms of the amount of “rent” the US is willing to pay for the base. While we do, in fact, pay rent (in one way or another) for basing and access rights, the US government likes to pretend otherwise. And for good reason: turning basing negotiations into very public exercises in price negotiations is both undermines the legitimacy of the base and likely will put upwards pressure on future negotiations across much of the basing network.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.