Friday, May 20, 2011

Kyrgyzstan to Host NATO Offices

Kyrgyzstan is in the business of hosting foreign military headquarters and participating in multilateral military exercises. The country already hosts the American Transit Center at Manas and the Russian Kant Air Base. Earlier this month, Kyrgyzstan hosted counter-terror exercises under CIS auspices. Just recently announced, NATO will move its Central Asian office from Astana, Kazakhstan, to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

The move of NATO's Central Asia office from Astana to Bishkek is interesting given Kyrzystan's participation in multilateral security affairs. If you recall in 2009, then-Kyrgyz President Bakiyev closed down Manas after securing financial assistance from the Russian Federation. While the U.S. managed to prevent the closure of Manas after agreeing to pay a steeper fee, thereby out-bidding the Russian offer. Establishing an office for NATO, the Cold War-era military alliance created to counter the Soviet Union, in Kyrgyzstan is something Russia is probably not too happy about. Given that Russia already has a presence in the region through the CIS, SCO and CSTO, NATO's position in Kyrgyzstan is not likely to cause issues.

Moving the Central Asian NATO office to Bishkek is more of a practical move that reflects Kyrgyzstan's security needs. Transnational criminal networks stemming from Tajikistan transit Kyrgyzstan, and the country has been divided along ethnic and North-South lines since the change-of-power last April 2010 that ousted Bakiyev.  For Kyrgyzstan, by accepting the presence of NATO, CIS and SCO, reflects the belief that any security presence is better than no security presence. Kyrgyzstan is open to multilateral engagement, particularly in the security arena.  Given the instability in South and Central Asia, it will be interesting to see how the presence of multilateral security institutions materializes in the near future (2-3 years) as well as in the extended future (5,10 years).

No comments:

Post a Comment