Naturally, when I go looking for informed commentary on Russian foreign policy the names Judith Miller and Doug Schoen are the first to come to mind. Who wouldn’t want to have the international affairs insights of a journalist best known for funneling pro-Iraq war agit-prop to The New York Times and some pollster? Their argument boils down to the usual “nefarious Russians are thwarting our noble intentions” story, and it all hinges on this claim:
Opposition leaders have long said they would eject Western forces from the base at Manas, as Russia desires.
Yes, they have said this for some time. The provisional government under Otunbayeva has also confirmed that the commitments made to the U.S. by the previous government would be honored. Everyone can acknowledge that Moscow encouraged opposition to Bakiyev and wanted him gone, but if this were solely aimed at getting the U.S. out of Manas the plan seems to have failed. Viewing it as an effort to reverse the results of the last “color” revolution in the “near-abroad” makes much more sense. Viewed that way, Bakiyev’s downfall should be greeted more with relief than with alarm in Washington.
I am also writing on this topic for my next column for The Week, so I won’t say much more right now, but there is something truly twisted in our national discourse regarding Russia and the former Soviet Union that anyone can regard it as a bad thing that Bakiyev is out of power, especially when the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan is not going to suffer as a result. Surely the popular coup in Kyrgyzstan should show us how absurd it is to have “an ongoing U.S.-Russian struggle for influence in Eurasia,” and it should also show us that America has nothing to gain and risks real national security interests in connection with Afghanistan by contesting for influence in these countries.