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WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- A sinister Kremlin agenda may be involved in the intrigue around the closure of Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan. The Kremlin is obsessed with the U.S. missile defense deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic. Sources in Moscow tell UPI that the Kremlin may use the Manas closure and an offer of cooperation in supply of the Afghanistan deployment as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with the United States on the future of missile defense in Europe.
Russia is essentially creating bargaining chips it may be willing to trade in exchange for the American concessions it considers vital. This was the case with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's threat to deploy short-range, nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad province on the Baltic coast in response to the planned ballistic missile defense site that the Bush administration planned to construct in Poland. The missile shield in Europe has become even more vital after Iran launched its first satellite. History is witness to many a satellite program becoming a precursor to an active long-range ballistic missile program, or vice versa.
Along with China, Russia has lobbied the Kyrgyz government to evict the United States and NATO from Manas. This is not the first instance of evicting NATO bases from Central Asia. In 2005, at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting, Moscow and Beijing had pushed for the closure of the American Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan. Since 2005, Manas remained the only U.S. air base in Central Asia.
"The decision to shut the American base reflects the will of the Kyrgyz people," said Nurbyubyu Kerimova, a deputy with the pro-government party that overwhelmingly dominates parliament in the former Soviet bloc nation.