Among the many reams and terabytes of "analysis" of what Russia is up to in Kyrgyzstan and what the fate of the Manas air base there might be as a result, it's an unspoken assumption that the Russians want the Americans out, overlooking the fact that (as Russians of course know as well as anyone) the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, and by extension Kyrgyzstan, may actually be weakening the U.S. So this strikes me as particularly perceptive:
Putin is playing a much more complex game than is commonly understood. Consider the following facts:
- Russia is selling us air transit rights over Russia to Kabul.
- Russia is selling us freight service for mass supply movements from Baltic ports through the Russian, Kazakh, and Uzbek railway networks to the Afghan border.
- Russia is selling us air transport services using their Antonov cargo planes, with Russian and other post-Soviet crews — again, to Kabul.
- Putin is backing Afghan President Karzai and some warlords, as well.
The lesson to draw from these facts is this: Putin’s game is to run up the cost of the Afghan war for the US, not to drive us out. His ideal scenario is an American “forever war” in the Hindu Kush — one in which we need his cooperation to keep up the fight.