Officials in both Moscow and Bishkek have cast the decision to establish a Russian air base in Kyrgyzstan as driven by national security concerns, citing the threat posed by Islamic radicalism. However, Western political analysts and Kyrgyz opposition politicians say the Russian deployment could exert considerable influence over developments within Kyrgyzstan itself. Many believe the Russian presence in Kyrgyzstan may portend an intensification of conflict between President Askar Akayev and his political opponents.
Observers note that the size of the Russian squadron to be based at Kant air base outside Bishkek has negligible strategic value. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive]. But the Russian base, observers add, has the potential to provide crucial support in propping up Akayev's embattled administration.
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Justin Burke is the editor of EurasiaNet.