Will U.S. Use Maxim Bakiyev As "Bargaining Chip" For Manas?

The arrest of former Kyrgyzstani first son Maxim Bakiyev in the U.K. earlier this month, and Washington's request to extradite him for financial crimes in the U.S., has prompted speculation that Bakiyev might be a bargaining chip in future negotiations between the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan over the Manas air base.

Kyrgyzstan wants to try Bakiyev for crimes he committed in that country while his father Kurmanbek was president. The U.S. wants Kyrgyzstan to keep allowing it the use of Manas. So, the thinking is, the two sides can make a deal: the U.S. would extradite Bakiyev to Kyrgyzstan in exchange for an extension of Manas's lease.

The U.S. also could use information that Bakiyev gives them to in effect blackmail the current Kyrgyzstan government, Washington Times:

Mars Sariyev, an independent political analyst in Bishkek, said Maksim Bakiyev’s arrest could have been prompted by the Kyrgyz government’s refusal to renew the lease, a position that President Almazbek Atambayev reiterated during a recent visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia also operates a military facility in Kyrgyzstan — Kant Air Base.

“After Putin’s visit, it became clear that Kyrgyzstan is close with Russia,” said Mr. Sariyev. “Now, the Americans are trying to use all possible ways to pressure the Kyrgyz authorities.”

There are some problems with this hypothesis. One, as Washington-based analyst Jeffrey Mankoff tells the Times, it supposes that the bureaucracy of the U.S. government is much more coordinated than it actually is: "Certainly the U.S. would like to maintain that capability after 2014, but it would surprise me quite a bit if the different pieces of the U.S. bureaucracy were working that much in tandem."

But, as EurasiaNet colleagues former and present Nate Schenkkan and Myles Smith point out on twitter, such a scheme doesn't necessarily require much working in tandem: were the Justice Department to get involved in prosecuting Bakiyev, the State Department might step in and try to take advantage of the situation for Manas-related benefits.

Still, handing over Bakiyev for the sake of Manas is somewhat of a Catch-22 for the U.S. -- public exposure of whatever shady dealings he was involved in in Kyrgyzstan would undoubtedly also reflect poorly on the U.S., as he was deeply implicated in shady fuel deals involving Manas. So Bakiyev's extradition could serve to remind, if not more deeply inform, the Kyrgyz more about what sort of untoward activities Bakiyev and the Americans were involved in.

Finally, as EurasiaNet's David Trilling reports in his overview of the legal case against Bakiyev:

Kyrgyz officials would like to put Maxim Bakiyev on trial in Bishkek. But there is no extradition treaty between the United States and Kyrgyzstan, and, even if there were a pact in place, Western officials have privately long expressed reservations about whether Bakiyev could receive a fair trial in Kyrgyzstan.

Of course national security needs could override such political and legal roadblocks. But will they? Stranger things have certainly happened in Central Asia, but I remain skeptical.

Will U.S. Use Maxim Bakiyev As "Bargaining Chip" For Manas?

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