Global Policy Forum

Russia Pushing for Control of Fuel Supplies to Crucial US Airbase

Russian and U.S. interests are at stake in Kyrgyzstan, and both parties are cautiously assessing their policy options in the wake of political upheaval in the former Soviet republic. The Manas military base in Kyrgyzstan is a hub for U.S. operations in Afghanistan, and the new Kyrgyz government has charged the ex-president's son with skimming $8 million in profits from fuel supply contracts to the base. The new administration has therefore replaced those arrangements with a deal allowing two Russian state-controlled oil companies to control supply to Manas. Although Kyrgyz officials have attempted to reassure the U.S., analysts believe that the new deal effectively gives Russia control over American operations in Afghanistan.


By Richard Orange

June 22, 2010


Russia is pushing to impose a direct fuel supply deal on the US's airbase in Kyrgyzstan that would allow it to force a rapid closure of the base once it is no longer necessary to support Nato operations in Afghanistan.

The Russian and American governments are discussing a bilateral government deal, under which Russian state-controlled oil companies Rosneft and Gazpromneft would supply kerosene directly to the Manas Transit Centre, a crucial logistics hub for the war in Afghanistan.

"Ultimately it's in the security interests of Russia for the US to be using this base for its operations in Afghanistan, but under a very, very strict mandate," said Ana Jelenkovic, Central Asia analyst at Eurasia Group.

"If Russia is able to monitor the destination of the fuel, it limits the ability of the US to stay there in the base long-term. It makes the Americans staying there at Manas contingent always on some Russian support."

The deal would replace the controversial previous arrangement, which the Kyrgyz government claims allowed the former President's son, Maxim Bakiyev, to make up to $8m a month in profits.

The Kyrgyz government claims that Maxim Bakiyev, who was granted temporary asylum in Britain last week, controlled the six Kyrgyz subcontractors who supplied Mina Corp, the Gibraltar-registered company which holds the contract to supply fuel to Manas.

Mr Bakiyev has been blamed by the interim government for provoking the riots that killed up to 2,000 people in southern Kyrgyzstan last week.

According to a report in Eurasianet, the Central Asia news site funded by George Soros, the US-Russia supply deal is under "active consideration" by both sides, and could be signed as early as this Thursday's meeting of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and US President Barack Obama in Washington.

On Monday, Kyrgyzstan's interim President Roza Otunbayeva, signed a decree nationalising the companies which own the fuel depot at Manas.

Edil Baisalov, former chief of staff for the interim government and the current leader of the Aikol El Party, said that some members of Kyrgyzstan's interim government were promoting a rival plan, under which this new nationalised company would take over the middleman role carried out by the companies Mr Bakiyev controlled.

He said that Russia preferred the proposal for a direct fuel supply deal, which is being promoted by his party, and which, he argued, would not undermine US strategic interests in the region.

"They are already dependent on Russia," he said. "The Russians can already violate the supply at any moment they want. If they go according to my plan, the Americans will have a state guarantee on the supply side."



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