Moscow is sending decidedly mixed signals to President Dmitry Medvedev’s new US counterpart.
On the one hand, it is reiterating support for the US-led war on terrorism in Afghanistan, a key part of Barack Obama’s policy. But, at the same time, Russia is flexing its own muscles in what it considers its traditional backyard. It has announced a rapid reaction force will be formed with several other former Soviet nations. Also, a Russian financial rescue package for cash-strapped Kyrgyzstan has secured military favours in return. Authorities there have begun moves to close an American airbase near Bishkek that is crucial for supplying US troops fighting the Taliban. It comes at a time when the base’s strategic significance has increased with Washington seeking to shift its resupply chain away from Pakistan, where convoys face security risks. On Tuesday, insurgents blew up a bridge in Pakistan’s Khyber Pass, on the main route for supplies bound for Western forces in Afghanistan.