The United States is suspected of the plans to establish new military bases in Central Asia.

Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, expects President of Russian Dmitry Medvedev come January. Possible establishment of US military bases in this Central Asian country is one of the subjects Medvedev may raise in the conversation with his host, President Islam Karimov.

The prospect of American military bases in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan became the talk of the day after Chief of the General Staff Nikolai Makarov’s speech at the Academy of Military Sciences this Tuesday. “The United States has enmeshed in its military bases all regions of the world including Europe,” Makarov said. “It has bases in Bulgaria and Romania. What information we possess indicates that it intends to military establish bases on the territories of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.” The US Department of State denied any such intentions the following day. “That’s some startling piece of news,” Matthew Bryza, US Undersecretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, said. “I do not think it has anything to do with the real state of affairs.” Ca-news quoted Molly Stevenson, the press attache with the US Embassy in Tashkent, as denying any such requests to the government of Uzbekistan. US Ambassador to Kazakhstan Richard Hoagland had plainly stated in November that no negotiations with official Astana concerning transit via the Kazakh territory were under way.

Experts and specialists meanwhile are convinced that it was not on hearsay and wild speculations alone that Makarov based his statement. “The United States wants to expand its presence in the region. I wouldn’t say the Russian chief of the General Staff made a discovery or something,” to quote Rafik Saifulin, political scientist who advised the president of Kazakhstan once. Everything apparently comes down to the plans of would-be US President Barack Obama to move 20,000 servicemen to Afghanistan. According to Saifulin, it might only be done across Russia or across Uzbekistan and “… neither is likely to tell Washington to forget it.” It follows that the Pentagon needs a transshipment base in the region. The NATO base in Termez manned by German personnel cannot take additional strain, that much is already known. “It does not mean that the Uzbek authorities have made their mind already. As for the negotiations, they are under way of course,” Saifulin said. The expert suggested that establishment of the American military base in Uzbekistan was in the focus of some energetic bargaining at this point. “There is no saying what the Uzbek authorities will decide even if the Americans are tempting them with a high fee because official Tashkent is expecting Medvedev before long,” Saifulin shrugged.

January is the earliest when presidents Medvedev and Karimov may meet because the Uzbek leader declined an invitation to the informal summit of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization in Astana on December 19-20. “Uzbekistan has never applied for quitting the Organization or suspending its membership in it yet, but we believe that it’s just a matter of time,” a source in the Organization secretariat said.

Uzbek political scientist Vladimir Paramonov assumed that Kazakhstan was the likeliest site of another US military base even though the United States was really interested in the countries bordering on Afghanistan – namely Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Paramonov’s assumption is indirectly confirmed by escalation of the American-Kazakh military cooperation, a fact neither Washington nor Astana would acknowledge in public.

Leonid Ivashov, Vice President of the Academy of Geostrategic and Political Problems, pointed out that negotiations between Russia’s allies and the United States were hardly a surprising or entirely unexpected development. Ivashov called it a logical corollary of the Kremlin’s policy in the Commonwealth. “Russia’s policy with regard to its post-Soviet neighbors is definitely unintelligible. Like the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Commonwealth is coming to its end which I expect in another 2-3 years,” Ivashov said. “It is hardly surprising therefore that the United States will establish military bases on the territories of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, allies of Russia as they are.”

The expert attributed Astana’s readiness to accommodate the United States to the war on the Talibs in Afghanistan under way. On December 2, the upper house of the Kazakh parliament ratified two memorandums. One of the documents concerned support of the operation the counter-terrorism coalition was running in Afghanistan, the other permitted US and NATO aircraft in distress to land in Almaty. “Do not forget that the airport in Almaty is closer to the Russian borders than it is to Kabul… These bases pose a threat to Russia,” Ivashov said.

Bulat Abilov, leader of the Azat political party, suggested in the meantime that the United States could not be all that interested in a military base in Kazakhstan as long as it had one in Kyrgyzstan. “Moreover, Kazakhstan is Russia’s strategic partner and member of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization,” Abilov pointed out. “Bases in Kazakhstan will be a challenge to Russia.”