- Putin told Biden in Geneva that Russia was opposed to US forces staying in Central Asia.
- “It would definitely NOT be in the interests of Russia,” said a Russian foreign ministry official.
- Without access to Central Asian countries, the US will have to rely on bases in the Persian Gulf.
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At the June 16 US-Russia summit in Geneva, Russian President Vladimir Putin told US President Joe Biden that his country was opposed to US forces operating in nearby Central Asian countries, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The previously unreported comments surfaced as the Taliban assumed control of Afghanistan following the beginning of the American withdrawal. US forces are currently scrambling to evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghans that assisted the American mission.
In a statement to the Journal on Thursday, a Russian foreign ministry official backed up Putin’s comments and said the situation in Afghanistan did not change his country’s position.
“We do not see how any form of US military presence in Central Asia might enhance the security of the countries involved and/or of their neighbors,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. “It would definitely NOT be in the interests of Russia.”
Putin also reportedly told Biden that China would not accept US forces operating in Central Asian countries either.
Russia is backing up it’s position with both diplomacy and military activity, per the Journal’s report. In recent weeks, the US adversary has been hosting war games with both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan near the Afghan border.
The “stans” of Central Asia– Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan– were once part of the Russian empire, and have long been viewed by Russia as being a part of their “sphere of influence.” Additionally, the Journal reports that both Russia and China pressured these countries to decrease military cooperation with the US.
The Russian opposition to US forces in Central Asia will likely complicate efforts to maintain security in that country post-withdrawal. Absent any bases in Central Asian countries, the US must rely primarily on bases in the Persian Gulf, such as Al Udeid in Qatar, where the US has a major military installation.