June 16, 2010
Kyrgyzstan: Bloodstained Geopolitical Chessboard
Events in a remote, landlocked and agrarian nation of slightly over five million people have become the center of world attention.
A week of violence which first erupted in Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city, Osh, in the south of the country, has resulted in the deaths of at least 120 civilians and in over 1,700 being injured.
More than 100,000 ethnic Uzbeks have fled Osh and the nearby city of Jalal-Abad (Jalalabad) and three-quarters of those have reportedly crossed the border into Uzbekistan.
A report of June 14 estimated that 50,000 were stranded on the Kyrgyz side of the border without food, water and other necessities. 
Witnesses describe attacks by gangs of ethnic Kyrgyz against Uzbeks with reports of government armed forces siding with the assailants.
The following day the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 275,000 people in total had fled the violence-torn area.
On June 14 the deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Osh, Severine Chappaz, was quoted as warning: “We are extremely concerned about the nature of the violence that is taking place and are getting reports of severe brutality, with an intent to kill and harm. The authorities are completely overwhelmed, as are the emergency services.
“The armed and security forces must do everything they can to protect the vulnerable and ensure that hospitals, ambulances, medical staff and other emergency services are not attacked.” 
The government of neighboring Uzbekistan had registered 45,000 refugees by June 14, with an estimated 55,000 more on the way. United Nations representatives said that over 100,000 people had fled Kyrgyzstan, mainly ethnic Uzbeks to Uzbekistan, by June 15.
According to a news account of the preceding day, “Kyrgyz mobs burned Uzbek villages and slaughtered residents on Sunday, sending more than 75,000 Uzbeks fleeing across the border into Uzbekistan. Ethnic Uzbeks in a besieged neighbourhood of the Kyrgyz city of Osh said gangs, aided by the military, were carrying out genocide, burning residents out of their homes and shooting them as they fled.” 
Accounts of hundreds of corpses in the streets and a hundred bodies buried in one unmarked grave have also surfaced.
The government of acting (unelected) president Roza Otunbayeva (the nation’s first ambassador to the United States in the early 1990s) called up all reservists under 50 years of age and issued shoot-to-kill orders in the affected areas.
On June 13 Russia deployed a reinforced battalion of as many as 650 airborne troops to the Kant Air Base in Kyrgyzstan where Russian air force units have been stationed since 2003. (Russia had also sent 150 paratroopers to the base after April’s overthrow of Otunbayeva’s predecessor Kurmanbek Bakiyev.)
On June 15 two chartered planes repatriated 195 Chinese nationals from Kyrgyzstan, flying them into the adjoining Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. By the following day almost 1,000 Chinese had been rescued.
India, Pakistan, Turkey and Russia also evacuated citizens from the nation.
Both the Collective Security Treaty Organization consisting of Russia, Kyrgyzstan and five other former Soviet republics and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization of China, Russia and all Central Asian nations except for Turkmenistan have addressed the Kyrgyz crisis.
This month’s bloody rampages were an aftershock of those following the overthrow of President Bakiyev in early April , following which at least 80 people were killed and over 1,500 injured. At that time Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that “Kyrgyzstan is on the threshold of a civil war.” 
The current violence in Kyrgyzstan, which may prove to be terminal for the 19-year-old Central Asian state, is a continuation and inevitable culmination of that of April. The latter in turn occurred five years after the overthrow of the government of President Askar Akayev by a coalition of opposition forces led by Bakiyev, Otunbayeva and Felix Kulov, a coup that was widely celebrated in the West at the time as the high point of an inexorable wave of what were characterized as “color” and “rainbow” revolutions in the former Soviet Union and beyond.
Two months after the 2005 putsch in Kyrgyzstan, U.S. President George W. Bush was in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi where he crowed: “In recent months, the world has marvelled at the hopeful changes taking place from Baghdad to Beirut to Bishkek [the Kyrgyz capital]. But before there was a purple revolution in Iraq, or an orange revolution in Ukraine, a cedar revolution in Lebanon, there was a rose revolution in Georgia.” 
Bush’s statement, his transparent endorsement of the “color revolution” model of extending U.S. domination over former Soviet states and Middle Eastern nations, has been echoed by former U.S. national security advisor and self-ordained geostrategic chess master Zbigniew Brzezinski who was quoted by a Kyrgyz news source as saying, “I believe revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan were a sincere and snap expression of the political will.” 
The ringleaders of the 2005 violent, unconstitutional takeover in Kyrgyzstan divided up top government posts, with Bakiyev becoming president, Kulov prime minister and Otunbayeva acting foreign minister.
Regarding the “hopeful changes” that Bush and Brzezinski acclaimed, it is worth recalling that the only two elected presidents in the young nation’s history are wanted men forced into exile. The “shock therapy” privatization of the nation’s economy in the 1990s, as disruptive as it was abrupt, laid the groundwork for subsequent destabilization, but that buildings are flammable is no defense for an arsonist.
The Pentagon opened the Manas Air Base (also named the Ganci Air Base by the U.S.) near the Kyrgyz capital in December of 2001, two months after the invasion of Afghanistan to support military operations in that nation.
The base, since last summer called the Transit Center at Manas, has seen hundreds of thousands of U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization combat troops pass through in the interim.
Washington’s civilian hit man for the expanding war in South Asia, which is the largest and most deadly war in the world currently with hundreds of thousands of troops involved and millions of civilians displaced on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, is Richard Holbrooke, appointed Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan after the new administration was installed in Washington in January of last year.
This February he visited Kyrgyzstan and the three other former Soviet Central Asian republics it borders: Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Shortly after returning to Washington, “Holbrooke said that the United States would soon renew an agreement to use the Manas airbase, where he said 35,000 US troops were transiting each month on their way in and out of Afghanistan.” 
Afterward Major John Redfield of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said that during the next month, this March, 50,000 American troops had passed through the Kyrgyz base to and from Afghanistan, and the new commander of U.S. operations at Manas with the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, Colonel Dwight Sones, recently disclosed that “55,000 servicemen were airlifted to Afghanistan via Manas in May.” 
That is, 20,000 more troops a month over a three-month period and at a rate of almost two-thirds of a million annually.
In February of 2009 Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted 78-1 to close the U.S. air base at Manas and President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed a decree to do so.
The U.S. was given “180 days to withdraw some 1,200 personnel, aircraft and other equipment.”  The following month Kyrgyz deputies also voted to expel military personnel from Australia, Denmark, Italy, Spain, South Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Turkey and France, all nations providing troops for NATO’s International Assistance Security Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
Popular internal opposition to the presence of U.S. and NATO forces in the country had been mounting as the Afghan war dragged on interminably and especially after the killing of a Kyrgyz civilian, Alexander Ivanov, by an American soldier in December of 2006 and the dumping of 80 tons of fuel into the atmosphere by U.S. military planes the year before. Many Kyrgyz also fear that the use of the air base at Manas for an attack against Iran could pull their nation into a second and far more catastrophic armed conflict.
The situation was made worse in August of 2008 when “A major depot with weapons and ammunition” was “found in a private house in Bishkek rented by U.S. nationals in an operation by Kyrgyz police….According to law enforcement officers, six heavy machine guns, 26 Kalashnikov assault-rifles, almost 3,000 cartridges for them, two Winchester rifles, four machine gun barrels, two grenade launches, four sniper guns, six Beretta pistols, 10,000 cartridges for a nine-millimetre pistol, 478 12-millimetre cartridges, 1,000 tracer cartridges and 123 empty magazines were found there.
“Police said the house belonged to a Kyrgyz national, who had rented it to US nationals.
“They also said there were several staffers of the U.S. Embassy to Kyrgyzstan having diplomatic immunity, as well as ten U.S. military in the house during the search.” 
The U.S. claimed it had government permission to store the above-described arsenal in a private residence.
Last year Russia negotiated an extension of its military presence at the Kant Air Base for 49 years and offered the Kyrgyz government a $2 billion loan.
In June of 2009 the outgoing U.S. commander at Manas, Colonel Christopher Bence, “said the facility had started to wind down operations” and “has started to shut down and will close by mid-August.”  He added “that over the past year alone 189,000 troops from 20 countries had moved to and out of Afghanistan via the Manas base”  and that “we have started shipping equipment and supplies to other locations and those shipments should be finished by August 18.”  (Recall that 55,000 Western troops passed through the base last month alone.)
However, earlier in the month President Barack Obama sent a personal appeal to his Kyrgyz counterpart urging him to reverse the decision to expel U.S. military personnel, some 1,300 permanently assigned to the base, and “Kyrgyzstan showed more flexibility on the matter after receiving the letter….” 
On July 2 President Bakiyev signed an agreement to extend U.S. military presence at Manas after Washington offered $180 million a year for the use of the base, thereafter referred to as a transit center. “Rent for the land is $60 million as compared to $17.4 million Kyrgyzstan received for hosting the airbase.”  In early August U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent a letter to President Bakiyev commending him for overriding the near-unanimous decision by his country’s parliament, including his own party’s deputies, to close down Pentagon operations, instead simply renaming the Manas Air Base while activity there was scheduled to increase.
A Russian report on the transition, a change more formal than substantive, said that “Many experts on Central Asian politics speculated that Bishkek was simply angling for more money and was not intending to close the base.” 
It is in part a struggle over the $180 million in U.S. funds as well as the $2 billion in Russian aid pledged in February of last year that precipitated April’s phase two of the so-called Tulip Revolution.
Complementing the new arrangement with the Pentagon, last December Kyrgyzstan authorized the establishment of a NATO representative office in its capital. A spokesman for the nation’s parliament said at the time, “Until recently, the NATO representative office was located in the city of Astana, Kazakhstan.” Kyrgyz Defense Minister Bakyt Kalyev stated: “NATO recently started to pay special attention to Central Asia in light of the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
“The relocation of NATO’s official to the territory of Kyrgyzstan will proceed as part of the Partnership for Peace Program. One of the key reasons behind the transfer of the office from Astana to Bishkek is the fact that the territory of the republic houses the International Transit Center.” 
Richard Holbrooke met with the Kyrgyz president this February to solidify plans for the Manas base.
This March it was announced that the Pentagon is to set up a “counter-terrorism” special forces training base in Kyrgyzstan.
General David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command, visited Kyrgyzstan and met with its president in March. “The visit [came] a day after US diplomats confirmed Washington would provide US$5.5 million to the Kyrgyz government toward the construction of a counter-terrorism training center in southern Kyrgyzstan.” 
The day after this April’s uprising began a Pentagon spokesman said of the operations at Manas that “Our support to Afghanistan continues and has not been seriously affected, and we are hopeful that we will be able to resume full operations soon.” 
A week later the government of then interim prime minister Roza Otunbayeva extended the lease for the Manas base another year. The next month a record number of Western troops passed through Kyrgyzstan in support of the war in Afghanistan.
On June 10 Robert Simmons, NATO’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, arrived in the Kyrgyz capital to further military cooperation with the new regime. “Simmons visits Kyrgyzstan each time the existence of the Transit Center at Manas, called Manas Air Base until 2009, is threatened. The high-ranking diplomat’s first visit to Bishkek took place in May 2005.
“Then, Washington was concerned about the base’s future after the March 2005 Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan that overthrew President Askar Akayev. Simmons paid another visit to the republic in February 2009, or two weeks before President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced his intention to close the base. This time, Simmons met with Roza Otunbayeva, head of the Kyrgyz interim government, and acting Finance Minister Temir Sariyev, who is responsible for budget income.” 
In addition, “Kyrgyz media say Washington has paid $15 million in first-quarter lease payments ahead of schedule and promises to transfer the second tranche to the cash-strapped Kyrgyz budget soon.” 
On June 8 EurasiaNet, “operated by the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Institute,”  ran a feature entitled “Pentagon Looks to Plant New Facilities in Central Asia,” which included these excerpts:
“The Pentagon is preparing to embark on a mini-building boom in Central Asia. A recently posted sources-sought survey indicates the US military wants to be involved in strategic construction projects in all five Central Asian states, including Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
“According to the notice posted on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website in mid-May, the US Army Corps of Engineers wants to hear from respondents interested in participating in ‘large-scale ground-up design-build construction projects in the following Central South Asian States (CASA): Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Tajikistan; Turkmenistan; and Uzbekistan.’
“’We anticipate two different projects in Kyrgyzstan. Both are estimated to be in the $5 million to $10 million dollar range.’” 
On June 14 Pentagon spokesman Colonel David Lapan told CNN that “the refueling and troop transport operations at the U.S. transit base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, continue ‘unabated’ by ethnic riots in the southern part of the country….Refueling operations had been halted while the United States negotiated new fuel contracts with the interim government…but late last week refueling started again.” 
An analysis recently appeared on the website of the German international radio broadcaster Deutsche Welle which provided insightful background information regarding the current crisis in Kyrgyzstan:
“Bakiyev’s installation as president in 2005 with US backing may have provided Washington with a friendly government with whom to do business with but it also gave the US a significant foothold in a country that some strategists believe is paramount to its plans for regional dominance.”
“The inclusion of Kyrgyzstan and three other central Asian states in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program in 1994 was seen as a major step toward increasing US military presence in the region which eventually led to the US base at Manas, outside Bishkek in the north, being established.”
“While Manas remains a key hub for US operations in Afghanistan, it is also used as a NATO base – a situation which angers and concerns Russia which fears the eastern enlargement of its former Cold War opponent, putting Kyrgyzstan at the center of a power struggle for regional influence….Russia is also concerned about the possibility of being encircled by NATO member states should the alliance go ahead with its provocative eastern enlargement.”
“The Chinese see increasing US influence as not only a threat to its plans for Eurasia, which along with promoting its emerging market policy also includes energy security and supply, but also a threat to the People’s Republic itself….Beijing [is] more concerned that the porous nature of the border is allowing US intelligence agencies to run covert destabilizing operations into the strategically vital and politically fragile [Xinjiang] province. Beijing believes the flow of people across the border gives US operations a perfect cover.” 
Small and seemingly insignificant Kyrgyzstan is the country most vital to U.S. and NATO for the reinforcement and escalation of the war in Afghanistan, even more than Pakistan where NATO supply convoys are routinely attacked and destroyed.
The transit center in the country is the only base the Pentagon has in Central Asia after it was evicted from the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan five years ago.
Kyrgyzstan is Washington’s military outpost in a region where the interests of several major nations – Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Iran among them – converge. U.S. stratagems in the nation, whether attempts at the maintenance of a permanent military presence or rotating governments through the use of standard “regime change” maneuvers, will have consequences far more serious than what the status of the diminutive and impoverished Central Asian nation may otherwise indicate.
1) Itar-Tass, June 14, 2010
2) UzReport, June 14, 2010
3) Daily Times (Pakistan)/Agencies, June 14, 2010
4) Kyrgyzstan And The Battle For Central Asia
Stop NATO, April 7, 2010
5) Russian Information Agency Novosti, April 14, 2010
6) Agence France-Presse, May 11, 2005
7) 24.kg, March 27, 2008
8) Agence France-Presse, March 4, 2010
9) Interfax, June 15, 2010
10) Russian Information Agency Novosti, February 20, 2009
11) Itar-Tass, March 6, 2009
12) Reuters, June 15, 2009
13) Voice of Russia, June 17, 2009
14) Stars and Stripes, June 16, 2009
15) Reuters, June 11, 2009
16) Russia Today, June 23, 2009
18) Interfax, December 29, 2009
19) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, March 10, 2010
20) U.S. Air Forces in Europe
American Forces Press Service
April 8, 2010
21) Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 15, 2010
24) EurasiaNet, June 8, 2010
25) CNN, June 14, 2010
26) Nick Amies, Kyrgyzstan unrest adds new edge to global powers’ regional
Deutsche Welle, June 14, 2010
June 8, 2010
Pentagon Chief In Azerbaijan: Afghan War Arc Stretches To Caspian And Caucasus
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, on June 6, meeting with President Ilham Aliyev on that day and on the following with Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiyev.
Gates was the first cabinet-level American official to visit the strategically positioned nation – located in the South Caucasus with Russia to its north, Iran to its south and the Caspian Sea to its east – in five years and the first U.S. defense chief to visit since Donald Rumsfeld did in 2005.
When Gates’ predecessor was last in Azerbaijan his mission centered on “the transportation of Caspian oil and the security of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline” as the chief element of U.S. trans-Eurasian oil and natural gas plans “which [are] directly connected with Mr Rumsfeld’s department”  to bring Caspian Sea hydrocarbons into Europe while bypassing Russia and Iran, both of which adjoin Azerbaijan.
Rumsfeld’s visit of five years ago also focused on a related initiative, the Caspian Guard project the Pentagon launched in 2003. “Guaranteeing security to the pipeline…will be the prime goal of the Caspian Guard. The Caspian Guard will represent a network of police detachments and special military units in the Caspian region.” 
At the time Rumsfeld’s Defense Department planned to allot over $100 million for the Caspian Guard to operate at both ends of the inland sea – Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan – and to be based in Stuttgart, Germany where the Pentagon’s new Africa Command is now based. In fact U.S. European Command was simultaneously elaborating plans for the Caspian Guard and a complementary Gulf of Guinea Guard in oil-rich western Africa to secure control over the 21st century’s main new sources of energy supplies. 
Gates arrived in Azerbaijan the day after the ninth annual Asian security summit organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore and before his attendance at the NATO defense chiefs meeting in Brussels on the 10th and 11th.
He had intended to visit Beijing following the conference in Singapore, but his overtures in that direction were rebuffed by the Chinese government, presumably because of Washington’s confirmation this January of plans to complete a $6.5 billion arms transaction with Taiwan, one whose latest installment includes 200 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 anti-ballistic missiles.
That Baku replaced Beijing on the Pentagon chief’s way to the NATO meeting indicates the importance that the comparatively small nation – with a population of under nine million while China’s is over 1.3 billion – has in American global geostrategic plans.
U.S. media reports highlighted efforts to mend fences with Azerbaijan after joint military exercises scheduled in the nation for last month were abruptly cancelled – evidently by the host country as a sign of dissatisfaction with Washington’s moves to take a more balanced approach toward Azerbaijan’s regional rival Armenia in a bid to lure all the nations of the South Caucasus into the U.S. and NATO orbit. Last December the Armenian government approved the deployment of troops to serve under NATO command in the Afghan war theater along with those of their Caucasus neighbors Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Received opinion has it that the U.S. intends to incorporate all three nations into NATO simultaneously. Armenia and Azerbaijan have NATO Individual Partnership Action Plans and Georgia a special, even more advanced, Annual National Programme.
The cancelled exercises were to have built upon last year’s Regional Response 2009 in Azerbaijan, a NATO Partnership for Peace operation to advance the North Atlantic military bloc’s Individual Partnership Action Plan with the nation.
To demonstrate that Rumsfeld’s Caspian Guard plans are still alive, during his visit to Azerbaijan Secretary Gates discussed bilateral military ties, particularly “further U.S. help with maritime security in the Caspian Sea.”
In his own words, “We already help them there with several tens of millions of dollars, boats, radars and capabilities.” 
According to the Pentagon’s website, “More military exercises and intelligence sharing also came up during the meetings,” Gates added, “and the discussions also touched on Iran and Russia,” with the American defense secretary saying of his hosts, “These guys clearly live in a rough neighborhood.” 
Georgia borders Russia and Armenia borders Iran, but Azerbaijan alone abuts both. The same defense minister Gates met with on June 7, Colonel General Safar Abiyev, not long ago addressed the head of state Gates met with the day before and said: “Our armed forces are able to annihilate targets in all the territory of Armenia. Mr. President, I notify you that the Azerbaijani Armed Forces are able to hit any target in the territory of Armenia.” 
Gates’ main concentration – or at least that of most immediate importance – was on the expanding war in South Asia, where he will soon have 100,000 U.S. troops serving with another 50,000 NATO forces.
Western and local reports have recently divulged that 25 percent of U.S. and NATO supplies and equipment for the Afghan war pass through what is referred to as the Caucasus Spur – Azerbaijan and Georgia – and that “100,000 troops have flown through Azerbaijani airspace in the past year en route to Afghanistan.” 
More specifically, “Tens of thousands of cargo aircraft have flown over Azerbaijan for the Afghan war, with planes ferrying 100,000 US and allied troops and personnel through the country’s airspace last year, Pentagon officials said.” 
With the recent turmoil in Kyrgyzstan hampering the transit of troops and equipment through the Central Asian country where hundreds of thousands of U.S. and NATO forces have passed directly to Afghanistan, Azerbaijan (in addition to Kazakhstan ) will play an even more pivotal role as the battle for Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province begins.
While in Baku, Gates delivered a personal letter from President Barack Obama to his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev. As the local press described it, “Gates, the most senior U.S. official to visit Azerbaijan since Obama took office last year, hand delivered the letter to Aliyev to make clear ‘we have a relationship going forward,’ a senior defense official said….” 
Obama commended his opposite number for doubling the amount of troops deployed to Afghanistan and providing the use of his nation’s land (for supply trucks) and air space, especially ahead of the next surge of 30,000 U.S. troops.
An Azeri news agency reminded its readers that “Azerbaijan is also a major oil producer and a key hub on a route for Central Asia and Caspian Sea energy to Europe bypassing Russia to the north and Iran to the south,” while quoting the following from Obama’s letter: “Azerbaijan’s leadership in the development for a Southern Corridor for energy has also increased regional prosperity and enhanced global energy security.” 
Gates told Azerbaijan’s defense minister that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would also be visiting the nation shortly.
Last month an Azerbaijani delegation visited Afghanistan to meet with the nation’s defense minister and NATO International Security Assistance Force commanders, during which “the education of Afghan national policemen, soldiers and officers in Azerbaijan” was discussed.  In early May U.S. military officers arrived in Baku to “hold seminars related to the tasks of operational officers at the battalion and brigade [levels].  The month before Azerbaijani troops began “a communication course in San Antonio, USA from April 21 to December 15.” 
In April Robert Simmons, the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia and NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Security Cooperation and Partnership , was in Baku to promote Azerbaijan’s Individual Partnership Action Plan. In the same month it was announced that the bloc’s chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is to visit this summer.
Since January of 2009 Romania has been the NATO Contact Point Embassy in Azerbaijan and its ambassador to the country, Nicolae Ureche, the Brussels-based military bloc’s main liaison there. In early May he opened a conference in Baku titled NATO’s Role in Ensuring Security and Stability in Europe and in the Strategic Arena, dedicated to NATO 61st anniversary and the 16th of Azerbaijan joining the bloc’s Partnership for Peace program.
The preceding month the Romanian envoy gave a speech in Baku in which he stated that “In connection with the 61st anniversary of NATO, the NATO Institute of Cooperation and embassies of the NATO member-states accredited in Azerbaijan have declared April NATO Month in Azerbaijan.”  During his presentation Ureche “especially emphasized NATO’s attention to energy security.”  A week before he said, “We…welcome Azerbaijan’s role in ensuring global energy security.” 
That sentiment was echoed last week when Special Envoy of the United States Secretary of State for Eurasian Energy Richard Morningstar spoke at the 17th International Caspian Oil and Gas Exhibition and Conference held in the capital of Azerbaijan and confirmed that Washington “support[s] the diversification of energy exports from the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia” and – American that he is – presumed to speak on behalf of Europe’s energy security, endorsing the anti-Russian Southern Corridor to transport natural gas and oil from the Caspian Sea Basin and the Middle East to Europe. 
The preceding month Morningstar’s fellow Foggy Bottom denizen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Tina Kaidanow, was in Azerbaijan. While there her message to the nation’s leaders was: “The United States considers Azerbaijan an essential partner. Our interests overlap in many areas, from collaborating on strengthening energy security via the Southern Corridor gas and oil projects to our work together countering terrorism and extremism. We appreciate Azerbaijan’s contributions to regional and global security, from Kosovo to Iraq to Afghanistan.”  Kaidanow took over her current post last August from Matthew Bryza, arguably a contender for Washington’s main point man in the former Soviet Union over the past two decades. His resume includes:
– Being attached to the U.S. embassy in Poland from 1989-1991 as contact person for Solidarnosc
– Serving at the U.S. embassy in Russia during the equally key transitional years of 1995-1997 with his main assignments being the Russian parliament, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the North Caucasus, especially then tense Dagestan
– Special advisor to Richard Morningstar (the current Special Envoy of the United States Secretary of State for Eurasian Energy) from 1997-1998, who at the time was Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Assistance to the New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union
– Deputy to the Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy from July 1998 to March 2001
– In 2001 he occupied the post of the National Security Council’s Director for Europe and Eurasia with emphasis on the Caucasus, Central Asia and Caspian Sea energy
– Became Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in 2005
Last month the White House nominated Bryza as U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan.
His appointment indicates the importance Washington assigns to the nation.
In March of this year Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg spoke of U.S.-Azerbaijan cooperation, mentioning in particular the “involvement of Azerbaijan in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, bilateral military ties in the context of Caspian energy and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline security, and the participation of Azerbaijan in the US-led military missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.” 
A Russian report on his comments added, “US companies are actively involved in the development of Caspian hydrocarbons in offshore Azerbaijani oilfields, and the US government actively supported the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline as the primary route of transportation for Caspian oil.” 
In the same month the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus in Washington sent a letter to President Obama “reflecting the importance of Azerbaijan-US relations.”
It included these items:
“Azerbaijan has opened Caspian energy resources to development by U.S companies and has emerged as a key player for global energy security. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project, supported by both the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations…has become the main artery delivering Caspian Sea hydrocarbons to the US and our partners in Europe.”
“Notably, in 2009 Azerbaijan provided nearly one quarter of all crude oil supplies to Israel and is considered a leading potential natural gas provider for the U.S supported Nabucco pipeline.”
“Azerbaijan was among the first to offer strong support and assistance to the United States. Azerbaijan participated in operations in Kosovo and Iraq and is actively engaged in Afghanistan, having recently doubled its military presence there.”
“Azerbaijan has extended important over-flight clearances for US and NATO flights to support ISAF and has regularly provided landing and refueling operations at its airports for US and NATO forces.” 
With Turkey increasingly adopting an independent foreign policy orientation not to Washington’s liking; with the nearly nine-year-old war in Afghanistan reaching its apex; with the U.S. and its NATO allies ramping up pressure on Iran in Azerbaijan’s “rough neighborhood”; and with the U.S. pursuing global interceptor missile plans that may include evicting the Russian military from the Gabala radar station in the north of the country, Azerbaijan is assuming a greater strategic significance with each passing day.
That is why U.S. Defense Secretary Gates was there on June 6 and 7. It will not be his last visit.
West’s Afghan War And Drive Into Caspian Sea Basin
Azerbaijan And The Caspian: NATO’s War For The World’s Heartland
Eurasian Crossroads: The Caucasus In U.S.-NATO War Plans
1) Armenian News Network, May 10, 2005
3) Global Energy War: Washington’s New Kissinger’s African Plans
Stop NATO, January 22, 2009
4) U.S. Department of Defense
American Forces Press Service
June 7, 2010
6) Azeri Press Agency, April 24, 2010
7) Trend News Agency, June 7, 2010
8) Agence France-Presse, June 6, 2010
9) Kazakhstan: U.S., NATO Seek Military Outpost Between Russia And China
Stop NATO, April 14, 2010
10) Azeri Press Agency, June 7, 2010
12) Azertag, May 20, 2010
13) ANS News, May 3, 2010
14) Azeri Press Agency, April 19, 2010
15) Mr. Simmons’ Mission: NATO Bases From Balkans To Chinese Border
Stop NATO, March 4, 2009
16) Trend News Agency, April 8, 2010
17) Azeri Press Agency, April 8, 2010
18) Interfax-Azerbaijan, Azeri Press Agency, April 1, 2010
19) Trend News Agency, June 2, 2010
20) Azeri Press Agency, May 12, 2010
21) Itar-Tass, March 30, 2010
23) Azeri Press Agency, March 30, 2010