A scene from “Baikonur” (2011), the movie (dir. Veit Helmer)
March 21, 2013
When Uzbek security forces killed hundreds of protestors in the city of Andijon in May 2005, both Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a bipartisan group of senators called for an international investigation, while Moscow and Beijing backed the Uzbek government. Tashkent soon ordered U.S. forces out of the country and, in November 2005, joined the Russian-led CSTO (from which it withdrew again in 2012 to pursue a strategic partnership with the United States that risks deepening Central Asia’s polarization).
During his first summit with Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow in June 2009, President Obama emphasized that the American military presence in Central Asia dovetailed with Russia’s own interest in fighting Islamist extremism, leading Moscow to walk back its demands for U.S. forces to leave their remaining airbase in Kyrgyzstan. Medvedev also agreed to allow the transit of U.S. troops and equipment through Russian territory, helping set the stage for the creation of the Northern Distribution Network. This series of transit routes across Europe, Russia, and Central Asia leading to Afghanistan allowed the U.S. and its NATO allies to reduce their dependence on lines of communication through Pakistan, which Islamabad has shut down on multiple occasions and has been a boon for cooperation among the U.S., Russia, and Central Asia.