Russia Says Aid and Base Not Linked

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin denied any link between Moscow's decision to give Kyrgyzstan aid worth more than $2 billion and Bishkek's decision to close a U.S. air base.

"That was the sovereign and very well-thought-over decision of the Kyrgyz leader," Karasin told reporters during a conference call Wednesday.

Karasin said Central Asian nations "have their own ideas" about their security arrangements and this should be taken into account when the United States looks for a new site for a base.

Karasin also denied that the base closure might serve as a bargaining chip over Washington's plans for a missile defense system in Central Europe.

Karasin said Moscow was interested in the success of the U.S.-led war against terror in Afghanistan. He said the government had agreed to a U.S. request for transit through Russian territory just days ago. "We will be flexible in many other ways," he said.

President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that Russia wanted "full-fledged" cooperation on Afghanistan.

Nikolai Zlobin, an analyst with the Washington-based World Security Institute, said the base closure reflected Moscow's strategy to use the global crisis to strengthen its role in the region.

"Medvedev and [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin want to show that they do have influence in the post-Soviet space and that the Commonwealth of Independent States is alive," he said.