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US Losing Influence in Eastern Europe

Posted April. 04, 2009 09:22,   


The United States has expanded its influence in countries previously under Russian influence by utilizing its war on terrorism, but has been driven out by Russian power, the Financial Times said yesterday.

Moscow is expanding its influence over its former satellite states by filling the void left by Washington. The Times said Russia’s influence has reached a peak since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

○ Disgruntled with the US

The United States has seen its influence over former Soviet satellite states diminish amid the deepening global economic crisis. Pro-Western countries battered by the economic crisis have asked for help from Western countries, but have failed to get it because the West is busy cleaning up its own mess. Desperate, Eastern European countries have turned to Russia, which has willingly extended a helping hand.

A case in point is the expulsion of U.S. troops from the Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan. The base was the only U.S. military supply route in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan had asked for U.S. help but failed to obtain the desired amount. In contrast, Russia has promised the Central Asian country more than 2.3 billion dollars in aid and loans.

In early February, the Kyrgyz government gave the U.S. military 180 days to move out. The Manas airbase is crucial for the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan because 15,000 American troops use the base. The shutdown of the base for U.S. troops will significantly hamper U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to deploy an additional 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan. More than anything, U.S. pride will be hurt by Russia’s Rapid Reaction Corps, which will occupy the base after U.S. troops depart.

Kyrgyzstan is not alone in turning its back on the United States to seek Russian money. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has stuck to a pro-Western stance since coming to power in 2004 through the “Orange Revolution,” but his approval rating has plummeted to three percent. A pro-Russia figure will likely win the next presidential election.

Once Western-friendly Uzbekistan is now turning to Russia because it apparently feels burdened by calls from the West to democratize the country.

○ Russia`s use of FX reserves

Russia is displeased over increasing U.S. presence in Central Europe under the pretext of waging war in Afghanistan. The global economic crisis has turned the tide in favor of Moscow, however. The former Cold War superpower is again flexing its muscles with financial aid on the one hand and military power on the other. Russia has the world`s third-largest foreign reserves with 385 billion dollars.

Unlike the United States, Russia says democracy is a domestic issue. Other Eastern European countries are learning a lesson from the downfall of Ukrainian President Yushchenko and Washington`s failure to protect him. No wonder they are leaning toward Russia.

In early February, the setting up of the Collective Security Treaty Organization comprising seven European countries including Russia, epitomizes growing Russian influence. Member countries will establish an emergency rescue fund of 10 billion dollars, to which Moscow will contribute seven billion dollars.