This is one of the Case Studies from the report "Hybrid Threats. A Strategic Communications Perspective".

You can access the full report here.

Executive Summary

In 2001, the United States established a strategic air base at the Manas International Airport in Kyrgyzstan to support its military operation in Afghanistan. In return, Kyrgyzstan received at least USD 318 million in direct investment and additional indirect financial and non-financial benefits from the US.

Russia, however, was wary of a long-term US military presence in the region, and tried to exert pressure on Kyrgyzstan to close the Transit Center. The Russian government made generous offers of financial and economic assistance, while simultaneously exerting diplomatic pressure on the Kyrgyz government. The Russian media focused extensively on supposed negative impacts of the Transit Center at Manas. Russian pressure on Kyrgyzstan would likely have been much stronger from the beginning, had it not been for the US-Russian dialogue in the wake of the Global War on Terror (2001) and the US-Russian grand ‘reset’ attempt (2009).

Kyrgyz public opinion grew increasingly critical of the US military presence in the country. Using increasing Russian pressure and growing anti-American public opinion in Kyrgyzstan as bargaining chips, the Kyrgyz government managed to considerably increase US payments. The Transit Center at Manas (TCM) was eventually closed in 2014.

Key Points

  • While Russia used primarily economic instruments as leverage, this was integrated with political, diplomatic measures and informational means to exert influence. Identifying and countering any threat vector requires the capability to assess adversarial activity across the full spectrum of national instruments.
  • Economically vulnerable states should pursue long-term strategies that minimise their economic vulnerabilities or be prepared to accept risk on their national security interests. Earning “easy cash” without further positive implications can escalate into further economic and political dependence on external powers.
  • It is highly likely that public opinion was a significant factor in the closure of the base. If a country is assessed to be vulnerable to outside influence, every effort should be made to identify, understand and influence those key target audiences who may hold the balance on domestic consent for any given national policy.