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Letter From Bishkek

How Did Kurmanbek Bakiyev's Presidency Fail?

The downfall of Kurmanbek Bakiyev began with a betrayal. In February 2009, Bakiyev, the president of Kyrgyzstan, met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow, where he received a promise of $2.15 billion in Russian loans and aid. That same day, he ordered the U.S. military out of its airbase at the Manas airport near Bishkek. The United States set up the base in 2001 to support the NATO mission in Afghanistan; since then, the base had become particularly essential, especially after Uzbekistan ordered the closure of a U.S. base on its territory in 2005.

To nearly all Central Asia analysts, the deal was clear: Moscow had long wanted the U.S. military out of its backyard -- or at least a greater say in how U.S. forces operated -- and Bakiyev, in exchange for promises of cash, was happy to oblige.

Yet just four months later, in June, the United

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