Thursday, November 4, 2010

US Ignores Russian Overture

Despite a personal lobbying effort to President Obama by acting Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva, the Pentagon has granted a $315 million contract to supply jet fuel to Manas air base to the Mina corporation. ( Previously the Russian government-owned company, Gazprom, had said they would consider bidding on the contract and the Kyrgyz government had recommended the establishment of a joint, Kyrgyz-Russian company to supply the jet fuel. With a single contract, the Pentagon has thumbed its nose at both the expressed desire of the country hosting their air base, and to a Russian overture to support the war in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon had expressed reservations about giving the Russians a "hand on the spigot," which is understandable given the Russian-US tension over the existence of the only American military base on former Soviet soil. In this case, however, there was a common enemy in the form of al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban. The award of the contract indicates that the American "reset" of its relations with Russia still have a long way to go.

The Mina corporation itself is under Congressional investigation as to how it got the first $3 billion fuel supply contract. The investigation centers on whether Mina and a Russian partner company, Red Star, bribed former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. According to the Washington Post, both companies are controlled by the same individual, Douglas Edelman, who entered business in Central Asia with a "bar and hamburger joint." The Post tried to contact both companies, and uncovered a series of mailing addresses--all of them outside of the United States and Kyrgyzstan, and all of them "mail drops."

Of course, Mina director of operations Chuck Squires denied any accusations of impropriety. Squires' remarks are supported by Congress' inability to find evidence of corruption, despite having reviewed over 250,000 pages of documents and e-mails.(Washington Post, October 30, 2010)

One has to ask why the Pentagon would want to alienate an ally and Russia in favor of a bar owner without any known address.

Dr. James J. Coyle is available to speak to your organization or at your event. Please contact him at