September 20, 2012 - 19:15 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Russia agreed on Thursday, September 20 to write off nearly $500 million in debt due from Kyrgyzstan in exchange for a package of deals that will extend Moscow's military and energy footprints on the volatile fringes of the former Soviet Union, Reuters said.
As Kyrgyzstan confirmed plans to close a U.S. base used to fly troops in and out of Afghanistan after Washington's lease expires in 2014, President Vladimir Putin secured a 15-year extension to Russia's lease on its own base in the country.
The deals, which will see Russian companies build hydro power plants allowing them to mediate between conflicting interests over water use, reinforce the Kremlin's influence in Central Asia as the region guards against the possible spillover of Islamist militancy from Afghanistan.
"A Russian military presence both in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is a significant factor in stability," Putin said, invoking old Soviet ties in a joint news conference with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev.
Thursday's agreement also offered further evidence of what appears to be a campaign by Russia to use financial muscle to extend its influence more widely through Asia.
On Tuesday, Moscow agreed to write off 90 percent of North Korea's $11 billion debt and reinvest the balance in the reclusive Asian state, in a sign of closer engagement with Pyongyang under new leader Kim Jong-un.