Top official: U.S. wants to cooperate with Russia in Central Asia
The U.S. does not seek long-term military presence in Central Asia, and not try to push out Russia from there, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake said on Wednesday, ITAR-TASS reported.
"We seek to be very open towards our goals in Central Asia," he said, speaking at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at the Johns Hopkins University. "We do not seek long-term military presence, and not try to push out Russia from there. On the contrary. We are looking for boosting cooperation with the Russians in the region," he added.
Interaction on Afghanistan is of particular importance for the U.S. Supplies are delivered to the U.S. contingent in Afghanistan through Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other Central Asian republics via the so-called Northern Distribution Network. Transit Center operates at the Manas Airport in Bishkek to assist the international anti-terrorist coalition.
Blake made it clear that without assistance of Russia, which enjoys great influence in the region, these efforts would be difficult. "The Russians are in such a position that they could block what we do if they want," he said, adding that both countries "have many common interests" in Central Asia.
Blake confirmed that the U.S. intends to provide military assistance to Uzbekistan, with whom relations have significantly improved after Obama administration came to power.
"So far, no military assistance we have provided," he said. The U.S. wants to avoid the current restrictions on military assistance to Uzbekistan, introduced by the U.S. in due time in the wake of dissatisfaction with the situation of human rights in the country. Blake said in any case the question is about "limited non-lethal military assistance" to support anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan.