Russia Says 'Unacceptable' for U.S. to Maintain Military in Central Asia After Afghanistan

Russia reaffirmed its opposition to any U.S. military presence in former Soviet Central Asian nations to a visiting senior U.S. diplomat on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said after a meeting with Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who arrived in Moscow on Monday for a three-day trip on behalf of the U.S. State Department, that they touched on arms control negotiations and the situation in Afghanistan, among other subjects.

Ryabkov told Interfax news agency that "we strongly reaffirmed the unacceptability to Russia of any form of U.S. military presence in Central Asian countries."

He added that "the U.S. and its allies bear the main responsibility among foreign actors for normalizing life in Afghanistan, since their presence actually led to the current situation."

Ryabokov described the conversation as "direct and businesslike," according to Interfax.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Victoria Nuland
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland leaves the Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters after her meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Moscow on October 12, 2021, when Russia reaffirmed its opposition to any U.S. military presence in former Soviet Central Asian nations. (Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)

The U.S. and its allies hoped to negotiate basing agreements, overflight rights and increased intelligence-sharing with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that border Afghanistan or other ex-Soviet nations in Central Asia.

But Russia, which has maintained close political, economic, security and military ties with the Central Asian countries, has bristled at any such U.S. presence.

The U.S. leased a base in Uzbekistan in the early stages of the war in Afghanistan until the country terminated it in 2005 amid tensions with Washington. It also used a base in Kyrgyzstan but it asked the U.S. to leave in 2014 under pressure from Russia.

During her visit to Moscow, Nuland is also set to hold talks with Kremlin deputy chief of staff Dmitry Kozak, who acts as President Vladimir Putin's point person on Ukraine.

The U.S. has strongly backed Ukraine in its standoff with Russia that followed its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and support for a separatist rebellion in the country's eastern industrial heartland.