Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Monday criticized U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul for statements he made at a meeting with students of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow a few days earlier.
“The Russian Foreign Ministry was extremely bewildered by the U.S. ambassador’s statements… His estimates of Russian-U.S. cooperation go far beyond diplomatic etiquette,” the Russian ministry said.
McFaul on Friday told students that Russia had “bribed” Kyrgyzstan four years ago to prompt the country’s authorities to shut down the U.S. military airbase in Manas airport near Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek. In his speech, he admitted that the United States had also offered a bribe to Kyrgyzstan, but ten times less.
McFaul’s statements “are in essence a deliberate distortion of a number of aspects of the Russian-American dialogue,” the Russian ministry said in a statement on its website.
“This is not the first time when statements and actions of Mr. McFaul, who holds such a responsible post, cause bewilderment,” it said.
“As we see it, the task of ambassadors is progressive development of bilateral relations with the host country on the basis of deep knowledge of facts rather than angry duplication of fairy tales through media,” the Russian ministry said.
“As regards Manas airport, McFaul must know better which bribes and to whom Washington gave,” the statement said.
The United States began operations at the Manas base in 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to support military operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It remains a key supply facility for the ongoing military campaign there.
When Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev assumed his post in December 2011, he stated that Kyrgyzstan would not prolong the lease contract with the United States, which expires in 2014, saying that he did not want a third country carrying out a retaliatory strike against the civilian airport. Pentagon officials have since been trying to persuade the Kyrgyz authorities to change their mind.
The U.S. airbase serves now as a major transit point for supplying troops in Afghanistan. It also hosts a fleet of coalition aerial tankers for refueling fighter and surveillance aircraft used in Afghanistan. It will likely be closed down in 2014.