Question: Mr Putin, the American allies are stationed nearby. They are probably watching the demonstration flights attentively. What do you think they will see here, and what is the difference between these bases? How will our base develop?
Vladimir Putin: As you know, Russia is a member of the international anti-terrorist coalition and supports the efforts of the international community directed towards the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. In this context, we undoubtedly also support the activity of our partners in the coalition from the territory of Central Asian nations.
But this is an American base, or more precisely a base of the international coalition. There, as you know, the French military also recently took part in joint work. It was created to solve a specific task in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, during the time this operation was carried out. I repeat, it is carrying out an important task, but is working in this case on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic.
The base that we opened today is a Russian airbase, it solves and will solve another task, providing security for Kyrgyzstan itself, and the entire region in which it is situated – a region that is quite large. Of course, it will also create favourable conditions for the war on terrorism on the territory of the Russian Federation. In this sense, this task is of permanent importance, it is an extremely important, special internal task, but in the context of the war on terrorism, one could say that one activity will supplement the other, and there is no contradiction here.
The base itself is situated in an excellent location. As you can see, it is separate from any other infrastructure, has good prospects for development, a good runway and possibilities to construct additional buildings for our servicemen.
In agreement with the leadership of Kyrgyzstan, we will examine these possibilities, if the need arises, but I can already tell you now – Askar Akaev and I have planned joint exercises for next year, and numerous divisions of the Russian Armed Forces will be sent here to confirm the ability of this base to accommodate a large number of land forces for joint operations. Exercises will be conducted, we will make our conclusions accordingly, and then we will decide in what direction and at what rate we will develop this base.
Question: Do you think that the American military base will function in Central Asia only until the end of the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan, or will it remain there for a longer period?
Vladimir Putin: We have no antagonisms in this matter. One base will supplement the other, and we work with our American partners on a larger scale. I am sure, and I do not doubt this at all, that in this specific place we will also cooperate effectively, just as we work together on the international scale in an extremely important area – the war on international terrorism.