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>The Big Test Is On! It’s About testing Obama’s Mettle

>Here it comes! I knew it was coming — the beginning of Russian moves to oust the United States out of Central Asia, particularly Afghanistan.

But that may not be the real immediate goal of the Soviets. It may be that by buying out the president of Kyrgyzstan and getting him to order the American base in his country closed, Russia could be in a good position to push America around.

Vlad Putin is smart. Is Barak Obama his equal? We will soon know. Putin wants to force us out of the lease on that Kyrgystan air base — and we beleive they have upped the ante. We pay something like $150 million a year for that lease.

Perhaps Putin offered Kyrgyzstan $200 million. His chess game is set to make us feel obliged to go to Moscow and negotiate, not only use of the air base, but some far more important deals — particularly that missile defense ring that is so close to Russian territory it makes Putin nervous, but which could be a valuable defense for countries like Poland and the Czeck Republic against military incursions from Iran and Russia onto foreign soil.

Georgia wishes it had been both a member of Nato last year when Russia invaded that country and that it had a defense missile system.

Russian officials took pains on Wednesday to reassure President Obama that they hoped to cooperate with him in Afghanistan and elsewhere. But the conciliatory words sounded peculiar beside the blunt fact of the base closure, which seemed to communicate that American plans in the region should be coordinated with Moscow.

“The calculation behind the Russian move is that the Americans have not so many alternatives,” said Fyodor A. Lukyanov, the editor of Russia in Global Politics. “If you need something there, you should go not to Bishkek but to Moscow.”

A New York Times story said that Russian leaders also hope to secure concessions from Mr. Obama on a variety of issues, among them planned missile defense facilities in the Czech Republic and Poland, revamped security structures in Europe, and a renegotiation of the Start I arms treaty.