Russia will open its first military airbase in Belarus before the end of this year, air force commander Lieutenant General Vladimir Bondarev said Tuesday. The base will be near the city of Lida close to the borders of Poland and Lithuania, both of which are NATO members, Bondarev said in a report carried by Interfax. Lida was chosen for the base, which will host Su-27 fighter jets, because of it already has appropriate facilities, Bondarev said.
For almost 100 years, the countries of Central Asia were kept out of the arena of world politics as they were part of the former Soviet Union. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, they became independent nations: Uzbekistan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. These countries have become the focus of the economic superpowers because of their strategic location between the East and the West and their wealth as a result of large reserves of oil and natural gas which have been discovered in large quantities under the Caspian Sea.
Eurasian specialist Paul Goble warns that the politically volatile situation of the Central Asia’s nine exclaves is “heating up”. He attributes it to the recent political actions of the regional governments, people within the enclaves, and the Russian government. If this trend continues, there is a “risk that one or more of them will become a “Central Asian ‘Karabakh’”. Some regional analysts suspect regional governments may have an interest in intensifying ethnic tensions for their own political purposes.
Russia remains concerned about the volatile situation in Afghanistan, fearing the return of the Taliban and other terrorist groups to power once the US-led coalition troops leave Afghanistan by the end of next year. Predicting instability in the violence-wracked country, Russia plans to deploy troops on the Tajik-Afghan border to prevent the spillover of violence into Russia. Moscow’s envoy to Kabul, Andrey Avetisyan, told Reuters that if Russia didn’t guard its border with Afghanistan, it might face multiple challenges, ranging from the transport of narcotics to terrorism, and therefore the only solution was to guard the border.
Addressing the Russian National Security Council meeting on May 8, President Vladimir Putin said that the forthcoming departure of U.S. and coalition forces from Afghanistan confronts Russia with a more precarious situation on its southern borders. Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s chief of the General Staff since November 2012, who was also present at the meeting, had announced last month the formation of a Special Operations Command — Russia’s version of SOCOM.
Frustrated in its attempt to join the European Union, NATO-member Turkey last week signed up as a partner with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the signing of the SCO cooperation agreement as an historic day for his country, saying Turkey is the first NATO state to establish such a relationship with the SCO. “If we look from a Cold War perspective,” he said, “these may seem like mutually exclusive institutions. However, the Cold War has ended. Turkey won’t be a slave of the Cold War logic.”
As the United States is drawing up plans to reduce and revamp its military presence in Central Asia and while Russia answers increasingly desperate calls for help in the region on military matters, France announced that it is beginning to dismantle its 11 year old military air presence in Tajikistan.
The force of about 230 service members, which is assigned to operational transportation is now in the process of leaving the country, but a small force of specialists will remain in Dushanbe until some time next year when they finish upgrading the runway at the Dushanbe Airport.
Not much time is left until 2014, when the withdrawal of NATO anti-terrorism coalition troops from Afghanistan is expected to take place; however, it still remains unknown what type of military contingent will remain in Afghanistan and Central Asia thereafter and which countries of the region will be selected by the West for this purpose.
The fact that military contingents will remain not only in Afghanistan but also in the region is doubtless and is openly stated by officials. On Tuesday, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Robert Blake said the fact of the coalition’s presence in Central Asia is unequivocal, adding that it is still not decided on what other transit points and bases will be maintained in the region.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that Turkey was seriously considering becoming a member of the SCO instead of continuing its efforts to join the EU.
‘The European Union needs to stop stalling us,’ Erdogan said. ‘We have a strong economy. I told [Putin], “You should include us in the Shanghai Five [the former name of the SCO] and we will say farewell to the European Union.” The Shanghai Five is much better off economic-wise. It is much more powerful. We told them, “If you say come, we will”.’
Will armies battle each other, as the cry for “blue gold” gets furious? Will “water wars” be as prevalent as conflict for the “black gold” of oil? Two documentary films have wetted public interest – Blue Gold: World Water Wars, and Last Call at the Oasis, and a dystopia novel – The Water Wars – warns of its imminence.
In actuality, history’s pages are already splashed with dozens of conflicts. In 2,450 B.C. the Sumerian cities of Lagash and Umma warred over Tigris-Euphrates water. More recently, Senegal and Mauritaniabattled in 1989 over grazing rights in the Senegal River Valley – hundreds were killed, 250,000 fled their homes. The Pacific Institute provides an excellent map and timeline of 225 water skirmishes.
The U.S. military has blacklisted Afghanistan’s largest private airline, alleging it is smuggling “bulk” quantities of opium on civilian flights to Tajikistan, a corridor through which the drugs reach the rest of the world.
Kam Air was barred this month from receiving U.S. military contracts by U.S. Central Command chief Marine Gen. James Mattis, according to U.S. military officials. “The U.S. will not do business with those who fund and support illicit activities,” U.S. Army Maj.-Gen. Richard Longo, the commander of Task Force 2010, a coalition anticorruption unit, said in an interview. “Kam Air is too large of a company not to know what has been going on within its organization.”
In 2012, all five Central Asian republics managed to avoid major crises and political cataclysms.
As 2011 drew to a close, experts inside and outside the region predicted threats to regime security associated with the spread of the Arab Spring, the rise of Islamic radicalism and leadership change — particularly in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan where the incumbent presidents are well into their seventies. None of these fears materialised.
A close adviser to the Russian president said the Kremlin was paying close attention to “events” in former republics of the Soviet Union. Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the Security Council of Russia, said the Kremlin is keeping a close eye on potential “color revolutions” in former republics. “Events are in motion in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Ukraine; we’re dealing with it every day. Are these (events) a danger for us? Yes,” he was quoted by state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying.
THE ex-Soviet states of Central Asia are engaged in an increasingly bitter standoff over water resources, adding another element of instability to the volatile region neighbouring Afghanistan.
Plans in mountainous but energy-poor Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan for two of the world’s biggest hydro-electric power stations have enraged their powerful downstream neighbour Uzbekistan which fears losing valuable water. Russia as well as the other Central Asian states of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are also being pulled into a dispute which dates back to the allocation of resources when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991.
Servicemen of the Russian military based deployed in Tajikistan will not be used for suppressing protests in Khorog [the capital of the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region] in the event of recurrence of them, Nikolai Bordyuzha, Secretary-General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. “I completely rule out this, because Russian military contingent deployed in Tajikistan is intended to provide assistance to Tajikistan with repulsing external threats,”
Russia will hold the talks on the establishment of the CSTO military base to strengthen its position in the south of Kyrgyzstan. The purpose of establishing the base is not only to implement its military ambitions, but also prevent the creation of a radical Islamic Fergana caliphate. Also needed is control over a reliable highway, which will bypass the territory of Uzbekistan, for the 201st military base’s material and technical supply chain from South Siberia in Tajikistan and of course, to prevent the expansion of China’s military and political capabilities in the region.
Next year Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will receive the latest Russian weapons worth $1.1bn and $400m, respectively. Why is Moscow arming Uzbekistan’s neighbours? Russia is expected to start its first weapon supplies to Kyrgyzstan as early as in the spring of 2013. Russia is expected to provide military aid for Tajikistan too.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are landlocked and mountainous countries—75% and 90%, respectively—in Central Asia. The countries’ mountains provide abundance of potable water, which feed the two major rivers of Central Asia. The scarcity of other natural resources understandably results in Bishkek’s and Dushanbe’s attempts to use the water more wisely—building hydropower plants (HPP) for generating electricity.
Sovereignty curtailed?: Armenia agrees to ask CSTO permission for hosting other states’ military facilities
On October 4, the Parliament ratified the Protocol on the Location of Military Installations in Collective Security Treaty Organization (OSCE) Member Countries that was signed still in December 2011 and under which Armenia is not entitled to host military forces or other infrastructure of other states without the permission of the CSTO, a Russia-led defense alliance
It seems that a possible U.S. attack on Iran is at hand. In recent days, Iran is making frantic efforts to find allies to repel aggression. Last week, Secretary of Defense Persian state A. Vahidi made a sensational statement. According to the head of the military department, it’s time to create a “military alliance of Muslim countries to reflect external aggression to them, and to protect the Palestinian people.”
Observers immediately drew an analogy with the Russian-led military-political alliance CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization Security) and was named the alleged formation of a new “Islamic CSTO” . Recall that now the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty includes six countries: Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan .
Afghanistan Political analysts claimed on Wednesday that some regional actors are trying to foment trouble in areas along the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border and install a theocracy there, reported Pajhwok.
The government of Tajikistan launched a clean-up operation after an intelligence official was shot dead by an armed opposition group in the Khariq area. Several border policemen and rebels were killed in the operation.
Tajik officials claimed the rebels, escaping the operation, sneaked into the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization will not interfere in the situation in Tajikistan, RIA Novosti quotes CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha as saying.
“The processes occurring there are internal affair of Tajikistan and do not require intervention of collective forces,” Bordyuzha told reporters following a meeting in Minsk with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
The fighting is the most severe in Tajikistan for almost two years and will worry Western politicians who are counting on the former Soviet state to act as a bulwark against any surge north by Islamic militants when Nato forces withdraw from neighbouring Afghanistan in 2014.
The Associated Press news agency quoted a Tajik security service officer as saying that 20 soldiers had been killed in gun battles around the town of Khorog, near the border with Afghanistan.
Central Asian presidents are deeply worried about the potential contagion and effects of the “Arab Spring” events in their countries – which could spark a democratisation process aimed to modify the political status quo – mainly because they fear to lose their power: moreover, the potential overthrow of their secular governments, a following condition of prolonged instability and uncertainty could draw up a kind of power vacuum which radical Islamist forces could dangerously fill.
All Central Asian countries suffer from pervasive corruption, acute income inequalities, political succession problems, and transnational criminal groups that cooperate more effectively than the region’s frequently feuding governments do. Deteriorating public services contributed to the overthrow of Kyrgyzstan’s government, and could lead alienated citizens to support extremists.
All five countries have yet to fully recover from the disintegration of Soviet infrastructure networks, and require urgent domestic and region-wide measures to strengthen their education, transportation, energy provision, health care, and other public services. And their myriad interdependencies increase the risks of transnational threats, such as disease outbreaks, and resource-related confrontations.
Armed forces from Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states will hold the “Peace Mission 2012″ drill in Tajikistan from June 8 to 14, Ministry of Defense spokesman Yang Yujun announced Thursday.
The drill is a joint anti-terrorism military exercise launched under the SCO framework, Yang said, adding that the drill will involve more than 2,000 military personnel from China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Yang said the drill will focus on the preparation and implementation of joint anti-terrorism action in mountainous areas in the context of a regional crisis incurred by terrorist activity.
In his turn, Omurbek Babanov, the first deputy prime-minister from Kyrgyzstan, has suggested that the proposed SCO Development bank could be helpful for implementation of major regional scale infrastructure projects, such as high-voltage power lines or the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan rail road construction. Whereas the Tajikistan’s prime-minister Akil Akilov believes that such a bank should provide support and incentives for weaker regional economies.
Wen Jiabao, the chairman of Chinese State Council, has urged to provide for free transit of goods, capital and services through the SCO territories, along with faster development of the regional infrastructure networks for transportation, energy and communication. In turn, China has committed itself to offer soft loans in support of infrastructure projects in the SCO states.
Russia has given a call to speed up the process of India and Pakistan’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), an intergovernmental mutual-security organisation, RIA Novosti reported.
The call was given by Russia’s acting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while participating in a meeting of foreign ministers of the SCO member states in Beijing Friday.
He also said delaying the decision on their membership was “counterproductive”.
The SCO, set up in 2001, includes Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Russia and Tajikistan are getting closer to a deal that would extend the presence of Russian troops in the Central Asian nation beyond 2014, Russia’s foreign minister said Tuesday.
It is expected that the lease for the three Russian-controlled garrisons in the former Soviet republic neighboring Afghanistan will be extended by 49 years — a prospect first floated by outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in September.
On April 12, 2012, the Seventh Meeting of the Secretaries of the Security Councils of the SCO Member States was held in Beijing. Chinese State Councilor Meng Jianzhu chaired and spoke at the meeting.
Meng Jianzhu said that China is the rotating presidency of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) this year. The 7th Meeting of the Secretaries of the Security Councils of the SCO Member States, which marks the prelude to a series of SCO summits, has laid a solid foundation for the successful holding of the SCO summits this year and for the Organization to better perform the functions of safeguarding regional peace, security and stability in the next 10 years.
Without a mediator, the Tajik-Uzbek conflict could lead to another civil war in Tajikistan and to a serious destabilization of the whole of Central Asia. For Russia, this means it has to urgently develop a new strategy.
The relations between Dushanbe and Tashkent have worsened considerably lately and both countries are on the brink of open conflict as a result of this. Uzbekistan, knowing that Tajikistan is completely dependent on it has completely cut off the country from gas and transport. Tashkent claims that the blockade is purely economic: the Tajiks do not pay for the transit of gas and it is therefore more profitable to sell gas to the Chinese.
The last of the EurAsEC summit in Moscow demonstrated that for all the optimistic public statements, the integration processes are not advancing well in practice.
It was predicted that the summit will announce the replacement EurAsEC with full fledged Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). However, the results of the summit were more than modest – comprehensive agreement on formation of EEU can be signed only by January 1, 2015.
Hunger, unheated barracks, beatings and regular outbreaks of disease: it could be life in a penal colony. But in this case, it describes the existence of a fresh military conscript in Tajikistan.
The brutal conditions are the reason many young Tajik men go to great lengths to evade country’s biannual military drafts.
“Many draftees emigrate, while those that have the means enter university because students are exempt until the end of their studies,” said Khursheda Rahimova, a lawyer for Amparo, a legal- support non-governmental organisation based in Khujand that monitors the draft.
Statements from Kyrgyz officials about U.S. forces vacating the Manas air base have made the news often in recent months, but in recent days Russia is facing problems over its use of bases in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan’s president brought the subject of Russia’s unpaid rent for use of a base in his country during a February 23-25 visit to Moscow. Now Tajikistan is bringing up the subject of rent for Russia’s use of bases on its territory.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Tajik Service on February 28, Tajik Ambassador to Russian Abdulmajid Dostiev said his country and Russia are preparing to extend Russia’s use of three bases in Tajikistan for another 49 years. Asked why there was a delay in signing, Dostiev indicated among the details still being negotiated was the matter of rent for use of the Tajik bases and said “no one in the world today intends to give up even a small plot of their land for nothing.”
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia’s two smallest economies, are discovering that breaking free of Russian domination is a hard task, particularly when they lack their own hydrocarbon resources and struggle to forge good relations with other neighbors that might make up for that shortage.
Russian oil supplies meet more than 90% of Kyrgyzstan’s and Tajikistan’s oil needs, but Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are rich in hydrocarbon resources and could potentially overtake Russia as the two smaller countries’ main source of petroleum and other fossil-fuel supplies.
On December 20, 2011, members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) reached an agreement that makes it impossible for any individual country in the group to host a foreign military base on its territory without the full consent of all other members of the organization. The initiative empowers Russia to veto any foreign basing plans in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Hence, the move serves as a continuation of Russia’s efforts to counteract the influence of the US military and reassert its own role in its immediate neighborhood (Interfax, December 21).
he Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) today announced that no-one will be able to establish military bases on the territory of a CSTO member state without the express agreement of all other member states.
In practice, this is a setback for the United States, who will find it next to impossible to establish a new base in Central Asia once the lease on the Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan expires in 2014, and a boost to Russia who, as a CSTO member state, has a veto on the construction of future bases.
The decision was taken at a meeting of all seven CSTO members – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
It flies in the face of Tajik tradition, but residents of this southern village along the border with Afghanistan feel their caution is justified. Dashti Jum is one of a handful of communities in the district of Shuroobod with a well-deserved reputation for lawlessness.
The sound of gunfire — rumored to be between border guards and drug smugglers encroaching from Afghanistan — surprises no one. Young men are employed as drug mules, often landing them in prison, and abductions of local residents and livestock thefts by smugglers are frequent occurrences.
The deal is done. Russia’s military presence in Tajikistan is there to stay — at least for another 49 years. Now the question is what Dushanbe can get for allowing Moscow to extend leases on its bases on Tajik soil.
In announcing the deal this week, neither Russian President Dmitry Medvedev nor his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon disclosed details.
Medvedev said only that the relevant documents would be prepared and signed early next year.
But the figure being bandied about in the media runs in the hundreds of millions of dollars, enough to cancel most of Tajikistan’s outstanding debts to Russia.
Whether Russia would actually be willing to pay such a steep price is another matter.
After its ambitious plans for an air base in Tajikistan were thwarted, India appears to be reorienting its military strategy in Central Asia toward a more modest, soft power approach.
India began renovating an airfield at Ayni, just outside Tajikistan’s capital of Dushanbe, in 2004. While it never publicly announced its intentions for the base, Indian press reports said New Delhi planned to station a squadron of MiG-29 fighter jets there. It would have been India’s first foreign military base, and a dramatic entrance into the geopolitically volatile Central Asian region.
Indian analysts have spoken about the base’s opening in grand terms. ‘Once called the white elephant of Asia, India’s strategic aspirations have now finally come of age,’ wrote Shiv Aroor, an Indian journalist who obtained classified information about India’s plans in 2007.