CSTO Agreement on Foreign Bases Frustrates Tajikistan’s Ambitions

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).

The decision effectively puts an end to Tajikistan’s aspirations to explore closer security relations with non-CSTO nations. Following Tajikistan’s independence in 1991, Russia assumed the role of the country’s security guarantor. Russian border guards policed Tajikistan’s southern frontier until 2005. A Russian army division that had stayed in Tajikistan after the Soviet break-up was reorganized into a permanent military base in 2004. The base now has around 7,000 troops stationed in Dushanbe, Kulob, and Qurghonteppa (www.news.tj, October 21, 2011). Moscow has also been the largest provider of technical military assistance to Dushanbe.

Tajikistan participates in all Russian-led integration and regional security schemes, including the CSTO. The country contributes an infantry battalion to the group’s Collective Rapid Reaction Force (CRRF). In April 2010, Tajikistan hosted the CRRF’s military exercises Boundary 2010 that aimed at preventing possible incursions of “terrorists from Afghanistan” (www.news.tj, April 26, 2010). In September 2011, the CSTO conducted exercises in Tajikistan as part of Tsentr 2011, which also trained the group’s militaries in preventing possible popular uprisings (EDM, September 30, 2011).

Its “strategic partnership” with Moscow notwithstanding, Tajikistan has cautiously sought to balance Russia’s influence by pursuing closer security cooperation with other major powers. After the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, Dushanbe granted the US military overflight rights and permitted the use of Dushanbe airport for emergency landings and refueling. Cables from the US embassy in Dushanbe, disclosed recently by WikiLeaks, suggest that in 2001 Tajikistan offered to host a US airbase at Kulob airport, in the country’s south, one hour’s flight from Kabul. US strategists declined the offer then, opting instead for the Ganci/Manas airport in Kyrgyzstan and the Karshi-Khanabad airbase in Uzbekistan.

After the US military was evicted from the Uzbek base, the then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, sought Tajikistan’s permission to open an airbase in the country during a meeting with President Emomali Rahmon in July 2006. According to an embassy cable, Rahmon told Rumsfeld that the deployment of US troops in Tajikistan was out of the question in light of Dushanbe’s “new international commitments,” that is, Moscow-dictated foreign policy priorities. As Tajikistan’s relations with Russia deteriorated in the late 2000s, Dushanbe made another proposal to host a US airbase in the country, most likely in 2009 (www.wikileaks.org, US Embassy in Dushanbe cables, July 6, 2006; February 10, 2010). It is unclear whether the proposal was considered by Washington.

Another NATO member, France, has deployed a small military contingent at Dushanbe since December 2001. Paris initially deployed two military transport aircraft, six mirage fighters, and some 150 personnel at the airport to handle airlift support, supply drops, and transit logistics in support of NATO troops in Afghanistan. The planes were relocated to Kandahar in 2007. Some 100 French troops and technicians remain in Dushanbe to refuel aircraft flying to and from Afghanistan (www.ozodi.org, January 2). The deployment of the French troops in Tajikistan has not been contested by either Russia or any other CSTO member, primarily because Paris has indicated that it does not seek a permanent military presence in the country.

Tajikistan has apparently also considered hosting an Indian airbase. From 2002-2010, Indian specialists refurbished the Soviet-built Ayni Airfield, some 25 kilometers west of Dushanbe, provoking speculation that New Delhi intended to use the facility as its first foreign military base. There were reports that India planned to deploy MiG-29 fighters and Mi-17 multi-purpose helicopters at the airbase. Although New Delhi has not officially confirmed its interest in basing rights in Tajikistan, senior Tajik government officials have repeatedly indicated that India’s access to the airfield requires approval from Moscow (EDM, February 22, 2011).

In exploring closer security cooperation with the US and India, the government of President Emomali Rahmon was motivated by a desire to counterbalance Russia’s influence in the country. In addition, Tajikistan apparently counted on economic and financial assistance and, more importantly, direct or indirect support for the existing regime. The CSTO agreement on foreign bases limits Tajikistan’s options and reasserts Moscow’s hold on the country, confirming how vulnerable the Tajik state has become to Russian political pressure. Tajikistan is excessively dependent on remittances from its migrant workers in Russia, and the Kremlin has repeatedly indicated that the presence of these workers in the country is conditional on Dushanbe’s willingness to follow Moscow-dictated foreign policy directives.

(By Alexander Sodiqov, published originally in the Eurasia Daily Monitor on January 16, 2012)

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Filed under Foreign affairs, Tajik-American relations, Tajik-French relations, Tajik-Indian relations, Tajik-Russian relations, Tajikistan

8 responses to “CSTO Agreement on Foreign Bases Frustrates Tajikistan’s Ambitions

  1. Ken

    Can you tell me the date in 2013 when the presidential election will take place? Thanks.

    • The date has not been set yet. Usually, the date is announced by the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda (CCER) about a year in advance. Last time, in 2006, the presidential elections were held in November. Hence, it is most likely that next year they will also be held in November.

  2. Central Asia: Russia Taking Steps to Reinforce Security Relationships

    EurasiaNet, February 2, 2012

    With the planned US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 looming ever closer, Russia is pressing to solidify strategic relationships with Central Asian states, especially with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

    Since the start of 2012, Moscow has provided military hardware worth $16 million to the to the Kyrgyz National Security Committee’s border service. Russia also has ratified an agreement covering border-control cooperation with Tajikistan, a pact signed in Dushanbe last September. That agreement ensures “the preservation of the Russian presence in Tajikistan [and] participation of Russian representatives in the improvement of state border protection and the operational border security of the Republic of Tajikistan.”

    The bulk of US and NATO forces are supposed to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, with Afghan security forces taking the lead in battling the Taliban insurgency. Confidence is not running high in Moscow, or in other world capitals, that Afghan forces are equal to that task. The extent to which the scheduled US and NATO withdrawal in Afghanistan will create or exacerbate regional security issues is still difficult to measure, said Paul Quinn-Judge, the Central Asia director of the International Crisis Group.

    “Psychologically, the US drawdown in Afghanistan could impact security in Central Asia quite a lot. In actual terms, however, it is hard to tell,” Quinn-Judge said. “It is not clear how much of a threat will emanate from Afghanistan. Will this free up Central Asia Islamists to return to Central Asia, for example? Do they have the capacity to challenge security in a country like Uzbekistan? These sorts of questions are completely open. No-one seems to have enough reliable information to make a plausible case either way.”

    Moscow’s gift of military hardware to Bishkek makes it clear that Russian leaders are worried about the ability of Central Asian states to address regional security threats. Speaking at a hand-over ceremony in Bishkek , Vladimir Pronichev, the head of Russia’s border service, warned; “There are tough tasks ahead of us. Trans-border crime is gathering pace in Kyrgyzstan. We know what kind of difficulties Kyrgyz border troops are facing. We intend to continue developing cooperation and our friendship.”

    The equipment delivered in mid-January represents about half of the Russian military aid to be delivered to Kyrgyzstan under a program dubbed Brothers Fighting for Fixed Borders, according to Col. Artur Bayduletov, deputy commander of the border service at the Kyrgyz National Security Committee.

    Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev has often described Russia as Kyrgyzstan’s “main strategic partner,” and has stressed that cooperation between Moscow and other former Soviet republics is essential for future regional security. “It is only jointly developed and implemented measures that will be effective in our fight against terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking, illegal migration and other threats,” he said.

    The current level of Russian border assistance to Kyrgyzstan does not indicate that the Kremlin is embracing a “worst-case” scenario for the region, Quinn-Judge said. “If the Russians were seriously worried, you would expect a more serious deployment of forces and equipment. Absent that, the weapons delivery seems more like a gesture of good will towards a government that, Moscow hopes, will be a little more consistent and compliant than its predecessor,” he said.

  3. Новый командующий Транспортного командования США посетил Таджикистан

    Asia-Plus, 14/02/2012

    Командующий Транспортного командования США генерал Уильям М. Фрейзер III впервые 13 февраля прибыл с визитом в Таджикистан.

    Как сообщили «АП» в посольстве США в РТ, генерал Фрейзер недавно принял командование Транспортным командованием США, которое занимается транспортировкой и перевозкой грузов военного назначения в США и во всем мире.

    В Душанбе генерал Фрейзер встретился с министром обороны Таджикистана генерал-полковником Шерали Хайруллаевым и командующим Главного управления пограничных войск ГКНБ РТ генерал-лейтенантом Шерали Мирзо. Генерал Фрейзер официально представил себя и лично поблагодарил их за постоянную поддержку и сотрудничество.

    Генерал Фрейзер прибыл в Таджикистан в рамках рабочей поездки по европейским и центрально-азиатским странам.

  4. США может вдвое увеличить военную помощь Таджикистану

    Asia-Plus, 15/02/2012

    Администрация Барака Обамы направила в Конгресс США проект федерального бюджета на 2013 год, включив в него запрос на выделение $1,5 млн. для предоставления военной помощи Таджикистану, сообщает новостная лента «Шёлковый путь» со ссылкой на бюджетные документы, распространенные американской администрацией в Вашингтоне.

    Данная сумма почти в два раза превышает сумму ассигнований, уже выделенных на эти цели на текущий 2012 год.

    По данным «Шёлкового пути», проект бюджета на 2013 год, переданный в понедельник в конгресс, включает выделение средств для Таджикистана в рамках программы «Зарубежного военного финансирования (FMF)», которая осуществляется совместно Госдепартаментом США и Пентагоном. Запрос в рамках программы FMF для Таджикистана на 2013 год на 87% ($800 тыс.) больше, чем объем средств, которые выделены для Таджикистана в рамках этой программы на 2012 год.

    В минувшем году в сопроводительной справке к запросу на выделение средств для Таджикистана в рамках программы FMF отмечалось, что «содействие министерству обороны и национальной гвардии Таджикистана продолжит поддержку более профессиональных и боеспособных сухопутных войск. Реформы военных структур позволят создать вооруженные силы, подготовленные для сотрудничества с вооруженными силами США и НАТО в рамках миротворческих и других многонациональных операций». Ожидается, что в 2013 году цель финансирования в рамках этой программы будет носить аналогичный характер.

    Бюджетный запрос на 2013 год о выделении средств на программу FMF является частью проекта бюджета на международную деятельность, расходы на которую заложены администрацией США в сумме $56,3 млрд. При этом администрация США запросила у конгресса увеличение финансирования для Таджикистана в рамках программы FMF, несмотря на то, что в запросе существенно сокращено финансирование по целому ряду других направлений зарубежной помощи.

  5. NATO-sponsored project to help secure dangerous munitions in Tajikistan

    NATO, 31 Jan. 2012

    Fifteen years after the end of a civil war, Tajikistan is left with thousands of tonnes of munitions insecurely stored in makeshift storage sites across the country. Aside from the many known munitions caches, several more lie undiscovered, posing a major security threat to the Tajik people. A Partnership Trust Fund project, officially launched on 31 January, will soon help Tajikistan to counter this threat.

    Big security risks

    Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan endured a civil war from 1992 to 1997. At its end, numerous caches of munitions and weapons were left unguarded and forgotten. Abandoned and decaying in unsafe conditions, many of these stocks have become more and more unstable over time.

    “The storage locations are often dilapidated without enough room, where munitions that should not be together lay side by side,” says Alexander Griffiths from the NGO Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), an organization experienced in demining and munitions-control operations around the world, including in Tajikistan. “Most storage sites are just warehouses, poorly maintained and insecure,” he points out.

    Caches present a variety of temptations for criminal elements seeking munitions: aircraft bombs, mortars, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles.

    Another danger stems from the fact that some of the munitions’ components deteriorate as they age, becoming very unstable. With Tajikistan’s dry summer temperatures, during which temperatures can reach up to 50ºC, the risk of a fire that could cause the munitions to detonate is a very real possibility.

    Tracking down unidentified caches

    Efforts by other international bodies such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations Development Programme have focused on demining and securing known stocks of munitions. The problem of hidden stocks still needs to be tackled. “What we have seen up to now is approximately 30 000 tonnes, but we believe that there is significantly more,” says Griffiths.

    NATO agreed to develop a Partnership Trust Fund project with Tajikistan to help find unidentified caches and either secure or destroy them. With an estimated cost of more than €575 000, the project was launched with the signing of formal agreements at NATO Headquarters on 31 January 2012. The Ambassador of Tajikistan to Belgium, Rustamjon Soliev, called today’s signing of the formal agreements “the first step in Allied cooperation.”

    NATO hopes that by securing these unidentified stocks, the project will help prevent illegal cross-border trade in munitions. The task is even more critical because of Tajikistan’s southern border with Afghanistan, where full control for security is due to transition to Afghan national security forces by end 2014.

    The project’s scope

    Overseen by the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA), Tajik military engineers and soldiers will be recruited, trained and deployed as part of a weapons and ammunition disposal (WAD) team once sufficient funding has been secured.

    Over a 12-month period, the team will work with government agencies and local communities to locate and dispose of dangerous munitions stocks, coordinating with three other WAD groups managed by FSD already operating in Tajikistan under different frameworks. Weapons and ammunition that are still serviceable will be secured and transferred to proper storage facilities.

    The team, which will be trained by the FSD, will also conduct a survey of ammunition storage locations on the southern border with Afghanistan and recommend ways to improve safety and security. “These types of projects are not only saving people but saving the environment,” pointed out Antonios Chatzidakis, General Manager of NAMSA.

    United Kingdom and Japan team up

    Partnership Trust Fund projects are designed to allow nations to pool resources to help partner countries with demilitarization and defence reform projects. The United Kingdom and Japan are the two main contributors for this particular project, with Switzerland also contributing €20 000.

    Leading the project, the United Kingdom has contributed £100 000. “The UK is delighted to be the lead nation of the first NATO Trust Fund in Tajikistan,” says British Ambassador to NATO, Mariot Leslie. “By securing and destroying surplus munitions, the UK, the other contributing nations and NATO are making a significant contribution to the safety of the region.”

    Japan has contributed an initial €100 000, which included funding the project’s feasibility study presented to NATO nations in March 2011. “Tajikistan is only one piece of the cooperation between Japan and NATO concerning regional security,” says Kurato Shiraishi, First Secretary at the Japanese Embassy to Belgium. “The security of the region and of the international community is our interest and concern.”

    Japan has previously helped fund regional security and Trust Fund projects in other countries, including in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

    The signing of the memorandum of understanding on 31 January will make it easier to attract further voluntary contributions from other nations for this important project.

  6. Э. Рахмон принял командующего Центральным командованием армии США

    Asia-Plus, 31/03/2012

    Президент Таджикистана Эмомали Рахмон принял сегодня, 31 марта командующего Центральным командованием армии США Джеймса Мэттиса.

    Как сообщили «АП» в пресс-службе главы Таджикистана, на встрече были обсуждены вопросы многостороннего таджикско-американского сотрудничества. Стороны выразили удовлетворение состоянием двухстороннего сотрудничества между силовыми ведомствами и органами безопасности в борьбе с международным терроризмом и экстремизмом.

    Э. Рахмон отметил, что Таджикистан выступает за дальнейшее расширение взаимодействий с США в различных сферах безопасности и установления мира и стабильности в регионе

    В свою очередь Дж. Матиас высоко оценил содействие Таджикистана Коалиционным антитеррористическим силам НАТО в Афганистане.

    Было отмечено, что США будет всячески оказывать поддержку пограничным силам Таджикистана, которые играют буферную роль в предотвращение распространения угроз терроризма, экстремизма и незаконного оборота наркотиков.

    По его словам, в первую очередь будет уделено внимание усовершенствованию материально-технической базы таджикских пограничных сил.

    Стороны подчеркнули, что расширение сотрудничества будет иметь особенно высокое значение с 2014 года, после вывода коалиционных сил НАТО с территории Афганистана.

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