Russia Pressed to Pay for Its Military Base in Tajikistan

As negotiations continue over the extension of Russia’s use of a military base in Tajikistan, the Central Asian country’s envoy to Russia suggests that his government wants Moscow to pay rent for operating the facility. Speaking to journalists on February 28, Abdulmajid Dostiev acknowledged that the issue of rent has been holding back the finalization of a new treaty which would extend Russia’s basing rights in Tajikistan for the next 49 years. The two countries had agreed to sign the treaty back in September 2011, but they left for later the contentious issue of payment.

Moscow has reportedly sought to prolong the treaty without committing to any payment arrangements. Russia remains the largest source of technical-military and economic assistance to Tajikistan, and Russian diplomats have proposed that this assistance should count as rent. However, the Tajik side wants Moscow to commit to a fixed amount of money that it would either pay in annual rent fees or spend on technical-military assistance to the country. Russian media have speculated that Dushanbe expects Moscow to contribute about $300 million annually, while Tajik experts say Dushanbe would settle for $30 million. Without commenting on the details of Tajikistan’s demands, Dostiev asserted that, “not a single country in the world today would give up the smallest plot of its land for free” (www.ozodi.org, February 28).

After Tajikistan’s independence in 1991, Moscow retained control of the Soviet 201st motorized rifle division, which had been stationed in the country. In 2004, the division was reorganized into Russia’s permanent military base. The base now has around 7,000 troops – Russia’s largest ground force deployed abroad – stationed in Dushanbe, Kulob and Qurghonteppa (www.news.tj, October 21, 2011). Russia has also sought access to the Indian-renovated Ayni air base near the Tajik capital, but Tajikistan made it clear that Moscow would have to pay to use the facility (EDM, February 9, 2011).

The timing of the Tajik ambassador’s comments suggests that Dushanbe is watching how Russia deals with similar demands brought by other post-Soviet countries. Dostiev’s interview came days after the visit of Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambaev to Moscow where he demanded that Russia pay $15 million in overdue rent for using the air base at Kant, or risk being evicted. It was consequently clarified that Russia uses the air base free of charge and that the $15 million debt had accrued from its use of other military facilities in Kyrgyzstan. Yet, Russian officials promised to repay the debt “within several days” (www.kommersant.ru, March 1).

Moscow is facing considerably stronger pressure from Azerbaijan where it leases a Soviet-era ballistic missile early warning system (BMEWS) radar station at Gabala. The 2002 agreement on the use of the facility expires at the end of this year and Moscow has sought to extend the lease for another 25 years. Russia currently pays Azerbaijan $7 million a year for leasing the radar station, spending an additional $15 million on electricity and utilities. As Russia indicated its willingness to increase annual rent payments to Azerbaijan to $15 million, Baku has asked Moscow to pay $150 million and reportedly further raised this figure to $300 million. Russian negotiators have apparently been shocked by the drastic increase in Azerbaijan’s demands, threatening to vacate the facility unless Baku agrees to a “substantial decrease” in annual rent fees (www.kommersant.ru, February 29).

The increasingly assertive stance of Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan when it comes to making Moscow pay for the military facilities it operates in these countries encourages the authorities in Tajikistan to demand Russian payments as well. Dushanbe is pointing to other countries that are willing to pay for access to military infrastructure in Central Asia. The US and India have reportedly sought to lease air bases in Tajikistan but Dushanbe had to refuse under pressure from Moscow (EDM, January 16, 31, 2012). Tajikistan is now asking Russia to compensate it for losing the income the country could earn by granting basing rights to other powers.

Meanwhile, Tajikistan and Russia have finalized a new border cooperation deal, which had also been a major source of contention in the past. Moscow had pressed for the return of its border forces to Tajikistan’s southern frontier with Afghanistan from which they pulled out in 2005 (EDM, August 16, 2011). In opposing this, Dushanbe has been able to convince Russia to focus on supporting Tajik border guards rather than deploying its own troops. The new agreement was signed in September 2011 and ratified by both countries’ parliaments in February. On February 28, the head of Russia’s border guard service, Vladimir Pronichev, announced in Dushanbe that Russia will soon begin providing “concrete support” for Tajik border guards (www.news.tj, February 28). What exactly this support will entail and how Moscow will address Tajikistan’s demands for rent payments is likely to become clear only after the immediate post-election period in Russia.

(By Alexander Sodiqov, published originally in the Eurasia Daily Monitor, on March 7, 2012)

17 Comments

Filed under Borders, Foreign affairs, Tajik-Russian relations, Tajikistan

17 responses to “Russia Pressed to Pay for Its Military Base in Tajikistan

  1. Really interesting post, thank you. This story is far from being over and I look forward to subsequent instalments!

  2. Россия может запретить поставки сухофруктов из Таджикистана и Узбекистана

    Asia-Plus, 22/03/2012

    Россельхознадзор пригрозил ограничить поставки растительной продукции из стран Средней Азии – Узбекистана и Таджикистана, а также одной из республик Закавказья – Азербайджана. Об этом сообщается в официальном пресс-релизе ведомства. Как указывает «Интерфакс», эти страны поставляют в Россию в основном сухофрукты и орехи.

    Как отметили в Россельхознадзоре, за последнее время в поставках из Азербайджана, Узбекистана и Таджикистана «участились случаи выявления карантинных для России объектов». Так, с 2011 года по настоящее время нарушения при поставках из Узбекистана были обнаружены в 130 случаях, из Таджикистана – в 228 случаях, из Азербайджана – в 9 случаях.

    Россельхознадзор уже уведомил о нарушениях и необходимости принятия защитных мер национальные организации по карантину и защите растений в трех республиках. В ведомстве также подчеркнули, что оставляют за собой «право принять дополнительные защитные меры в отношении ввоза продукции из этих стран».

    В мае 2010 года Роспотребнадзор уже вводил запрет на поставки орехов и сухофруктов из Таджикистана, после того как в республике вспыхнула эпидемия полиомиелита. Эти ограничения были отменены в середине июня того же года.

  3. U.S. Looks To Extend Use Of Kyrgyz Base

    RFE/RL, March 27, 2012

    U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake said on March 27, Washington is hoping to extend its deal with Kyrgyzstan’s government to continue using the Manas air base after 2014.

    Speaking in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, Blake said the U.S. is grateful to Kyrgyzstan for being allowed to use the Manas base to support operations in Afghanistan since 2001.

    Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev has said many times that when the current U.S. contract to rent the base expires in 2014, Kyrgyzstan would not renew it. The U.S. and its allies have also set 2014 as the deadline for their drawdown of forces in Afghanistan.

    Blake said talks on using Manas have not started yet but “we are ready to negotiate with the government of President Atambaev at a convenient time…the future of the transit center (Manas) and try to reach a new agreement on it.”

    U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visted Kyrgyzstan earlier in March to discuss the U.S. prolonging the use of Manas.

    Responding to questions about the U.S. opening new bases in Central Asia, Blake said there was no possibility of that and added that Manas is not a base but rather a “transit center.”

  4. Russia to Send Aid To Tajikistan For Relief From Cold Weather

    RFE/RL, March 30, 2012

    Authorities have said that Russia will send urgent humanitarian aid to Tajikistan to help tackle the aftermath of an unusually cold and long winter.

    The Kremlin said on March 30 that Dushanbe has requested help from Moscow.

    Tajikistan’s agricultural sector has reportedly suffered heavy losses, and many roads and bridges were also damaged as a result of a long spell of cold weather.

    More than 20 countries sent humanitarian aid worth $6 million to Tajikistan in January and February.

    Russia, Egypt and Iran were among the largest donors.

  5. Medvedev Orders Emergency Aid to Tajikistan

    RIA Novosti, 30/03/2012

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the government to start preparing emergency aid for Tajikistan to help tackle the aftermath of an unusually cold and long winter, his web site said on Friday.

    Earlier in the day, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon requested aid at a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Putin “pledged that emergency humanitarian assistance will be rendered as soon as possible,” his website said.

    “Following the appeal by the President of Tajikistan, Dmitry Medvedev instructed the Government of the Russian Federation to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to Tajikistan to overcome the effects of abnormal winter weather conditions,” a statement posted on the Kremlin website reads.

    The Russian emergencies ministry said, in its turn, that it had started preparing aid for Tajikistan.

    “The task of sending emergencies ministry planes with humanitarian aid to the Republic of Tajikistan is currently being arranged,” the ministry said.

    The country’s agricultural sector suffered losses of $1.3 million, livestock breeders reported losses of about $905,000. Many roads and bridges were also damaged or destroyed as a result of a long spell of cold weather.

    More than 20 states sent humanitarian aid worth over $6 million to Tajikistan in January and February. The largest donors were Egypt (35.3 percent), Russia (over 18 percent), The Netherlands (15.1 percent) and Iran (6.6 percent).

  6. Путин пообещал оказать Таджикистану экстренную гумпомощь

    Asia-Plus, 31/03/2012

    Телефонный разговор между председателем правительства России Владимиром Путиным и президентом Таджикистана Эмомали Рахмоном состоялся в минувшую пятницу.

    Как сообщает пресс-служба российского премьер-министра, в ходе беседы обсуждалась тяжёлая гуманитарная ситуация, сложившаяся в Таджикистане в результате непростой зимы.

    «Э. Рахмон обратился с просьбой об оказании Россией помощи Таджикистану, – отмечается в сообщение. – В свою очередь В. Путин пообещал, что экстренное гуманитарное содействие будет оказано в самое ближайшее время».

    Между тем, по данным пресс-службы президента РФ, в ответ на обращение президента Таджикистана глава России дал поручение правительству РФ приступить к оказанию экстренной гуманитарной помощи таджикистанской стороне для преодоления последствий аномальных погодных условий в зимний период.

    • Россия доставит в Таджикистан гумпомощь на сумму $3,6 млн.

      Asia-Plus, 03/04/2012

      Правительство Российской Федерации оперативно откликнулось на просьбу правительства Таджикистана. В Душанбе сегодня будет доставлена первая партия гумпомощи, оказанной Россией по просьбе президента Эмомали Рахмона. Общая сумма оказываемой помощи составит 106,3 млн. российских рублей.

      Самолет ИЛ-76 МЧС РФ, который приземлится сегодня в 15:30 по местному времени в душанбинском аэропорту, доставит в республику отопительные приборы, передвижные электростанции, палатки, металлическую посуду, консервированную продукцию общим весом 37,8 тонн. Общая сумма данного гуманитарного груза составляет 21,3 млн. российских рублей.

      Как сообщил «АП» начальник пресс-центра Комитета по чрезвычайным ситуациям и гражданской обороны при правительстве Таджикистана Ориф Нозимов, следующий самолет с таким же объемом груза, как и первый борт, прибудет в Душанбе завтра.

      Третий борт МСЧ РФ с 113,4 тонами гуманитарного груза на сумму 63,7 млн. российских рублей прибудет в столицу Таджикистана 5 апреля.

      Напомним, 30 марта состоялся телефонный разговор президента Таджикистана с премьер-министром Российской Федерации Владимиром Путиным, в ходе которого обсуждалась тяжёлая гуманитарная ситуация, сложившаяся в Таджикистане в результате непростой зимы. В этой связи Э. Рахмон обратился с просьбой к России об оказании экстренной помощи.

  7. Денежные переводы из России в 2011 году составили 50% ВВП Таджикистана

    Asia-Plus, 12/04/2012

    Свыше $3 млрд. отправлено из России в Таджикистан физическими лицами в прошлом году, что примерно на $800 млн. больше показателя 2010 года.

    Как сообщает Центральный банк России, в 2011 году частными лицами с использованием систем денежных переводов и почты РФ переведено в Таджикистан $3,039 млрд. (рост на 38%). Напомним, в 2010 году объем таких переводов составил $2,2 млрд.

    Между тем, по данным Центробанка частными лицами в 2012 году из России в Узбекистан переведено $4,276 млрд. (рост более чем в 1,5 раза по сравнению с 2010 годом), Кыргызстан – $1,572 млрд. (рост на 43%) и Туркменистан – $35 млн.

    В Центробанке уточняют, что в данных цифрах не учтены наличные суммы, которые мигранты передают на родину через знакомых, проводников поездов и другими широко применяемыми методами.

    По показателю средней суммы одного перевода также лидирует Узбекистан – $523, в Таджикистан и Кыргызстан за один раз отправлено в среднем $275-280.

    Ранее в Национальном банке Таджикистана сообщили журналистам, что объем денежных переводов физических лиц в РТ в 2011 году увеличился на 33,6% по сравнению с показателем 2010 года. В Нацбанке не стали уточнять объем переведенных денег, отметив, что не все данные еще обработаны.

    Между тем, прошлогодний размер переводов частных лиц из России в Таджикистан составляет почти 50% объема ВВП республики в 2011 году и на 30% больше объема доходной части Госбюджета страны в 2012 году.

    Напомним, ВВП Таджикистана в прошлом году составил более 30 млрд. сомони (более $6,3 млрд.), а доходная часть Госбюджета в нынешнем году запланирована в размере 10 млрд. 160 млн. сомони (более $2,1 млрд.).

  8. Tajikistan closer to deal on extending lease for Russian bases by 49 years

    Associated Press, April 24, 2012

    DUSHANBE, Tajikistan — 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.

    The deal would allow Russia to maintain a stronghold in the volatile Central Asian region. Tajikistan has been dragging its feet over the lease for the Russian garrisons in the hope of securing enhanced financial terms.

    Tajikistan’s ambassador to Russia hinted this week that his government would seek $300 million annually in cash or equivalent in military assistance for the bases. Moscow is expected to seek a much lower fee.

    Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that no date for the deal’s signing has been set yet, but added that Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon had given the necessary instructions will be issued to “speed up the negotiation process.”…

    The Russian 201st Motorized Rifle Division deployed in Tajikistan numbers 7,500 servicemen and is the largest current deployment of Russian troops abroad. It is based in three garrisons — near Dushanbe and in the southern cities of Kulyab and Kurgan-Tube…

  9. Tajikistan says Russia is main partner, rejects foreign offers

    Reuters, April 17, 2012

    Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic bordering Afghanistan, has rejected requests by foreign powers to allow them to set up military bases on its territory because it does not want to upset Russia, its president said on Tuesday.

    Central Asia has become an important alternative transit route for shipments of non-lethal supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan but international powers have not made any public requests to open military facilities there.

    Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon said he had been approached by several countries seeking permission to set up bases in his impoverished mountainous nation which also borders China.

    “Russia is the main strategic partner and our natural ally, and I hope that it will always be like this,” Rakhmon said in the Tajik capital Dushanbe.

    “On my desk, I have a folder containing offers from other states, promising wonders in return for opening their military bases and other facilities, but we are not even considering them,” he said, without naming the countries.

    Relations between Russia and Tajikistan have deteriorated recently, particularly after a Russian pilot was jailed in Tajikistan last November, prompting speculation that Tajikistan might seek closer ties with Moscow’s rivals in the region.

    The pilot and his Estonian colleague were amnestied shortly afterwards but the case has contributed to sour diplomatic ties.

    NATO forces are due to pull out most of their combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and have not officially voiced any plans to stay in the region beyond that timeframe.

    Russia, for its part, says it opposes a long-term Western military presence in Afghanistan while also expressing fears that the NATO pullout could contribute to the spread of drugs and Islamist militancy toward its southern borders.

    Rakhmon’s secular government enjoyed Moscow’s support during a civil war between his forces and the Islamist opposition in 1992-97. Tajikistan is still home to around 6,000 Russian troops at a Soviet-era military base which is deployed in three towns.

    Russia wants to renew the lease at Base No. 201 for another 49 years when it expires later this year. The base includes a satellite-tracking facility in the Pamir mountains.

    Immigration is also a big issue in Tajikistan’s relations with Russia, home to more than a million Tajik migrant workers.

    The pilots’ case has triggered a crackdown on Tajik migrant workers in Russia, with anti-immigration nationalist parties demanding tougher visa rules for Tajik citizens – a worrying signal for a country relying on remittances to make ends meet.

    Last year, Tajik workers sent home around $3 billion in remittances, almost half of Tajikistan’s gross domestic product.

    “We respect the interests of our strategic partner, but our partner should in its turn respect its ally,” Rakhmon said. “It is time (for Russia) to finally determine its position and always be with its partner in its hard times.”

  10. Tajikistan Wants ‘Respect’ From Russia

    RFE/RL, April 17, 2012

    DUSHANBE — Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has called Russia his country’s only strategic partner but said Moscow should “respect” Tajikistan.

    Rahmon said that he had “a big file of requests by other countries who offer mountains of gold for having a military base in Tajikistan, but I haven’t even looked at those offers.”

    Rahmon added that Tajikistan hosted a large number of Russian strategic facilities and considers Russia its “natural partner.”

    He urged Russian leaders not to allow themselves to be misled by what he described as “distorted” media reports about Tajikistan, saying that Russia should “respect Tajikistan in order to earn its respect.”

  11. Russia and Tajikistan Closer To Base Deal – But How Close?

    The Bug Pit Blog, April 24, 2012

    Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is on a visit to Dushanbe, where he said that Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon has “confirmed” his interest in extending the lease on the base for Russia’s 201st Motorized Rifle Division. From the AP:

    Lavrov told reporters that no date for the deal’s signing has been set yet, but added that Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon had given the necessary instructions will be issued to “speed up the negotiation process.”

    But there’s just one snag: the price.

    Tajikistan’s ambassador to Russia hinted this week that his government would seek $300 million annually in cash or equivalent in military assistance for the bases. Moscow is expected to seek a much lower fee.

    Lavrov also emphasized in his speech that the base’s presence wasn’t just in Russia’s interest, but operates under the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and is ready to counter “external” threats to Tajikistan as well.

    Anyway, it’s hard to argue that you’re close to a deal when the two sides apparently remain far apart on the financial terms. Also telling is that Rahmon himself didn’t seem to make any comments. In other words, we’re still basically at the same place we were eight months ago, when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said they had reached a deal. Of course, what we see in public is just a tiny tip of the iceberg of the negotiations that are going on, so perhaps there has been some real progress. But if they are still far apart on price, then that suggests there’s a long way to go.

  12. Russia Wants ‘Post-Soviet Tajikistan Integration’

    RIA Novosti, April 24, 2012

    Russia’s foreign minister on Tuesday invited Tajikistan into “integration structures” within the Moscow-dominated post-Soviet group, the Commonwealth of Independent States.

    “The Customs Union and the Common Economic Space are open at any stage of formation for the joining of other countries which share the principles of Eurasian integration and are ready to realize them,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a university in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe.

    He said Tajikistan would be “comfortable.”

    The Customs Union, an economic alliance which removes customs barriers between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, was established in 2010 and took effect last year. Ukraine has indicated it wants closer ties with it, but Kiev’s EU ambitions have caused concern in the Kremlin.

    The Common Economic Space between the three Customs Union countries took effect from January 1 this year.

  13. Lavrov urges Tajikistan, Uzbekistan to normalize relations

    The Voice of Russia, April 24, 2012

    Moscow seeks a speedy normalization of relations between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday after talks with Tajik President Emomalii Rahmon.

    Both of the countries are Russia’s strategic partners because they are neighbors and also because they were all the existing disputes is through dialogue, the Russian minister said.

    He expressed hope that this dialogue would begin as soon as possible.

    The Tajik-Uzbek relations have been strained ever since the breakup of the former Soviet Union.

    Tension mounted after Dushanbe decided to resume the construction of the Rogun hydro-electric power plant with the world’s biggest dam of 335 meters.

    The decision triggered a sharp protest from Uzbekistan as it fears losing part of its water flow.

  14. Russia, Kyrgyzstan Sign Military Base Lease Deal

    RIA Novosti, April 24, 2012

    Russia signed a deal with Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday agreeing the rent Russia will pay for using military facilities in that country.

    The deal was signed following a meeting between Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and his counterparts from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in Beijing on Tuesday, Serdyukov’s spokeswoman Lt. Col. Irina Kovalchuk said.

    “During a meeting with Kyrgyz Defense Minister Major General Taalaibek Omuraliev a protocol on rent compensation for the use Russian military facilities in Kyrgyzstan was signed. Work to resolve the problems which occurred with payables on rent was completed,” Kovalchuk said.

    “The signing of the protocol legally sets out the debt,” she said

    The Russian and Tajikistan Defense Ministers sides signed an intergovernmental agreement on Tajikistan citizens attendance in the educational institutions of the Russian military.

    “It creates the necessary legal and regulatory framework for the training of Tajikistan citizens in the Suvorov schools and cadet corps of Russian Defense Ministry,” Kovalchuk said.

    Serdyukov is in Beijing to attend a meeting of Defense Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which will be held on Tuesday.

    During his visit to Moscow in February, Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev criticized Russia for not paying the rent for its military base in Kant and questioned the rationality of allowing Moscow to keep a base on Kyrgyz territory.

    Kyrgyz Prime Minister Omurbekh Babanov said on Tuesday the country’s authorities were planning to decide whether to extend the U.S. lease of the Manas air base near Bishkek by taking into account the opinion of partner states within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

    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 last November, 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.

  15. Talks On Russian Military Presence In Tajikistan Continue

    RFE/RL, April 25, 2012

    DUSHANBE — Russia and Tajikistan are continuing talks over the future of Russian troops in Tajikistan.

    No progress was announced following talks this week in Dushanbe between visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Tajik leadership.

    Both sides said discussions were being accelerated.

    An official Tajik government source told RFE/RL that the Tajik administration wants Russian troops to remain on Tajik soil for only five to seven years after the current lease on their base expires in 2014.

    The source says Dushanbe also wants Moscow to pay millions of dollars of overdue lease fees.

    The Kremlin, for its part, reportedly wants the lease for its 201st Motorized Rifle Division extended by 49 years.

    The division has 7,500 servicemen based near Dushanbe and in the southern cities of Kulob and Qurghon-Teppa.

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