On October 5, the Russian and Tajik defense ministers signed an agreement that extended Russia’s lease of a large army base in the Central Asian country for another 29 years. With the current lease expiring at the end of 2013, the deal guarantees Moscow a continuation of its military presence in Tajikistan until at least 2042. Under the new agreement, Tajikistan will continue hosting Russia’s largest ground force deployed abroad for free. The roughly 7,000 military personnel serving at the base as well as their families will be granted immunity from legal prosecution in the country.
BACKGROUND: The deal was signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Dushanbe, ending a lengthy period of negotiation and heated debates. Moscow and Dushanbe initially announced their intention to extend the presence of Russian troops in Tajikistan in September 2011. Shortly afterwards, however, it became apparent that the two countries had major disagreements on the terms of the new base deal. Dushanbe reportedly insisted that Russia should pay rent, while Moscow was keen on using the strategically important base free of charge. Dushanbe also resented a 49-year lease deal pushed by Moscow, proposing instead a shorter term arrangement.
The agreements inked during Putin’s visit to Tajikistan are designed to satisfy both countries. Russia has secured an extension of its basing rights in Tajikistan on very favorable conditions. Over the next three decades, Moscow will only pay a “symbolic sum” for stationing its troops in the strategically located Central Asian country. Continue reading
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).
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).