In response to the United States’ attempts to squeeze Russia out of Central Asia, Moscow is taking steps to consolidate its positions in that region, writes the Kommersant newspaper. According to the daily, Russia is ready to allocate 1.1 billion U.S. dollars to re-equip Kyrgyzstan’s army and 200 million U.S. dollars as assistance to the army of Tajikistan. Apart from that, Moscow will offer 200-million-U.S. dollar privileges on oil product supplies to Dushanbe.
The newspaper cites sources close to the Russian-Kyrgyz inter-governmental commission as saying that Moscow has promised Bishkek to allocate 1.1 billion U.S. dollars to modernize its army. Agreements to this effect were reached during Bishkek visits by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov in August and by Russian President Vladimir Putin in September. The subject, the Kommersant notes, will be in the focus of talks Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev is due to hold in Moscow on November 14-15. It is expected that the talks will centre round a Russian loan and military assistance. According to a source in the Russian government, first batches of Russian-made weapons will be sent to Kyrgyzstan next summer.
Bishkek needs all types of small arms. It also wants new infantry combat vehicles, combat reconnaissance vehicles, helicopters, field and stationary hospitals. Moreover, the Kyrgyz defence ministry needs light motor vehicles, portable mortar launchers and satellite equipment to carry out operations in mountainous areas.
The program of military assistance to Tajikistan looks not that costly. According to the newspaper, Russia is ready to allocate 200 million U.S. dollars to modernize Tajikistan’s missile defence systems and repair its military hardware. But still, Dushanbe might hope for more.
During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Dushanbe, the sides reached an agreement on privileged supplies of Russian oil products to Tajikistan. Russia will charge no duties to a sum of about 200 million a year, or approximately what Tajikistan wanted Russia to pay for the Russian base in its territory.
According to a source in the Russian government, sponsoring modernization of Kyrgyzstan’s and Tajikistan’s armed forces, Moscow seeks to “strengthen the potential of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) with due account of threats that might emerge after the United States withdraws its troops from Afghanistan in 2014.” It also wants to keep Russian defence enterprises running at their full capacity. Another reason, according to the source, is not to let the United States won a stronger foothold in the region.
However investing enormous sums into rearming Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, “Russia is staking its all,” warns Alexei Malashenko, an expert from the Carnegie Moscow Center and the author of the book “Central Asia: What Russia Expects.”
“It is a risky step fraught with unpredictable consequences,” he said. “This way Russia is not merely declaring its support to far-from-stable regimes in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan but is making a move that might further complicate its already problem relations with Uzbekistan.”