Saturday, September 19, 2009

Defense: Tajikistan takes on Russia over military base

Tajikistan, an Asian republic of the former Soviet Union, may ask for $300 million of rent a year for the presence of Russia’s 201st army base in the nation. In addition, Tajikistan also intends to control military hardware at the base.

Russia currently pays a much smaller rent for the base, but the amount is not known.

The issue of raising the rent for the Russian army base in Tajikistan has been discussed for several years already, but the matter has not taken a form of specific decisions. However, the Tajik administration has apparently decided that it is the right time to set forth such claims to Russia.

If one ties the problems which Russia and the West have in their mutual relations, it may seem that Tajikistan starts taking the side of the USA and the EU, which use the former Soviet nation to put pressure on Russia.

The 300-million-dollar claim coincides with a number of events that can be indirectly related to the issue.

Two landmark events in the US-Russian relations are slated to take place next week. Dmitry Medvedev is to meet Barack Obama within the scope of the G20 summit in Pittsburg. The first meeting of the US-Russian committee for the reset of relations will also take place next week under the chairmanship of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The officials will discuss such issues as the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the issues of European security, the expansion of NATO and some others. Russia and the USA have considerable difficulties in negotiating these questions.

As for Tajikistan, this country is interesting in terms of the issue of the US and European military transit to Afghanistan via Russia. This is where the West may use the pressure factor against Moscow.

The European Union has a special strategy for Central Asia to develop the regional cooperation. Tajikistan receives 66 million euros from 2007 to 2010 as Europe’s financial assistance to develop education, agriculture, border control and the struggle against drug trafficking.

The USA is the leading donor state for Tajikistan as of 2006. The United States provide 44.5 percent of all assistance, which Tajikistan – the poorest nation in the Commonwealth of Independent States – receives from foreign countries. The list continues with Germany – 15.3 percent, Latvia – 13.3 percent, Kazakhstan – 6.9 percent, Russia – 4.1 percent and Uzbekistan – 0.6 percent.

The financial assistance, which the USA provides, can not be described as humanitarian aid. Now it is all about the promotion of democracy, the strengthening of security, the development of the investment climate and the improvement of social services.

It is easy to understand what these words stand for if one thinks of Iraq, which US troops occupy for six years already. However, it seems that the Tajik administration is absolutely quiet about it. It is not ruled out that Tajikistan will eventually provide its air base on the outskirts of the nation’s capital, Dushanbe, to the US military.

It is worthy of note that a French Corps of the International Security Assistance Force was deployed at the airport of Dushanbe in 2001. No one raises any payments for the French.

The funds, which Tajikistan receives from the United States, do not reach common people of the poor nation. About a million of Tajik men and women (20 percent of the nation’s working population) come to Russia for earnings.

The total amount of their money transfers, which they made in 2007 from Russian cities to their homeland, made up 46 percent of the nation’s GDP, the World Bank said.

As for Russia’s military presence in Tajikistan, this presence is a matter of necessity. Russia had to stop the civil war in the country in the beginning of the 1990s and prevent the penetration of large armed groups from Afghanistan.

In addition, the presence of the Russian Armed Forces in the country deters the radical Islamic opposition in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan was unable to defend its borders during the creation of its state structures: the period coincided with the beginning of the civil war in the country. Russia was forced to create the border group in the Republic of Tajikistan – 12,000 servicemen in 1993.

Russia played a key role in the recreation of Tajikistan as a nation. It seems that the Tajik administration considers that the situation in the country is stable and the Western help is sufficient. Now Tajik officials may turn its back on Russia and forget everything that Russia has done to the nation.

Vladimir Anokhin - Pravda

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