April 7, 2015
Elena Chernenko, Ivan Safronov fro Kommersant
Translated by Krisitna Rus
Russia will transfer $70 billion to Tajikistan
Dushanbe will receive funds to strengthen the borders of the CSTO
Militants from the terrorist group “Islamic State” are already trying to sneak into Tajikistan and could destabilize the entire Central Asia. On April 2, the Foreign Ministers of member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) discussed how to counter this threat at a meeting in Dushanbe. According to “Kommersant”, Russia is ready to allocate to Tajikistan the military-technical assistance in the amount of 70 billion rubles.
Opening the meeting with the foreign ministers of member-states of the CSTO, the President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, presiding over the bloc, has recognized that “terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking are developing rapidly in the area of responsibility of the CSTO, which has a devastating impact on the situation in the region.” The military-political bloc of the post-Soviet space, curated by Moscow, in addition to Russian Federation includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The situation in Central Asia can really escalate at any moment – and Tajikistan is in the most vulnerable position.
According to the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Sergey Lavrov, “Dushanbe is faced with increasing threats from the South, in connection with the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, where in addition to traditionally present extremist groups (including the “Islamic movement of Uzbekistan”, the “Islamic movement of Turkestan” and Al Qaeda) there is already an “Islamic State”. Militants from ISIS who seized parts of Syria and Iraq and are actively recruiting supporters in Afghanistan, are already making inroads into Tajikistan. The long Tajik-Afghan border (about 1350 km) is not well controlled and has previously caused concerns: on the Afghan side some of the adjacent territory is fully controlled by the Taliban. Now the most radical members of Taliban are joining ISIS, endangering the whole of Central Asia and Russia.
In 2013, the CSTO member states agreed to provide technical assistance to Tajik border guards, guarding the border with Afghanistan (see “Kommersant” on September 23, 2013). However, yesterday the Foreign Minister of Tajikistan, Sirodjidin Aslov lamented that “the current situation in this matter is not satisfactory and more practical measures are needed”, that is, the supply of weapons and special vehicles, as well as assistance in strengthening border checkpoints. Until 2005 this boundary was protected by Russian border guards, then the border security was fully transferred to the jurisdiction of Dushanbe. Russia, according to diplomatic sources of “Kommersant”, is ready to return its troops to the border, but this requires the request of the Tajik authorities, which has not yet happened.
In the case of a sharp aggravation – again, if requested by the Tajik authorities – soldiers of the 201st Russian military base could be involved (the garrisons are located in Dushanbe, Kurgan-Tyube and Kulyabe), as well as the Collective Rapid Response Forces of the CSTO. According to the CSTO Secretary General, Nikolay Bordyuzha, the divisions of the bloc will require not more than three days for full-scale deployment of its forces in the conflict area.
Tajik authorities hope that there will be no need for direct military intervention, and hope that Russia will help them strengthen their own army. That Moscow intends to finance the modernization of the armed forces of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, “Kommersant” first reported on November 6, 2012. The sources of “Kommersant” in the government of Russia then explained that by helping to strengthen the defense capability of the countries of Central Asia, Russia is taking care of its own security in connection with the withdrawal of NATO coalition troops from Afghanistan, and also prevents the US from setting a foothold in the region. Bishkek receives weapons and equipment (helicopters, MLRS, armored vehicles and small arms) in the amount of about 40 billion rubles within the framework of this project.
A program of joint modernization of the armed forces of Tajikistan, Moscow and Dushanbe was signed in the summer of 2014, but until now the volume of allocated funds was not known. As “Kommersant” had learned, Russia is ready to provide Tajikistan with military-technical assistance worth about 70 billion rubles in the coming years (about $1.23 billion at current exchange rate). This information was confirmed by sources in the General Staff of the Russian Federation.
Weapons (from communications, small arms and ammunition to aviation, artillery and anti-aircraft missile launchers) will be mainly supplied from the inventory on the balance of the Russian army. The product range has been agreed, but deliveries have not yet begun. However, Sergey Lavrov, following the results of yesterday’s talks said: “We reaffirmed our commitment in fulfilling obligations to Tajikistan in strengthening its defenses both bilaterally and in the framework of the decisions of the CSTO”.
The Tajik society is currently actively discussing the perspectives of joining the Eurasian Economic Union. The neighboring Kyrgyzstan has already joined along with Armenia. Tajikistan’s geographic location, lack of other alternatives, economic benefits from integration, such as cheaper energy and eased flow of goods and labor, and the biggest security threat in recent history from the Southern border with Afghanistan will have a significant impact on the final decision, which we will probably learn about in the near future (Tajikistan gets preferential terms if joining within 3 years).