Russia’s Military Security Positions, SCTO and SCO
Regardless of its security problems at home, Russia continues to seek and strengthen its military positions in its neighborhood. Ahead of the ISAF withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Kremlin is preparing to boost its military presence in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In September 2011, Moscow achieved consent from Dushanbe to extend the agreement on hosting its military base in Tajikistan by 49 years. The agreement is expected to be signed in early 2012. The Russian base in Tajikistan was established in 2005 as the successor to the former 201st Motorized Rifle Division from the Soviet period. The country hosts the second largest Russian military base (5,000 – 7,000 troops.)
Moscow also wants to install Russian border guards on the Tajik-Afghanistan border, criticizing Tajikistan for its incapacity to control drug smuggling from Afghanistan. Roughly 95 metric tons of drugs pass through Central Asia from Afghanistan and only 5 metric tons are intercepted in the region. Russia is concerned about the import of drugs to its own territory, as most of them are sold on the Russian market.
The Kremlin is pressing Kyrgyzstan to sign a 49-year lease on the Kant airbase. Moscow has proposed to merge its five military facilities in Kyrgyzstan into a single base to be deployed on gratis terms for 49 years with the possibility of a 25-year extension. The new Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev is likely to agree in exchange for a $30-million loan from Russia and a $256-million loan from the Eurasec anti-crisis fund, as well as $180-million in loan forgiveness from Russia. In 2011, Kyrgyzstan cancelled any lease payments on the airbase in exchange for lower cost fuel imports from Russia. With the help of Eurasec money, Russia will obtain other lucrative deals. Gazprom will gain control over Kyrgyzstan’s state gas company, a Gazprom-controlled joint venture will supply 50% of the fuel needed by the U.S. airbase in Manas, and Russia will be given 49% of the Dastan torpedo plant.
Russia’s biggest demand, however, is the closure of the U.S. Transit Center at Manas International airport, the last large U.S. Air Force base in Central Asia. Manas is a key transit point for American troops and military supplies to Afghanistan. Immediately after his election on October 30, 2011, Atambayev declared that the U.S. base needed to close by 2014, the deadline for U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. He claimed that its presence on Kyrgyz soil puts the country at risk of retaliatory strikes from those in conflict with the United States, a statement that is strikingly in contrast with the words of Kyrgyzstan’s interim president Roza Otunbayeva quoted earlier. Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov added that further decisions on the future of the American base would only be made while taking into account the interests of the CSTO partners of Kyrgyzstan. A Russian government source told Kommersant newspaper that...