In Tajikistan, Doubts About Promised Russian Military Aid
A year after Tajikistan ratified an agreement allowing Russia to keep its military base there until 2042, some in the country are questioning whether Russia is going to hold up its end of the bargain.
Under the deal, Russia will not pay rent for the base -- its biggest foreign military facility -- but instead will repay Tajikistan in favorable terms for labor migrants and fuel supplies, as well as up to $200 million in military aid. But in a report in the newspaper Asia Plus, several experts cast doubt on Moscow's intentions or abilities to fulfill its obligations.
Economist Farrukh Akhmedov pointed out that a lot has changed for Russia since last year, now embroiled in a war with Ukraine and a confrontation with NATO, and so is in no position to deliver the aid it promised.
"Therefore I don't see any prospect now for the military aid for Tajikistan... It's possible that in time Russia will carry out all its obligations in the plan for economic and military aid, but with the changes in the political arena it's very hard to judge."
The head of the opposition Social-Democratic Party of Tajikistan, Rahmatullo Zoyirov, said that "the agreement only favors Russia, not Tajkistan. Of the announced military aid, only a tenth has been carried out." (It should be noted that the aid was scheduled to be disbursed over a period ending in 2025, so if in fact a tenth has been delivered, that may be ahead of schedule.)
But analyst Rashid Abdullo Gani called for patience, noting that the country isn't capable of absorbing $200 million in military aid all at once. "Of course the plans will be implemented, it's in the interests of both sides equally. But the aid will be extended over time and will correspond to the ability of the Tajik side to manage the aid."
There is also the question of whether the base's presence is a sort of security guarantee for Tajikistan. Akhmedov noted that Uzbekistan regularly threatens to attack Tajikistan, in particular its controversial, proposed dam projects. "Of course this isn't realistic, but defense of the territory is necessary and the Tajikistan army isn't sufficiently equipped and trained, and all hope rests on the Russian soldiers. But we shouldn't fully rely on them," he said.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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