Tajikistan’s “multi-vector” foreign policy is testing the Kremlin’s patience. Russia is trying to bolster its influence in Dushanbe by pressing for the return of Russian border troops, but Tajik leaders are rebuffing Moscow’s embrace.
For over a year, Moscow has been pressing for the return of Russian border troops to Tajikistan, saying they are needed to contain a surge of Afghan drugs into Russia. Russian officials are also concerned that spreading violence in northern Afghanistan could spill over into Central Asia. Tajikistan and Afghanistan share a 1,300-kilometer long border.
Russian border guards used to patrol Tajikistan’s southern frontier, but withdrew in 2005. Since then approximately 60 Russian advisers have been attached to Tajik border units. The agreement covering the Russian advisers is due to expire soon. In addition, Moscow maintains the 201st Motor Rifle Division, comprising about 7,000 troops, in the country.
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Konstantin Parshin is a freelance writer based in Tajikistan.