Reports Of Russian Base In Osh Resurface
The proposal of either the U.S. or Russia building some sort of military training facility/base in southern Kyrgyzstan has been kicking around for a long time, and while there appear to have been real proposals from both Washington and Moscow, neither of them, for reasons still unclear, have ever borne fruit. Now, with Russian government approval of a deal signed late last year to place all the Russian military facilities in Kyrgyzstan under a single agreement, Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta is reporting that a Russian base in Osh is part of the deal:
A Russian base will soon appear in Osh, in southern Kyrgyzstan. Recall that President Almazbek Atambayev last year asked his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin to strengthen the Russian military presence on the territory of the republic. The new major military object will give Russia the possibility to keep its hand on the pulse not only of Kyrgyzstan, but in the region as a whole. In talks in Bishkek in September of last year, Vladimir Putin noted that "the presence of Russian components in the region, in Kyrgyzstan like in Tajikistan, would be a substantial factor for stability." According to him, those who want to destabilize the situation in the region should know that "here are the necessary forces, which can be used in the fight against extremism, drug trafficking and terrorism." For that reason, the center for the deployment of Russian military was chosen for the hottest region in the republic -- Osh. Instability in Osh affects the entire Fergana Valley and even farther. In the opinion of the director of the Center for Perspective Research Sergey Masaulov, "the location of a base in Osh will cement the entire system of security in the south for Russia and for the whole of Central Asia." The flag of Russia, raised over southern Kyrgyzstan, in his opinion, will be convincing evidence that Russia is ready to carry out its stabilizing mission.
That's pretty thinly sourced, and Kyrgyzstan member of parliament and former prime minister Felix Kulov says it's not true. He tells Fergana that the issue isn't even being discussed, "in parliament we haven't raised the question of a new Russian base. No documents on this issue have been received." Other members of Kyrgyzstan's Defense Council also were surveyed, and said they had heard nothing of it. Is this a case of, where there's smoke, there's fire? Or just some creative reporting on the part of NG?
Relatedly, Russia and Kyrgyzstan are working out the details of the big military aid package they also agreed on last year, and Kyrgyzstan's wish list includes armored vehicles, artillery, portable surface-to-air missiles, field hospitals and other vehicles, said the Defense Council's secretary, Busurmankul Tabaldiyev.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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