Tajikistan Allows Russian Military To Stay -- But At What Cost?
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has visited Tajikistan, and with his counterpart Emomali Rahmon, announced that the lease on Russia's military base in the Central Asian country will be extended for 49 years. Said Medvedev at a joint press event:
We discussed today the completion of work on extending the agreement between our countries on the presence of a Russian military base on Tajikistan’s territory. We agreed to instruct our relevant agencies to have a new forward-looking agreement extending the base’s presence for 49 years, ready for signing in the first quarter of 2012.
I think that this kind of agreement must be carefully put together, and at the same time needs to reflect the balance of interests between the two sides. In any case, Mr Rahmon and I reaffirmed our desire today to reach a final agreement on this matter within the timeframe I just named.
Russia has been thinking long-term with its military presence abroad, signing deals of similar length with Armenia and Ukraine. But the real story between Russia and Tajikistan will be whether the former is willing to pay to keep the base. Tajikistan's government has said it now expects Russia to pay for the base, but Russian analyst Arkady Dubnov, in a recent interview with IWPR, says he doesn't think Russia will agree to that:
Take the 201st division.… I don’t believe Moscow will ultimately insist on keeping it there if Tajikistan demands payment for allowing it to do so. It’s hard to say who is right or wrong here. We know that Moscow believes Dushanbe should bear in mind that it’s been supplying the Tajik army with weapons and equipment at discounted price and sometimes free of charge over many years. So it doesn’t think Dushanbe has a moral right to start demanding payment [for the army base].
If Medvedev and Rahmon are so confident that an agreement will be signed next year, they must have agreed on the question of whether or not Tajikistan will get paid. But if they did, they aren't telling anyone.