Tajikistan: Russia Uses Energy to Elicit Security Concessions
A Eurasianet partner post from Stratfor
Gas stations run by a Gazprom affiliate that operates in Tajikistan only have two to three days’ worth of high-octane fuel left, Asia-Plus reported Sept. 12. Gazprom Neft-Tajikistan gas stations began limiting sales to 20 liters (5.3 gallons) per person Sept. 5, not long after Russia increased its duties on fuel exports to Tajikistan, which contributed to the gasoline price increases that led to imposed sale limits.
￼Russia wants to expand its already-strong position in Tajikistan’s security, but Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon’s government has been hesitant to give Moscow what it wants. Russia’s fuel export duty increase can be seen as an attempt to pressure Rakhmon and make Tajikistan more compliant in the realm of security.
Russia already dominates security in Tajikistan . More than 7,000 Russian troops are stationed in Tajikistan, and Russia recently extended the lease of its three military bases in the country by 49 years. Russia is also deeply entrenched in Tajikistan’s security and intelligence apparatuses and has been instrumental in operations targeting militant and opposition hideouts in Tajikistan’s Rasht Valley . Furthermore, Russia is the only outside country with a fixed military presence in Tajikistan (though there has been some cooperation between Russia and the United States in terms of training and counternarcotics operations in the country).
However, Russia wants to fill what it considers holes in its security presence in Tajikistan. Russia has also been in talks about leasing Tajikistan’s Ayni air base, though Dushanbe has been hesitant on this issue and has even asked Moscow to pay more for its three current bases — Rakhmon’s attempt to extract financial concessions in exchange for any further security cooperation. More important, Moscow wants to re-establish its presence on the Tajik-Afghan border. Russian border guards were removed from the area in 2005, and Rakhmon has resisted the Russians’ return, though many Russian officials have said they would like to deploy troops on the border again. Many Tajik officials would also like to see Russian troops along the Tajik-Afghan border, but with a set of ground rules that Moscow likely would not agree to.
These aspects of security in Tajikistan will become more important as the United States continues withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and the risk of security threats and narcotics trafficking increases. Russia wants to make its security presence in Tajikistan as comprehensive as possible, even if Dushanbe is not enthused about that degree of Russian involvement. Energy is one of the levers Russia can use to get Tajikistan to make the security concessions Moscow wants.
￼Russia supplies Tajikistan with most of its fuel products, such as gasoline; Gazprom Neft-Tajikistan supplies 90 percent of the country’s petroleum product imports. Russia is also the main energy supplier for Tajikistan’s neighbor Kyrgyzstan. After Kyrgyzstan announced that Russia would build another military facility in Osh and would have greater military access to the country via a unified command system involving Russia’s bases, Russia lifted fuel import duties on the Central Asian country. Tajikistan has had no such luck , however. Though Dushanbe began asking Moscow to reduce energy import duties in mid-2010 amid concerns about its ability to pay for its energy supplies, Moscow has resisted. In fact, prices have risen for Tajikistan recently. On Sept. 1, Russia raised its export duty on light oil from $293.60 per ton to $297.50 and the export duty for gasoline from $394.40 to $399.70. Furthermore, Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said Sept. 5 that Russia does not intend to subsidize Tajikistan’s light petroleum product market.
Thus, Russia continues to use energy prices to pressure Tajikistan to become more compliant in security matters. Because Tajikistan has overall cooperative relations with Russia, Moscow will limit this pressure to minor moves like price increases, lest it bring too much instability to the Central Asian country, economic or otherwise.
A Eurasianet partner post from Stratfor