Turkey Promises To Boost Military Aid To Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev has made his first foreign trip since becoming president, to Turkey. And while trade and aid seemed to top the agenda, the two sides also agreed to increase military cooperation, reports 24.kg:
Turkey will assist Kyrgyzstan in strengthening of Defense Ministry, Security Council and Frontier Service. It was announced by Foreign Affairs Minister Ruslan Kazakbaev during the official visit of President Almazbek Atambayev to Turkey.
According him on bilateral negotiations the issues of security, fighting against international terrorism, drug trafficking and illegal migration, strengthening of Defense Ministry, Frontier Service and law machinery,” said Ruslan Kazakbaev.
As the minister noted the issue of quota increasing for students, officers and young diplomats wishing to study in Turkey was also discussed. “Turkish part is going to support our request,” added the Minister.
And Central Asia Online reports, citing a Kyrgyzstan defense ministry statement, that Turkey will help build a military school in Osh and build up the country's defense industry:
“One of the high-priority issues for Kyrgyzstan is construction of an Armed Forces Military Institute in Osh,” said Kyrgyz Defence Minister Taalaybek Omuraliyev. “Its creation would permit us to train highly skilled officers for the Armed Forces and other Kyrgyz military forces.”
“Another important direction that we’d like to develop is the opening of joint defence industry factories,” he said. “We could foresee the conduct of joint tactical counter-terrorism exercises in Kyrgyzstan and Turkey.”
A pseudonymed analyst writing in Asia Times suggests that the visit was an effort by Atambayev to add more vectors to his country's foreign policy:
Turkey's foremost priority and preoccupation for the past 40 years or so has been integration into the European Union, so Ankara's periodic surges of interest in other regions, including Central Asia, have waxed and waned based on the progress or lack of thereof in its talks with the EU.
This time, the new-found love between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey seems to suggest that it is not Turkey that is trying to reengage its Central Asian cousin more strongly; rather, President Atambayev is attempting to diversify Kyrgyzstan's foreign policy away from superpowers such as Russia, the United States and China and thus lessen his country's heavy dependence on them. Cultivating the so-called second-tier countries like Turkey may look a better bet, as they emerge as strong economies with increasing technological and investment potential.
The building in Osh seems particularly noteworthy. Kyrgyzstan has tried, and seems to have failed, to interest both the U.S. and Russia in creating military infrastructure in the southern part of the country. Bishkek's interest, in addition to the overt one of improving the training of its military, appears to be to create some international stake in southern Kyrgyzstan, so that if Uzbekistan (as Bishkek fears) invades, Kyrgyzstan will have some immediate international support. So is Turkey willing to play this role?
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.