With Massive Russian Military Aid, Is Kyrgyzstan Becoming A Client State?
Russia is going to start sending $1 billion in weapons to Kyrgyzstan this year, said Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. That appears to be an acceleration of earlier plans; just the day before Shoigu had said that the shipments would start next year.
Igor Korotchenko, the editor of a Kremlin-affiliated defense magazine, said that the shipments would likely include: "tanks, armored vehicles and personnel carriers, as well as rocket launchers, artillery, small arms, and surveillance and communication systems."
Possibly relatedly, Kyrgyzstan's government announced that it would sell its shares in the Soviet-legacy Dastan torpedo factory and that "Kyrgyzstan's government said Russian investors would be given priority in purchasing the shares in the factory ... at an auction in the fall."
Some good context for these moves can be found in a useful new paper (pdf) published by two of the best scholars dealing with Central Asian geopolitical issues, Alex Cooley and Marlene Laruelle. The paper, titled "The Changing Logic of Russian Strategy in Central Asia: From Privileged Sphere to Divide and Rule?" details how the Kremlin has recently moved towards prioritizing its ties with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as client states:
Following Uzbekistan’s departure from the CSTO in June 2012, a new Russian strategy of “divide and rule” seems to be accelerating. Rather than trying to maximize and balance relations with the Central Asian states, Russia is now aggressively entering into a classical client-state relationship with Kyrgyzstan and, to a lesser extent, Tajikistan, the region’s smallest and poorest countries but also the ones where Russian influence has remained strong for twenty years. In exchange for supporting them materially and in their local rivalries, Moscow seeks closer ties and fealty to its foreign policy directives.
Russia's efforts to get Kyrgyzstan to evict the U.S. from its air base at Manas could probably be seen as part of this trend, as well as the plan to base CSTO air forces in Kyrgyzstan. This will be one of the big stories to watch in Central Asia in the coming years.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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