Dushanbe: Russia won a 30-year deal on a military base in Tajikistan, but the price includes risk of placing Russian servicemen under fire if violence flares up in volatile Central Asia.
Moscow and Dushanbe clinched an agreement on Friday on a Russian military base in Tajikistan, which will remain in the country until at least 2042, a Russian presidential aide said.
The agreement, which followed months of haggling, is a success for Russian diplomacy, Russian and Western an alysts said.
But it also means that Russia agrees to use military force to maintain peace in Central Asia, a region that is set to grow much more turbulent after the US forces pull out of Afghanistan in 2014, pundits said.
The deal was sealed during a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin with his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, Putin’s aide, Yury Ushakov, said.
The current agreement on the base was set to expire in 2014, but was prolonged for 30 years, with the option of repeatedly extending it for five years after that date, Ushakov said. Russia sought to extend the deal for 49 years, while Tajikistan wanted to limit it to 10 years.
Media reports said earlier Tajikistan wanted $250 million a year to host the base, which hosts 7,000 troops across three locations. But Ushakov said on Friday that Russia would get the base “almost free of charge.” He gave no further details.
Moscow clinched last month a similar deal with Kyrgyzstan, which will host a Russian military base though at least 2032, writing off $500 million of Kyrgyz debts in exchange. The Central Asian republic also houses a US military base, but it is set to be closed by 2014.
Speeding the Tajik deal was important for Putin, who is very conscious of Russia’s image in the West and sees Central Asia, a zone of Russia’s alleged “privileged interests,” as a means of boosting Moscow’s international prestige, Quinn-Judge said.
But at the same time, the deal with Dushanbe is bound to irk Uzbekistan, an aspiring regional power which has been leaning toward the United States in recent months, Knyazev said.
A delegation of 17 America senior military officials is touring Uzbekistan this week, adding weight to reports that the United States plan to set up a transit base in the country to aid the pullout of its forces from Afghanistan.
“You can’t exchange a queen for two pawns,” Knyazev said, referring to Russia’s deals with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan at the expense of Uzbekistan. “But I hope Putin is just sounding off on the situation before beginning dialogue with [Uzbekistan’s capital] Tashkent.”[Agencies]