Russia and Tajikistan Discuss Military and Energy Cooperation

2010/11/01

Summary

STRATFOR sources said Nov. 1 that Russia and Tajikistan are discussing an agreement that would allow Russian forces to travel freely among all of Russia’s military and air bases in Tajikistan. However, Dushanbe wants Moscow’s support for the Roghun hydroelectric power plant, a project that Uzbekistan sees as a threat to its own interests. Uzbekistan believes the construction of a hydroelectric plant in Tajikistan would divert water supplies the arid country needs for agriculture and for drinking water. Moscow’s view of Tashkent as a potential rival could prompt it to throw its support behind Dushanbe on the issue.

Analysis

STRATFOR sources in Central Asia reported Nov. 1 that Russia is in talks with Tajik authorities about having an open contract for Russia’s military in Tajikistan. This would allow Russian forces to travel freely among all of Russia’s military and air bases, border stations and other military installations within Tajikistan. Dushanbe has indicated interest in such an agreement, but has a request of its own: It would like Moscow’s support for the Roghun hydroelectric power plant that Tajikistan is currently constructing. Tajikistan primarily is not seeking financial or technical assistance for the plant — although Dushanbe would not mind that. Rather, Tajikistan wants political and military protection from Russia as a bulwark against Uzbekistan, which sees the power plant as a threat to its own interests.

Russia and Tajikistan Discuss Military and Energy Cooperation

particularly between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan contain the region’s water sources, the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers, but have almost no energy resources to speak of. Conversely, Uzbekistan is rich in natural gas but must depend on Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan for water. Uzbekistan frequently cuts off natural gas and electricity exports to Tajikistan because Dushanbe sometimes cannot afford these exports. This has led to regular rolling blackouts in the country. Because Tajikistan wants to minimize its energy dependence on its neighbor and rival Uzbekistan, Dushanbe has begun exploiting its water resources to build additional hydroelectric plants like the $3 billion Roghun project, which began in the Soviet era but was dormant until recently. Uzbekistan has opposed hydroelectric plants vociferously, as Tashkent claims they would take the water supplies Uzbekistan needs for agricultural production and drinking water. This has created abitter dispute between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in which energy cutoffs and border closures are the norm.

Russia and Tajikistan Discuss Military and Energy CooperationUp to now, Russia has been careful not to throw its support behind either country too heavily on this issue for fear of prompting a backlash against Moscow as it resurges into the region (though Russia was less reserved in Kyrgyzstan). But Russia has been increasing itsmilitary presence significantly in Tajikistan; at the same time, Tajikistan has seen an uptick in violence and instability, particularly in the Rasht Valley, after more than 24 high-profile Islamist militants broke out of jail. Tajikistan, therefore, has enough to worry about from a security standpoint without prompting a standoff with Uzbekistan, which is both larger and more powerful. Dushanbe is concerned that if it follows through with the Roghun project, it would cause Tashkent to raise its pressure on Tajikistan and possibly even strike back in some way.

Because Russia has already boosted its military presence in Tajikistan, and because Russia views Uzbekistan suspiciously as it is the strongest and most independent-minded of the Central Asian countries, Dushanbe is hoping Moscow will support the Roghun project and ultimately act as Tajikistan’s protector if necessary. However, an open military contract with Tajikistan giving the Russian military the ability to move as if it were a domestic force — much like the relationship between Russia and Armenia — could create serious complications with the region’s other powers.

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