After US withdrawal from Afghanistan, NATO plans to deploy military base in Central Asia
26 February 2014, 16:03
Washington is escalating its activity in the Caucasus and Central Asia. After the announcement of the plan to get Georgia involved in NATO, some experts have expressed their opinions that the US is viewing Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries as potential bases to deploy its military objects. In connection with the US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan this task is considered to be one of the priorities.
At the end of last year disputes began in Kyrgyzstan regarding the future of the Manas air base used as one of the US' bases. It turned out that despite the existing agreements the US could refuse to vacate it. After a Kyrgyz-Turkish joint venture is set up in Manas, the infrastructure could be handed over to the US or NATO for commercial use. Moreover, the radio complex of the airport is planned to become a part of the system of 26 radar stations that Americans built in Kyrgyzstan to monitor the air space of Asian countries, thus, in that context the US' efforts in other countries of the region, such as in Tajikistan, seem quite logical.
A meeting took place in Dushanbe between Richard Hoagland, Principal Deputy Assistant to the US Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, with the Tajik president Emomali Rahmon. Reportedly, they discussed the future of American investment in the local economy, the situation in Afghanistan and the prospects of its development after the NATO withdrawal. As history shows, instead of investing in Tajikistan's economy and providing energy security for the country, Washington could or perhaps already has proposed military cooperation. More specifically, it could propose to deploy its military facilities there. Dmitry Abzalov, vice-president of the Center for Strategic Communications, does not exclude such a possibility, but points at Russia's role.
'Tajikistan is one of the main exporters of labor force to the Russian Federation. Moscow is supporting Dushanbe's initiative to build a hydro power station and acts as a sort of mediator in the standoff between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Thus, Tajikistan could naturally activate its relations with the US, but this is unlikely to last. Washington is interested in Tajikistan as a factor of containment against the rise of China's influence in Central Asia. Americans have the same policy in Japan in relation to the strengthening of China's role in Southeast Asia,' he said.
However, it is hardly possible to make any conclusions about American-Tajik relations in the near and medium term. Tajikistan now finds itself in a difficult economic situation with its population increasingly unhappy with the authorities. Any investment is viewed by Dushanbe as a blessing. One cannot say for sure how far ahead the politicians of that country are looking and whether they are calculating the consequences of the local American assistance. It would be even hard to call it assistance: they are promising investment not for pure humanitarian reasons and not due to their love for Tajikistan.
Oleg Matveychev, a political expert, believes that the Tajik authorities would cooperate with the US in a very limited way.
'A huge number of Tajik citizens working in Russia send money to their home country. If any disagreement arises, an attack on those people would mean that the country could go bankruptcy. In addition, Tajik people belong to the Indo-European group; they differ from the Turkish-language group of nations living around them in terms of language, culture and mentality. They see themselves as delegates of some 'European' culture in the territory of the region. But one cannot stay relaxed. As they always do, the Americans would simply try to bribe the Tajik elite. They can simply promise loans and long-term projects,' he said.
It is worth mentioning that with the events in Ukraine, Washington could easily use the 'Maidan factor' as an argument. In other words, they could try to scare Dushanbe with such a scenario and promise peace and prosperity under their careful supervision. But here a lot would depend on the local authorities' ability to tell a fictional threat from the real ones and take well thought-out geopolitical steps.
One must not forget that the US is literally irritated by the military cooperation between Dushanbe and Moscow from the point of view of it representing a base in the region for Russia's influence in Central Asia. The US does not conceal that fact. Five or seven years ago some American politicians advocated the need to replace the Russian military base in Tajikistan with an American one. It appears that those plans are still alive.
Thus, it is quite obvious that in the relations between Washington and Dushanbe the talk of economy and investment is nothing but speculation regarding Tajikistan's sore points.
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