Russia Faces Trouble Out East: in Central Asia

While the cat’s away, the mice will play. Unnoticed by most of the rest of the world, one of the former Soviet republics, Kirgiziya, has fallen out with neighbouring Tadzhikistan in a border dispute where drones were used resulting in the deaths of a dozen or so and hundreds wounded.

Worse than that. Because the Russians did not intervene to set matters to rights, Kirgiziya is now denying all co-operation with Moscow. Not only that, it is upset that Russia awarded the president of Tadzhikistan a medal ironically entitled “For Services to the Fatherland” third class, which is odd, because Tadzhikistan is supposedly an independent state, Russia is no longer in charge and the commonwealth of independent states to which both belong is supposedly just that: a grouping of purportedly independent states.

In retaliation Kirgiziya refused to participate in the informal summit of the Russian-led commonwealth that took place in St Petersburg on 7 October and it is refusing to participate in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) – set up on 15 May 1992 – military exercises scheduled for 10-14 October, no doubt because they are called “Indissoluble Brotherhood”, which looks like it is rapidly dissolving for lack of political glue.

All very puzzling until it is pointed out that the United States suddenly began reactivating relations with Kirgiziya. In late February of this year, after the invasion of Ukraine, the Kirgiz parliament began reviewing a new agreement with the United States which had at one time made full use of the country as a base of operations against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban until rescinded by Kirgiziya in 2015 because Obama placed human rights issues above geopolitical necessity only a year after he did nothing to stop Putin annexing Crimea, with all that followed for the human rights of its inhabitants and those in neighbouring Donets.

USCENTCOM, United States Central Command, has been in discussions with the Kirgiz for a five year military co-operation agreement. The Tadzhiks in August also engaged in training with the Americans. One can only speculate as to the motivations of the Tadzhiks and Kirgiz, upping the ante in demands on Moscow or just pleased to take whatever is going from whomsoever (the United States) is offering something.

Two other signatories of the CSTO are also unhappy with the organisation: Kazakhstan, which saw the CSTO intervene to prop up its authoritarian leadership, and Armenia, which did not see the CSTO back it against Azerbaidzhan in their recent conflict. The CSTO is really a paper thin attempt to reassert Russian hegemony over Central Asia in the face of competition from China and the United States. Given Putin’s blunder in invading Ukraine, which has landed Russia in an extended war in the West and preoccupies his attention and that of an army with mud on its face, one can expect more trouble for Russia in the East at very little cost, if any, to the Americans.

Nezavisimaya gazeta, 9 October 2022

09.10.2022 20:33:00

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