Oleg Artyukov: Central Asia, Russia, and the USA: The new reality

The issue of the USA's army presence on the territory of the former USSR republics has become rather topical recently. PRAVDA.Ru wrote about the problem before, but the situation in the region does not allow us to ignore it. Furthermore, there is a possibility to sum up the preliminary results of Russia's activity in the republics of Central Asia over the recent time period.

We believe that there can be some countries singled out in which Russia will preserve and even increase its influence. There are also the countries where such a prospective will be a difficult nut to crack. The increase or reduction of Russia’s influence in Central Asia is a permanently changing subject, but nevertheless....

Tajikistan will be included in the first group of the countries, first and foremost. The friendly relations between Russia and Tajikistan were formed long ago. There are Russian army contingents situated on the territory of the republic: the 201st infantry division and the border guards. Tajik President Rakhmonov perfectly realizes that he can not manage to stay in his position without the help of the Russian military. So, Russia’s position in Tajikistan is rather firm, and it is not likely to be shaken.

The second country after Tajikistan is Turkmenistan. The latter is very interested in the development of economic links with Russia, which does not rule out political rapprochement. Turkmenistan refused to render its territory to the American army, and this republic has maintained rather friendly relations with the Taliban, which is why the president of Turkmenistan is looking for Moscow’s support. However, Turkmenistan may turn away from Russia and start cooperating with Washington in the case that the administration of the American president forgives the refusal to take part in the war with against Taliban movement.

The situation with the republic of Uzbekistan is much more difficult. Russia will remain its major economic partner, but Uzbek President Karimov stakes on the development of relations with the Americans. Nobody doubts that Uzbekistan is ready render its army base in Khanabad to the Americans. Konstantin Zatulin, the director of the Institute of CIS countries, said that America’s wish to settle in Khanabad is reasoned with the fact that the USA’s military presence in Pakistan is becoming less comfortable, because the country is becoming more and more Islamic. Zatulin added that Pakistan was thinking about the withdrawal of the American army and the defense technology from the two US army bases in Pakistan. So, Uzbekistan may soon become one of the most important partners of the United States in the region.

Speaking about the republic of Kyrgyzstan, the Americans have not yet gotten anything definite from Bishkek (the capital of Kyrgyzstan). Kyrgyz President Akayev is running a careful policy in that respect. Kyrgyzstan is exercising its restraint, while the USA is evincing a certain interest in the Manas airport in the republic, because neighboring China will hardly be happy about a US army base near its border. Kyrgyzstan and Russia are actively cooperating in all other fields of bilateral cooperation, so the republic does not seem to have a wish to give up everything and listen to the United States.

Therefore, Moscow must be ready for any development of the situation in the nearest future. The statements from the Russian politicians and the militaries about the readiness to support the presence of the US army in the Central Asia for the period of the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan are definitely not enough.

Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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