Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Russia can do very well without Tajikistan's endless demands

It can be stated with certainty that the incumbent President Emomali Rahmon has won the presidential election in Tajikistan. According to preliminary calculations, Rahmon has secured 83.6 percent of the vote. Russia has no reasons to rejoice. Emomali Rahmon is in a constant and unfair bargaining with Moscow. It is not clear when the patience of Moscow overflows.

The presidential elections were held in Tajikistan on November 6. According to preliminary results, Emomali Rahmon (in power since 2006) has been elected for a new seven-year term. 83.6 percent of the country residents have given him their vote, while other candidates received under 5 percent of the vote. Other candidates in the election were Tolib Bukhoriev (the Agrarian Party), former Minister of Transport Olim Boboev (the Economic Reform Party), Saidjafar Ismonov (the Democratic Party), Communist Ismoil Talbakov, and Socialist Abduhalim Gaffarov. All registered candidates refrained from sharp criticism of the incumbent president.

What explains the political longevity of Emomali Rahmon and what are his policies towards Russia? What is the need to support a politician who always asks Russia for political and financial support, but does not want to integrate into the Customs Union?

"Emomali Rahmon comes from a communist environment, he was once the Secretary and the head of a collective farm, but as a politician he formed in the period of independence," told Pravda.Ru Adjar Kurtov, historian, political scientist and editor in chief of the journal Issues of National Strategy. Emomali Rahmon came to power under the mediation of Russia and Uzbekistan on the wake of the Civil War of 1992 - 1997 that claimed the lives of over 100,000 people, created a million refugees and resulted in elimination of entire villages.

"Later, with the help of other countries and, once again, Russia, Rahmon felt like an Eastern kinglet, similar to Nursultan Nazarbayev, Islam Karimov and many other leaders of independent states, especially in Central Asia," said Kurtov. Initially, he was guided by the Kremlin, but then got a taste of the game and realized that he could play on the contradictions of the global players and interested powers, and gradually changed his position. According to the expert, the countdown of "the other Rahmon" can be started at 2004 onwards. Then many of the agreements were signed and extensive Russian investments into the economy of Tajikistan were promised, said Kurtov.

The completion of the Rogun hydroelectric power station funded by the Russian aluminum company "Rusal" was one of the biggest projects. The Tajiks promised that "Rusal" will participate in the privatization of the Tajik aluminum plant and then use electricity power plant for the production of energy-intensive aluminum. But then the Tajik side has decided to terminate the contract, finish the plant on their own, and be the sole owner of the plant. "On the surface, the conflict with the Russian side was over technical details, but behind it was Rahmon's desire to keep it all. Now this plant is owned by a structure affiliated with his family. The situation when the power is used for personal gain is not limited to Rahmon, but typical for all leaders of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia," said Kurtov.

This contract was canceled unilaterally, but Tajikistan hasn't found a new investor as foreigners were banned from investing, and there were no takers in impoverished Tajikistan. Kurtov explained that this is a typical example of voluntarism and incompetence of the President of Tajikistan. Other examples include construction projects by Russia and Iran, Sangtuda- 1 and Sangtuda- 2 hydropower stations, respectively. Tajikistan does not pay the electricity bills of these stations, causing investors to lose profit. The issue of financing the Rogun HPP was solved through shares compulsorily distributed among the needy population.

The incompetence also affected technical matters, in particular, the relations with the neighbors. The dam height was such that the Uzbekistan that started losing water downstream has revolted. As a result, all countries along the Vakhsh River took either one or another position and began appealing to Moscow. "Moscow told them to solve it independently, but is constantly under pressure. Either Tashkent or Dushanbe get offended," Kurtov said.

Tajik media accuse Moscow of not providing investment and violating the agreements of 2004, and not reducing trade tariffs. "They keep proposing to increase the fee for the Russian military base historically located there, and so on. But why should Russia do it if Tajikistan is not included in the Customs Union, and the base guards both Tajikistan and Rahmon, and precisely because of the presence of the Russian military the country has not become a continuation of Afghanistan?" asked Kurtov.

Moscow is constantly requested to provide all kinds of benefits to Tajik migrants (approximately one million people). Dushanbe gets what it wants. The last election is special because the Tajik side deliberately delayed the ratification of the agreement on the new conditions of the Russian military base in Tajikistan. "They were doing it to ensure that Moscow would not dare to support some other candidate. They also insisted on the signing of related agreements, for example, allowing Tajik migrants to stay in Russia for longer period of time without registration and renewal of employment term to up to three years. No other CIS country has such preferences."

According to the expert, Rahmon behaves like a trader in the market, blackmailing Moscow and, unfortunately, the Kremlin backs down on many issues, even though there is no "fantastic importance for Russia and CIS countries politically, geopolitically, and even economically." "This is a very poor country that cannot stand on its own two feet, that does not earn through the development of its own economy (imports exceed exports two-fold) that constantly asks Russia for loans and receives annually free material resources from Russia, specifically, seed corn."

Birth rate in Tajikistan is the highest in the former Soviet Union. "There is an entire generation that has it in their heads that they need to demand something from Moscow, bargain, that Russian is a historical enemy, and that the civil war was in fact inspired not by conflicts between their clans, but allied KGB," concluded Kurtov.

I think that we can agree with the estimates of the expert: Moscow should not be afraid to revise its preferences and rely on other politicians, as has been done in Georgia, but has not been done in Azerbaijan. Even more so that a million immigrants is a powerful lever of pressure against any power, and Moscow uses it, but very rarely and timidly. This new policy should involve diplomacy and intelligence, rather, intelligence and diplomacy. This is how the Americans are conquering the world and they do not care what the leaving power thinks about them - it is important what their own people think about them.

Lyuba Lulko


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