From Tajikistan With Love

Or how to transform a terminal station of drug dealers into a strategic partner for “the world’s stronghold of democracy”

President of the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rakhmonov should receive compliments on his conquering of America. Today, the Tajik president started his visit to the USA, which is the first  over the entire history of bipartite relations between the countries. Emomali Rakhmonov will be received on a highest level; as is planned, he will meet with US President George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld. Moreover, meetings of the Tajik president with US congressmen and World Bank President James Wolfensohn are also on the agenda. There are very few politicians who receive such a reception.

Until recently, the White House was just slightly concerned about relations with Tajikistan. The USA considered this Central Asia state as a terminal station for drug transportation from Afghanistan. And even this problem was paid just slight attention to in the USA, as drugs transported via Tajikistan are delivered to Russia and to European countries, not America.

The situation changed radically last year, when Tajikistan agreed to allow American troops operate on its territory for attacks against the Taliban. The consequences of this  are quite logical. This has produced  much benefit to Dushanbe, from economic aid to direct political support to the Tajik regime. The USA seldom remembers the  “terminal station” since the military operation started in Afghanistan. This is quite interesting, as  drug production didn’t reduce  after the introduction of American troops; on the contrary, the problem has grown. The situation is extremely serious in the former Soviet republic: even President Rakhmonov complained recently that the operation in Afghanistan had no effect on the drug trade.

To tell the truth, the Tajik president is unlikely to draw the attention of his American partners to this very problem, as Emomali Rakhmonov is interested in more prosaic problems. In particular, Dushanbe hopes to receive previously promised financial aid at the rate of 50 million dollars. In addition, Americans promised to supply goods to Tajikistan; it was also mentioned that Tajikistan would receive loans the for purchase of agricultural hardware, seeds, and fertilizers. And the list of presents isn’t over yet. The countries are expected to conclude an agreement on military cooperation. The Americans are ready to repair a landing strip in the airport of Dushanbe; this is to be done so that heavy freight carriers can land at the airport. It is quite obvious that these will be American planes.

And the key advantage Washington gets from cooperation with Tajikistan is an opportunity to create two military bases on the territory of the former Soviet republic. These bases will be further used for attacks against Iraq. Dushanbe expressed its readiness to support this operation long ago, and quite naturally expected that he  would be paid for the consent to let Americans use Tajik military bases. To all appearances, the White House appreciates Emomali Rakhmonov’s compliance.

In fact, the USA can use the example of Tajikistan to convince those countries who still hesitate to let Americans move in with their military.  In exchange for the readiness to support the war against  Iraq, America will promise  financial aid. And those countries that still refuse to get onboard can be threatened with the cessation of any kind of aid at all. This is the thing that scares the leaders of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia most of all, which is why they are ready to do anything to please America.

Vasily Bubnov

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Author`s name Michael Simpson