Tajikistan To Reject Russia's Help on Border

If they divide the border now, Afghan drugs will inundate both Tajikistan and Russia

Until recently, the relations between Russia and Tajikistan have been almost perfect. Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov has always been welcomed in Moscow (Western countries have not paid any attention to Tajikistan until 2001).  The 201st military division was stationed in the republic - it was considered that border guards would provide a reliable protection to the Tajik ruling regime that was not confident in the loyalty of its own army. However, the situation is changing.

Tajikistan started acting in a different way after American military men and their NATO allies appeared in Central Asia. Rakhmonov and his team suddenly realized that it was a lot better for the USA to deal with existing regimes than to try to build new ones. In addition, there is no need to destabilize the political situation in Central Asia taking into consideration the war with Talibs and al-Qaida. One may not say that the relations with Russia have considerably worsened. On the other hand, the treaty about the terms and the status of the Russian army base on the territory of the Tajikistan republic has not been approved yet (the base was formed on the ground of the above-mentioned 201st division). The treaty was concluded in 1999. In April of the current year, during Vladimir Putin's visit to Tajikistan, the two sides agreed to settle all questions about the base by the end of May. It is the end of September now, but things are right where they started.

The Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper wrote, deputy chairman of the national Committee for State Border Defense Nuralisho Nazarov said in an interview to Iranian journalists that Tajikistan intended to reject Russian border guards' help to defend its border alone. The Tajik official added, Russian border guards do not let their Tajik colleagues to serve on the border, violating the terms of the agreement of 1993 about the cooperation between the border guard services of the two countries. In addition, Nazarov said, the agreement expired in May of 2003.

According to the agreement, the warning of the single-handed pull out from the agreement is supposed to be issued six months before the contract termination. This term was not observed, which automatically prolonged the contract for five more years. Russian officials have not commented on Nazarov's statement yet. On the other hand, his statement was not a spontaneous action: as a rule, high-ranking military officials do not say everything that occurs to them. That is why, it is not clear, why Tajikistan authorities decided to aggravate the relations with Russia now? The above-mentioned newspaper wrote, the Tajik government was probably intended to revise certain parts of the 1993 agreement. First and foremost, it goes about the financing of the Russian border guards group in Tajikistan. Tajikistan would like Russia to do all the costs to maintain the group (at present moment, the two sides share the spending in two).

However, Russian border guards in Tajikistan are actually not Russians. Russian officers command Tajik military men - local recruits. The division counts 14.5 thousand people - they defend almost 1,400 kilometers of border with Afghanistan. Tajik border guards (1,200 men) defend only 73 kilometers of the border.

Tajikistan's decision can also be explained with the forthcoming opening of the OSCE-NATO training center to train border guards from Central Asia countries. The Tajik Foreign Ministry said, the center would allow to train military men more efficiently to struggle with illegal drug and weapons trafficking, illegal migration and other challenges of modern times. Most likely, the problem is not only connected with funding the Russian border guards in Tajikistan.

It does not even matter, who intends to train Tajik soldiers. Russian border guards withdraw about a half of all drugs trafficked to Tajikistan from Afghanistan. About 6,500 kilograms of drugs have been withdrawn in Tajikistan during eight months of the current year, including 4,349 kilos of heroine. It was three times as much as in January-August of 2002. Needless to mention that it is a very small part of the trafficking. One kilogram of heroine costs $90 in Afghanistan, $700 in Tajikistan and $10,000 in Moscow.

If they divide the border now, Afghan drugs will inundate both Tajikistan and Russia. Official statistics says, there are four million drug addicts in Russia.

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Author`s name Olga Savka