The Russian defense establishment is worried that U.S. troops might actually leave Afghanistan, and open Russia’s souther border with Central Asia to terror threats emanating from the war-torn country. The former Soviet republics of Tadjikistan and Kyrgyzstan feature prominently in the effort to protect Russia’s soft underbelly.
Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov has been on a tour of the region to shore up defense agreements with the two nations.
“We have already began work to provide assistance to our Tajik friends in re-equipping their armed forces, fortifying the state border, including in light of the persisting threats, which continue to emanate from Afghanistan’s territory,” he declared, reported Russian state news agency TASS.
The minister pointed to the role played by the 201st Russian military base in Tajikistan. “This is an important factor for Tajikistan’s security and an important factor of those common challenges dealt with by the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO),” he emphasized, added TASS.
“We expressed quite a few interesting ideas concerning the development of cooperation in Central Asia to solve the remaining problems here most effectively and promote the harmonious development of all states in the region,” Lavrov noted.
“Russia is ready to contribute to these processes using our historical connections, our common economic base, which was created during the Soviet era and, of course, using our mutual interest in maintaining the security of this region where our allies and friends live.”
Although Moscow has been allegedly arming the Taliban, the Islamist extremist group in Afghanistan, and attempting to insert itself into the peace process with the government in Kabul, the Kremlin has a long memory and visions of Soviet troops retreating during the late 1980s are fresh.
During his trip to Kyrgyzstan, Lavrov was asked about reports of Moscow establishing a new Russian military base ‘in-country’.
Claiming that “this is the first time we’ve heard about this,” said Lavrov, who was meeting with senior officials in Kyrgyzstan — his first stop on a trip to three Central Asian countries. “This is not our initiative. We will be ready to discuss with our Kyrgyz friends their ideas regarding security,” reported RFERL.
Russia’s air base at Kant, in northern Kyrgyzstan, was opened in 2003 under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which includes Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan, added RFERL.
Russian security services routinely attack Jihadi efforts by Islamic extremists in the North Caucasus inside the Russian Federation.