The risk of military invasion coming from Afghanistan is forcing politicians from central Asia to turn to Moscow for help.
Originally appeared at Interpolit, translated by Mona Lita exclusively for SouthFront
The president of Russian Federation (RF) Vladimir Putin took off to Kazakhstan on October 15th where he will hold two rounds of talks with president of Republic of Kazakhstan (RK), Nursultan Nazarbayev. The following day the Russian leader will meet with colleagues from other countries of CIS. According to official information, a wide range of questions will be on the agenda, but the experts are certain: the central theme will be security and military cooperation.
There are many reasons to talk about this. During a closed meeting, Putin is determined to inform his colleagues about the results of the Russian Air Force operation in Syria. The RF president’s aide Yuriy Ushakov stated, that “Due to an increase in threats on stability in Afghanistan, Near East and North Africa, special attention will be paid to questions on increasing the practical interaction return in the area of security and law enforcement”.
Ushakov stated that at the CIS Summit 17 questions would be discussed. Within a narrow structure the discussion will touch on the statement of the 70th Anniversary of UN origination and a statement on the fight against international terrorism. In a broader context the heads of State plan to make a decision on the formation of border patrol and other establishments in order to settle crisis situations on external borders. The CIS leaders will also adopt a partnership program on strengthening border security on external borders for the years of 2016-2020.
In his talk with Nazarbayev, Putin will touch on “key issues of regional and international agendas”. Particularly, in Astana, the leaders of RF and Kazakhstan will have a chance to compare their approaches to the Ukrainian crisis. On October 8-9th, Petr Poroshenko, a Ukrainian president visited the republic with a working visit, and it is expected that Nazarbayev may visit Kiev any time that is convenient for him.
A Ukraine – Kazakhstan plant of action was signed after the meeting for the years of 2015-2017. “A road map” was created for the economic cooperation of both countries. Poroshenko agreed to produce oil and gas equipment and other products for the engineering industry. Besides that, Ukraine and Kazakhstan intend on initiating a two-way trade deal.
Pavel Svyatenkov, a political scientist believes that after Poroshenko’s visit, Putin and Nazarbayev’s talk will not be an easy one: “President Poroshenko is a jab against Russia, and Nazarbayev’s announcement that he spoke with Putin about Ukraine is an attempt to pressure Russia. The thing is that it is problematic for Kiev and Astana to conduct trade directly. It would have to be done through the RF territory or by bypassing it”.
Yulia Yakusheva, an Executive Director of a political science center “North-South” was not that certain: “Ukraine began to understand Europe’s long and thorny road, and is very interested in activating trade and economic relations with Kazakhstan, which have sagged to record limits the last few years.
As the expert clarified, Kiev is waiting for Kazakh money to have an influence on the national economy, although even this issue is not an easy one. “Realistically, the results of the visit are meager. High economical and political risks and a habit of living on credit does make Ukraine attractive for international investors, including for Kazakhstan’s business. “The Roadmap” is yet nothing more that a decoration, designed to make the absence of some significant documents not so obvious. As far as the geopolitical component of the visit, Nazarbayev continues to speak of the need to take into account Russia’s position. So there are no grounds on which Moscow should be concerned”, underlined Yakusheva.
Central Asia Unites
The present CIS summit will take place against the backdrop of a smoldering conflict in Donbass, Russian operation in Syria and a possible collapse of the situation in Afghanistan. The Ukrainian theme gave way to the Near East one, which is no less a threat to the security of the post-Soviet space. Russia’s inclusion into war with “the Islamic State” raises new challenges for her partners.
The effective work of the Russian Air Force and the Caspian navy’s strike brought the RF to the rank of a superpower, whose army is able to perform combat missions more than three thousand kilometers from its state border. The U.S will not tolerate this new geopolitical reality, and the Islamists will do everything possible to take revenge. Russia became enemy number one for the West and the Sunni radicals, who are determined to spread their influence through southern regions of RF, South Caucasus and Central Asia. The main tool of opposition to terrorists in the post-Soviet space, in addition to the Russian security forces and the army is Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
The post-Soviet NATO analogue takes under the RF’s wing Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, which has a non-aligned status, are not a part of the CSTO’s zone of responsibility. It seems that anticipating the threat being posed by islamists, their presidents Islam Karimov and Gurbanguli Berdimukhamedov had in fact formed a military alliance on October 8th. The leaders of Central Asia are worried about militant groups attacking in Afghanistan. With that background, the countries agreed to coordinate on joint activities to fight against international terrorism and narcotrafficking. Also, Karimov and Berdimukhamedov decided to coordinate with other countries and international organizations when it came to security questions.
Turkmenia, who is bordering with Afghanistan, by wishing to protect its borders, is revealing a very specific economic implication – the European gas pipeline project TAPI (Turkmenia-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India). A war in Turkmenia and escalation of conflict in Afghanistan will put an end to plans to expand gas sales.
The Stir in Central Asia
The editor in chief of a portal “CentrAsia” Vitaliy Khlupin believes that Berdimukhamedov is ready to change the law on republic’s non-allied status if the Taliban approaches the southern border. “Karimov and Berdimukhamedov are hardcore pragmatics. They can feel when they need to cooperate with a multipronged plan (meaning with the West), and understand, when a historic moment of union with Russia begins. I am certain that they are ready to take advantage of Moscow’s military aid. We saw a pivot toward Russia after the shootings of 2005 in Andijan, when the West fought against the actions of the Uzbek authorities and threatened sanctions. Currently in Central Asia there are no dreamers and leaders from the category of “Yeltsin’s alcoholics”. Everyone understands the real balance of power, and that is why they will be looking into Putin’s eyes”, believes Khlupin.
An orientalist believes that in exchange for military protection Putin expects the approval on Kremlin politics in Syria from his central Asia colleagues. “It probably won’t come to some specific collective measures, but summit participants must adopt some kind of formidable proclamation on Syria. I think this will be a beneficial working summit, but don’t expect any serious breakthroughs”, explains Khlupin.
An expert states that right now a revival of relations is taking place among the CIS, and especially among the CSTO. In his opinion, the Syrian crisis does not play a major role as much as the Afghani crisis does.
“Our central Asian allies were greatly alarmed. Tajikistan is ready now to expand their partnership with Russia on any plane. But lately, even the US delegation is not coming out of Dushanbe. At least the Tajiks understand that with us they will feel more secure”, says Khlupkin.
“The closer the Taliban approaches Amudarya, the higher the central Asian leaders’ consciousness. The danger of militant invasion pushes them to partner up with Russia. It’s a very precise mechanism. After the Taliban’s arrival in Panj, the level of “consciousness” will be outlandish, and central Asia leaders will call upon Russian troops”, the orientalist is convinced.
Khlupin emphasized that when one smells something cooking, Russophobia and all the spiel about neutrality will sink into oblivion. He does not exclude that in prospect, new Russian bases will appear on the CIS space. Right now Moscow is busy strengthening its troops in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.