Russia and Uzbekistan are actively boosting their military cooperation, Novaya Gazeta reported.
According to the report, Moscow and Tashkent held successful negotiations at the end of May 2019 at a meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (MTC). Novaya Gazeta claims, without providing its sources, that by June 2019, 12 new contracts for the supply and modernization of equipment were concluded.
Uzbekistan is planning to purchase Su-30SM fighter jets, Sopka-2 12A6 radar complex, a maintenance workshop for the Pechora-2M anti-aircraft missile system, radar stations and a number of other equipment.
The purchases would be paid for by state loans from Russia, with it becoming the third export credit in three years if it is approved.
The fact that at the fifteenth meeting of the Intergovernmental Russian-Uzbek Commission on MTC, held on May 23, 2019, “key” decisions for this cooperation were adopted, “Novaya Gazeta” was told by sources familiar with the negotiations and confirmed in the Federal Service for Military technical cooperation (FSMTC) of the Russian Federation.
Specifically, the commission will prepare an agreement on the modernization and re-equipment of the armed forces of Uzbekistan with modern military equipment through to 2025.
Novaya Gazeta was told by the FSMTC that as part of the state export credit issued to Uzbekistan in 2017, a batch of Mi-35M helicopters and property were delivered to them.
According to the unnamed source that provided the initial information, four of the Mi-35M helicopters are to be delivered in the final quarter of 2019, while eight more would be delivered in 2020.
At the same time, within the framework of the loan, several tens of millions of dollars remained unused, since the total value of the contracted property was about $ 200 million.
“For the remainder, the Uzbek side wants to take additional military products, however, it is also possible that the Uzbek side will be allocated additional credit funds,” the anonymous source claimed.
Meanwhile, as part of the second loan in recent years, issued to the government of Uzbekistan in October 2018. As part of it in May-June 2019, another 12 contracts entered into force, the specific content of which was not disclosed to the FSMTC.
The Russian side confirmed that Tashkent is interested in the imminent acquisition of Su-30SM fighters. The unnamed source claimed that the purchase would include ground support for flights and aviation weapons should be included, as well as training for flight and engineering staff, and the delivery of a training complex.
In addition, the purchase of nine Sopka-2 dual-use S-band Air-Route Radar Complex is also possible.
Furthermore, according to the source other purchases would include a maintenance workshop for the Pechora-2M air defense missile system and a number of radar stations, as well as communication systems for various purposes.
“Cooperation with the Republic of Uzbekistan is carried out in a planned manner and is fully consistent with the high level of strategic cooperation between our countries,” the FSMTC said.
Separately, in 2018, the anonymous source said that the VKO Almaz-Antey concern agreed with the Uzbek side a draft contract for the modernization of four P-37 radars and handed over proposals for upgrading an additional seven P-37 radars to the Sopka-2 level. The contract is supposed to be signed in July 2019.
The modernization project is being discussed according to the unnamed source.
Cooperation between Moscow and Tashkent in the weapons sector in the early 2000s was quite modest: until 2005, there were separate deliveries of the BTR-80, Mi-8 helicopters, mortars of various caliber, grenade launchers with ammunition, and sniper weapons.
However, the situation changed after the death of President Islam Karimov – under his successor Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
On November 29th, 2016, the military departments of the two countries signed an agreement on the development of military-technical cooperation, in April 2017 it was ratified.
Since then, Tashkent has been actively receiving state export credits from Moscow and has shown an increased interest in the purchase of weapons. Back in August 2017, a delegation of high-ranking Uzbek security officials visited the Irkutsk Aircraft Building Plant, where they familiarized themselves with its production facilities, and then announced their desire to have a Su-30SM. No contract for the purchase of Su-30SM has been signed as of yet, according to official sources.
A purchase intent was expressed, however, for the purchase of Su-30SM fighter jets.
These loans and improving relations may be an attempt by Russia to make it lucrative for Uzbekistan to rejoin the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which it left in 2012. It is likely also connected to an attempt to get Uzbekistan to also join the Eurasian Economic Union.
Uzbekistan dropped out of the CSTO in 2012 and Russia, understanding that any serious integration project in Central Asia has to include Uzbekistan, has barely hidden its desire to lure Tashkent back, according to Fozil Mashrab, an analyst cited by Daily Monitor.
“Russia is undoubtedly facilitating trade, investment, and military relations with Uzbekistan in this way in order to demonstrate to the new leadership in Tashkent the practical benefits of close cooperation with Moscow,” Mashrab wrote. “As such, this situation could easily turn out to have been a temporary ‘free trial’ session, susceptible to unilateral changes by the Kremlin, rather than a permanent arrangement, if Uzbekistan continues to stay out of the Russian-led integrationist organizations.”
It is not entirely out of the question for Russia to offer some leniency on the state loans that were given for the purchase of arms, in return of Uzbekistan taking part in some of these large-scale projects and supporting Russia’s regional interests.
Separately, however, Uzbekistan is part of the unified air defense system of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the agreement for which was signed back in February 1995. These purchases will undoubtedly reinforce this air defense system.
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