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Is opening of Russian base in Kyrgyzstan’s Osh postponed?

“Kyrgyzstan continues negotiations with Russia to open a second Russian military base in the country,” Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Sapar Isakov told Russian mass media in Moscow. No final decision has been adopted, he said. The prime minister explained that consultations set up the Russian military facility were held at the level of “respective ministries, but the issue was not discussed during the talks with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (on September 29 - EADaily).”

However, EADaily found out that the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry has no such plan. Anyway, the ministry has not confirmed the alleged ongoing talks for opening of the Russian military base. “We have no such plans for 2017.” What about the plans after 2017?

To recall, opening of a Russian military base in Osh was discussed yet in 2005, but the state coup and change of power in Kyrgyzstan spoiled those plans then. In 2009, the then presidents Kurmanbek Bakiyev and Dmitry Medvedev signed a memorandum to set up a Russian military base in Osh. On the next day, U.S. Secretary of State and Defense Secretary arrived in Bishkek to get explanations from their “strategic partner” (then NATO base was located at Manas international airport in Bishkek). Following the meeting with Washington’s envoys, Bakiyev refused from his arrangements with Russia.

Later, the issue was voiced at the CSTO Summit in Bishkek in 2013. During an informal meeting on sidelines of the Summit, the CSTO leaders expressed concern over the situation in Afghanistan and Syria and suggested reanimating talks for opening of the Russian base in the south of Kyrgyzstan.

Earlier, Alexander Sobyanin, Head of Strategic Planning Association of Border Cooperation told EADaily the military base in Osh is needed not protect Kyrgyzstan against threats, but to protect Russia’s interests outside the country’s borders.

“This is to protect Russia’s economy and work in the South Asian and Central Asian countries. Large economic projects cannot be implemented amid instability and military insecurity. To protect Kyrgyzstan’s interests, no military base is needed. To meet potential threats, CSTO troops and the 201st military base in neighboring Tajikistan are enough,” Sobyanin said.

Dmitry Orlov, Director General of “Strategy East West” Analytical Center believes that no Russian base will open in Osh in the foreseeable future, since Kyrgyzstan is a “territory of compromise.”

“From the viewpoint of military strategy, there are three ‘dominant terrains’ in Central Asia: Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. U.S. controls Afghanistan, while Russia controls Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The 201st military base and Okno optical-electronic facility, space surveillance station, are located in Tajikistan. In Kyrgyzstan, Russia has an airbase in Kant, a test base (Issyk-Kul Lake), a long-range communication center (Chaldovar), autonomous seismic station (Mailuu-Suu). All these facilities are part of the United Military Base set up this year. The term of the Russian military presence in Kyrgyzstan is 15 years. Russia has enough influence in Kyrgyzstan, but there is no predominance. This is a territory of concessions. Otherwise, U.S. will react immediately. Kyrgyzstan is a negotiation area where neither Russia nor U.S. shall have any evident advantage,” Orlov said.

He is sure that the Kyrgyz elite is mostly pro-Western, unlike the pro-Russian population. “Therefore, opening of the military base remains doubtful,” the expert said. He is sure that the issue was reanimated by the new Kyrgyz prime minister in view of the current state of affairs.

Why did they choose Osh to open the military base there? Experts say it is not just about the Fergana Valley. It is the very area from where they can get access to Pamir and farther to China, India and Pakistan, Afghanistan. These countries make up the so-called “control point” - the Pamir Mountains. Britain has always managed Pamir, while U.S. will always play a secondary role there. Recall that both Pamir and Mountainous Badashkhan are populated with Ismailis who have been historically governed by Aga-Khan. The latter is entirely a British project. Besides, Osh is a very convenient area to control all possible transit ways.

EADaily’s Central Asian Bureau

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