Common aerial defence between Russia and Tajikistan

On April 27 of this year, the Russian Minister of Defence announced the creation of a joint aerial defence system between Russia and Tajikistan. This decision is driven by the deterioration of the situation of its neighbouring countries, such as Afghanistan.

This article was originally published on Novastan’s French website on 4 May 2021.

The military cooperation between Russia and Tajikistan is growing stronger. Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s Minister of Defence, announced on April 27 that an aerial defence system shared between Russia and Tajikistan is in the making. The decision was taken in Dushanbe, on the occasion of meetings with his Tajik counterpart, Sherali Mirzo.

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As TASS, the Russian press agency reported, Sergei Shoigu elucidated on the aims and reasons of such an endeavour. He declared: “In order to increase the reliability of the protection of our state’s airspace, we came up with an agreement regarding the creation of a regional joint aerial defence system between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tajikistan”, before putting forward the signature of this agreement at the end of the meeting.

A security issue for Tajikistan

The growing threat of the situation in Afghanistan pushed to the realisation of such a project. The Russian Minister of Defence explained that “In the midst of the degradation of Afghanistan’s condition, we plan on repelling any possible threats”. He then added, “We pay increased attention to a bilateral communication regarding defence, as well as to the functioning of the Russian 201st military base.”. The 201st military base is the main Russian installation on Tajik’s soil.

Read more: Hardening Positions on Afghanistan following Summit in Dushanbe

Tajikistan should not only be worried about the Afghan threat, since the country also has thorny relations with Kyrgyzstan. Deadly struggles between Tajiks and Kyrgyz groups are all too common, the latest, dating from the 28th of April, claimed over 30 Kyrgyz and 10 Tajik lives. This is a twofold challenge for Tajikistan: the country has everything to gain by reinforcing its security.

The Russian Minister of Defence also stated that Russia and Tajikistan are working on the “questions of practical interactions during exercises”. Indeed, from April 19 to 23, Russian and Tajik troops carried out a large-scale, joint military exercise, as reported by the TASS.

In total, 50,000 soldiers have been mobilized, and administrative heads of the Khatlon region (south-east of Tajikistan) took part in the operation. The latter aimed at reproducing the collapse of a border where a hypothetical enemy would invade Tajikistan, hence reflecting the country’s concerns regarding its security.

Russian-Tajik military cooperation

Sergei Shoigu has also declared that Russia is ready to increase the number of Tajik soldiers within Russian Military Universities and is expecting the participation of Tajik’s military contingent during strategic manoeuvres West-2021. The name of the operation, coined by Russian general Valery Gerasimov, designates the large-scale Russian-Belarusian military exercises scheduled for September 2021, as reported by the Russian journal Rossiskaya Gazeta.

In keeping with the military partnership with Tajikistan, Russia provides the latter with weapons and equipment as well as free training for the students enrolled in Russian military universities, as detailed by Sergueï Choïgou. “Over 5% of Tajik soldiers are currently being trained in Russia, and up to a thousand are being trained each year at the 20th Russian military base. We are expecting to increase the number of recruits”.

An old-established Russian involvement

This is actually not the first proposal for a military partnership between Russia and Tajikistan. On September 12, 2020, a decree enacting the creation of a joint military aerial defence system had already been agreed upon by Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan, as reported by Asia Plus, an independent Tajik media. Unlike the agreement announced on the 27th of April, this one is part of the unified air defence system of the Commonwealth of Independent States, of which all Central Asian countries are members.

Read more: Central Asia and Russia: an ever-changing relationship

Russia’s involvement in Central Asia’s military sector is expanding. On 26 May 2020, Russia offered Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan the role of a mediator to resolve the frontier dispute. Russia also signed an “unprecedented” military cooperation agreement with Kazakhstan in October 2020.

Yet, Russia is competing with China in the development of Tajikistan. The Middle Empire operates several gold mines on Tajik’s soil, which benefits both countries, although the ledge is running out. Besides this, the construction of a Chinese airport on Tajik’ border was initiated in April 2020. It was also revealed, in 2019, that China has a secret military base in the country.


Leonard Dillies
Editor of Novastan

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