Will the ruble strengthen the CIS border?

Agency WPS
November 15, 2004, Monday


The official site of the Russian State Auditing Chamber recently
reported that the results of an audit of using money of the federal
budget allocated to the border guard service of the FSB for the
maintenance border guard departments in Tajikistan and Armenia showed
that they were not financed properly. The border guard group in
Tajikistan failed to receive 263.073 million rubles in the first half
of 2004, and the group stationed in Armenia did not receive 3.186
million rubles.

What does this mean? Vladimir Popov, a political analyst at the
Academy of Military Sciences, stated that this money shortage
testifies that the burden shouldered on Russian soldiers and officers
stationed in Tajikistan and Armenia, increases. Popov said: “In the
meantime, this is not a sensation.” According to him, Tajikistan and
Armenia do not have enough money for protecting their border. It
should be noted that 263 million rubles is almost $10 million, and
Tajikistan’s military budget amounted to only $2 million in 2003.
This is five times as small as Tajikistan owes the Russian FSB.

The border guard service of the Russian FSB states that the Russian
border guard groups stationed in Tajikistan and Armenia are financed
50 to 50 by Moscow and the republics. Moscow trains specialists, arms
them and pays salaries to border guards. By the way, 99% of soldiers
of these groups are citizens of Tajikistan and Armenia. Many local
residents dream of joining the Russian border guard groups because
Russia pays more than the republics. Dushanbe gives housing and food
to border guards. Meanwhile, the State Auditing Chamber’s report
testifies that Tajikistan and Armenia fail to meet their obligations.

As is known, Russia has written off $330 million of Tajikistan’s debt
in exchange for military bases in Tajikistan (the 201st motorized
infantry division and the Nurek center). Yerevan passed over the
shares of its enterprises to Russia as repayment of its debt.
However, the debt is increasing from day to day. It’s unprofitable
for Russia. The status of Russian border guards was finally
determined during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Tajikistan a
month ago. The Russian and Tajik presidents signed two important
agreements on cooperation on the border according to which Russian
border guards will pass over all sectors of the Afghan border to the
control of their Tajik counterparts. As is known, the Tajik-Afghan
sector of the state border is the most disturbing. Border guards
detain drug traffickers and find caches with weapons and drugs every
week. The situation has not changed despite the fact that the
coalition force continues the anti-terrorist operation in
Afghanistan. The UN reports that the area of poppy fields have
increased since the Taliban government was dethroned. Major-General
Alexander Baranov, chief of the Russian border guard group in
Tajikistan, said that laboratories producing drugs are located close
to the border. In this regard drug trafficking has become more

For instance, last October border guards found a cache with over
1,000 kilograms of drugs. In addition, criminals try to smuggle
weapons and communication systems. The press center of the border
guard service of the FSB reports that 13 Strela light anti-aircraft
complexes, tank shells, grenades and over 100 kilograms of explosives
were confiscated in 2003.

In other words, the State Auditing Chamber raised the issue, which
may become very topical in a year when the Tajik-Afghan border is
passed over to the control of Tajik border guards. Will Dushanbe
manage to ensure protection of the CIS border from drug and terrorist

Maxim Peshkov, Russian Ambassador to Tajikistan, stated in summer
that Dushanbe will face serious problems (social, economic, financial
and more) after Russian border guards leave the republic. Vladimir
Popov says that potential violators of the CIS border will move to
the CIS and Russia when Tajikistan takes the border under its
control. It should be noted that the Russian border with Kazakhstan
is practically unprotected.

It’s not clear who initiated the withdrawal of Russian border guards
from the border with Tajikistan. According to one theory, Moscow did
this. This idea was lobbied by General Andrei Nikolayev, former
commander of the border guard service, who currently is a
presidential aide.

To all appearances, Moscow thinks that protection of the border is
too expensive for the Russian budget. Meanwhile, it’s evident that
serious problems will arise after Tajikistan takes over control of
the border in 2006.

Translated by Alexander Dubovoi