Uzbekistan Condemns Russian Troops Deployment

By Peter Leonard

Associated Press
Tuesday, Aug. 04, 2009

ALMATY, Kazakhstan — Uzbekistan has sharply criticized Russia’s plan
to boost its military presence in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, signaling a
growing rift within a Moscow-dominated security alliance of ex-Soviet

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Monday that an
increase in Russian troop numbers across its border could foment
instability across Central Asia, a vast region located north of
war-torn Afghanistan.

Uzbekistan, which views itself as Central Asia’s main military power
broker, has traditionally been wary of Russia’s efforts to dominate
security in the region.

The leaders of nations belonging to the Organization of the Collective
Security Treaty, or CSTO, seen during their informal meeting in the
resort town of Cholpon-Ata on the northern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul
in Kyrgyzstan, Friday, July 31, 2009. Shown clockwise from left,
Armenian President Serge Sarkisian, Belarusian President Alexander
Lukashenko, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kyrgyzstan
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev,
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon, Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov
and the CSTO secretary general Nikolai Bordyuzha, foreground. Moscow
hopes to secure a second military base in the Central Asian nation
of Kyrgyzstan, where the United State also has an important air
base. Kremlin officials say the base would be used by a rapid-reaction
force being formed by the Russian-dominated CSTO.

Russia clinched a tentative agreement Saturday allowing it to open
a second base and significantly boost the number of troops it has
deployed in Kyrgyzstan, where the United States also has an important
air base helping support operations in nearby Afghanistan.

No specifics on the location of the base or the size of the deployment
have been given, but it is expected that most of the troops will be
stationed in Kyrgyzstan’s south. That is on the fringe of the Ferghana
Valley region that spreads across Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and served
as an incubator of Muslim militancy over the past decade.

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry said the deployment of Russian troops in
the area "may lead to the strengthening of militarization and provoke
various kinds of nationalist struggles."

"It could also cause the appearance of radical extremist forces,
which could lead to serious destabilization across this vast region,"
it said.

All three countries in the region have seen a reported resurgence in
militant activity in recent months.

Uzbekistan has also resisted Russian efforts to form a NATO-style
rapid-reaction force under the auspices of the Collective Security
Treaty Organization – which also includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan
and Tajikistan.

Leaders of CSTO members states were due to consider proposals on
the force at an informal summit in Kyrgyzstan last week, but no
announcement on the issue was made – an indication that the Kremlin’s
bid to bolster its power and prestige in the ex-Soviet region faced

An increase in Russian troops in Kyrgyzstan would supplement
personnel already posted at Russia’s Kant air base, about 12 miles (20
kilometers) east of the capital, Bishkek. About 400 Russian military
personnel are deployed at Kant, which has been operating since 2003.

The U.S. established an air base at the Manas international
airport near Bishkek in late 2001 to support military operations
in Afghanistan. The base has become an important transit point for
coalition troops and supplies, and it is home to tanker aircraft that
refuel warplanes over Afghanistan.
From: Baghdasarian