Tajikistan and Russia: What is the next step?
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon will visit Russia soon to discuss with his counterpart Dmitry Medvedev some of the most intriguing questions about bilateral realtions.
The discussion have been postponed since February, when Rahmon for the first time in his presidency declined to attend a Moscow summit, although he changed his mind later.
He visited Moscow again at the end of February for fishing with Russian President in Zavidovo, but returned to Tajikistan with empty hands.
Tajikistan want money for hosting Russian base, Russia is postponing any discussion on the topic. Although the Tajik authorities paid no attention to ICG report on possible social unrests due to the economic hardship triggered by the global crisis, they are indeed eagerly looking for prevention of such a situation.
Both Rahmon and Medvedev participated in opening ceremony of Sangtuda-1 hydro power station and signed an agreement for joint use of the station when Medvedev visited Dushanbe on July 31. However, no one is hopeful in Dushanbe that the new station will resolve economic problems of Tajikistan.
Days after the ceremony Rahmon warned his citizens to stockpile food for the next two years.
Experts in Dushanbe believe that Moscow is playing a bad game with Tajikistan fostering “once a good fishing they had in dirty waters in Tajikistan” (meaning very low fee for military base presence, even cheaper rent of Okno space monitoring center, promise of Ayni airport, securing use of Russian language and etc.)
Tajikistan’s demand for Russia to pay a decent fee for having a military base in the country makes officials in Moscow angry. But none of Russian authorities can say that this demand from Tajikistan is illegal.
The difference is that Kyrgyzstan’s similar demands were accepted by Russia without noises. In memorandum of understanding that Russian President and his Kyrgyz counterpart Kurmanbek Bakiev signed on July 30, 2009, it is indicated that the establishment of new military base won’t be free of charge for Russians, but even the compensation for environmental damages caused by the base will be paid by Moscow.
At the same time, similar demands of Tajikistan portrayed in state-controlled Russian ridiculously. One of the stories on the subject entitled, “Tajikistan is offering Russia love for money.”
That is probably because Dushanbe has never ask for the right price?
Tajikistan just made a gift to Moscow giving to Russia Okno space monitoring center which as Russian military analysts say is equal to 4 space monitoring centers of the United States. The US has such centers in Texas, Island of Diego-Garcia, South Korea, and Hawaii.
As for the rent of the land Russia pays 39 cents in a year.
Russia acquired it for debts that Tajikistan borrowed during 1993-1995. The whole world knows that during that time Tajikistan was in turmoil of war and moreover, it was Russians who was deeply involved into this war which has claimed more than 150,000 deaths and forced almost to a million to be refugees, took out most of its wealth in unstable conditions, forced it to stay in their Russian ruble zone, made it a dumpster for their old devalued currency and lead the country to poverty and misery, finally placing their desired person to ill-run the government.
Russian side is not intended to discuss that question, paying more attention to the Russian language status in Tajikistan.
Depriving the status of Russian as a language of communication between various nations living in the country is open disrespect of President Rahmon” stated one of the members of Committee on International Relations in Russian Duma and member of Putin’s party, Valery Bogomolov on July 31.
He said, “Everyone remembered well who helped him to come into power.”
In the eve of Dushanbe meeting, Russian state news agency Prime-Tass had an article entitled, “Rahmon you are not right. Medvedev will remind President of Tajikistan that he is in power thanks to Russia” in a form of threat.
For instance, it said that if Russia wants it can break Tajik economy quickly. It follows on mentioning that Ramon should be grateful that Russian forces are in Dushanbe, Kurganteppa and Kulob, otherwise he can not be president even for a day and that his country fill fall into civil unrest as in 1990’s.
This is another shameful accusation, a type of oral state terrorism that reminds me of saying, “you ate my apple, now water my plants.”
Moscow is not taking seriously Tajikistan just because the Tajik President own them for being in charge.
That was why some experts warned the society many years ago, proposing to change the leader for not being mistreated by Moscow.
Another and new leader would act more independently, say they now.
If Russia was a just country, such as countries of Paris Club, which annulled the debts owed by African countries accrued during unstable and conflict periods, it would forgive its bloody loans to Tajikistan which didn’t have any share of Soviet Union’s inheritance and would not get its hands on stealing from a poor and unlucky country.
Another question is whether international law allows punishment for not fulfilling obligations set forth by intergovernmental agreements? Because if suing Russia is a possibility, then it must be brought to justice and economic compensation for lying big time about 2 billion dollars when Putin signed agreement in 2004.
As it is evident, agreements on establishment of Russian military base in Tajikistan and right of owning Okno for Russia were all included in the program of Russian investment into Tajikistan and had to be fulfilled equally in all matters.
However, the matters that benefited Russian side did get accomplished and matters concerning Tajikistan’s interests were not.
Sangtuda-1 agreement was accomplished because its government signed it on behalf of Russia. But the contract for $560 million for construction of Roghun hydro power plant was signed by Rusal company and maybe with this reason it was meant to be unfulfilled.
Did Putin knew this beforehand and did not let its government sign Rogun contract instead?
The head of Rusal Oleg Deripaska met with President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov a year later and refused to invest in Rogun, Russian government pointed that it was a decision by a private company and not related to them.
Former Russian Ambassador to Tajikistan Ramazan Abdulatipov in his last press conference on November 11, 2008 in Dushanbe noted that as for Rogun, unfortunately, Tajikistan should have gotten into agreement not with Rusal, but with Russian government. Maybe diplomatic codes did not allow him to add that it bringing Deripaska and Rusal was a plan of Russians, not Tajikistan.
Even after this period Tajikistan side kept silent and still does not claim whether government of Russia was supposed to have a role of guarantor and controller of Rusal’s promises or not and how should this breaching of agreement be compensated?
Intergovernmental agreement on protecting labor migrants’ rights should have improved conditions of Tajik migrants in Russia. According to this document, labor migrants’ wages should not be less the minimum wage in Russia and they should have access to health services as well as number of years employed in Russia should be appropriately adjusted to their pension payments.
The implementation of this agreement is does not appear either. With the beginning of economic crisis hundreds of thousands of labor migrants could not get their well-earned salaries while attacks and discrimination on them still continues across Russia.
Well, what’s gone is gone. But was it not possible in the face of Russia’s neglect in fulfillment of its responsibilities to annul all sections of 2004 agreement or at least be put forward for re-consideration?
Why Tajiks should be losers in their own field? Kyrgyzs showed better wit and blinded Russia’s eyeglasses. They first obtained the majority of funds and then did what they had to. Russia has already provided them billion dollars of which almost $300 million is in form of a grant. After receiving the first $130 million dollars, Kyrgyzstan declared that Manas Airbase will closed and Americans will have to leave the country.
After six months, when the second payment by Russians was made, Bishkek only changed the title of the airbase and was able to still keep the Americans in its soil.
Now, in order to comfort itself and maintain reputation, Moscow is considering establishing a second military base in Kyrgyzstan and succeeded in it, however it will still have to pay for the base and will continue its economic investment program in Kyrgyzstan.
So, whatever Kyrgyzstan is offering and is getting paid for is not “love for money”, but Tajikistan, which demands a fair fee from a renter of its own land, should be called a prostitute? Where and on what basis does so much disrespect and hate come from?
Is it not the reason that Kyrgyzstan is performing such an excellent diplomatic act while managing good relations with the West and America? Maybe Tajikistan is also trying doing something in this direction? Remember, in 2001 President Ramon offered 5 airports in Tajikistan to Americans, but they chose Kyrgyzstan as a better option.
Was it because during that period Kyrgyzstan was somewhat popular in the West as a more democratic regime? Was the reason because even in Akaev’s government representatives of different parties and politics were given key official positions and various thoughts finally developed the state and state-building thinking?
If we say that violence in Tajikistan is a weakness factor for Tajik government in its stance with Russia, which might not be far from truth, but these kind of violence have occurred in Kyrgyzstan, too.
Even much earlier than in Tajikistan – the case of Meskhetian Turks in Osh in the beginning of 1990 and lately, clashes with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan starting from 1999 and continuing till present day.
Maybe the reason is that Kyrgyzstan was persistent in its decisions and has not lost its weight power in spite of many concessions?
When one Kyrgyz was killed in Russia, political parties and public organizations of Kyrgyzstan staged protests against ethnic hate crimes and went to Russian Embassy in Bishkek to deliver their letter of discontent to its ambassador. Russia quietly accepted this act and later even apologized formally.
Several articles in Tajik newspapers regarding beheading of poor migrant from Tajikistan, Salohiddin Azizov, in Russian capital city still drags on negative comments from Russian officials. Number of labor migrants from Uzbekistan in Russia is almost twice as much as from Tajikistan for some time now, but still Galustyan plays his ugly role to harm Tajiks while Zhirik threatens to enact a visa regime.
When Belorussian President Aleksandr Lukashenko declined visiting Moscow Russian media did not make as much fuss out of it as when Tajik President Emomali Ramon supposedly said that he could not come.
Perhaps Moscow considers Tajikistan a strategic partner, as Mr. Rahmon says, but never recognized it as an equal partner.
Tajikistan government in its relations with Russia did not ever act as an equal partner and now we even see that it not viewed as equal partner by other former Soviet countries.
Every nation has a right to defend its language and writing form. Moscow will be become silent. But when Tajikistan does it we will see much noise around. Maybe Russia thinks of us as betrayers forever? Possibly we should have said clear no when the time was right?
Or should we have had demonstrated force and fist when in March 25, 2002 Alexandr Kotenkov, representative of Putin in Russian Duma stated that Moscow is full of Tajik beggars.
Maybe when deputy head of Duma and later, ombudsman in Russia Vladimir Lukin commented that Tajiks are crawling danger to security of their country and they are people who have always caused unrests and uprisings.
In regards to Dushanbe discussion, Kommersant newspaper writes that if Tajikistan wants to flirt too much (that is not willing to give Russia free unconditional love) maybe Russia should just dump it and go on to find new strategic partners.
Now we should regret that our country during the period of independence from Soviets could not create such an economy that would provide employment to its human resources and in fact, labor migrants is the only “weapon” left for Russia since if the majority of them start returning home at the moment it can cause civil discontent and unrest in the country. But what if Tajikistan completely drops of Russia’s list, because of offering “love for money” what will it do? Any long-term vision they have in this case?
Apparently, the solution is that Tajikistan has to attain at any cost the real equal partnership relations with Russia. The best way is probably through an international court that could defend justice in intergovernmental agreement violations. Otherwise, their shameful condition of “strategic fool” will still continue.