Салими Аюбзод

Нигариш ва кандуков

Free Cheese In A Mouse-Trap

oknoEveryone loves free cheese. How about free tanks and Kalashnikovs? Russians have an interesting word for that — khalyava. It was a general assumption that Tajikistan was receiving khalyava tanks, aircrafts, Kalashnikovs from Moscow and hundreds of its students were attending Russian military colleges for free.

Now, however, the situation is changing drastically. Moscow is going to sell its weapons and equipments to Tajikistan at world market prices, which are very high, and will ask Tajikistan to pay tuition and board for each Tajik student who is attending a Russian military college.

The free cheese for the poorest post-Soviet country was shown as a sign of philanthropy and special friendship called ‘strategic partnership’. The changes came in response to the Tajik’s persistent demands to have Russians pay for the hosting of the Russian base. Dushanbe officials, who always obey Moscow, became greedy, seeing how Kyrgyzs were receiving multi-million dollar payments from both the United States and Russia for hosting their military bases in “Manas” and “Kant”.

Therefore, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, for the first time in his presidency, declined to attend a Moscow summit in February, 2009. Although he did change his mind later on, and visited Moscow again, at the end of February, to take a fishing trip with the Russian President in Zavidovo, he returned to Tajikistan empty handed.

While the Tajik demand to have Russians pay for their bases in Tajikistan was portrayed as ridiculous in the state-controlled Russian media, with such articles entitled as, “Tajikistan is offering Russia Love for Money”, it ricocheted into the latest Russo-Kyrgyz agreement on a second Russian base in Kyrgyzstan, where Moscow is willing to pay full rent and ecological damage costs. “Are these monetary payments for love?” asks the Tajik media.

Fundamentally, Dmitriy Medvedev had promised to review the money issue during his visit to Tajikistan at the end of July. He had stated that he will order his cabinet to find a solution and a solution was found. Now, Russia wants to monetize all its military ties with the small Central Asian country of Tajikistan.

Medvedev’s aide Sergei Prikhodko emphasized that the armament of the Tajik army is 100% Russian-made and gave a statement to ‘Kommersant’ (01.08.2009) that

“the Russian Federation will discuss with Tajikistan the conditions to the accommodation of its base in Tajikistan and the provision of Tajik army with the Russian military technical equipment in a package.”

It seems like a small partner could be as equal to a huge one in this ‘strategic partnership’, however, now there is deep concern in Dushanbe. What will Dushanbe do if Russia pays some symbolic rent money, but sends a large expensive bill for the tanks, aircrafts and other military equipment? Who will win and who will lose?

Tajikistan did not buy from Russia any military technical equipment, but received it as a gift, said the Tajik Defense Minister, Sherali Khairulloev in an interview to Asia-Plus. He also said that 1750 Tajiks studied at the Russian military colleges during last several years. According to him this education could be as expensive as $20 000 to $180 000 per year.

However, the minister himself is a Russian-educated, strongly pro-Russian Tajik official. He speaks better in Russian than Tajik, and has many Russian friends, particularly in the Russian military establishments.

Parviz Mullojonov, an independent Tajik expert, on the other hand, states that the free Russian military technical equipment is a myth (Asia-Plus, 20.08.2009). The Russian officials like to point to the agreement signed amongst the CSTO members

‘but forget to add that there are significant amounts of restrictions. For instance, acquired military equipment must be received only by the national units included into collective rapid deployment forces. In such situation only, will the price be the same as for the Russian army itself. Another important restriction is that if the country leaves the pact then the privilege will be liquidated and the differences between export and agreed prices rewritten as a state loan’.

Hence, it is not such a huge loss for Tajikistan to agree with the Russian proposals. The same goes for the education cost of Tajik officers in Russian colleges, which Tajikistan could afford and has had been paying for till 2005. Russia itself made the military education free when France and India began to educate military cadets from Tajikistan for free. The quality of the Russian-educated officers in comparison with those who attended French and Indian military schools is considerably inferior, says a military expert in Dushanbe.

Ultimately, the main question now is how much will Russia pay to rent off huge fenced areas in three parts of Tajikistan – near Dushanbe, in Kulob and Qurghonteppa? The garrison of Russian army in Tajikistan is the largest military base outside Russia. One could predict the possible rent of it having in mind the story of Okno (Window) space surveillance complex in Norak, 68 kilometers east of Dushanbe. Russia took over this unique optoelectronic space object tracking system in 2004 and is renting the land for it for $0.30 a year. (!)

Tajikistan had been asking $50 million annually, but agreed to Russian conditions, because Moscow promised in exchange for the base and the Okno system to write off $242 million of Tajik debt and to invest over $2 billion in the Tajik economy. The debt was written off, but Tajikistan did not receive $2 billion investments.

In sum, the rent for the military base could not be as big, as Tajiks think. Who is enjoying a free meal or khalyava in the deal made during Tajikistan’s harsh times now? As to the free cheese, Russians have a good saying: the free cheese can only be found in a mouse-trap. However, it applies perhaps to small mouses only.


07.09.2009 - Posted by | Русия, Тоҷикистон | ,


  1. Dear Salimjan,

    I have enjoyed reading the article and wonder if it is a problem paying such a huge amount of money at the same time training small number of Tajik cadets. Of course, if Russia is willing to have its base, it still need to employ military personal and Tajik cadets could be cheap work force for them in Tajikistan iself compared to their highly paid Russians.

    In general, I do not support the idea of hosting military base in Tajikistan as military base is what scares potential investors.

    Thanks for the nice article – I hope it can be heard by many and even be translated into Russian for them.

    Regards and Khuda Nigardor,


    Comment by Rustami | 07.09.2009 | Reply

  2. I don’t think that Russia will do it. Its opposite to their geopolitic strategy. Its like a joke but, Russia need us! Why? A simple example,just to show America – “Look boy, this is my territory !!!”. Russia knows that if it will be not her territory it may be easily become territory of America that came so close – to Afganistan. There is still and it will continue till end a strong resistance between Thalassocratic world and Tellurocratic world. So we must stay together, whatever it will cost us.

    Comment by Меъмор | 08.09.2009 | Reply

    • Russian authorities think if they helped Rahmon to come to power in 1992 so Rahmon should do whatever they want. That was published in several Russian newspapers on the eve of Medvedev’s visit to Dushanbe at the end of July. On the other hand, Kremlin have been accepting Dushanbe’s demands, when it has problems with Uzbekistan. Thus in the middle of 1990 Tajikistan was the only Russian ally in the Central Asia and Kremlin was doing everything for Dushanbe at the time. The situation changed in 2005, when Uzbeks expelled American soldiers and became a friend of Moscow. That is why Kremlin forgot own promises to invest $2 billion in the Tajik economy made in 2004.

      Now, again Moscow have problems with Tashkent and probably that is why Dushanbe is so brave and persistent to ask Moscow to pay full price of the friendship. However, this time Kyrgyz game is bringing fruits to Bishkek. And the situation is more difficult for the both sides, Moscow and Dushanbe. The economic downturn is on the top of all of these issues.

      Comment by aioubzod | 12.09.2009 | Reply

  3. Dear brother Salim,

    That is true, free cheese is just in a mouse trip. Unfortunately, Russia and some countries do not want to see Tajikistan as economically and militarily strong country. They want to see our country as a weak and pour country, which can not survive without there debts. Unique way for changing the negative evaluation is to eat own dry bread and do not ask Russia and any other countries about something. If by russian words” Nuzhno bit naglim s naglimi, a to tebya sotrut v poroshok”. It is practice. For example, one my friend is nagliy (tough) with me. It is mean, that he is not respect himself. As a result I became naglim (tough) with him too and there was set balance. But I do not know our government will chose the option or not.If they still look in front of Russia, as to elder brother.Than there will not any positive results for Tajikistan.

    Comment by Mehmon | 10.09.2009 | Reply

    • The latest news is that the Russian Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov visited Dushanbe on Friday to discuss these issues with the Tajik authorities. The discussion took place behind closed doors and seems to me Tajikistan is firm on its position. Probably, there will be some progress in near future. Seems Dushanbe is learning how to assert own demands to be counting on as a equal partner.

      Comment by aioubzod | 12.09.2009 | Reply

  4. What we are talking about? Russia with such aggressive external and internal policy could never been our real friend. We should change our strategical partner and try to be the county without strategical partners.
    Best regards,

    Comment by Mark Twain | 16.09.2009 | Reply

  5. Heya are using WordPress for your site platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying
    to get started and create my own. Do you need any html coding expertise to make
    your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

    Comment by animenarutohentai.thumblogger.com | 08.12.2012 | Reply

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