Sunday, 11 November 2012
Russia steals NATO's defense initiative in Asia
Russia agreed to provide military and technical support to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in the form of direct assistance. The Kyrgyz army is particularly in need of such support. The army is still equipped with howitzers left from the Great Patriotic War. Analysts have different opinions about this decision of Moscow. According to some media reports, Russia is prepared to spend $1.1 billion to upgrade the Kyrgyz army and another $200 million for the needs of the armed forces of Tajikistan. In addition, Moscow will provide Tajikistan with $200 million in the form of discounts for the supply of petroleum products. Some online publications stated that Russia is helping Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, in particular, (now it is the weakest army in the region) in response to the attempts of the U.S. to gain a foothold in Uzbekistan. One can agree or disagree with this opinion, but there is no doubt that Russia is consistently and systematically strengthening military cooperation with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Incidentally, the subject of military-technical cooperation will be a key one during a visit of the President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev to Moscow on November 14-15. As noted above, the armed forces of Kyrgyzstan are among the weakest in the region. At the time of formation of the Kyrgyz army in 1992 it had 20,000 people. Recently, the army was reduced to 15 thousand people. 70-75 percent of the army personnel are contractors. In 2006, the term of draft military service in Kyrgyzstan was reduced from 18 to 12 months. The country has one university that prepares junior officers for the country and the National Military Lyceum that trains middle commanders. The Ministry of Defense of Kyrgyzstan also has Special Forces -"Scorpion" and "Ilbirs" units. The Kyrgyz army still largely uses Soviet equipment and cannot afford new weapons. It noticeably lags behind the armies of its neighbors. President Atambayev recently acknowledged that only 25th Special Forces brigade "Scorpion" trained by NATO met the modern requirements. Kyrgyz gunners, for example, still use 122 and 152-mm Howitzer M-30 and D-1, model 1938 and 1943. It is important that Russian is not providing a loan but direct military support. According to some sources, the Russian Ministry of Defense, by March 2013, will agree with Bishkek on the range of products to be covered by the program. The first batch of Russian weapons is to be sent to Kyrgyzstan in the summer of next year. Bishkek desperately needs all kinds of new small arms, and also hopes to get from Russia new infantry fighting vehicles and combat reconnaissance patrol cars, helicopters, and fixed field hospitals. Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country, and for operations in mountainous terrain the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry needs lightweight motorcycle, lightweight portable mortars, and satellite equipment. Apparently, the army of Kyrgyzstan is hoping to get all this equipment from Russia. The program of military support to Tajikistan is more modest. So far, Russia is ready to give it only $200 million. According to the data from different sources, the money will be primarily allocated for modernization of air defense of the Republic and repair of military equipment. Tajikistan has a draft army. The service term is two years, or one year for college graduates. This is the reason why Tajikistan is not in need of manpower. According to some experts, helping Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Russia expects to strengthen the potential of the Collective Security Treaty. In 2014, the U.S. plans to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, and Bishkek and Dushanbe already expressed interest in the U.S. weaponry. This could increase the U.S. influence in the region, and Russia is trying to prevent it.