Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry announced on August 29 that Uzbekistan has officially requested “military-technical assistance” against the Islamist rebels. Uzbek Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Abdusamat Haidarov submitted the request on August 28 in Moscow to Vyacheslav Trubnikov, the first deputy foreign affairs minister with the rank of cabinet minister in charge of Russia’s policy toward CIS countries. The Russian side took the matter under consideration as a matter of urgency. That same day, the Kremlin announced that Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Askar Akaev of Kyrgyzstan had discussed by telephone the current situation in that country and in Central Asia. Contextual remarks by Kyrgyz officials suggested that Akaev, too, almost certainly requested “military-technical assistance.” That term covers provision of arms, equipment and specialists, but not troops. Russian officials made a point of explaining that the assistance to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan would be provided within the framework of Russia’s bilateral agreements with the two countries.
Russian, Uzbek and Kyrgyz officials seem notably reticent to invoke either the CIS Collective Security Treaty, or the multilateral military and “antiterrorism” agreements signed by Russia and Central Asian countries in the CIS, the regional and the Shanghai-Five frameworks. Uzbekistan in any case is no longer a party to the CIS Collective Security Treaty, having abandoned it last year in favor of bilateral arrangements with Russia. The Russian defense minister, Marshal Igor Sergeev, is the only senior official in Moscow thus far to have called for a collective response. He has made public his recommendation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to set up a joint headquarters of Russian and Central Asian countries’ armed forces, in the framework of the CIS Collective Security Treaty but limited to the Central Asian region. Such proposals may gain currency in Moscow if the Uzbek and Kyrgyz forces fail to stamp out the insurgency soon.
Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Main Department for International Military Cooperation, declared on August 29 that Russia’s Defense Ministry is prepared to supply sniper rifles and night-vision devices to Uzbek and Kyrgyz forces. Ivashov ruled out the dispatch of Russian military specialists to either of those two countries. A delegation of Russia’s arms-exporting state agency, Rosvooruzhenie, was dispatched to Tashkent in order to discuss sales of Mi-8 helicopters, BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, mortars, and ammunition to Uzbekistan.
Kazakhstan, too, seems prepared to step incrementally into the fray. Its defense minister, Lieutenant-General Sat Tokpakbaev, has stated more than once during these events that Kazakhstan would render assistance to Kyrgyzstan if the latter country requests it. Astana shares Bishkek’s–and Dushanbe’s–interest in limiting Uzbekistan’s political clout and military reach in Central Asia. Whether Kyrgyzstan has officially submitted a request for Kazakh assistance remains unclear. But Kyrgyzstan has at least twice since August 29 admitted to receiving support from Kazakh aviation. Kyrgyzstan is not known to have any combat aviation of its own; it is only able to conduct reconnaissance missions with Czechoslovak-made trainer planes of 1960s vintage.
During last year’s hostilities, Kyrgyzstan had authorized Uzbek fighter-bombers to strike rebel positions on Kyrgyz territory. But it revoked that authorization after the Uzbek aviation had indiscriminately hit some Kyrgyz villages on mere suspicion of a rebel presence. Kyrgyzstan, moreover, is loath to depend on Uzbek military support in general. Uzbekistan is similarly unwilling to become dependent on Russia’s military assistance. To avoid that dependence, however, Tashkent and Bishkek must cooperate with one another on mutually acceptable terms in order to defeat the insurgency conclusively before the onset of winter.
“The Fortnight in Review” is prepared by senior analysts Jonas Bernstein (Russia), Stephen Foye (Security and Foreign Policy), and Vladimir Socor (Non-Russian republics). Editor, Stephen Foye. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at [email protected], by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4526 43rd Street NW, Washington, DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of “The Fortnight in Review” is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation