Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 77

On April 16 in the Kremlin, Presidents Boris Yeltsin of Russia and Imomali Rahmonov of Tajikistan signed an alliance agreement, formally called the “Treaty on Allied Cooperation into the Twenty-First Century.” The same day, the defense ministers, Marshal Igor Sergeev and Colonel-General Sherali Hairulloev signed another document, the “Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Stationing of Russian Military Bases in Tajikistan.”

The political treaty, a largely declarative document, cites the 1992 CIS Collective Security Treaty and the 1993 Russian-Tajik Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance as forming the basis of the two countries’ bilateral relations. The 1993 agreement had already included provisions which could be interpreted as a military alliance, potentially licensing Russian intervention. The new treaty adds an obligation to coordinate actions on the diplomatic arena and in international forums. It also commits the sides to protecting the rights of Russians in Tajikistan and of Tajiks in Russia. The nascent Slavic University in Dushanbe rates a special mention. The document calls for “preserving the spiritual and cultural closeness of the two peoples”–a postulate which would take many Russians and Tajiks by surprise.

The military treaty confers basing rights on Russia’s 201st motor-rifle division and several additional Russian Army units. The troops will be stationed in the triangle formed by Dushanbe, Kulob and Kurgontepa. Russia will bear all costs of maintaining the bases and troops, and the treaty is valid for a 10-year period which can be prolonged by mutual consent.

Lying in the southwest of Tajikistan, Kulob is President Rahmonov’s native region and home to his relatively small “Kulob clan,” which holds a disproportionate share of government power in Dushanbe, though its real writ does not extend much beyond the capital and the Kulob area itself. Kurgontepa is lies nearby, between Kulob and the Uzbek border. The placement of Russian bases in these two locations suggests an arrangement to protect the security of the loyal Kulob group against both internal rivals and possible trouble from Uzbekistan. The selection of those sites also indicates that the Russian command considers most of the country unsafe for Russian bases (Russian agencies, April 17-19).