Recent statement of Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev that in future Russia’s military base in the Kyrgyz city of Kant must be removed doesn’t imply a change in the country’s political course and doesn’t mean that the base will actually be closed, said Andrei Grozin, head of the Central Asia and Kazakhstan Department at the Institute of CIS Countries.
“I would not attach great importance to this statement. It would be pointless to look for a cunning plan of Kremlin in this and for an attempt to reorient the foreign policy,” Grozin told
During an end-of-year press conference Dec. 1, President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev said that after expiration of the contract on the Russian base, the base “will have to leave” the territory of Kyrgyzstan.
The Kyrgyzstan-Russia agreement on the use of the base was extended for 49 years in 2009 with the possibility of automatic prolongation for 25-year periods.
Atambayev’s statement came in the context of the fact that the US transit center was removed from Kyrgyzstan, while the Russian base is left, and Kyrgyzstan should be able to defend itself on its own, said Grozin.
The analyst noted that the Russian base in Kant is an air force component of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which includes Kyrgyzstan.
“This is why it is hard to imagine such a situation that Kyrgyzstan, being a member of the CSTO, will take some real steps to deprive the CSTO of one of the main instruments of response to possible regional conflicts,” said Grozin.
If Bishkek wants to terminate the agreements on the Kant base, it will either need to withdraw from the CSTO, or to negotiate not only with Moscow, but also with other members of the organization, he added.
Grozin also stressed that the Kyrgyz army is greatly dependent on cooperation with Russia.
He recalled that the Russian Defense Ministry has been making great efforts to modernize the Kyrgyz army for several years through bilateral relations and partnership in the CSTO.
In particular, a lot of military equipment, weaponry is supplied to Kyrgyzstan free of charge, for example, the last batch of armored personnel carriers was supplied to Kyrgyzstan a few months ago, he said.
“Kyrgyzstan’s army is weak and is capable of handling only local tasks within the country,” the expert said. “The Kyrgyz army lacks combat aviation and is supported by Russia through the Kant Air Base.”
“Russia is interested in keeping the Kant Air Base as the integrity of the structure ensuring military-technical and military-political stability in Central Asia, which has been formed during the last 10 years, will be incomplete without it,” Grozin added.
“There are other Russian military facilities in the region,” the expert said, adding that however they will be insufficient for tackling hostilities in mountains if they occur.
“Syria’s experience shows that it is difficult to solve some serious issues in the mountainous and urban areas without strong air support,” he said. “It will be very difficult to solve any issues in the region, if required, without the Kant Air Base.”