Military Deals Inked

by Nathan Hamm on 10/7/2004 · 2 comments

In another sure sign of Russia and China’s dominance in Central Asia (God, how I love taking a swipe at that), the US and Kyrgyzstan have signed a long-term military deal.

The two sides worked out detailed proposals for developing and strengthening the current bilateral military cooperation program, building on work done that predates 9/11 led by special forces A-Teams, enlarging the scope and commitment to a five-year cooperation plan running from 2005-2010.

The cooperation plan itself is geared towards enhancing key aspects of the Kyrgyz armed forces. It begins with financial aspects that will provide the basis for future reform, aiming at improving the infrastructure and material basis for a key military unit (most likely Special Forces), which has been supported by the Kyrgyz government with it making a clear commitment to making necessary funds available. Special Forces and peacekeeping units are a vital part of the cooperation plan, though this will take longer to implement and will require as much input, support, and training from the United States as can be afforded, probably on a greater level than previously. It also foresees the creation of a center for managing joint counter-terrorist operations and will give priority to information systems and equipment. The severe lack of air mobility options for Kyrgyzstan is considered in the plan, which will be an area for future attention, as the insertion of Special Forces, and participation in regional or international peacekeeping operations will require air mobility enhancement (Kabar News Agency, October 5).

But wait, it gets even better…

Kyrgyzstan also has recently signed a military cooperation deal with France.

A French military delegation headed by Lieutenant General Patrick de Rousiers, head of the cooperation directorate held talks aimed at maintaining ties established in 2002, when Kyrgyzstan hosted French troops fighters used in the U.S.-led effort to overthrow the hard-line Taliban regime in nearby Afghanistan.

“Already French Mirages have been based in Kyrgyzstan and could be again if the situation in Afghanistan continues to be difficult,” de Rousiers told Agence France-Presse.

The EDM report also mentions that the UK has signed a military agreement with Kyrgyzstan and that one of the specifics of the French deal is that more spots for Kyrgyz soldiers will be reserved at French military education institutions.

The reason I opened this story the way I did is not so much to make fun of Russia or China, to minimize their relations with Central Asian states, or to insult those who see their influence on the rise. Rather, this information should provide context, and make an important point. The story in Central Asian foreign policy is not necessarily about foreign powers coming in and pulling these states into their camps. That is the way that it is reported unfortunately, and I think it is a bit insulting to the countries of Central Asia. The way I see it, these countries are skillfully building strong relationships to play the powers off of each other. They’re doing a damned fine job of it too.

UPDATE: Added link to Jamestown article.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Laurence October 7, 2004 at 9:50 am

Nathan, Let’s wait and see how this plays out, before coming to any conclusions. France is a lot farther away than China or Russia…

Nathan October 7, 2004 at 10:07 am

I could simply say “exactly,” but that’s a bit cryptic.

I advise caution about either conclusion. I think one the most compelling reasons for Central Asian states to sign these close deals with Western powers is not just that they provide top-notch military training, but because they are so far away. The US has a hard time putting the screws to Kyrgyzstan, but it’s pretty simple to keep Russia from doing so.

In a way, it’s a variation on how Mongolia defends itself from Chinese and Russian dominance.

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