US Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Mark Milley, told lawmakers in a classified briefing that the Biden administration is currently in talks about using Russian bases in Central Asia to combat terrorism in Afghanistan. The talks were held considering the military bases in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, Sputnik reports.
As specified by rbc, the 201st Russian military base is located in Tajikistan, the garrison is stationed in the cities of Dushanbe and Bokhtar. This is Russia’s largest military facility outside of its borders. The base includes motorized rifle artillery, reconnaissance, anti-aircraft missile and other units, as well as an air group. In Kyrgyzstan, the Russian airbase is located in the Chui region, where it’s been operating since 2003. Su-25 attack aircraft and Mi-8MTV helicopters are based there.
As reported by Politico, the US defence leaders told senators that the option to use Russian military bases in Central Asia is being seriously considered. The US defence chief specified that Russia was asked to clarify an offer from its President Vladimir Putin to host US forces on Russian military bases in Central Asia for counterterrorism operations. It was also reminded that US General Mark Milley recently had a conversation with his Russian counterpart, Valery Gerasimov, in Helsinki, where the same issue was reportedly discussed. Gerasimov did not make any promises to his colleague.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, commenting on the meeting between Gerasimov and Milley, said that the US military interacts with Russian colleagues at the minimum necessary to prevent conflicts.
It is stated that the conversation started from a summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva this June, where the Russian President allegedly offered the US to cooperate on combating terrorism using Russian bases in Central Asia. It’s important to specify, Kremlin has not given any comments on the issue.
“Inviting Russia into discussions will not further vital U.S. counterterrorism goals, nor is it the path to the ‘stable and predictable’ relationship with Russia the Biden Administration claims it wants. […] Any attempt to coordinate military basing access or operations with the Russian Federation risks violating the legal prohibition on U.S.-Russian military cooperation,” US lawmakers commented.
As senators were unsatisfied with this kind of cooperation with Russia, claiming that they are left in a “terrible position” being forced to ask the Russians to be able to protect the USA from terrorists, Austin assured lawmakers, the country’s military is not “seeking Russia’s permission to do anything” but simply trying to “clarify” Putin’s offer, rbc reports. As was reported in Russian media, Moscow is trying to prevent the construction of US bases in the region in this way.
It is noted that from 2001 to 2014, the United States had a large airbase on the territory of Manas International Airport in Kyrgyzstan, and from 2001 to 2005, on the territory of Khanabad airfield in Uzbekistan. As reported by Kommersant, sources in Russian state structures insisted that both military facilities appeared in the region due to the fact that Putin sought to help the USA in their fight against terrorism after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. However, after some time Americans left both countries at the request of local authorities.
After the talks held in Tashkent in July of this year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told that so far none of Russia’s allies in Central Asia had announced their intention to allow the USA to deploy military facilities on their territory. Back in July 2021, speaking about the talks Lavrov expressed concern about the aggravation of the situation in the northern provinces of Afghanistan, directly bordering the Central Asian states. According to the Minister, the US mission in Afghanistan “failed”, so Russia does not consider it reasonable to continue the US military presence in the countries bordering Afghanistan.
Moscow says that the countries of the region should make a sovereign decision on this issue themselves. Nowadays, Tajikistan, as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), has no right to deploy foreign military bases on its territory without coordination with other members of the bloc, and Uzbekistan has included the principle of preventing the deployment of foreign military bases on its territory in its Constitution. However, if the opinion of the Russian side was asked, the countries would be warned that the plans discussed above may be associated with problems and risks.
This spring, the Russian authorities have already warned the countries of the region that the United States is not so much interested in maintaining control over the situation in Afghanistan, as it seeks to use Central Asia as a springboard to contain Russia, China, and Iran. So, perhaps this was the point of Putin when offering Biden an option of using Russian bases? According to Russian media sources, the Russian President meant joint coordination of actions in the Afghan direction with the possibility of using Russian military bases, which could be not putting the staff itself to the Asian territory but exchanging the information, including that obtained using drones. Factual intentions can anyway be proved only by time, that is only the future can show if a generous offer of Russia will be accepted on the scale possible without attempts to use the kindness of the country’s head and overtaking the territories.