Entering the Dragon: What threats does the emergence of a Chinese military base in Tajikistan pose to Russia?

Entering the Dragon: What threats does the emergence of a Chinese military base in Tajikistan pose to Russia?

Dmitry Rodionov

A Chinese military base may appear in the Gorno-Badakhshan region of Tajikistan, in the Wakhan Valley on the border with Afghanistan, where recently it has been rather restless due to extremely tense relations between Dushanbe and the Taliban who have taken power in Kabul.

According to the CSTO Charter, the member states decide on the deployment on their territories of groups of troops, military infrastructure facilities of states that are not members of the organization, after agreement with other member states. This rule was in effect in the middle of the 2000s and allowed the same Kyrgyzstan to host even an American military base. Hardly anyone will object to the Chinese.

However, here we must immediately make a reservation that we are not talking about a Chinese military base. The Chinese will only build it, while it will be under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tajikistan. The base will be located near the border with China. Considering that Tajikistan is a member of the CSTO and the EAEU, it would be logical if Dushanbe entrusted its construction to its closest ally. And who is his closest ally if not Russia? It is interesting that, apparently, this decision is not some kind of improvisation in connection with the sharply aggravated situation in Afghanistan.

Two years ago, the Washington Post, citing local residents and satellite images of the area, reported that a secret Chinese military base is located in the Murghab district of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, whi-ch, apparently, is designed to control the main road leading from Afghanistan to Tajikistan. In addition, WP also provided pictures of Chinese soldiers in military uniforms at the bazaar in Murghab.

Two years ago! Of course, it can be assumed that Dushanbe understood the inevitability of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan and was preparing in advance for an exacerbation, but… it seems that here we are talking about a full-fledged military base, the appearance of which must be coordinated with other CSTO members! However, for all these two years, no facts have appeared confirming the existence of such a base, so this could be considered a fake thrown in by the American media in the framework of the anti-Chinese hysteria that was being whipped up at that time or in order to complicate relations between Russia and China. However, today the thought involuntarily creeps in: what if this is not a fake?

According to “Azattyk” (Kazakh edition of “Radio” Liberty “**), Dushanbe, Beijing offered to provide full and complete title to the” existing framework “, refusing any rent. What’s a” current basis “?” Azattyk ” argues that Chinese troops have been present near the old Soviet outpost for at least five years.

If we assume that this is so, then by building a new facility, China wants to consolidate its success? Tajik MP Tolibkhon Azimzoda, in an interview with Radio Ozodi (Tajik version of Svoboda), when asked if the presence of Chinese troops at the base in Wakhan is envisaged, he refused further conversation, citing the fact that “not authorized to comment on certain issues.”

I wonder which ones? Have something to hide from the public? In fact, the words of the deputy are, of course, a reputable source, but who will check whether there are Chinese soldiers at the base or not? Of course, China is not the United States, they are not our enemies, and there is no need to fear provocations, let alone attacks from their side. In addition, Beijing is also understandable – it found itself in a difficult situation due to the sharp destabilization of Afghanistan, it needs a cordon sanitaire on the border, and Wakhan is a “sore spot” through which Uyghur militants can penetrate into the territory of the Celestial Empire. However, why such secrecy?

And again, a question for the Tajiks: why not Russia? Moreover, Russia has serious experience in protecting the Tajik-Afghan border since the first days of the republic’s independence, it is the Russian 201st division and border guards that have been ensuring the security of Tajikistan for 30 years.

Meanwhile, when we say that China does not threaten anyone, it is worth making a reservation. Yes, China is not a military threat like the US and NATO. But the economic expansion of the Celestial Empire in the former Central Asian republics of the USSR has long been the talk of the town. This is the policy of putting one country or another on the “credit needle” and fixing it in this territory, that is, achieving the same goals that the United States pursues by the method of “violent democratization”, only by other means.

China is the largest investor in the region. As a result, Tashkent owes Beijing about $ 3 billion (more than a quarter of the total public debt), Bishkek – almost 2 billion (42.5% – China’s share). But Dushanbe owes Beijing the most – more than a billion out of 3,256. Here, too, the base will be built with Chinese money. And it is worth recalling that Beijing has previously allocated funds for the defense sector of Tajikistan. But China doesn’t give anything just like that.

Let me remind you that the republic has already paid off with its neighbors with its territories: in 2011, they gave China more than 1 thousand square meters. km – 1% of its territory. At the same time, many experts say that the process may continue: China is interested in the lands of Tajikistan, rich in minerals (uranium, gold, bauxite, asbestos, rock crystal, precious stones), which are in dire need of investment. At the same time, except for China, no one is in a hurry to invest there, the US State Department last year in the report “Investment Climate in Tajikistan” wrote that American companies in this country faced extortion and bribery at customs and tax authorities, warning Ameri-cans and Europeans against investing in republic.

In other words, Tajikis-tan’s dependence on China is colossal, and the appearance of Chinese military bases, if the CSTO does not mind, does not look like a sensation. Against the backdrop of the situation in Afghanistan and the desire of the United States to gain a foothold in Central Asia, for Russia, the Chinese presence may seem a very harmless option.

But the problem is not a military threat. The 21st century, after all, and today, trade wars and economic expansion as a way of submission are much more eff-ective. Back in 2015, a me-eting was held in Istanbul between representatives of China, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, at which the future of the Silk Road project bypassing Russia was discussed. Of course, China does not put all its eggs in one basket, its mega-project also implies a route through Russia, but this is a good illustration for understanding that China is our partner, but not a friend, matchmaker or brother, it has its own interests, which are far from always coincide with ours.

And tomorrow it may happen that there will be no CSTO and the EAEU, and in general we will border in the south from the Caspian Sea to the Pacific Ocean exclusively with China. Of course, it will hardly come to that. And the point is not only in Central Asia, but in the entire post-Soviet space, which we are rapidly losing: the Baltics, Ukraine, Transcaucasia. Now Central Asia, where, among other things, the United States and Turkey have been trying to get in for a long time. And Russia could use the territories that historically belonged to it, both for organizing transport corridors between Europe and Asia, and for creating a global security system in the region.

It is significant that in t-he place where, according to the American press, a se-cret Chinese base is located today, in the 19th century there was an advanced Cossack post of the Russian Empire. But these were the times when Russia expanded its influence, “spreading” across the continent.

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