Putin Plans Defense, Energy Agreements During Tajikistan Visit
Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Tajikistan to sign accords on defense cooperation, migration and energy with the former Soviet state that borders Afghanistan and China, according to Putin’s foreign policy aide.
The president kicks off his visit tomorrow, with the main events set for Oct. 5, when his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rakhmon, celebrates his 60th birthday, Yuri Ushakov, a former ambassador to the U.S., told reporters in Moscow yesterday. Putin turns 60 two days later.
Russia wants to shore up its military presence in central Asia by extending the lease on a Tajik base that terminates in 2014. Tajikistan is a part of the northern supply route used for about a half of all non-lethal provisions for American troops in Afghanistan. U.S. forces are scheduled to exit Afghanistan in 2014, which Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned in June will boost the threat of terrorism and drugs trafficking.
“Tajikistan need this base as much as we do,” Ushakov said. “This base provides security for the country, taking into account the future development of the situation in neighboring regions.”
Tajikistan allows overflights for U.S. aircraft supplying the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan. The Tajik government has also granted permission for ground transit routes that is an alternative to land routes to Afghanistan that cross volatile areas of Pakistan from the south.
Putin’s trip follows his visit last month to neighboring Kyrgyzstan, the only country in the world to host Russian and U.S. bases, where he signed an agreement allowing Russia to keep its facility there for at least 15 more years after 2017.
Last year, then-President Dmitry Medvedev said during his visit to the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, that an agreement on a 49- year lease will be signed this spring. Russia’s ground forces commander, Vladimir Chirkin, told the Ekho Moskvy radio station last week that there are still “some friction” between the two countries.
Tajikistan’s economy is heavily reliant on remittances sent by migrant workers from Russia. Funds sent by more than a million Tajik laborers, which average about $3 billion, make up about 50 percent of the country’s economic output.
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