Kyrgyzstan Amends Agreement on Russian Use of Military Base
On June 12, Kyrgyz lawmakers approved a bill that will amend an agreement with Russia to use the Kyrgyz military base in Kant. In 2003, the joint air base was opened under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSO), thus establishing a Russian military presence in Kyrgyzstan. Two years previously, after the 9/11 attacks, the United States – with Russia’s consent – set up an air base at Manas as a logistics and refueling center for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. However, in 2014, the transit center closed after then-President Almazbek Atambayev expressed worry over the U.S. influence on Kyrgyzstan and assured Russia that it would be closed.
Kyrgyzstan’s decision to prioritize Russia’s base is founded in the economic and geopolitical connections to Russia since much of the Kyrgyz economy relies on the Russian economy for exports and remittances from guest workers. Similarly, historical ties and regional proximity to Russia make security agreements expensive and difficult with other nations such as the United States. For example, in 2012, Russia agreed to write off $500 million in debt after Kyrgyzstan agreed to a 15-year base lease deal. The Kant air base and three other Russian bases in the country have been consolidated into one base in 2017.
The bill raises the annual fee for renting the land for the combined military base after a topographic survey found that the land leased by Russia was actually 58.32 hectares more than outlined in the agreement. After the bill is amended, the annual fee will be increased by $291,000 from the original cost of $4,502,495. The bill also states that “the agreement envisions a return to the Kyrgyz side of the facilities after the document’s expiration date.”
Due to ongoing Russian-Kyrgyz military agreements, Kyrgyzstan’s reliance on Russian military aid is projected to grow as Russia continues to dominate Kyrgyz military and technical assistance. Specifically, Kyrgyzstan is reliant on Russia for much of its military aid and weapons supply. Since 2012, Russia and Kyrgyzstan have signed deals amounting to about $200 million worth of arms – about $126 million already having been transferred to Bishkek in the form of two An-24 military transport planes, two batteries of upgraded S-125 Pechora 2-M air defense systems, four Mi-24V helicopters, six Mi-8MTV and Mi-8MT helicopters, up to 50 BTR-70M vehicles, and light and small arms and ammunition.
Kyrgyzstan’s bilateral military relationship with Russia also extends to military education exchange as 400 Kyrgyz officers and 700 cadets have trained at Russian military universities, and 40 senior Kyrgyz officers have taken courses from the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation since 2000. According to the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technology, Russia and Kyrgyzstan are currently discussing the delivery of the Buk-M1 anti-aircraft missile defense system and Mi-8 helicopters.