Within recent months, many things have changed. One of the signs of the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan is appearance of US military bases on the territory of the Central Asian republics that once belonged to the Soviet Union. As could be expected, the intention to create the bases was declared by the US, while this intention was explained with the aim of the anti-terrorist fight. These pieces of news did not come as a surprise. It is well known that if the US arrives somewhere, it stays for a long time. Though for Russia, another thing is important: how will the US presence in the region influence Russia’s national security? The recent visit of Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadi Seleznev to Tajikistna confirms that the Russian leadership does not neglect this problem. According to information of RIA ‘Novosti, while appearing before journalists, Seleznev stated that Russia was not interested in the long-term presence of US and NATO military bases in the region. Meanwhile, as the US administration claims, the United States in no way intends to hinder Russia to develop relations with the Central Asian republics. However, reality does not usually correspond with words. The presence of US military bases in the region inevitably causes the growth of US influence upon the republics, while Russia’s influence will reduce. However, Russia’s national interests demand the most careful attention to the events in Central Asia. And not only attention, but participation as well. So, how can Russia participate? First of all, the expansion of Russia’s economic cooperation with the countries of the region. Returning to the Seleznev’s visit to Tajikistan, it should be stated that some steps in this direction are already being made. According to the State Duma speaker, during his meeting with Saidullo Khairulloev, the chairman of Tajik parliament’s lower chamber, cooperation in the field of power engineering and the use of natural resources was discussed in detail. Moreover, in the nearest future, two or three inter-governmental groups are planned to be created for further work on these questions.
However, Central Asia is not only Tajikistan. In other countries of the region, Russia is not so active, while the development of economic cooperation with these states is also important, and the base for this cooperation should be created as soon as possible, while the US has not strengthened its position in the region. Of course, Russian companies cannot equally compete with American ones, and Russia cannot offer $ 7,000 for every fighter, as the US did. Though, something can be done. For example, Russia can propose to its Central Asian partners to cooperate in mining and mineral works, in power engineering, etc. Such projects would be mutually beneficial, as cooperation with Tajikistan shows. On the basis of the development of Russia’s economical presence in the Central Asian republics, Russian influence in the region can be kept.
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/abroad/2002/01/11/35499.html