China Reinvigorates Belt and Road Initiative in Central Asia

Kyrgyz Highway A363 towards Chinese border-Xinjiang.

“China firmly supports Uzbekistan in safeguarding its national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, and firmly supports Uzbekistan in choosing its own development path.”

China seeks to strengthen its security cooperation with Central Asian countries to safeguard its core interests in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). According to the first excerpted article from the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, People’s Daily, Chinese President Xi Jinping met his Uzbek counterpart, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in Beijing and pledged an “all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership” with Uzbekistan. This places Uzbekistan at the highest ranking of China’s foreign relations alongside Pakistan, Belarus, and Venezuela. These elevated diplomatic ties not only pave the way for the advancement of strategic BRI projects but also signal to the BRI stakeholders the urgency of security cooperation in the current turbulent international environment.

To this end, Mirziyoyev places significant emphasis on the One-China principle and strictly opposes external interference in China’s internal affairs, especially with regard to Beijing’s crackdown on Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province in the name of deradicalization. Xinjiang is home to the Muslim Uyghur minority and borders the former Soviet states of Central Asia, serving as the geopolitical linchpin in the success of the rejuvenation of the Silk Road. Mirziyoyev firmly supports China stabilizing Xinjiang by taking repressive­­ measures to eradicate extremism, terrorism, and separatism. This state visit indicates a growing China-Central Asia alliance in security cooperation and soft power development. The day before Mirziyoyev’s visit, China’s State Council Information Office released a whitepaper, cited in the second excerpted article. This white paper articulates the legal basis for countering “The Three Evils,”[i] operation and supervision mechanisms, and China’s vision of security cooperation on a regional and global scale.[ii] With the growing “all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership” in the region, Beijing is undertaking a more direct engagement in Central Asia’s security and defense capabilities. Overall, China’s multifaceted BRI strategies are likely to intensify the growing Great Power competition in the region.


Yijun Yang, “习近平同乌兹别克斯坦总统米尔济约耶夫会谈 (Xi Jinping holds talks with President Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan),” People’s Daily (official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee), 25 January 2024.

On January 24, President Xi Jinping hosted President Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan at the Great Hall of the People. The two heads of state announced that China and Uzbekistan have decided to develop an all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership, symbolizing an era of a more meaningful and dynamic China-Uzbekistan relationship.

Facing the current complex international situation, the two sides pledged to build a solid foundation for mutual trust and continue with high-quality joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China firmly supports Uzbekistan in safeguarding its national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, and firmly supports Uzbekistan in choosing its own development path.

Mirziyoyev said that he looks forward to the opportunity to further consolidate and deepen mutual trust and expand all-round cooperation under the BRI, including agriculture, green energy, and tourism. Uzbekistan firmly abides by the One-China principle, resolutely opposes external forces interfering in China’s internal affairs, and is willing to firmly support China on issues involving Taiwan, Xinjiang, human rights, and other matters related to China’s core interests. Furthermore, Uzbekistan is ready to work with China to combat the “Three Evilsand safeguard their respective and regional security.

“中国的反恐怖主义法律制度体系与实践 (China’s Legal Framework and Measures for Counterterrorism),” The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, 23 January 2024.

Terrorism poses a persistent and asymmetric threat to international peace and security. China has found a path of law-based counterterrorism that conforms to its realities by establishing a sound legal framework, promoting strict, impartial, procedure-based law enforcement, and ensuring impartial administration of justice and effective protection of human rights…

Relying on more than 40 years of experience, China has gradually developed a counterterrorism legal framework based on the Constitution. The Counterterrorism Law, in concert with the criminal laws and National Security Law, covers administrative regulations, judicial interpretations, local regulations, and departmental and local government rules…Upholding the vision of a global community of shared future, China is willing to work closely with other countries to push forward counterterrorism cause as part of global governance. On the basis of equality and respect, China will engage in extensive exchanges, cooperation, and mutual learning to facilitate the global effort to counter terrorism.


[i] The “Three Evils” (三股恶势力) is a political slogan referencing extremism, terrorism, and separatism.

[ii] Released by China’s State Council Information Office, the white paper consists of chapters such as “An Improving Legal Framework for Counterterrorism,” “Clear Provisions for the Determination and Punishment of Terrorist Activities,” “Standardized Exercise of Power in Fighting Terrorism,” “Protection of Human Rights in Counterterrorism Practices,” and “Effective Protection of People’s Safety and National Security.”

Image Information:

Image: Kyrgyz Highway A363 towards Chinese border-Xinjiang.
Attribution: CC BY 2.0

Chinese-Tajikistani Security Cooperation Gaining Momentum (Matthew Stein and Peter Wood) (January 2024)

(Click image to download brief.)

Key Takeaways:

  • China and Tajikistan share a 477km border and have an estimated $1.78 billion in bilateral trade, which is significantly imbalanced in favor of China.
  • Recent years have seen a significant improvement in relations between China and Tajikistan, with China constructing a military base in 2016 near Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan and a November 2022 bilateral agreement to increase security cooperation.
  • China’s security cooperation with Tajikistan does not appear to conflict or cause friction with Tajikistan’s main security cooperation partner, Russia, but nevertheless advances Chinese interests in the region at a time when Russian support is limited due to its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia Strengthens Its Military Presence in Central Asia

 201st Military Base.

201st Military Base.

“Russia decided to increase the readiness of its military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan because of “US attempts to restore its military presence in Central Asia.”

Russia’s military bases in Central Asia have always been important to its strategic goals in the region, particularly for dealing with potential instability in Afghanistan. While the Russian government initially accepted U.S. airbases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan beginning in 2001 to support operations in Afghanistan, it later pressed both governments to evict U.S. forces. The United States left the Kharshi-Khanbad airbase (known as K2) in Uzbekistan in 2005[i] and left the Transit Center at Manas in Kyrgyzstan in 2014. Russian officials have claimed that U.S. security cooperation with Central Asian states in the 2000s took place as part of an effort to establish permanent military bases in the region, though the United States has not used a regional military facility since it left Manas.

The accompanying excerpted article from Kyrgyzstan’s independent news website Kloop reports on a statement by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on 28 April 2023 in New Delhi, India about increasing the combat readiness of Russian bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Shoigu noted that Russia made this decision to increase combat readiness because the United States is trying “to restore its military presence in Central Asia…under the pretext of helping in the fight against terrorism.” However, the article also notes that Shoigu did not offer facts to substantiate this this claim. When Russian officials announced measures to strengthen its military bases in Central Asia in the past, they noted specific increases in capabilities, like the transfer of S-300 [RG1] air defense systems to Tajikistan in 2019.[ii] Shoigu also stated that requests from members of the SCO to host military facilities is a “direct threat to stability in the SCO space.” Shoigu did not mention which SCO member would potentially host the U.S. military, but SCO members in Central Asia include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. There have been no reports that any of the three have been negotiating to host U.S. forces, but Shoigu is warning fellow SCO members that Russia will consider hosting the United States as a threat. The article also usefully provides a reminder of the current Russian military bases in Central Asia. These include the Kant airbase outside Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and the 201st Russian military base, home of the 201st Motor Rifle Division, in Tajikistan, the latter of which is Russia’s largest military facility outside its borders. The article ends by noting that Ukraine claimed it destroyed a tactical group from the 201st military base last year, though this has not been verified. While Russia claims it is strengthening its bases in Central Asia as a measure to maintain its presence in the region, without any specific information on how this will take place, it is possible that Russia is doing this to replace losses of the of the 201st in Tajikistan suffered in Ukraine.


Munduzbek Kalykov, “Шойгу: Россия повышает боеготовность своих военных баз в Кыргызстане и Таджикистане (Shoigu: Russia will increase the combat readiness of its military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan),” Kloop (an independent Russian-language news website in Kyrgyzstan), 29 April 2023.

Russia decided to increase the readiness of its military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan because of “US attempts to restore its military presence in Central Asia.” This was stated by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as reported by RIA Novosti.

According to Shoigu, “the United States and its allies, under the pretext of helping in the fight against terrorism, are trying to restore their military presence in Central Asia.” However, he did not provide specific facts.

“We regard requests to the countries of the region to deploy military infrastructure as a direct threat to stability in the SCO space…” Shoigu said on April 28 at meeting of defense ministers of the SCO member states in New Delhi.

A Russian military base has existed in Kyrgyzstan since the early 2000s. Its main forces are located in the small town of Kant, not far from Bishkek – these are Su-25 [RG1] attack aircraft and Mi-8 [RG2] helicopters. The Russian joint military base also includes a test site at Issyk-Kul, where Russian sailors test underwater torpedoes.

The 201st Russian military base is located in Tajikistan, and the garrison is deployed in the cities of Dushanbe and Bokhtar. This is Russia’s largest military facility outside its borders. The base includes motorized rifle artillery, reconnaissance, anti-aircraft missile and other units, as well as an air group……in mid-April 2022, the Ukrainian army announced the destruction of the tactical group of the 201st Russian military base, which has a permanent deployment in Tajikistan…


[i] The withdrawal of U.S. forces from K2 cannot be solely attributed to Russian pressure. In May 2005, the Uzbek military forcefully put down public demonstrations in the Ferghana Valley, killing numerous civilians and drawing the ire of the Bush administration regarding human rights. This began a diplomatic row between the United States and Uzbekistan, which resulted in an Uzbekistani demand that the United States leave the base within six months, eventually withdrawing from K2 in November 2005.

[ii] For more background on Russia’s transfers of S-300s to Tajikistan, see: Matthew Stein “Russia Transfers S-300s to Tajikistan,” OE Watch, December 2019.

Image Information:

Image: 201st Military Base.
Attribution: CCA 4.0

Key Arab Countries Join Chinese-Led Regional Body as Dialogue Partners

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).

“… The group’s expansion, however, should not be interpreted as meant to pose a challenge to the West, but rather as a means to provide an alternative…”

A growing number of Arab countries are joining the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as “dialogue partners.” The SCO was established in the early 2000s as a mechanism for deepening political, economic, and security cooperation between countries of Central and South Asia. It has eight member nations (China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) and over a dozen “observer” and “dialogue partner” nations, which may send delegates to SCO meetings and negotiate with the bloc on particular issues but do not have voting rights or official sway within the organization.

In the past year, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have all been officially granted “dialogue partner” status, with Bahrain expected to follow suit. With this, roughly two-thirds of countries in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility have joined the SCO in some capacity.[i] While these developments bear watching, SCO partnership is—at least for now—not necessarily at odds with existing security commitments and arrangements.[ii] Instead, engagement with the SCO is seen as part of a strategic diversification approach being pursued by Arab countries in response to emerging multipolarity. Arabic-language media largely sees these moves through an economic lens and as part of what the first accompanying excerpt, published in the Qatari-aligned daily al-Araby al-Jadeed, considers China’s “efforts to consolidate a new multipolar world economic order.” Arab countries’ interest in the SCO, however, should not be dismissed as a purely economic phenomenon bereft of potential strategic implications. According to a former Egyptian diplomat cited in the second accompanying article, published last September in the prominent Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, Russia will seek to use the SCO “as an additional point in its confrontations with the West.” Russian attempts to use the SCO for strategic leverage against NATO would likely cause friction within the organization, clashing not only with China’s more regional and economic focus but also with the strategic interests of other SCO members. Nonetheless, growing Russo-Chinese geostrategic alignment may eventually enable the SCO’s orientation to gradually shift toward global geopolitics, particularly if its membership begins extending beyond Central and South Asia. Especially noteworthy in this regard is Iran’s interest in full SCO membership (it is currently an observer country). This interest, combined with the recent China-mediated Saudi-Iranian détente, makes the SCO a potential venue through which Iran may seek to compete with the United States. Last April, Iran was for the first time invited to participate in the SCO defense ministers’ meeting in New Delhi. As reported in the third accompanying excerpt, from the pro-Iranian Lebanese media outlet al-Mayadeen, Iran’s Defense Minister called for the establishing of a “Shanghai Maritime Security Belt” and more broadly using the SCO to promote a “balance of power.” Iranian ambitions notwithstanding, the SCO remains an “alternative” rather than a “challenge” to the West, as articulated by an Indian journalist cited in the fourth accompanying excerpt, from the Saudi English-language daily Arab News. Still, in a competitive world, today’s alternatives may become tomorrow’s challenges. Present Arab involvement in the SCO remains limited and largely economic in nature, but the potential for this involvement to morph in a way that that erodes U.S.-Arab security partnerships, while not imminent, is worthy of consideration.


“منظمة شنغهاي.. ترسيخ الصين لاقتصاد التعددية القطبية يتمدّد عربياً

(Shanghai Organization.. China’s consolidation of the multipolar economy is expanding in the Arab world),” al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 16 April 2023.

China is seeking to attract a larger number of economically active countries to membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as part of its efforts to consolidate a new multipolar world economic order.

“ماذا يعني انضمام 5 دول عربية إلى منظمة «شنغهاي»؟

(What does the accession of 5 Arab countries to the ‘Shanghai Organization’ mean?).” al-Sharq al-Awsat (influential Saudi daily), 17 September 2022.

Ambassador Raouf Saad, the former Egyptian assistant foreign minister and former Egyptian ambassador to Moscow, acknowledged that Russia will work to exploit the matter as an additional point in its confrontations with the West. However, he stressed the constants of Egyptian foreign policy, which refuses to “enter into alliances directed at the expense of its interests.”

“وزير الدفاع الإيراني: يجب تفعيل حزام الأمن البحري لمنظمة “شنغهاي

(Iranian Defense Minister: The ‘Shanghai Organization’ maritime security belt must be activated,)” al-Mayadeen (pro-Iran Lebanese media outlet), 29 April 2023.

Today, Saturday, the Iranian Minister of Defense, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, proposed adopting the “Shanghai Maritime Security Belt” mechanism with the aim of maintaining the security of communication lines and collectively guaranteeing global trade with the participation of the armed forces of member states…

During his remarks at the meeting of defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states in New Delhi, India, Ashtiani said that the achievements of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization “should promote global multilateralism and balance of power.”

“Middle Eastern participation grows in China-led security bloc as new countries join,” Arab News (English-language Saudi daily), 5 May 2023.
“It is a question of moving the weight or the center of gravity from the Western world — the US and EU combined — to the Eastern world, the place where the population of the world actually now exists overwhelmingly, the place where the fastest-growing economies are also present,” Suhashini Haidar, diplomatic editor at the English-language daily the Hindu, told Arab News. The group’s expansion, however, should not be interpreted as meant to pose a challenge to the West, but rather as a means to provide an alternative, she said.


[i] Of the 21 countries in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility, only eight (Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Yemen) do not have any status in the SCO. However, Iraq, Israel, and Syria have all applied for dialogue partner status, while Turkmenistan has attended SCO summits as a guest attendee. That leaves Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Yemen as the only countries with no relationship to the SCO.

[ii] SCO partnership alone means little in terms of defense commitments: Turkey, a NATO member, is an SCO dialogue partner.  Full membership in the SCO should also not be equated to membership in a defense alliance, such as NATO, given that both India and Pakistan are full members. Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have an adversarial relationship with one another, are both dialogue partners.

Image Information:

Image: Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).
Source: N509FZ,
Attribution: CC 4.0

Russian Companies Using Central Asian Migrant Workers in Occupied Ukraine

Migrant workers in Moscow, Russia.

Migrant workers in Moscow, Russia.

But, digging trenches for money and being citizens of another country, they violate the laws and customs of war and become criminals.

Russia has stated that it will not draft migrant workers in the country and send them to fight in Ukraine. While this has been largely true, the accompanying excerpted article from the Russian-language independent news website Kloop reports that Central Asians are doing non-lethal work on Russia’s behalf within the zone of conflict in Ukraine.[i] According to the article, Russia has contracted workers from Central Asia to construct fortifications in occupied areas of Ukraine. The article notes that private military contractor the Wagner Group, which is one of the Russian companies involved in building defensive structures in Ukraine for use by the Russian military, has recruited migrant workers to work there with promises of a good salary and other benefits. The article also mentions how “the work did not require documents,” an incentive for Central Asians looking to work for Russian entities without needing to officially register to do so.

Such contracted work in Ukraine carries many risks. The article confirms the deaths of 84 workers in Luhansk who had been building such defensive structures, though it is unknown if this number included any Central Asian citizens. Other non-combat hazards of working in occupied Ukraine include poor working conditions, less pay than promised, and possible prosecution if they are captured by Ukraine. Such migrant workers could also face charges in their home countries, including possible loss of citizenship in Kyrgyzstan. Indeed, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have repeatedly warned their citizens that they can face prosecution in their home countries for serving as combatants in the war in Ukraine, with exceptions for those who hold Russian citizenship and are required to serve in the Russian armed forces. While the article is concerned about the fate of these migrant workers, there have been only a few examples of the Kyrgyzstani and Uzbekistani governments opening a case against an individual for fighting in Ukraine, and in each case these individuals fought for Ukraine against Russian forces. The article concludes that migrants are likely to continue working in Ukraine and that authorities in Central Asia will not interfere as the work provides an economic benefit Because of the importance of remittances to the economies in the region.


“Тюрьма и смерть за копейки. Мигрантов зовут рыть окопы для российской армии (Jail and death for a kopek. Migrant workers are being called to dig trenches for the Russia army),” Kloop (independent Russian-language news website in Kyrgyzstan), 2 March 2023.

Migrant workers from Central Asia are being called to construct trenches for the Russian military, including in the occupied territories of Ukraine. They are offered up to 6,000 rubles a day for this work. But the real working conditions do not justify this money: dozens of workers are killed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, employers are deceptive, and in their home countries, migrants are threatened with jail time and loss of citizenship.

…It was announced in October 2022 by the founder of the Wagner Group, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, that Russia will build defensive structures along the front line. And since November, Russian websites and Telegram groups of migrant workers from Central Asian countries started publishing announcements about the recruitment of workers to dig trenches, dugouts, anti-tank ditches, and strengthen structures for the military… Announcements about the recruitment of workers for the “arrangement of defensive lines” appeared on the Russian websites Headhunter, Avito, and at least two regional-scale announcement sites…

Employers are willing to pay from 45,000 to 180,000 rubles a month for the risk, or from 300 rubles ($4) per hour. In addition, they promised a lot of free things: travel, medical examination, accommodation, three meals a day. The requirements are to be in good health and between 20 and 50 years of age…A feature of some of the announcements in these groups was that the work did not require documents…The authors of ads in telegram groups for migrants also offered help from the employer in obtaining Russian citizenship if the employee worked on the “trenches” for at least four months.

…84 workers recruited from Novosibirsk, who responded to these vacancies, died from the strike of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the occupied territory of the Luhansk region…Whether among them came from Central Asia or not, is still unknown…President Vladimir Putin, at a meeting with the government, confirmed that workers who were building “defensive structures” in the occupied territories had died.

In addition to the danger of dying from shelling from Ukraine, other troubles await the workers: unsanitary conditions, unheated living quarters and “the attitude is worse than for cattle.” This was told by “Present Time”…The Baza telegram channel also writes about this, citing one of the Tajiks, Aminjon. According to him, they were paid three times less than the promised amount. Other workers were even less fortunate: one had an attack of appendicitis, and another lost a hand, but they did not receive any adequate medical care. After Aminjon went to the police, they began to call him with threats, now he is afraid to leave the house.

Migrants can be prosecuted for at least four criminal offenses for digging trenches for the Russian military, especially in the occupied territories of Ukraine, human rights activist and migrant rights specialist Valentina Chupyk warns.

According to her, if such migrants are caught by the Ukrainian military, they will be tried for illegally crossing the border of Ukraine, as they dig trenches in the occupied territories – for this they face two to five years in prison…If Ukrainians find out that a migrant works for PMC Wagner or contributes to the illegal activities of the occupying authorities (for example, if the migrant was hired by the state), he will be sentenced in Ukraine for up to 20 years for complicity in the activities of a terrorist organization.

According to the Convention on the Laws and Customs of War on Land, migrants who dig trenches are not equated with combatants (combatants). But, digging trenches for money and being citizens of another country, they violate the laws and customs of war and become criminals. Therefore, they cannot surrender as prisoners of war, but can only turn themselves in to the legal authorities of Ukraine – and after that receive a life sentence.

It is difficult to say whether the construction of facilities for a clearly military purpose abroad will be interpreted in the homeland of migrants as participation in the conflict. However, the Embassy of Kyrgyzstan in Russia warned that, according to the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic, the participation of citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic in hostilities on the territory of foreign states is punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years with confiscation of property.

In addition, for participation in armed conflicts or hostilities on the territory of a foreign state, a citizen of Kyrgyzstan can be deprived of citizenship.

Now the danger of punishment at home may seem insignificant to diggers, because Kyrgyzstan is critically dependent on Russia. In 2022, the transfers of individuals from there to the republic set a historical record, exceeding $2.7 billion…The authorities of Kyrgyzstan clearly do not want to quarrel with Moscow and are selective about the participation of their citizens in hostilities. Those who fight for Ukraine or simply support it, the authorities tend to punish, but those who fight for Russia do not. Thus, nothing is heard about investigations into the deaths of Kyrgyz citizens who fought with Ukraine on the side of the Russian Federation…However, the foreign policy environment can change quickly. If at some point it becomes profitable for the authorities of Kyrgyzstan to demonstrate neutrality or a critical attitude towards Russian aggression, the citizens of the country, who today are digging trenches in the occupied Ukrainian lands, may end up in prison. Or lose citizenship.


[i] A few resources have become available for Central Asians who are illegally drafted or not allowed to leave Russia, including contact information for organizations in Russia that help migrant workers. These have been distributed through media in the region amid reports that Central Asians have been drafted or denied permission to leave Russia. See: “Что делать, если вас пытаются мобилизовать или не выпускают из России? (What to do if you are possibly mobilized or not allowed to leave Russia),” Asia-Plus, 9 March 2023.

Image Information:

Image: Migrant workers in Moscow, Russia.
Attribution: CCA 2.0

Ukraine War Likely To Reduce Russian Security Commitments in Central Asia

Emomali Rahmon and Vladimir Putin.

Emomali Rahmon and Vladimir Putin.

“Emomali Rahmon and Vladimir Putin discussed issues of expanding cooperation in the field of security, including through military and military-technical cooperation, as well as in the field of defense construction, especially in terms of modernizing the armed forces of Tajikistan and strengthening the protection of the Tajik-Afghan border.”

The Russian government has repeatedly stated it is committed to security in Central Asia and often points to ongoing security assistance to governments in the region and the 201st Military Base in Tajikistan and the 999th Airbase in Kyrgyzstan as proof of its commitment.  The accompanying excerpted articles offer an update on Russian commitments in Central Asia amid its invasion of Ukraine.  The article from the independent news website Fergana Agency reports on President Putin’s visit to Tajikistan to meet with President Emomali Rahmon at the end of June.  The article mentions that the presidents discussed expanding security cooperation, modernizing Tajikistan’s armed forces, and strengthening the Tajik – Afghan border.  The article does not mention how much money Russia will spend or what equipment it will provide.  The article from the independent news website Kloop reports on Putin’s order to begin negotiating with the government of Kyrgyzstan over a joint air defense system.  The article notes that Tajikistan reached a similar agreement for a joint air defense system with Russia last year.  Tajikistan’s Ministry of Defense cited the need to counter the threat posed by terrorist groups potentially using unmanned aerial systems as one reason for the agreement.  Russian spending and security assistance in Central Asia reportedly decreased following the takeover of Crimea and the Donbas in 2014 due to sanctions but rebounded after a couple of years.  While it is unknown how much money and materiel Russia has so far expended in its invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin will probably have little choice but to reduce its commitment to security in Central Asia at least temporarily.


“Путин и Рахмон обсудили модернизацию армии Таджикистана и охрану таджикско-афганской границы (Putin and Rahmon discussed the modernization of Tajikistan’s army and the security of the Tajik-Afghan border),” Fergana Agency (independent news website focusing on Central Asia), 29 June 2022.

The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, discussed the modernization of the armed forces of Tajikistan and the strengthening of the protection of its border with Afghanistan…

Putin arrived in Dushanbe on the evening of June 28 for a two-day visit.  Rahmon personally met him at the airport…

“During the talks, special attention was paid to the development of the situation in Afghanistan and the situation on the Tajik-Afghan border.  In this context, Emomali Rahmon and Vladimir Putin discussed issues of expanding cooperation in the field of security, including through military and military-technical cooperation, as well as in the field of defense construction, especially in terms of modernizing the armed forces of Tajikistan and strengthening the protection of the Tajik-Afghan border.”  – Rahmon’s press service said in a statement…

Munduzbek Kalykov, “Кыргызстан и Россия могут создать объединенную региональную систему ПВО — Путин поручил провести переговоры (Kyrgyzstan and Russia could create a regional air defense system – Putin authorized discussions to be held),” Kloop (independent Russian-language news website in Kyrgyzstan), 8 July 2022.

Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized negotiations with Kyrgyzstan on the creation of a unified regional air defense system. Putin signed this order on July 8.

“Instruct the Russian Ministry of Defense to hold negotiations with the Russian Foreign Ministry with the Kyrgyz side and, upon reaching an agreement, sign the said agreement on behalf of the Russian Federation, allowing changes that are not of a fundamental nature to be made to its draft, approved by the government of the Russian Federation,” the document says…

The same agreement on the creation of a joint regional air defense system with Russia last year was approved by the Parliament of Tajikistan.

Minister of Defense Sherali Mirzo, speaking in parliament, noted that the implementation of this agreement is in the interests of ensuring the security of the airspace of Tajikistan “given the growing regional threats and the emergence of new types of hostilities, such as the widespread use of unmanned aerial vehicles, including by terrorist and extremist groups.” …It was also reported that Russia is negotiating the creation of a joint air defense system with Kazakhstan and Armenia…

Image Information:

Image: Emomali Rahmon and Vladimir Putin
Attribution: CCA 4.0

Central Asian Forces Boosting UAV Capabilities

TAI Anka at Teknofest 2019.

TAI Anka at Teknofest 2019.

“Maintenance and repairs of the UAV will be carried out at a joint venture in Kazakhstan.”

In March 2022, Kyrgyzstan’s Border Guards carried out an exercise with their recently acquired Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).  Shortly after that, Tajikistan’s defense minister visited Turkey and met with representatives from Baykar, the makers of the Bayraktar TB2 being used in Ukraine with much fanfare.  The meeting triggered speculation that Tajikistan is planning to acquire the Bayraktar TB2, but Tajik officials did not confirm this.  The accompanying excerpted articles report on drone-related developments in Central Asia and provide insight into the role they could play in the region over the next several years.

The excerpted article from independent Tajik news website Asia Plus reports on the establishment of an enterprise in Tajikistan for the production of Iranian Ababil-2 UAVs.  The article provides no additional details about the production capacity of the facility, but notes that the Ababil is used mostly for reconnaissance and that it can be equipped as a loitering munition.  The article also quotes U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan as recently saying that the United States “would provide Puma reconnaissance UAVs to the Tajik border guards.”

The excerpted article from independent news website Fergana Agency reports that a new joint Turkish-Kazakh enterprise will produce Turkish Aerospace Industries’ ANKA UAVs in Kazakhstan.  The article notes how Kazakhstan “will become the first foreign country to establish the production of ANKA attack drones” and that the Kazakh government bought three of the UAVs last year.  The early variants of the ANKA were only for reconnaissance, but recent variants can be equipped with a munition and it appears Kazakhstan will use one of these systems.

Neither article states whether Tajikistan or Kazakhstan will put their jointly produced UAVs into service with their respective ministries or another security force.  The governments of Central Asia have always put a high priority on border security forces and if Kyrgyzstan serves as an example, the border guards of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan could be the recipients of the new UAVs.  Regardless, the announcements of two new UAV production facilities shows how much of a priority governments in the region are putting on UAV capabilities.


“В Таджикистане открылось предприятие по производству иранских беспилотников (An enterprise for the production of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles opened in Tajikistan),” Asia Plus (an independent news website in Tajikistan), 17 May 2022.

…an enterprise for the production of Iranian Ababil-2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has opened in Tajikistan. Tajik Defense Minister Sherali Mirzo and Chief of the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Mohammad Bokiri attended the opening…

IRNA reports that the enterprise was built “in order to strengthen and expand joint defense and military cooperation between the two countries thanks to the efforts and assistance of specialists from the Ministry of Defense and support of the Iranian Armed Forces.”…Details about the production capacity of the facility were not reported…

The Ababil is designed primarily for reconnaissance missions… The system can also be equipped with up to 40 kg of explosives, turning it into a loitering munition…

Previously, the U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan, John Mark Pommersheim, stated at a press conference that the U.S. would provide Puma reconnaissance UAVs to the Tajik border guards…

Source: “В Казахстане наладят производство турецких беспилотников ANKA (Production of the Turkish unmanned aerial vehicle ANKA is being set up in Kazakhstan),” Fergana Agency (an independent news website focusing on Central Asia), 11 May 2022.

The Turkish ANKA unmanned aerial vehicle will be produced in Kazakhstan. This was reported by Andolu Agency, referring to the producer of the drones – Turkish Aerospace Industries (TUSAŞ)…

Maintenance and repairs of the UAV will be carried out at a joint venture in Kazakhstan. Thus, it will become the first foreign country to establish the production of ANKA attack drones…

Last year, a contract was signed with the Kazakh side for the supply of ANKA UAVs to the republic. It was reported that Turkey, under this agreement, sold three systems to Kazakhstan…

Image Information:

Image: TAI Anka at Teknofest 2019.
Attribution: CC BY YA 4.0

“Compendium of Central Asian Military and Security Activity v8” by Matthew Stein (2021-01-20)

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Since Central Asian states gained independence in 1991, new regional military and security alliances have been created (some of which are Russian-led), new military partnerships with non-NATO countries have been established, a number of joint military exercises have been conducted, dozens of high-profile incidents of violence and civil unrest have taken place, and military installations have been used by foreign militaries. While this activity gained attention, it has not been collectively compiled. A compilation of this activity can serve as a guide for current and future military and security involvement in Central Asia.

The first section of the compendium is organized alphabetically and includes entries on Central Asian military facilities and installations (bases, air fields, etc.), and military and security organizations past and present. The second section is also organized alphabetically and includes joint exercises of regional militaries and security forces (Note: the exercises are organized alphabetically by the title of exercise and then chronologically if the exercise was part of a series or conducted annually; the names of some exercises are transliterated from Russian, ex. Tsentr, Grom, Poisk, etc., and these are also listed alphabetically with names of the exercises in English; the untitled joint exercises are listed last and are organized chronologically). The third section is a list of Central Asian military and security structures and other (non-joint exercises) security cooperation activity organized by country. The fourth section is a list of major incidents of violence and civil unrest in Central Asia organized by country and then chronologically.

The New Great Game: Chinese Views on Central Asia (Charles Hawkins and Robert Love)

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In August 2005, ten top Chinese scholars traveled to the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) to share their ideas with American participants during a symposium that was hosted by the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office. These scholars brought with them their in-depth research and analysis on a host of topics that impact Central Asia, including energy security, border disputes, and the “three evils” (terrorism, separatism, and extremism), which have been a key objective in combatting by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). They also addressed the role other countries, such as China, Russia, India, and Pakistan, have played in the region. The book is a compilation of the papers that made up the presentation from the visiting scholars. It includes a chapter written by Brigadier General (retired) Feroz Khan from the Pakistan Army, a keynote speaker during the symposium. It is broken down into three parts. The first part offers a framework of understanding of China’s Central Asia policy and relations. Part two covers specific issues and concerns. Part three covers the way ahead. The authors’ unique foreign perspectives on the issues that have drawn concern over Central Asia, give readers a more insightful and diverse view on the region.