24 january 2020

Central Asia news

Arkadiy Dubnov: «The countries, lacking the culture of discussion, are not able to cooperate»

10.02.2009 13:06 msk

Maria Yanovskaya

Interview Russia

The extraordinary summits of EurAsEC and CSTO, which took place in Moscow on February 4th, have resulted in, at first glance, important decisions that require substantial financial investment and strong political will from the member countries. The “Ferghana.ru” correspondent interviewed Arkadiy Dubnov, the expert on Central Asia and international observer of “Vremya Novostey” newspaper, on whether it is possible to view the establishment of 10 billion US dollars antirecessionary fund and operational response collective forces as “advancement”.

Ferghana.ru: - Arkadiy Yurievich, 10 billion US dollars were allocated for antirecessionary fund: of them, seven and half billion is contributed by Russia, one billion is funded by Kazakhstan and the rest billion and a half are donated by Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus proportionally. I do not quite understand where the last three countries will find financing? Are they going to tighten the belts and contribute into pool stock of mutual help?

A.Dubnov: - This does not need to be figured out. All this is just operation on cheek inflation. It seems that we are contributing 7.5 billion but at the same time we are not. It seems that Kazakhs are giving one billion but they have not done that yet. Apparently, neither our seven and a half billion, Kazakhstani billion, nor, particularly, those billion and a half, will ever leave the zone of national banks of EurAsEC member countries. President Medvedev emphasized that during the next month Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Belarus must define when and how much they can put into this fund. Moreover, Belarus just got billion US dollar loan from Russia; does it possess “extra” 500 million?

Ferghana.ru: - Maybe, this is the way to return money?

A.Dubnov: - I would not like to joke now. However, any decision on allocating money from state budget, including those, directed into this antirecessionary fund, must be ratified by the parliaments. So far, no one in Gosduma, for instance, is going to even discuss this issue. There is nothing to discuss.

Ferghana.ru: - If this is just inflation of cheeks, then why EurAsEC decided to inflate the cheeks only for ten billion? Why is it not twenty or fifteen?

A.Dubnov: - The reason is that the fund, established by EurAsEC, must be commensurable to the economies of participating countries. What should be the size of assistance to such countries as Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan, GDP of which does not exceed two billion dollars?

Ferghana.ru: - What if they do not find money to contribute to this fund?

A.Dubnov: - They will not. This is unreal. This means that they will not be able to borrow, although the Antirecessionary fund is established specifically for lending these countries. Let me repeat once again – this is the inflation of cheeks. Russia and Kazakhstan show themselves and entire world community that they are mighty powers with developed economies, the leaders of post-Soviet space that are able to stabilize the recessionary situation even with the help of independent and small IMF.

Ferghana.ru: - What else is known about the fund? For instance, what would be the interest rates for borrowing?

A.Dubnov: - Nothing is known about any draft charter documents. Nobody even witnessed the certain approved decision on the establishment of fund. The public knows nothing. Everything is announced at the press-conferences.

Ferghana.ru: - Does it mean that the only document, confirming the decision on establishment of this fund is shorthand report of press-conferences?

A.Dubnov: - Absolutely. You can view it as verbal declaration of intentions.

Ferghana.ru: - And what about so much discussed Center of high technology? Is it also the inflation of cheeks?

A.Dubnov: - Very few people demonstrate interest to this Center of high technology. If you scan the media reports in EurAsEC countries on the results of the Moscow summits, related to this high-tech idea, you can barely come across any references to this Center. Today, the priority is to provide jobs, fight inflation, ensure the stability of national currencies and avoid social outbreaks. In such conditions the ruling regimes, first and foremost, are concerned with self-protection… Speaking about the leaders of our post-Soviet region, they need to meet more often; they need another reason for this purpose. The Center of high technology, indicated as second point of the summit agenda, is exactly such reason. Seemingly, they do not have any other subjects for conversation.

Ferghana.ru: - All right, what about the launch of operational response collective forces (ORCF)? The President Medvedev indicated that the importance of its establishment is obvious. Is it also obvious for you as well? What is CSTO going to promptly respond to? And why do these units need to be “no worse than NATO”? Are the weaponry and the equipment going to be purchased from NATO countries?

A.Dubnov: - You understood nothing.

Ferghana.ru: - Absolutely nothing about ORCF. This is why I am asking.

A.Dubnov: - CSTO is the organization, Russia needs first of all in order to load its military industrial establishment and sell Russian weaponry to itself and OSCE member countries at Russian prices.

Ferghana.ru: - Do we have such modern weaponry?

A.Dubnov: - I am not an expert on weaponry and I am a wrong person to ask about this. If someone needs arms – they purchase them abroad. This is the market. For instance, Kazakhs organize bids with the participation of western firms in order to establish independent air defense.

Ferghana.ru: - Who is going to supply arms to ORCF?

A.Dubnov: - Russia. Otherwise, what is the need for them?

Ferghana.ru: - What do the words “no worse than NATO” mean in this case?

A.Dubnov: - Why does it have to be worse? We have our own pride.

Ferghana.ru: - Well, we de facto have outdated weaponry!

A.Dubnov: - Why do you say so? For instance, there is common opinion that NATO is very afraid of our “Iskander” rockets…

Ferghana.ru: - And are we going to equip the soldiers of operational response units with “Iskander” rockets and hand in one rocket to each soldier? All right. Could you please tell me why it is obligatory for us to be no worse than NATO? Are we going into war with NATO? If we are going to fight with Taliban, we must be no worse than Taliban, I suppose…

A.Dubnov: - There is a different logic. NATO does not admit CSTO. CSTO has been attempting to make friends with NATO as a partner for many years, acting against terrorism threats, drug trafficking, racketeering, separatism… However, NATO does not want to recognize CSTO as an equal partner. They say they will cooperate with CSTO member countries on a bilateral level and each of the countries, participating in CSTO, is interested in these or other preferences from NATO.

NATO is the structure that proved its efficiency and can provide military support at higher level than the assistance from Russia. Moreover, all the CSTO countries this or another way participate in the NATO-sponsored “Partnership for peace” program.

How could NATO seriously treat CSTO if the issue of admitting Uzbekistan in CSTO is resolved within three hours? Putin met Karimov two years ago in Sochi. They came out and announced: as of now, Uzbekistan is the member of CSTO again. After single meeting of two presidents? The membership in such organization means the agreement of internal legal acts with the charter and rules of this organization. Great amount of agreements, developed during these years, need to be signed. How can the organization, where the decisions are made and approved this way, be respected at the international level? And, now, Uzbekistan is still not the member of CSTO! Uzbekistan still has not signed all necessary documents. CSTO used to have “fast deployment” collective forces. Now they are named “operational response” forces. My question: where is the promise of Kremlin, made on the eve of summit, saying that the issue of ORCF creation is so well worked out that the new forces will have permanent dislocation and we suggest dislocating them at Russian territory? However, after the conclusion of summit it became clear that nobody is discussing this issue any more. No single country was ready to send their battalions – allegedly, they agreed to send one battalion – outside their national territory. Again, we witness no movement forward as it took place with the launch of “fast deployment” forces, which existed only on paper. Following the summit, the President Medvedev referred to them as “paper forces” that were “promptly deployed only on paper”…

Again, as we witnessed at the CSTO summit, Uzbekistan came up with special opinion: Karimov did not support the proposal of N. Nazarbayev on cooperation of not only military, but also emergency response, internal affairs forces and special services. Meanwhile, the threats, to be neutralized by ORCF, are natural disasters and terrorism…How are they going to cope with these problems, equipped only with military arsenal? Tanks against natural disasters? Or against terrorists? Considering the fact that these forces are established, first of all, for operations in Central Asia – while Uzbekistan is the heart of this region – we can only guess about the efficiency of newly formed units that were rejected from the special service assistance.

Ferghana.ru: - Does it mean that the launch of ORCF is the same “paper” story as the previous fast deployment forces?

A.Dubnov: - Absolutely. Lord forbid, one of the CSTO member countries faces the situation that took place in Andijan in May 2005. Moscow was ready to offer assistance at that time. Tashkent rejected. And we all know how they restored peace there…I will repeat – Lord forbid, if this happens somewhere again, no single country will undermine its sovereignty, inviting Russian special forces.

Ferghana.ru: - Then, why do they agree to participate in these ORCF?

A.Dubnov: - The reason is that they are perfectly aware that ORCF will not function anyway. These are games and imitation of active work. No CSTO country, except for, maybe, Kazakhstan, has escaped the transition period. Their national sovereignty still depends on Russia and, therefore, they fear Russia, particularly after the August war in Caucasus. Moscow needs CSTO more than others.

Ferghana.ru: - Interpreting your words, it comes out that no single initiative, undertaken under EurAsEC and CSTO, will ever work?

A.Dubnov: - These countries have too diverse values and too different purposes. The normal cooperation is impossible between the states that traditionally do not have the culture of open discussion and respect to other’s opinion. They are not able and not willing to collaborate. These are the countries with authoritarian rule and they are not interested in each other as much. What kind of cooperation can we talk about if Uzbekistan conducts the policy of isolationism? How can the countries with no market economies endorse economic cooperation? Yes, there is some property there, but it belongs to either ruling clans or oligarchs, supported by officials. The integration assumes open collaboration, competition and ability to conduct discussion.

The only effective result of all these meetings is bilateral agreements between Moscow and Kyrgyzstan. The rest of it is just a sandy castle.

Ferghana.ru: - Do you include the agreement on “Manas” airbase into these contracts?

A.Dubnov: - Today, Russian government at all levels underlines that the decision on Manas is the independent will of Kyrgyzstan and that Moscow does not have any relation to that. And more they state this, more it becomes clear that, yes, Moscow contributed to the declaration of Bishkek. I cannot understand why it was necessary to make the Kyrgyz President declare this in Moscow. If this is a sovereign state, why such statement was announced not at home, where it has been expected since January, and not in USA, but at the territory of third country? And in response to the question of Russian journalists? And Russia, like it was excusing itself for the statement of Bakiev, immediately rushed to confirm that it will still be cooperating with the forces of anti-terrorist coalition.

All the expectations, predicting that Kyrgyzstan was going to declare the withdrawal of base, came true. Moscow directs the message to new administration of Obama: respect our opinion, pay more attention to our capabilities and our role in Central and Afghanistan. We can buy the allies for two billion US dollars. All the matters, related to the transit of cargo through Central Asia and deployment of bases, need to be preliminarily agreed with us. Underline our role. Americans heard and understood this message.

Ferghana.ru: - Are not Americans going to withdraw the base?

A.Dubnov: - This is also important moment. Russians, Kyrgyz and Americans realize that new trade has been launched. Americans will remain in Kyrgyzstan: maybe, they will take shoulder-strap off or, maybe, change the dislocation, for example, moving to Osh. They will pay more. Perhaps, the joint Russian-American contingent will be created for the work on Afghanistan. Pay attention to the fact that the parliament of Kyrgyzstan did not rush to discuss the issue over Manas – they are waiting for the response from Americans. Kyrgyz are independent and nobody will hasten them with the resolution over Manas, because it was a sign.

Ferghana.ru: - And the loans as well?

A.Dubnov: - 150 million US dollar grant will be definitely received. If Bishkek executes its promise to transfer 48 percent of “Dastan” plant shares to the benefit to Russia, the Kyrgyz foreign debt will be discharged. 300 million US dollar loan might be also received since the holes in the Kyrgyz state budget need to be covered. Regarding the loan, designated for the construction of Kambarata hydroelectric plant, one needs to realize that, today, even Russia does not have such amount and this decision has not been ratified by Russian parliament yet. We make the same mistakes again that already affected us in Tashkent. We have supported Karimov against Rahmon there and now we support Bakiev against Karimov. If the cooperation with Kyrgyzstan on the construction of hydroelectric plants is shaped into the forms of realistic agreement and real horizons, we can believe that our relations with Tashkent will fall to the ground level again; in this case, we will have to start everything over.

Ferghana.ru: - But Russia cannot subordinate all its financial interests to the relations with Tashkent?

A.Dubnov: - So far we can say that we paid for anti-American motion by the promise of American money.