Trilateral Russian, Tajik and Uzbek military drills will begin today near the Uzbek-Afghan border.
The exercise comes amid Russia’s efforts to enhance cooperation with its Central Asian neighbors following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Believing that the American retreat represents both a unique opportunity to enhance Russia’s influence in Central Asia and increased risk of novel hybrid threats associated with terrorism, Moscow has stepped-up its regional engagement. Fearing an influx of Islamic State and Taliban fighters to Russia’s neighbors, Moscow has recently reinforced its military presence in Tajikistan, adopting a proactive stance against the potential increase in terrorist threats.
In the short- to medium-term, expect Russia to increase cooperation with neighboring Central Asian states such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan—especially in the security and intelligence sectors. Furthermore, Moscow will likely lean on its regional clout to discourage collaboration between Dushanbe, Tashkent and Washington.
The Pentagon aspires to deploy US forces in Afghanistan to bases throughout Central Asia, with the Kremlin warning this would significantly impact US-Russian relations. Despite discussions between Moscow and Washington on the subject, the issue of American redeployment from Afghanistan to states directly bordering Russia may represent yet another impediment to mending the US-Russia relationship.
Wake up smarter with an assessment of the stories that will make headlines in the next 24 hours. Download The Daily Brief.
Sinan is an analyst for the Current Developments Team and a regular contributor to the Daily Brief. A student of transatlantic affairs, he specialises in political, economic and energy affairs of Europe and the Middle East.