The need to reinforce the Russian base in Tajikistan is due to its proximity to the Afghanistan border and the terrorist threat originating there, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu told an RBC correspondent.
“On the Afghanistan border, from the side of the border where terrorists migrate from various regions of the world, in this case primarily from Syria. And in since the operation there has virtually finished, they [the terrorists] are moving to two places: Libya and Afghanistan. And of course this is why it is necessary [to reinforce the bases]. It is necessary to ensure the security of the commonwealth’s southern borders,” Shoygu said.
The base in question is the 201st military base, formerly the 201st motorized rifle division. It is one of Russia’s strongest military bases outside its own territory. In 2015, the base acquired attack and transport helicopters, and two years later it acquired an Uragan multiple rocket launcher division. An agreement with the Tajikistan government gives the Russian base the right to remain in the country at least until 2042.
Initially the base had facilities not only in Dushanbe, but also in Kulob and Gurgonteppa (renamed to Bokhtar in 2018). However, the Russian troops abandoned their facilities in Kulob in 2015, and the Russian government decided to hand over the facilities (officers’ dormitories, classrooms, warehouses, transformer stations, a kindergarten, various buildings and other infrastructure) to Tajikistan free of charge.
The decision to forego payment was officially motivated by the desire to avoid “adversely affecting the friendly negotiation process between the countries”. The fear of being charged rent for the facilities and land that remain used by the Russian base was also a likely factor. At present, Russia does not pay any rent for the facilities it occupies in the republic. The Russian government estimates that it could be charged as much as 6 billion rubles (around $93,7 million) per year if Tajikistan were to demand rent.