Russia has strong ties with the Central Asian countries. Recently, there have been two critical developments in Moscow’s relations with the regional capitals, and these developments shape the balances in the region and the foreign policy steps of the actors.The withdrawal of the United States of America (USA) from Afghanistan has been determining factor in the security dimension of Russia’s influence in Central Asia. Second factor is the Russia-Ukraine War. Russia, on the other hand, is trying to create a power that balances the Western influence in Central Asia in the context of these developments. The Kremlin’s most important tool in this regard is the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
Russia, as a reflection of its interests in the countries of the region, strives to keep security-based cooperation at a high level. As a matter of fact, on May 8, 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kyrgyzstan President Sadr Japarov came together before the Russian Victory celebrations. During the meetings the leaders announced that they would “develop” their military facilities in the Kyrgystan, an ally of Moscow. The Kremlin said in its statement:
“The heads of state emphasized the importance of strengthening the Kyrgyz Republic’s armed forces and developing Russian military facilities on its territory.”
As known, the military cooperation in Bishkek-Moscow relations was provided through the CSTO. In its statement, the Kremlin stated that the two countries are trying to “deepen their military and technical cooperation” as well as their economic and cultural relations in order to “reach a new level of integration.”
Russian and Kyrgyz leaders discussed bilateral relations by holding a phone call in April 2023. In addition to the issues of equations in Eurasia and the integration process, the parties brought up the intention to increase partnerships. Emphasizing the determination to strengthen Russia-Kyrgyzstan relations regarding this meeting, the Kremlin announced that they agreed to continue personal contacts.
Russia-Kryzstan relations, which have the nature of strategic partnership, are also strenghened through joint institutions such as Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and SCTO. The military structure of the aforementioned institutions also creates institutional commitment in terms of security relations. Moreover, the increasing of the importance of Kyrgyzstan within the framework of regional integration initiatives makes the country attractive for Moscow.
With this, there has been a joint Russian military base in the country. The aforementioned base consists of several parts. There is an airbase of SCTO Collective Rapid Reaction Forces in Kant, a naval facility in Issyk-Kul, a seismological center in the southern town of Mailuu-Suu, and a communication center in the town of Chaldybar, near the Krygyz-Kazakh border. The four facilities were united in single entity called the Russian Joint Military Base in 2012.
Russia’s step towards the development of its military capabilities and facilities in Kyrgyzstan can also considered in this context. It can also be said the two countries aim to reach a new level of integration. Therefore, along with economic and cultural relations, the military and technical partnerships are also being deepened. It can be foreseen that various initiatives in this direction will continue in the future. Moscow aims to increase its military engagement with central Asian countries, especially military influence over Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Russia’s military presence in these countries gives Moscow advantages in developing security cooperation and expanding its sphere of influence.
The two countries have taken similar steps in the past to improve their military cooperation. In 2019, Bishkek and Moscow agreed to expand the borders of the Russian base in Kyrgyzstan. Innovations regarding the use of base came to force within the framework of the agreement that took place during Putin’s visit to Kyrgyzstan.
In January 2022, it was stated that two anti-aircraft missile regiments and more than 1,300 pieces of weapons and military equipments would be supplied within the scope of the development of Russian military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Consequwntly, Bishkek and Moscow came to the fore with the joint military exercise they held in February 2023. The joint military exercise within the scope of the CSTO exemplifies the military-security dimension of Russia’s Central Asian policy. Not only developing the military bases, the Moscow administration also exerts influence on Bishkek’s military capabilities through the joint military exercises. Thus, it can be said that the Bishkek-Moscow security partnership has been improved through the CSTO. It can be said that Central Asian countries are trying to take steps within the scope of CSTO in order to respond to the increasing security threats in parallel with the the developments centered in Afghanistan. This can be associated with the aim of maintaining its position as a top-level security platform in the region against the thought that the CSTO is not effective enough.
 “Russia to ‘Develop’ Its Military Facilities in Kyrgyzstan”, The Defense Post, https://www.thedefensepost.com/2023/05/08/russia-military-facilities-kyrgyzstan/, (Date of Accession: 09.05.2023).
 “Russian, Kyrgyz Presidents Discuss Bilateral Relations, Eurasian Integration”, Anadolu Agency, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/russian-kyrgyz-presidents-discuss-bilateral-relations-eurasian-integration/2868265, (Date of Accession: 09.05.2023).
 “Bishkek, Moscow Agree to Expand Russian Base in Kyrgyzstan”, RFERL, https://www.rferl.org/a/russian-military-base-in-kyrgyzstan-under-focus-at-putin-jeenbekov-talks/29847265.html, (Date of Accession: 09.05.2023).
 “Russian Military Bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Receive More Than 70 Pieces of Weapons This Year”, Asia Plus, https://asiaplustj.info/en/news/tajikistan/security/20220125/russian-military-bases-in-tajikistan-and-kyrgyzstan-to-receive-more-than-70-pieces-of-weapons-this-year, (Date of Accession: 09.05.2023).
 “CSTO Countries to Hold Military Drills in Kyrgyzstan Later This Year”, Anadolu Agency, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/world/csto-countries-to-hold-military-drills-in-kyrgyzstan-later-this-year/2819569, (Date of Accession: 09.05.2023).