Kyrgyzstan’s Appeal to the CSTO Regarding the Border with Tajikistan

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On 19 October 2022, Kyrgyzstan Defence Minister Baktybek Bekbolotov proposed a plan for resolving border disputes with Tajikistan. Calling for the deployment of the contingents of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, Bekbolotov stated: [1]

“In the meeting, we had with the CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas, I offered to send a small contingent telling him that there will be no peace between us (Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) until a third judge stands between us. To resolve the conflict, I proposed the deployment of a small CSTO contingent in our disputed territories. This will serve to supervise the ceasefire and withdraw heavy equipment from the state border.”

Bekbolotov explained that if this proposal is actualized, the problem of determining the political border will be solved. On 18 October 2022, CSTO Secretary General Zas met with the President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe, and the parties discussed the military and political situation in the region, especially the strengthening of security measures at the Tajik-Afghan border. The meeting was held within the framework of the high-level conference on International and Regional Border Security and Management Cooperation to Counter Terrorism held in Dushanbe on 18-19 October 2022.

At the conference, Rahmon declared that due to the transfer of foreign fighters from the Middle East, various terrorist organizations in Afghanistan have strengthened their positions and that this situation poses a serious threat to the countries of the region. During the Rahmon-Zas meeting, issues such as the development of cooperation with Tajikistan within the framework of the CSTO were discussed. The President of Tajikistan evaluated the CSTO as an important factor in ensuring the security and stability of the region.[2]

As it is known, the primary security threat for Tajikistan comes from the southern borders. Speaking for Kyrgyzstan, border conflicts with Tajikistan have caused security problems in recent years. Tajikistan has serious external support in the fight against the threat posed by Afghanistan. Dushanbe feels more secure against threats from its neighbors owing to its cooperation with the CSTO, including bilateral agreements. Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, cannot get the support it expects from the CSTO regarding its national security issues.

Securing the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border is as important for Dushanbe as it is for Bishkek. While Dushanbe has focused all its attention on the southern borders, it may have to face instability on both the southern and northern borders in case of conflicts on the northern borders. In addition, although Tajikistan has a problematic relationship with the Taliban, it is thought that the Taliban will not engage in a war with Afghanistan’s northern neighbors in the current conjuncture. Therefore, the primary concern for the countries of the region is the strengthening of radical groups in Afghanistan.

As can be predicted, in such a case, the conflicts on the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border may turn into a major problem for the CSTO. In other words, Bishkek wants CSTO to prioritize not only the southern borders of Tajikistan but also the conflicts in the Fergana Valley.

The border conflicts that Kyrgyzstan has with Tajikistan both cause great damage to the country’s economy and discredit the Kyrgyz Government in the public eye. If Bishkek steps back in border conflicts, Kyrgyz public opinion will see this as a defeat. Refusing to back down and retaliating leads to a further increase in conflicts and thus an increase in casualties. In addition, the escalation of conflicts may cause two problems that pose an even greater threat. The first is the risk that the border conflicts will turn into an extensive war. The second is the possibility of turning Tajikistan into a long-term enemy.

The Government of Kyrgyzstan is aware that there will be problems in terms of economic development and integration into the international economy as long as border problems with its neighbors continue to exist. Kyrgyzstan, which has difficulty securing its southern borders on its own, tries to do this through the CSTO. According to the Bishkek administration, the deployment of the CSTO peacekeeping force at the border will also reduce the cost spent on defense.

While Kyrgyzstan wants to solve its problem through the CSTO, a new opportunity arises for the organization as well. Bishkek has entered the process of losing its dignity in the eyes of the members of the CSTO. Kyrgyzstan declared that the CSTO should be restructured and that the organization does not serve its interests. In addition, Armenia has reached the point of separation from the alliance. Although Kazakhstan actively operates within the CSTO, it experiences insecurity due to its relations with Russia.

In this context, Kyrgyzstan’s proposal to deploy the CSTO on the border with Tajikistan will lead the alliance to adopt a new mission and role and increase the confidence that it is operational again. Bishkek’s proposal is viewed as a positive development in terms of both supporting the dignity of the organization and its relations with Kyrgyzstan. However, it can be said that if the alliance adopts the proposal of Kyrgyzstan, there will be certain adverse outcomes.

First of all, this situation will be reflected in Yerevan’s relations with the CSTO. The acceptance of Kyrgyzstan’s proposal by the CSTO, which rejected Yerevan’s proposal in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflicts, will accelerate Armenia’s separation from the CSTO.

The second is related to Tajikistan’s reaction to this since the approval of Dushanbe is required to establish a peacekeeping force at the border. Otherwise, there will be the impression that the peacekeeping force at the border is deployed to limit Tajikistan. The initiative could also be interpreted by Dushanbe as Moscow’s support for Bishkek.

The third is related to Uzbekistan’s stance. Since Tashkent is not a member of the CSTO, it may oppose the deployment of a collective peacekeeping force including Russian soldiers in a region close to Uzbek borders. In the past years, the Tashkent administration opposed the establishment of a military base by any third country in the regions close to its borders. Tashkent will probably approach this issue with a similar perspective.

It can be estimated that Zas opened Kyrgyzstan’s proposal for discussion during his meeting with Rahmon in Dushanbe. The President of Kyrgyzstan, who made a similar proposal before, explained the necessity of stabilizing the border conflict to the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin at the meeting held in Astana. However, Dushanbe has never been willing to accept this proposal.

As a result, if Russia supports Kyrgyzstan, several problems may arise on the Dushanbe-Moscow line. In fact, at the “Russia-Central Asia” meeting held in Astana, Rahmon stated that Russia should respect the Central Asian countries and declared Moscow’s attitude a disturbance.

[1]“Глава Минобороны Кыргызстана предлагает выставить посты миротворцев ОДКБ на проблемных участках границы с Таджистаном”, Interfax,, (Date of Accession: 20.10.2022).

[2]“Рахмон и генсек ОДКБ выступили за усиление охраны таджикско – а little гранской границы”, Tass,, (Date of Accession: 20.10.2022).

Lisans öğrenimini Ankara Üniversitesi Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde tamamlayan Dr. Sabir Askeroğlu, yüksek lisans derecesini Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda almıştır. Doktora eğitimini İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Siyaset Bilimi ve Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda tamamlayan Dr. Askeroğlu, çeşitli düşünce kuruluşlarında görev yapmıştır. Başlıca ilgi alanları, Avrasya çalışmaları ve Rus dış politikası olan Dr. Askeroğlu, iyi derecede Rusça ve İngilizce bilmektedir.