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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Warplanes Heading to Kyrgyzstan

Russia's efforts to beef up its military presence in Central Asia are gaining new momentum this week as a group of warplanes arrives at an airbase outside the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek.

Two Il-76 cargo planes delivered equipment and personnel to the Kant base on Saturday, the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry said.

The first of up to 20 Su-25 attack planes and Su-27 fighters began arriving Monday, the ministry said.

A Russian air force official confirmed the deployment plans.

The deployment of the aircraft, equipment and personnel will transform the Kyrgyz base into a full-fledged air force base that will operate under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty, or DKB, which in addition to Russia includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The development of the Kant base, which will have about 500 personnel, will be followed by a reinforcement of DKB rapid reaction forces in Central Asia, Interfax reported, citing a source in the Moscow-based DKB secretariat. The force, which DKB signatories agreed to establish last year, will eventually have 6,000 servicemen, the source said.

Reached by telephone Monday in Moscow, DKB officials refused to comment on plans for the rapid reaction force.

The expansion of DKB's military presence in Central Asia is designed to deter local Islamic extremists who seek to overthrow local secular governments as well as to balance the Western military presence "to some extent," according to Alexander Pikayev of the Moscow Carnegie Center.

The overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan has dealt a major blow to Central Asia's Islamic extremists, who used Afghan territory to launch incursions. However, "they are still a major threat that needs to be deterred," Pikayev said in a telephone interview Monday.

Reinforcement of DKB forces will also serve as "some kind of a counterbalance" to the mostly U.S. and French troops and aircraft that were deployed in the region last year to provide support for the operation in Afghanistan, he said.

Kant is aout 20 kilometers from Bishkek, where U.S. and French troops are based at Manas International Airport.

Six out of the 15 former Soviet republics signed the collective security treaty in Tashkent in 1992. Three more signed on in 1993, but the treaty, which requires joint military force to ward off any infringement on a signatory's territorial integrity, mostly remained on paper.

Moreover, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan pulled out of the treaty, with Tbilisi demanding withdrawal of Russian troops and announcing that it would like to join NATO.

The six remaining members agreed in May in Moscow to establish the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty. The leaders of the six nations agreed to sell arms to one another at a discount and help train personnel, but failed to establish a joint military command.

Russia has advanced furthest in military cooperation with Belarus. Also, Russian air defense forces are on joint combat duty with all current DKB members.