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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev Faces Balancing Act in Central Asia

President Dmitry Medvedev will arrive in Dushanbe on Thursday to kick off a trip intended to bolster his country’s influence in Central Asia, meeting with the leaders of Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan before a two-day security conference in Kyrgyzstan.

According to the agenda for Medvedev’s trip released Wednesday by the Kremlin, he will hold talks with Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon and also meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zadari.

The leaders will discuss regional cooperation and the possibility of selling Tajik electricity to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Tajikistan has a severe electricity deficit, however, and has struggled in the past to get through winters without rationing power use.

On Friday, Medvedev and Rakhmon will attend the official opening of the Sangtudinskaya hydroelectric power plant, which produces about 12 percent of Tajikistan’s power. Russia invested $550 million in the project, which was completed in November, and controls 75 percent. The rest belongs to Tajikistan.

From there, Medvedev will travel to Russia’s most loyal ally among the former Soviet states, Kyrgyzstan, for an informal summit of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, that will end Saturday.

The summit — which will also be attended by the presidents of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — will follow up on a preliminary agreement in February to create a joint emergency-response military force.

Political analysts said the trip was part of Moscow’s strategy of keeping its former satellites under its influence by acting as a broker among them, which some said has stopped being fruitful.

Construction of the power plant and Russian attempts to boost its military presence in Kyrgyzstan have drawn a negative reaction from Uzbekistan, which strives to maintain a more independent foreign policy than its neighbors.

Moscow has had to strike a delicate balance in the region to prevent leaders from falling under the influence of other global powers, such as the United States and China, which are actively building ties there.

Ivan Safranchuk, a Central Asia analyst, said that with the United States managing to keep a military base in Kyrgyzstan earlier this month, Russia may pay less attention to Uzbekistan — which is believed to have held talks about opening a U.S. base on its soil earlier this year — and press ahead with its projects in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

“Moscow’s tactics dating back to the 1990s of winning concessions from its allies by acting as arbiter and balancing their interests no longer work. Instead, the former Soviet republics win concessions from Russia by threatening to leave its sphere of influence,” he said.

In February, Moscow issued a $2 billion anti-crisis loan to Kyrgyzstan, gave its government a grant of $150 million and forgave $180 million in debt. The same day, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was re-elected last week, announced that his government would evict the United States from the Manas military air base, which it has used since 2001 for the war in Afghanistan.

Washington has since won permission to stay after offering a dramatic increase in the rent and securing tacit approval from Moscow.

Safranchuk suggested that Western noninvolvement in the presidential elections was part of the deal. Western-backed opposition protests led to regime changes in Georgia and Ukraine in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

Kyrgyz police arrested on Wednesday dozens of opposition activists who marched in protest of the election results, claiming that they were falsified.

Safranchuk and Alexander Khramchikhin, a security expert with the Institute for Political and Military Analysis, agreed that Medvedev was going to Kyrgyzstan to remind Bakiyev that he owes his victory to Moscow.

The Kremlin had not congratulated Bakiyev on his win, but Medvedev said in a statement Wednesday that “the elections are evidence of a high level of trust from the Kyrgyz people.”

Moscow also desperately needs to demonstrate progress on the joint military task force, which it started pushing after last year’s conflict with Georgia, the analysts said.

The last summit — held in Moscow last month amid a trade war with Minsk — was snubbed by Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, who said then that a decision on the joint forces was illegitimate because no consensus was achieved in Moscow. Uzbekistan also did not sign the agreement.

Sergei Prikhodko, Medvedev’s foreign policy aide, said Wednesday that the Kremlin hoped that Lukashenko would attend and sign the agreement.

The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Lukashenko’s administration had confirmed that he would attend the summit, to be held in the town of Cholpon-Ata on the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.

Russia will also press ahead with the creation of a Russian-Kyrgyz anti-terrorist center in Kyrgyzstan, said Alexander Knyazev, a Bishkek-based analyst with the Russian Institute of the Commonwealth Countries. Uzbekistan, which has an unsettled territorial dispute with Kyrgyzstan over the Osh Valley, has objected to the plan, he said.

Prikhodko said Wednesday that Russia and Kyrgyzstan had agreed on the parameters of the new military base there.