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Jan 9, 2022
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Made in USA: American footprint in the military heritage of Central Asia

Made in USA: American footprint in the military heritage of Central Asia

Photo: AR / TASS

Weapons labeled “Made in USA” are in less demand in the global arms market – US exports have dropped by about 21 percent. According to the United States Department of State, in 2021 the amount under interstate and private contracts was $ 138 billion, up from $ 175 billion last year.

There are many reasons, including political ones. The president Joe Biden pursues a less aggressive policy in support of American weapons manufacturers, unlike its predecessor Donald Trump… For a number of reasons, the fifth-generation F-35 fighter, on the export of which Washington had high hopes, is also selling with difficulty. Again, competition is increasing to a greater extent in the arms market, where active players are Russia, China, Israel, and European gunsmiths. And the United States also has “untapped opportunities” – countries that have failed to impose their weapons. First of all, this is the region of Central Asia, the states that in Soviet times were called Central Asian.

We are talking about Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, which became independent and independent after 1991 and created their own national armies. The United States began to actively “huddle” them, to offer assistance in training local military personnel, in the supply of weapons and equipment. Washington did not achieve much success in this field – the M-16 automatic rifle did not supplant the Kalashnikov assault rifle, the M1 Abrams tank did not replace the Soviet-Russian T-72. Nevertheless, the USA imprinted their mark here – mostly with the wheels of armored vehicles.

In theory, Washington could have achieved a much greater effect in Central Asia, including with the supply of its weapons, but this did not happen. Largely because the United States focused its military attention on Afghanistan, from where it sought to control the region as opposed to Russia’s influence. However, largely due to the fact that the role of Moscow in the supply of weapons has traditionally been dominant for Tashkent, Nur-Sultan, Bishkek and Dushanbe, Ashgabat, which is more focused on Turkish weapons, has become an exception to this list.

If, say, in Kazakhstan, imports of Russian weapons amounted to 85 percent over the past thirty years, then the United States is content here with 1.4 percent, yielding to Europe and Ukraine. Of the largest parties – American armored vehicles HMMWV (Humvee), which in the amount of 64 vehicles are present in the peacekeeping units “KazBat” and “KazBrig”. At the same time, Kazakhstan is actively building allied relations with the United States.

The fourth five-year military cooperation plan is in force between Nur-Sultan and Washington, covering the period from 2018 to 2022. Its details have not been particularly disclosed, but it is known that it is focused on two main areas: training of Kazakhstani military personnel and cooperation along the naval line, with possible access to the military infrastructure of the Caspian. And, say, the Kazbrig peacekeeping brigade, which is part of the airmobile troops of Kazakhstan, is certified by the Americans for compatibility with NATO troops. The sergeants of this brigade are trained by American instructors, the officers are being trained in the United States.

The actively developing army of Uzbekistan, which is considered the most powerful in Central Asia, also relies heavily on Russian weapons. Now, for example, Tashkent is ready to buy multifunctional Su-30SM fighters from Moscow (this was announced back in 2019). Further on the list of suppliers are China, France and Spain. The United States occupies the fifth position and has again advanced armored vehicles here: M-ATV, MaxxPro Plus, Cougar and RG-33 armored personnel carriers, with a total number of more than 300 units. Their first batch was donated back in 2014. How Uzbekistan got the rest is not known.

The army of Kyrgyzstan is almost one hundred percent equipped with Soviet military equipment. This concerns the armaments of the ground forces and the Air Force; from the relative novelties, one can only name the modernized Russian BRDM-2MS. American weapons are represented by the 120-mm M120 mortar, however, it is the development of the Israeli company Soltam Kb, but is in service with the US Army. During the border conflict between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in April-May 2021, the armies of the two countries, by and large, did not have anything to put out of serious weapons. The clashes at the border have been called “the war of sticks and stones.”

The Tajik army also relies only on old Soviet military equipment, as well as on the Russian 201st military base, the size of which is comparable to the country’s armed forces. There are no weapons with the “Made in USA” stamp here at all, except that in the border areas with Afghanistan you can find American M-16 automatic rifles among the local population. It can be noted that Dushanbe allocates about $ 78 million for the defense budget (Kyrgyzstan, for example, only 20 million).

The armed forces of Turkmenistan are called the “army of peace” – Ashgabat positions itself as a neutral state and relies on a small but well-equipped army. In military-technical cooperation, the stake is placed to a greater extent on Turkey, from which the bulk of the weapons is purchased. Russia and China are somewhat inferior here, but they also have their part of the weapons “pie”: armored vehicles, air defense systems, multiple launch rocket systems, modernization and maintenance of military aircraft is being carried out. The USA is not represented in this market by anything special. The Turkmen Navy has only the Point Jackson patrol boat, which came in cooperation with the United States Coast Guard.

– The United States tried to “privatize” the Central Asian republics immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, – says President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems Leonid Ivashov… – However, they did it somehow lazily, they had enough other more important problems: the war in Iraq, the invasion of Haiti, the bombing in Yugoslavia. In Washington, figuratively speaking, its hands did not reach Central Asia. But Russia, although it was more concerned with its internal problems, in May 1992 managed to create such an important military structure as the CSTO. The composition of the organization has changed and today, from the republics of Central Asia, it includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, Russia has a number of agreements on military-technical cooperation. That is, for the United States, not only is the way closed there, but they are no longer in a position to establish their own rules, including imposing their own weapons.

And when in 2001 the United States, together with the coalition, entered Afghanistan, they were provided with intermediate landing sites for military transport aircraft. They opened the skies in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, which simplified the logistics of supporting American troops in Kabul. But then the words “Yankee, go home” were heard – military bases on the territory of these states did not appear on a permanent basis. Of course, this was also facilitated by the position of Russia, including with the supply of traditional weapons. China and Turkey were actively involved in this process, and the niche for the United States was occupied. So it will be quite problematic for Washington to promote its weapons here, if not completely impossible.

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