Staunton, October 13 – Central Asian gastarbeiters in Russia are likely to be among the first foreigners to serve in the Russian military in Syria, now that Vladimir Putin has opened the way for that, a development that will allow Moscow to address three problems at one and the same time.
First of all, the Central Asians, most of whom are Sunni, will provide reinforcements for that religious trend against the Shiites in Syria; and their presence will further muddy the waters as to who is serving whom in that conflict by giving Moscow plausible deniability (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/10/putin-comes-up-with-another-way-to-hide.html).
Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya, a specialist on the Caucasus at the International Crisis Group, tells Anton Chablin that she believes that Putin’s action is all about Syria. It won’t lead to a significant increase in fighters there, but it will give Moscow more flexibility there and elsewhere (svpressa.ru/war21/article/183457/).
“It is important to strengthen the Sunni presence” in Syria, she says; and “people from Central Asia” are predominantly Sunni and will fill that bill. Moreover, Sokiryanskaya adds, the Central Asians will be enthusiastic about fighting against ISIS and gaining access to the pursuit of a military career in Russia.That view is echoed as well by Abdullo Davlatov, the former head of the Union of Tajikistanis of Russia, who has declared that he is “certain” the migrants from Central Asia “will willingly fight in the ranks of the Russian Army in against the militants of the Islamic State (govoritmoskva.ru/news/137489/).
Second, it will help solve Moscow’s own military manpower problems occasioned by its demographic crisis. And third, it will please both Russians who will be glad to see the gastarbeiters take on this burden and the gastarbeiters as well by offering them higher pay and a path to Russian citizenship, as both Sokriyanskaya and Davlatov suggest.