Gabala radar station is not worth a brass farthing?

By Arthur Pryjmak

In late 2012, the lease term of Gabala radar station expires. Azerbaijan insists on inherently disadvantageous for Russia conditions of the contract extension. Previously Moscow paid Baku $ 7.5 million per year, but now Baku demands $ 300 million. At the same time, the lease term reduces from 49 to 7 years. Russian Defense Ministry, in order to optimize costs, has decided to close the Russian sector of the school and hospital, sending families of the officers away from Azerbaijan. The officers' wives took it as a disaster and began to appeal to all authorities. One of the recipients was the military commentator of "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" Viktor Litovkin. GTimes reporter spoke with him on the problems of the Gabala radar station.

- Viktor Nikolayevich, how have you learned about the problems of the wives of the officers at the Gabala radar station? What have you learned?

- They have contacted me personally and expressed their justifiable fears. For example, the warrant officer of Russian armed forces Olesya Katkova, who serves at the Daryal together with her husband, major, is in a maternity leave to care for a baby. In addition to baby-infant, they have two children. One is five years, the other is ten. After the the Russian military leave the Daryal, this family has no place to go. She has nowhere to go - her parents have no place to live. It is not clear where rent an apartment. It is not clear where to place a children, since the parents have no Russian registration. The older boy needs to go to school on September 1. No one in the family knows where and how he will learn. Or Natalia Kasymov. This year she was notified that she should take her son, a pupil, from school and Azerbaijan. It is unclear where.

Her husband, Lieutenant Colonel of Russian armed forces Polad Kasymov, was arrested by the authorities of Azerbaijan in April this year. A Russian officer, a native of Baku was sentenced to eight years in prison on trumped-up charges of espionage. Lieutenant Colonel Kasymov was the victim of a dirty political game, and his family - a hostage of the circumstances. Where should the son of Lieutenant Colonel go? In Baku, the home of his father, it's unlikely that someone is waiting him, and in Novosibirsk, the home of his mother, there will be no supervision for him.
- It's similar to the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Germany and former republics of the Baltic States. Many officers, referring to this, say that the Russian Defense Ministry has betrayed them. What's the situation in this case?

- There is no betrayal on the part of the Russian Defense Ministry in this case. There are inter-state relations between Russia and Azerbaijan. This year Azerbaijan puts certain conditions to Russia: increase of rents from $ 7.5 million per year to $ 300 million. Russia's lease of Gabala radar station expires this year. Moscow and Baku are still unable to agree on further terms of the leases. Under the service regulations, officers from the Gabala radar station are subjected to the Supreme commander-in-chief and the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation. There are no clear orders from these institutions. What kind of betrayal can we talk about? Russia is now looking for a way out of the negotiating impasse.
- Do the military personnel and their families want to leave the Gabala garrison and move to Russia?

- Of course, the military does not want to leave the Gabala radar. It's wonderful place with ecologically clean air and beautiful nature. Monetary and material support of the personnel of the radar is very good, by Russian standards. The main thing - there is a feeling of certainty in the future. There are also disadvantages. For example, children of the officers are studying in the Russian section of the Azerbaijan school, where officers' wives are working. Russian Ministry of education does not recognize matriculation certificate, issued by this school, and it is impossible to enter a Russian higher educational institution with this certificate. Inpatient medical care for radar personnel is being provided by military field hospital, where Azerbaijani standards are being applied to the treatment. Due to the fact that the staff of the Russian hospital treated by Azerbaijani standards, the military doctors from the Gabala can have difficulties with the Russian health care system. The officers' families have the problems of a personal nature, but they can cope and adapt to them. When measured life of the military garrison changes with the dramatic speed, the life of each soldier breaks through the knee. Any military or member of the family of a military knows it.
- How do you think, what is the real cause of the negotiating impasse around the Gabala radar?

- The question about the future of the Gabala radar is rather political. The political leadership of Azerbaijan has put clear task before their military negotiators - not to yield to the requirements of the Russians. As for official Baku, it plays on the set of geopolitical contradictions: the relations between Russia and the United States, the positions of Russia in the Caucasus, Russia's relations with Iran. Russia is in friendly relations with Iran, and Azerbaijan with Israel, thus this exacerbates the problem. Russia has a lot of close contacts with Armenia - the antagonist of Azerbaijan. Here is very much linked to geopolitics and financial considerations. For example, the Azerbaijani side tells the Russian side, that in the case of Russia's persistence

Gabala will be transferred to the Americans. But in fact Baku is misleading the Russian side. Gabala radar won't become the American base, because the Americans do not need it. Software at this station is Russian. Leaving the radar, the Russians will take all the software. Without the software Gabala is useless pile of metal encased in stone. Americans won't waste time and money on the conversion of the radar, because it is expensive and meaningless. It is easier and cheaper to build a new one. It is obvious that Azerbaijan is carrying out a dirty political game and blackmailing Russia. Russian officers and their wives are scapegoats in this game.
The Georgia Times