Will Russia withdraw troops from Baikonur?
Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome can be made a completely civilian object, minister of Kazakhstan's defense and aerospace industry Beibut Atamkulov said.
"Indeed, the issue of military withdrawal from the Baikonur cosmodrome is being considered by Russia," he said. "So far, we have not yet conducted concrete bilateral talks on this issue, but work is being done in this direction," Interfax cited Atamkulov as saying.
"This also has its advantages," the minister believes. "Perhaps attracting open commercial projects," he clarified.
Russia pays an annual fee of approximately $115 million to use Kazakhstan's Baikonur space center.
A military observer of the TASS news agency, retired Colonel Viktor Litovkin, speaking with the correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that the Russian military's withdrawal from Baikonur is a distant possibility. "In fact, the issue of withdrawing Russian troops from Baikonur and turning Baikonur into a civilian object has been discussed for quite some time. But the fact that rocket launches are professional responsibility of the military continues to be an obstacle. A rocket launch is a series of expensive measures, including the rocket delivery, installation and monitoring - only special military space services are able to do it now," he pointed out.
In addition, the process of transferring military property to civilian use is a rather complicated and lengthy procedure. "The property issues should be coordinated with the various services. So the negotiations are underway, but it will take some time to complete them, and withdraw our troops from the Baikonur. In the future, we will be able to compensate the loss of Baikonur with the Vostochny Cosmodrome, but it still needs to be finished," Victor Litovkin said.
Russian Academy of Natural Sciences' member, Russian Academy of Military Sciences member, Professor Sergei Fokin noted the Russian army's redundant use of the cosmodrome. "Now there are two cosmodromes in Russia - Plesetsk and Vostochny, they are quite enough for military needs. And it will be better for Russia to finish Vostochny, than pay Kazakhstan more than $100 million for Baikonur annually," he said.
Sergei Fokin also stressed that negotiations on the withdrawal of Russian military from Baikonur have been conducted only for economic reasons. "There is no policy here, costs are being optimized. And it will even be better for everyone when Baikonur will become civilian facility. Russian companies will be able to actively participate in its launches, put their satellites into orbit, the cosmodrome's work will be more transparent and open," the professor explained.