“Rapid response” military base in Kyrgyzstan may be set up within days

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a group of seven countries from the post-Soviet Union, including Russia, could soon establish a new military base in the south of Kyrgyzstan.

According to Russian presidential aide Sergey Prikhodko, the base is to be discussed at the CSTO informal summit in the Kyrgyz town of Cholpon-Ata scheduled for July 31-August 1, and an agreement could be signed in the near future.

“In essence, this is not a Russian base. These are efforts in line with CSTO plans to set up a joint rapid reaction force,” Prikhodko said.

The decision to set up a collective rapid reaction force to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the CSTO member states, and to provide security and respond to crisis situations, was made at the CSTO summit on February 4, 2009 in Moscow.

It is expected that units from all CSTO member states – Armenia, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – will be assigned to the new base.

“Why was southern Kyrgyzstan chosen as a new base location? This area is the scene of a lot of problems for Central Asia and the Fergana Valley is the pressure point for the region. If Russia and its allies have troops there – they will deal with the situation,” notes political analyst Vladimir Evseev from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations.

Meanwhile, Russia already operates an airbase in the city of Kant, some 20 kilometers from the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.

As for the American military base at the Kyrgyz airport, Manas, which will be transformed into a transit station for troops and supplies to Afghanistan, Prikhodko said “if the operation of the center is carried out in line with its stated mandate, we will have no formal cause for concern.”

He added, though, that if the mandate is violated, Kyrgyzstan will have to provide explanations to other CSTO members.

The US Air Base in Manas was opened in 2001 and has proven to be key to military operations in Afghanistan.

However, several incidents involving personnel from the base, including the shooting of a local resident, have led to strained relations with residents and authorities.

In February the Kyrgyz Parliament voted to close the base, however it later reversed its decision.