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3 Aug, 2009 09:07

ROAR: Russia increases military presence in Central Asia

ROAR: Russia increases military presence in Central Asia

Moscow achieved positive results at the summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) which took place over the weekend in Kyrgyzstan.

However, analysts predict further obstacles in the development of the CSTO.

Russia managed to come to an agreement with the participants of the CSTO, Kommersant daily reported. Kyrgyzstan will host a Russian military base, and Belarus is to sign an agreement soon on the establishment of a rapid reaction force as part of the military alliance.

Moscow wanted to turn the CSTO, which comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, into a NATO-style organization, Kommersant daily wrote on the eve of the summit.

There were concerns that Minsk, Bishkek and Tashkent would not make any concessions. Failure of the summit might have threatened some ambitious projects, the paper said.

Viktor Mizin, head of the Independent Institute of Strategic Assessment in Moscow, told Komsomolskaya Pravda radio that the CSTO remains a very important organization for Russia.

“It is not a certain pro-Russian analogue of NATO,” he said. Mizin described the CSTO as an organization that is supposed under Russia’s leadership to provide security of its member states and to fight external threats, including the threat of international terrorism.

Mizin believes that this organization has good prospects for development. “To some extent [the CSTO] may replace the non-existing Warsaw Pact.

The only task of the CSTO is to provide security on the entire post-Soviet space where it operates, Mizin said. He also added that the organization may be helpful in preventing terrorist activities and attempts to undermine regimes in Central Asia “under the guise of the so-called color revolutions that are financed from abroad.”

The CSTO will fight such new threats as transnational organized crime, illegal drug trafficking and human trafficking, Mizin stressed.

Each member state of the CSTO has its own armed forces, he said, adding that it is necessary to co-ordinate their activities.

According to Kommersant, Russia pledged to pay in full a $2 billion loan that it had promised Bishkek earlier. As for the Belarusian leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko, “he decided to return to participation in the CSTO without any conditions,” the daily said.

Lukashenko failed to attend the previous CSTO summit in Moscow in June, in protesting over the dairy products dispute with Russia, and did not sign an agreement on the rapid reaction force. In Kyrgyzstan, the leaders agreed to hold military exercises for this force in Kazakhstan in August, and in Belorussia in September, the paper said.

Despite the fact that the summit was informal, it was attended by all seven leaders and it was an achievement in itself, Kommersant said. However, Lukashenko’s press service called his trip to Issyk Kul “a working visit to Kyrgyzstan,” the paper added.

Other Russian papers stress that Moscow could not be absolutely satisfied with the summit’s results. The Belarusian president “failed to sign an agreement on the establishment of the rapid reaction forces,” Moskovsky Komsomolets daily said.

Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon, in his turn, hinted that Moscow will have to pay for the presence of the 201st Russian division in the country, the paper wrote. Uzbek leader Islam Karimov did not change his skeptical attitude to the rapid reaction force, it added.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev put his signature to establish the second Russian military base in his country on a memorandum regarding intentions rather than on the ultimate agreement, Moskovsky Komsomolets added.

Despite these facts, the summit was not a failure for Russia, the paper stressed. Leaders in Central Asian capitals do not want to obey orders from Moscow, but for almost all of them, close relations with Russia are the guarantee of stability in their countries, Moskovsky Komsomolets noted.

There were “official agreements” at the summit, and at the meeting between the Russian and Kyrgyz presidents, Kommersant insists. An anonymous source in the Russian delegation told the paper that Lukashenko did not sign anything in Kyrgyzstan “so that no one could think that Belarus bowed to Russian pressure.”

The Central Asian states continue to demonstrate their “tough position” because they will not feel the external threat until the Americans suppress the Taliban in Afghanistan, Moskovsky Komsomolets said.

Another reason behind Russia’s problems with the CSTO is that Moscow is trying to build it according to NATO’s example, where all the member states do the same thing, the daily noted. “Moscow, should under no circumstances abandon the CSTO,” the paper said. “But we have to do a lot of things in Central Asia only on bilateral basis.”

As for the idea of establishing the rapid reaction force, “it seems that this topic will be forgotten for a while,” Vremya Novostey daily wrote. The paper stressed that participants of the summit did not say anything about the prospects of the force.

The decision about the establishment of the rapid reaction force was considered only two months ago as evidence of solid military cooperation between the CSTO partners, the paper said. “It would be no worse than that of NATO,” the daily quoted the Russian president as saying.

Tashkent is still skeptical about the force and has its “own opinion” about it. Moreover, Uzbekistan does not seem to be happy about the creation of a new Russian base near its borders. Vremya Novostey quoted observers in Tashkent as saying that Uzbekistan’s parliament will soon state its official position about the base in Kyrgyzstan.

At the same time, strengthening Russia’s military presence in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will help to prevent attempts of illegal drug trafficking and the penetration of terrorist groups, Mizin said.

“It is normal that there might be certain misunderstandings between the participants of the CSTO,” Mizin said. “In the end, Moscow has managed to unite its allies,” he added.

Sergey Borisov, RT