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Issue # 1399      18 February 2009

Security upgrade in Central Asia

At the beginning of February this year a meeting took place in Moscow which may have very long-term effect on the world security. The Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) is transforming itself into a full-blooded military bloc which will be as powerful as NATO, according to Russian President Medvedev.

The CSTO is a security grouping which consists of former Soviet republics of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

The treaty, signed in 1992 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, remained practically dormant until 2000, when Russia began regaining its influence in Central Asia.

In 2002 an organisation with a permanent structure was set up on the basis of the treaty. This was at the time when Russia and the United States vied for a leading role in Central Asia where the USA set up its bases after 2001 to supply NATO’s troops in Afghanistan.

The US is pulling out of most Central Asian republics where it originally deployed its forces – Kyrgyzstan is the latest in deciding to scrap its agreement with the USA on the Manas Air Base.

The US is not very happy about this development but it has been offered cooperation in supplying its troops in Afghanistan by land.

Current events show a strong desire on the part of CSTO members to pursue an independent policy in this area, keeping third countries out. A collective rapid-response force will give the CSTO a quick tool to deal with whatever emergency develops (leaving no time for third parties to intervene).

The stated aim of the rapid response military force will be to repulse military aggression, conduct anti-terrorist operations, fight transnational crime and drug trafficking, and neutralise the effects of natural disasters.

The force will be permanently based in Russia and placed under a single command, with CSTO member countries contributing special military units.

The creation of this post-Soviet regional security bloc may also indicate that the former Soviet republics are continuing the trend towards closer cooperation and mutual assistance.

It also means that the USA may have less opportunity to gain control of the region’s rich resources (gas and oil) and create tensions between countries such as China and Russia through the use of its military bases in the region.

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