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Moscow sees CSTO as reliable screen from western, southern threats

December 21, 2011, 16:18 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

The military and political alliance of post-Soviet states – the Collective Security Treaty Organization – is expected to serve as a reliable screen in the way of threats from the West and the South. Measures to restrict Western influences in the territory of the former USSR was the main outcome of the CSTO summit, which took place in Moscow on Tuesday, analysts say. Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan agreed on the rules of placement of foreign military bases in the territories of the CSTO member-states. From now on not a single foreign military facility can emerge in any of the alliance’s member-states without the consent of all of its members. Also, the CSTO forces may now be used for the protection of the constitutional system of the allied states. At the CSTO summit the member-countries’ leaders managed to persuade their Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, who earlier was firmly against that idea.
“The Russian delegation considers the agreement on the placement of military bases of non-regional countries in the territories of the CSTO member states only on the condition of consent by the CSTO partners as one of the main agreements concluded today,” presidential spokeswoman Natalya Timakova told a news conference on Tuesday.
The new agreements give Russia a chance to prevent the emergence of US air bases in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Pentagon just recently approached the two countries with a proposal for creating a network of centers in their territory to train Uzbek and Tajik military in the uses of military equipment and armaments that would be handed over to them by NATO countries after the withdrawal from Afghanistan. In this way the Americans hope to continue to contain the Taliban movement after their withdrawal using the forces of neighboring states. However, observers suspect that over time such training centers may be converted into military bases.
Also, Kyrgyzstan will continue to host a US Air Force base, deployed at Bishkek’s international airport Manas in 2001 within the framework of the operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
The summit also formalized a decision made earlier this year. From now on the CSTO collective rapid reaction force can be used to quash rebellions inside the CSTO member-states. When this structure was created two years ago, the original idea was it would be employed in case of military aggression from outside, and also for struggle against international terrorism, organized crime, drugs trafficking and the effects of natural disasters. Now the CSTO rapid reaction force can be used to protect the constitutional system of the member-states – at the request of the respective authorities. Also, the summit approved of the rules of response by the CSTO member-states to emergencies.
The decision on this new role of the CSTO rapid reaction force was announced by the Belarussian president, Alexander Lukashenko, back last summer. Some observers saw its aim in suppressing revolutions and attributed it to the “Arab spring.”
The deployment of US missile defense in Europe was a separate item on the agenda. The CSTO partners expressed solidarity with Moscow to have condemned the “unilateral deployment of strategic missile weapon systems by one state or a group of states in defiance of the legitimate interests of other countries without giving legally binding guarantees to the latter.” The deployment of a missile defense system regardless of the CSTO interests will harm strategic stability in Europe, the statement runs.
Uzbekistan’s position was another intrigue of the summit. President Islam Karimov took part in the CSTO summit for the first time over the past few years. Earlier, he ignored all CSTO activities, because he disagreed with the idea of CSTO intervention in the internal affairs of his country.
In October, Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, which held the rotating presidency of the CSTO, even warned that Tashkent might be expelled from the organization. “We’ve got to make a decision regarding Uzbekistan. This is so because Uzbekistan’s triple dealing leaves no chances for it to remain a CSTO member,” Lukashenko said, adding that Tashkent had not ratified a single substantial document adopted within the CSTO.
It looks like the threat of expulsion worked. Karimov agreed to come to the summit and sign all the joint documents.
After Tuesday’s summit it became clear that the CSTOэы role would be to resist threats from the West – real or virtual, and also those from the South, says the daily Kommersant. On Tuesday the presidents discussed an action plan in case of a worsening of the situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO forces from that country in 2014.
Of late, Russia has repeatedly made attempts to enhance the influence of the CSTO, which NATO described in no way other than a “virtual” structure. The CSTO member-countries in September agreed a list of foreign policy themes on which its members would from now on present a common front, precisely the way the European Union and NATO do.
In September the media carried reports of preparations for a fundamental reform of the CSTO. According to the publications, the changes would confirm three main spheres. Firstly, the organization would be vested with the peace-making function. Secondly, the system of decision-making within the CSTO will be reformatted – the member-countries will abandon the principle of consensus in favor of majority vote. And thirdly, the CSTO’s relations with NATO will be revised.

MOSCOW, December 21