Home > Uncategorized > NATO Strengthens Position In Central Asia Against Russia, China

NATO Strengthens Position In Central Asia Against Russia, China

Voice of Russia
May 16, 2012

NATO lures in Central Asia
Roman Mamonov and Yulia Ashcheulova
Edited by RR

       
NATO is strengthening its positions in Central Asia, for the first time inviting Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to its Chicago summit on May 20 and 21 in hopes of expanding partnerships with the countries. Now, NATO has only cargo transit deals in the region but is eyeing new military bases to compete with Russia and China.

The summit will deal with the alliance’s new policy on Central Asia. The above-mentioned countries were invited to the Afghanistan meeting as they provide transit for alliance forces in the country.

NATO openly speaks about its plans to deploy its troops in Central Asia and the invited countries are perfectly aware of it. Now they are thinking of how to get the most out of this situation, says political analyst and chief editor of Ferghana.ru web portal, Daniil Kislov:

“NATO’s so-called Northern Distribution Network involves mainly Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. I think those countries will be discussing the cost and benefits they can get from NATO in exchange for their transit services.”

Formally, NATO invited the countries’ Presidents – Nursultan Nazarbayev, Almazbek Atambayev, Emomalii Rahmon and Islam Karimov – to Chicago, but they are sending their foreign minister instead. This is a certain political strategy. On the one hand, the US will not be blamed for cooperating with “dictators” while the presidents will not take part in a summit arranged by the alliance – a competitor, as the Central Asian nations are part of the CSTO [Collective Treaty Security Organization] and SCO [Shanghai Cooperation Organization].

NATO’s aspirations may cause negative reactions from Moscow and Beijing, as they venture into traditional Russian and Chinese zones of influence, says the head of the Center for Strategic Forecast Sergey Grinyaev:

“NATO showed its interest in Central Asia already 10 year ago by deploying its bases in the region, and now plans to make this cooperation more formal to pave the way for Central Asian countries’ membership.”

NATO seems to be irritated with the latest CSTO summit as it conflicts with its interests.

Experts believe that NATO’s intentions are not just security in Central Asia but also deterring Russia’s and Chin’s growing influence in the region. So let’s wait and see how Central Asia will react to Brussels’ proposals.

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Voice of Russia
May 16, 2012

SCO gaining political weight
Andrei Ilyashenko

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According to the special envoy of the Russian President for the SCO, “the SCO countries have a common approach to the ABM issue. We believe that the unilateral and unlimited ABM increase on the part of one state or a group of states can cause damage to international security. The SCO considers that it is necessary to regulate all the problems which arise in this respect with the help of political and diplomatic efforts of all the interested states”.

This is unambiguous support of Moscow’s efforts regarding the deterrence of the US plans in the ABM area. However, China is also interested in the deterrence of the United States in this sphere, because its nuclear forces are even more vulnerable. The SCO consolidating its position on the ABM issue can be an essential counterbalance to the NATO plans in this sphere. However, judging by the published documents and statements, granting military-defensive functions to the SCO is out of the question.

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The regular summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is scheduled for June 6-7 in Beijing. According to the results of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs’ preparatory meeting, which took place the day before in the capital of China, serious changes are awaiting this organization.

The SCO was created in the mid-nineties [its predecessor, the Shanghai Five, was formed in 1996; the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was founded in June of 2001, three and a half months before the invasion of Afghanistan – RR] as a structure aimed at strengthening confidence in the military field between Russia, China, and four Central Asian states: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The SCO members were also united by the common threat of Islamic fundamentalism associated with Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

However, since 2001, the main activities of the SCO have shifted to the sphere of struggling against international terrorism and drug trafficking, as well as cooperation in economic and humanitarian fields. The organization was carrying out a very cautious policy, stopping short of presenting itself as a serious political and especially military alliance. India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia joined the SCO as observers, while Belarus and Sri Lanka became so-called dialogue partners.

However, times are changing, and the SCO is changing alongside with them. The crisis situations in the Middle East, including the one caused by the “Arab Spring” and the role of key Western countries in them; the US withdrawal from Iraq; and, more importantly, the forthcoming completion of the US/NATO mission in Afghanistan – all these, apparently, demanded of the SCO that it should be more active in the political sphere.

As follows from the speech of the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, from now on the SCO will formulate a unified policy for all its participants in case of crises in the region. Apparently, the new mechanism will be launched at the beginning of the next month, on the eve of the international conference on Afghanistan, scheduled for June 14 in Kabul.

“The situation in Afghanistan and around it gives rise to a special concern. I believe that we should vigorously participate in all international discussions about Afghan issues, and come forth with agreed suggestions”. Lavrov stressed.

“The SCO countries believe that Afghanistan must become a neutral, independent and prosperous state, free from terrorism and drug-related crime,” plenipotentiary representative of the Russian President for the SCO Kirill Barsky told the Voice of Russia. According to the diplomat, “in our opinion, with due regard for Afghanistan’s historical and geopolitical characteristics, the creation of a neutral state there would ensure peace and stability in the region for many years”.

Meanwhile, from the previous statements of the Russian Foreign Ministry it is clear that the nature of the US and NATO military presence in Afghanistan will be a key problem. Moscow and – not so loudly, but quite distinctly – Beijing are opposed to stationing foreign troops, which also carry out police functions, in Afghanistan. Moscow would also like to hear a report on the implementation of the UN resolution on the basis of which the military operation against Afghanistan was carried out. The consolidated position of the SCO significantly strengthens Russia’s and China’s activity in this direction – all the more so if the number of countries that are SCO members or associated with it increases.

Lavrov called for complying with India’s and Pakistan’s request for SCO membership. In addition, the issue of granting the SCO observer status to Afghanistan and dialogue partner status to Turkey, which is a member of NATO at the same time, is actually solved. “Turkey is an active participant in the regional processes with which all the SCO members actively interact. In the spirit of openness, the SCO adopted a decision on Turkey’s participation in certain areas of its activity. We believe that this will contribute to a more coordinated efforts aimed at strengthening security and stability in the Eurasian space,” says Kirill Barsky. Turkey’s involvement in solving the Iranian problem is also quite obvious.

At the same time, the SCO oversteps the bounds of Central Asian problems and touches upon strategic stability. Barsky reports that in Beijing the SCO foreign ministers approved the inclusion of a statement concerning ABM in the final declaration. According to the special envoy of the Russian President for the SCO, “the SCO countries have a common approach to the ABM issue. We believe that the unilateral and unlimited ABM increase on the part of one state or a group of states can cause damage to international security. The SCO considers that it is necessary to regulate all the problems which arise in this respect with the help of political and diplomatic efforts of all the interested states”.

This is unambiguous support of Moscow’s efforts regarding the deterrence of the US plans in the ABM area. However, China is also interested in the deterrence of the United States in this sphere, because its nuclear forces are even more vulnerable. The SCO consolidating its position on the ABM issue can be an essential counterbalance to the NATO plans in this sphere. However, judging by the published documents and statements, granting military-defensive functions to the SCO is out of the question.

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Russian Information Agency Novosti
May 16, 2012

20 Years on, CSTO Focuses on Threats to Central Asia
May 16, 2012

CSTO has shifted its focus to resolving conflicts and dealing with terrorist threats in the post-Soviet space
By Konstantin Bogdanov

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Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova formed a geopolitical chimera called GUUAM in an attempt to show that the Moscow-centric post-Soviet space was falling apart.

Where GUUAM failed, the series of “color revolutions” five to seven years later more or less succeeded in undermining Moscow’s influence in the region.

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With its membership now stable, the Collective Security Treaty Organization has shifted its focus to resolving conflicts and dealing with terrorist threats in the post-Soviet space, predominantly in Central Asia.

From illusion to reality

The first attempt to create a security regime in the post-Soviet space was made 20 years ago. On May 15, 1992, the leaders of Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan signed the Collective Security Treaty, which Azerbaijan, Georgia and Belarus joined by the end of 1993.

The member countries had more or less coordinated the direction they wanted to move the organization in by the end of the 1990s, but in 1999 Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Georgia refused to approve the extension of the treaty.

At that time, Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova formed a geopolitical chimera called GUUAM in an attempt to show that the Moscow-centric post-Soviet space was falling apart.

Where GUUAM failed, the series of “color revolutions” five to seven years later more or less succeeded in undermining Moscow’s influence in the region. However, the reduced CSTO format helped the remaining members strengthen the organization. They found many more common elements in their joint activities and later agreed to establish the Collective Security Treaty Organization on the basis of the extended treaty.

Uzbekistan rejoined the treaty in 2006. The Islamic raids led by Juma Namangani in the fall of 1999 and the Andijan massacre of 2005 may have forced President Islam Karimov to reevaluate his attitude to the pro-Russian military alliance.

The “rose,” “tulip” and other color revolutions swept the former Soviet republics in the late 2000s. Some of them were relatively successful, like in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Georgia; others fell flat (Belarus and Armenia), and the uprising in Uzbekistan was suppressed with unusual cruelty. Whatever the result, many leaders who had held their posts for years sensed that their position was not as secure as they had believed.

A close military-political union with Moscow, which was worried over the “orange” and other revolutions, was a way to stabilize their political regimes.

In 2009, the CSTO countries decided to set up the Collective Rapid Reaction Force (CRRF). The mandate of the joint combined-arms task force was greatly enlarged in 2011, adding an armed wing to a military bloc that had only existed on paper.

Policeman of the region

Many CSTO leaders often hinted that the CRRF and other CSTO structures could be used for military/police interventions in support of the CSTO regimes, for example by suppressing internal opposition.

“The point at issue concerns not only the use of the CRRF in case of external interventions, but also for actions within the CSTO’s borders, because no one will dare start a war against us while many would like to stage a coup,” Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said in August 2011 during a meeting in Minsk with CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha.

However, Lukashenko was clearly out of step with other members and definitely got his priorities confused. Moscow, which has been dropping vague but significant hints to its CSTO partners, clearly has its own vision for the CRRF.

Threat to the center

In the 2000s, the Russian military drafted a rough map of potential threats to the country. Against the backdrop of the reset policy in Europe and a tense but stable balance in Asia Pacific, Russia realized it would most likely have to intervene in an armed conflict in Central Asia.

The international counterterrorism campaign, which has been underway in Afghanistan since 2001, has not reduced the threat of another Islamic raid similar to the ones that rocked the Ferghana Valley in 1999 and 2000.

Russia’s sphere of interests in Central Asia has remained vulnerable in the past 10-15 years, as demonstrated by the seemingly stable but actually fragile political situation in Uzbekistan and the chaotic developments in Kyrgyzstan. Tajikistan’s stability directly depends on Russia’s presence and the NATO operation in Afghanistan.

During the Center 2011 strategic military exercises, Russian troops worked with the armed forces of Central Asian countries, including in counter-terrorism operations. The Russian army made clear to the world that it is learning how to fight in Central Asia with the support of local allies.

The CRRF was established as a multifaceted tool, but using it for purely police operations would be like using a sledge hammer to crack nuts. The 98th Ivanovo Airborne Division and the 31st Ulyanovsk Separate Airborne Assault Brigade are special units armed with heavy weaponry and trained in anti-guerrilla tactics.

Russian troops were used to stabilize the situation in Kyrgyzstan in 2010. Public anger there was cooled by the deployment of the 31st Ulyanovsk Brigade at Russia’s Kant air base.

In short, the CSTO received two pieces of news for its 20th anniversary, one good and the other bad.

The good news is that the current CSTO members really need the organization and, therefore, have a stake in holding practical discussions of the organization’s future, its oversight bodies, and development tools and mechanisms. The bad news is that they may have to use the CSTO very soon.

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