Saturday, February 7, 2009

A CSTO Rapid-Reaction Force Created as a NATO Counterweight

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 24
February 5, 2009
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Military/Security, Russia, Central Asia
By: Pavel Felgenhauer
This ambitious plan did not, however, materialize during the Moscow summit. Uzbek President Islom Karimov signed the pact with reservations, agreeing to commit Uzbek forces not permanently but on a mission-to-mission basis (Interfax, February 4). Other CSTO leaders did not seem enthusiastic. All CSTO countries have authoritarian regimes of varying severity. Permanently committing their best units to direct Russian command and basing them abroad could put these regimes at serious risk. In the end, Moscow had to settle for a continuation of the present arrangement, under which units committed to the joint force by other CSTO armies will stay under national jurisdiction and on national territory. Medvedev was able to announce only that the joint force units would "sometimes train together "(RIA-Novosti, February 4).

During the Russian invasion of Georgia last August and the consequent occupation, not a single Russian CSTO ally provided any assistance, whereas U.S. allies have committed forces to Iraq and Afghanistan. Moscow wanted to change this situation and since the invasion has been pressing its CSTO allies to commit forces for possible joint military action (Interfax, February 4). There is now an agreement on paper but, in fact, nothing tangible. The present Belarus constitution does not allow the commitment of any troops abroad. Land-locked Armenia, sandwiched between hostile Azerbaijan and Turkey, is in no position to send any substantial forces anywhere. There is at present no external threat to post-Soviet Central Asian CSTO nations, but there are internal threats. The Central Asian CSTO leaders could possibly welcome Russian help in the future to suppress internal security emergencies and radical Islamist threats, but they will be extremely reluctant to commit their own forces abroad. If there is any military conflict in the future in the Caucasus or on Russia's western borders, Moscow will most likely be forced to go it alone once again.
The full article is here

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