A session of the collective security council of member countries of the Collective Security Treaty (CST), signed in Tashkent on May 15, 1992, was held in Minsk on May 24-25.
The council has approved the memorandum prepared by a group of experts of the CST members on measures to improve the CST efficiency and its adaptability to the modern geopolitical situation. The council also debated and approved the provisions on the council of defense ministers and committee of security council secretaries of the CST members, and the provisions on the procedure of making and implementing collective decisions related to the use of forces of the CST members. The council discussed issues related to the major principles of the military-technical cooperation among the CST members.
In other words, measures have been outlined for the coordination of efforts of the CST member countries to counteract new challenges and threats, primarily international terrorism. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov emphasized this very aspect after the summit in Minsk, commenting on statements of Russian politicians, about the possibility of delivering preventive blows on terrorists’ bases in Afghanistan.
Some time later, he dwelled on this issue. On May 25, he said that Russia “will, together with its partners, prepare measures, which will enable it to liquidate aggressive offensives from Afghanistan.” At the press conference after negotiations with his Ukrainian counterpart, Boris Tarasuk, Ivanov stressed that “extremist forces in Afghanistan are becoming increasingly dangerous. They openly support terrorist organizations.” He added that “Russia has not been and will not be indifferent to such activities.”
Thus, the intentions of the CST members have been demonstrated and confirmed by documents. Naturally, the necessity to sign these documents arose from the current situation in Central Asia and in the Caucasus, but let us be frank: the situation is controversial and different countries have different views on it (it is known that the circle of participants of the Minsk summit was narrower than the quantity of CIS countries). Turkmenistan does not see any danger coming from its southern neighbor. There are the only “gates” through the CIS border in Turkmenistan through which Talibs communicate with official Ashkhabad. Georgia and Azerbaijan, which withdrew from the CST in 1999, have very different views on the capabilities of Chechen militants and Islamic terrorists.
Thus, some CIS countries (and probably some countries in the outer world!) may oppose the delivery of preventive blows on Afghanistan by the CIS collective forces. These blows will demonstrate not only the effectiveness of cooperation between the CST member countries, but will also create a precedent for ability of this commonwealth to confirm its words with deeds, that is to use force. This will already be a new fact in the history of CIS development.
At this point, we need to bear in mind that, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been in confrontation. According to the treaty and memorandum, participants of the CST undertake the provision of assistance to one another. How can these agreements work if, for instance, hostilities emerge again in Nagorno-Karabakh? There are also certain collisions (border disputes, transit issues, and so on) between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan and Tajikistan are members of the CST and Uzbekistan withdrew from it in 1999. What if the border conflicts reach the military phase? How will the CST members behave in this situation?
It is not very easy to answer these questions, because they have a probability aspect. Incidentally, Tashkent supports the actions of the CST participants and is doing a big military, military-political and diplomatic job in this direction. Meanwhile, some CST members have complained about the withdrawal of Uzbekistan from the treaty.
For example, after the CST summit in Minsk, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus said that “Uzbekistan would like to receive military-technical support primarily from Russia and other CIS countries, but without joining the treaty.” Lukashenko added, “But at their summit in Minsk, CST countries leaders stated that in such a case, members of the CST would have the priority over Uzbekistan.”
On May 29, Uzbekistan severely criticized this statement of the Belarussian president. On Monday, Uzbek Foreign Ministry spokesperson reported to Interfax: “It is difficult to comment on such an ill-considered and rough statement of the president of Belarus. It is more difficult to imagine that the CST summit was dedicated to building a wall between participants of the treaty and other CIS countries. We think that nobody authorized Lukashenko to release such a statement. We would again like to emphasize that every sovereign country, including a CIS member, has the right to decide, which union of military-political bloc it needs to join, and which it does not need to. Blackmail and other methods of pressure are out of the question.”
With regard to the agreement on military-technical cooperation between Uzbekistan and Russia, Uzbek Foreign Ministry spokesperson noted that “Russian and Uzbek authorities frequently announced that this agreement equally met the interests of both countries,” that is why “the President of Belarus ought not undertake the ungrateful mission of opposing some CIS countries to the others.”
Thus, it is obvious that the situation is difficult.
We can draw a few conclusions from this situation:
1. Former Soviet republics unite for the sake of security proceeding from their own national and geopolitical interests. There are real contradictions between CIS countries. Some of them are moving towards bilateral integration with Russia. The others prefer collective military cooperation measures. There is also a group of countries, which wish to alienate themselves from the military integration relations within the CIS and bilateral relations with Russia.
2. The use of military force against the Talibs is quite realistic. This has been confirmed by results of the visit of President Putin to Tashkent and by the following statements of Russian and other CIS leaders about the possibility of terrorists’ bases bombing in Afghanistan. At any rate, this circumstance does not mean that Uzbekistan plans to join the CST. Uzbekistan has its own principles of behavior in the CIS.
3. There is an evident situation when the CST can be really needed, but this circumstance can result in a larger polarization among the groups of former Soviet republics within the CIS.