AFTERWARD TO THE JUBILEE MEETING OF THE CIS COUNCIL OF DEFENSE MINISTERS

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Russian Defense Minister held the 50th meeting of the CIS Council of defense ministers in Baku last week.

Unfortunately, the majority of the CIS defense ministers failed to attend the meeting. No one was surprised that representatives of Georgia, Moldova and Turkmenistan did not arrive they always ignore such meetings. However, it’s unknown why the defense ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan refused to attend the meeting. They sent their representatives. The Ukrainian defense minister participated as an observer. The delegation from Armenia did not arrive, though this country is an active participant in military cooperation within the framework of the CIS. Armenian representatives feared that Azerbaijan would not ensure their security. This is a reasonable argument. There was a tragic precedent: an Armenian officer sent to a course in English in Budapest was murdered by an Azerbaijanian officer. Azerbaijan declared the murderer person of the year in 2005…

Only four ministers (from Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan) participated. However, the meeting proved to be very fruitful. They discussed the progress of realization of the Conception of military cooperation within the CIS until 2010. The ministers focused on the joint anti-aircraft system and the CIS coordinating committee in charge of anti-aircraft issues. In particular, they considered issues linked with funding the anti-aircraft system in 2007. There are plans to allocate around 240 million roubles for its development.

The ministers analyzed the performance of the CIS coordinating committee of meteorological services and determined its tasks until 2010. In addition, they passed joint requirements to the communications system and discussed planning of joint operational exercises in 2007.

The ministers analyzed the performance of the peacekeeping contingent in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazia conflict and decided to extend its commander’s term in office for six months.

Sergei Ivanov made a range of important statements about Moscow’s policy in the post-Soviet republics after the end of the summit.

He noted that 1,500 peacekeepers stationed in the Trans-Dniester territory prevent military conflicts between Moldova and the Trans-Dniester territory. Several hundred servicemen guard ammunition depots of the former 14th army.

The minister said that Russia has withdrawn heavy weapons from the Trans-Dniester territory in compliance with the conventional arms agreement. However, he noted that Russian servicemen must remain in this region in order to prevent terrorists from obtaining the remaining ammunition in the Trans-Dniester territory.

The Russian minister noted, “We will be protecting these ammunition depots until a political solution to the Trans-Dniester problem has been found.”

To all appearances, this means that Moscow has begun to defend its interests in the post-Soviet republics. It’s no secret that many Russian politicians reproach the government for being too diplomatic in solving some problems, for instance with Georgia and Ukraine.

The demonstration of such serious a position is probably linked with the fact that the OSCE chairman, who arrived in Moldova, stated that the OSCE is prepared to allocate EUR10 million for the withdrawal of Russian weapons from the Trans-Dniester territory. The OSCE chairman said that his organization intends to make Russia withdraw troops from Moldova.

Sergei Ivanov again noted that the West uses double standards for evaluating Russia’s and the US’ military presence abroad. In particular, he focused on the agreement reached by the US and Bulgaria to create an US military base in this country. The strength of the base (2,500 servicemen) can be doubled in critical situations. In addition, the US will be able to store heavy military vehicles at the base. The US states that this is “insubstantial military presence”. At the same time, the US demands that Russian withdraw peacekeepers from the Trans-Dniester territory.

Sergei Ivanov stated that at a conference in Vienna, Russia noted that the mechanism of control over conventional arms in Europe won’t work. This makes Russia worry because Moscow meets its commitments, including in the North-Caucasus.

It should be noted that the OSCE chairman informed the Moldovan reintegration minister that Kosovo and Montenegro can serve as a precedent for the Trans-Dniester conflict. The Trans-Dniester territory disagrees. Its president Igor Smirnov stated that the Trans-Dniester territory will organize a referendum concerning its independence by October. He noted that the Trans-Dniester territory may join the CIS. The Abkhazian leader has similar plans.

Ukrainian defense Minister Anatoly Gritsenko met with his Azerbaijanian counterpart Safar Abiyev in Baku. The Ukrainian minister announced the idea of creating a peacekeeping unit within the framework of GUAM.

Some media called this statement a sensation. GUAM allegedly will weaken Russia’s positions. It’s not new that GUAM competes with Moscow and its allies. In principle, such a turn of events cannot be ruled out. However, many political analysts state that the political union of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova died long ago.

Such statements encourage Russia to more active moves. Sergei Ivanov noted in Baku that in the prospects peacekeeping units will be sent to Nagorny Karabakh because this problem cannot be solved. It should be noted that Russia previously made similar statements. This is why it’s possible that Moscow will soon initiate the issue of sending a peacekeeping group to this region. The Russian Ground Force has a peacekeeping brigade consisting of contract servicemen. One of its battalions is deployed in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.

The Russian defense minister held a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Anatoly Gritsenko. They determined the destiny of the An-70 project – Russia will not build this transport plane. The Black Sea fleet became the main topic of negotiations.

Anatoly Gritsenko said that Sergei Ivanov plans to visit Ukraine in summer in order to discuss this issue with the Ukrainian military leadership.

Ukraine was stirred up by preparations for the Sea Breeze international exercise in which Ukraine has been participating since 1997. Ukrainian residents protest against the exercise. They state that the Ukrainian leadership seeks to join NATO and deploy a military base of the alliance in the Crimea. The Crimean local government bodies support the protesters.

In other words, the summit and statements made by some defense ministers in Baku testify that military problems remain one of the main issues in the relations between the former Soviet republics.

Russia has a lot of problems with some CIS nations. These problems aggravate. Anyway, Moscow seeks to react to these problems. Meanwhile, Moscow will probably have to make more decisive moves in order to solve these problems and defend its interests in the post-Soviet republics.

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