Russia and five other CIS countries have formalized a security alliance that potentially could help boost Moscow's strategic presence in Central Asia. At the same time, efforts to promote greater economic cohesion among CIS states continue to struggle to gain traction.
At an April 28 summit, Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan formally created the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which will attempt to provide a more efficient response to strategic problems confronting member states, specifically terrorism and narcotics trafficking…
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the United States has established a strategic presence in the region, with bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Some Russian policy makers believe the CSTO has the potential to help Moscow reestablish its high strategic profile in what traditionally has been its sphere of influence. According to a report in the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, some CSTO summit participants pressed Kyrgyz officials to curtail basing rights given to US forces at Manas.
Russian President Vladimir Putin downplayed the notion that Russia seeks to utilize the CSTO to reduce US influence in the region, saying that the organization would strive to contain the flow of drugs …and counter the threat posed by radical Islamic organizations in Central Asia -… Taliban and al Qaeda.
At the same time, leaders of participating states acknowledge that the CSTO remains an organization mostly on paper. They also tacitly admit that, given past experience with CIS integration initiatives, full implementation of the CSTO's strategic plans is far from assured.
Tajik President Imomali Rahmonov, who hosted the CSTO summit in Dushanbe, asserted that a "solid foundation for further efficient work" has been established for the organization. "The main stress [of the meeting] was placed on the need for strict implementation of decisions adopted with the organization…"
Some political analysts believe the impetus for the formal creation of the CSTO is concern over the US tendency under the Bush administration to take a unilateralist approach on strategic issues…
Other observers believe that with Central Asian security conditions becoming more complex, countries in the region are eager to hedge their bets by expanding cooperation with all regional powers, including China, Russia and the United States…
By Ibragim Alibekov and Sergei Blagov,
Eurasianet, April 29, 2003