Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 210

At a three-day meeting in Bishkek, which ended yesterday, Defense Ministry officials from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan reviewed progress in creating a Central Asian peacekeeping battalion. It is to be comprised of troops from these three countries and earmarked for UN-sponsored operations. The meeting adopted a detailed plan for organizing the battalion’s first-ever field exercise, scheduled for next year as part of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. The two-stage exercise, to be held at Kazakh and Uzbek military bases, will be supervised by Russian, U.S., and Turkish officers at battalion level, and by Danish, Ukrainian, and Baltic officers at company level. Military representatives from most of these countries attended the Bishkek meeting. (Interfax, November 7)

The battalion was formed last spring pursuant to a decision by the three presidents. Tajikistan was not invited, and Turkmenistan, citing its neutral status, declined to join. Turkmenistan’s neutrality also precludes it from participating in CIS military activities. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan have token and essentially inactive units in the rear echelon of nominally CIS peacekeeping troops in Tajikistan. The creation of the Central Asian battalion, linked directly to the UN and NATO’s PfP, is meant to reduce Russia’s role in regional security, and symbolizes a new era for Central Asia. The distribution of roles in the international supervision of next year’s military exercise does reflect an intent to keep Russia in the game, but safely flanked by countries interested in promoting Eurasian geopolitical pluralism.

Tajik Opposition Leader Reaffirms Terms for Negotiated Settlement.