Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 179

On September 28 in Moscow, a regular meeting of the prime ministers of CIS member countries approved only miserly funding for the CIS Antiterrorism Center (ATC).

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin opened the session with a plea for funds, particularly in support of the ATC: “The governments of our countries should make up their minds with regard to supporting the specially formed antiterrorist structures, first and foremost the ATC. I am asking you to devote special attention to this, so as to provide the necessary economic support and timely financing.”

The conclave’s response caused Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to withhold information on the ATC’s budget at the concluding briefing. Kasyanov merely confirmed the earlier agreement that Russia would provide 50 percent of the funding, and the other countries 50 percent among them. In Moldova the same day, however, Intelligence and Security Service Director Valeriu Pasat told a parliamentary hearing that the ATC’s budget has been set at US$500,000 for 2001–apparently with retroactive effect–and the same amount for 2002. As a further limitation on funding, the salaries of officers to be detailed by the member countries to the ATC will be paid from the ATC’s budget, not from that of the respective national intelligence agencies.

For his part, CIS Executive Secretary Yury Yarov stated at the concluding briefing that some member countries would confine their ATC role to the sphere of information exchanges, while other countries intend to “participate in full”–apparently a reference to covert operations.

The ATC came into being at Putin’s personal initiative. He proposed it in January 2000, at the first CIS summit he chaired as president of Russia. It was not until the December 2000 CIS summit that the ATC was formally established, but it has since existed in theory only. The Moscow center has been severely underfunded and is not yet fully staffed. The CIS prime ministers’ September 28 decisions promise more of the same.

Last month, Russia’s First Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov wrote in a journal article that the ATC is preparing a basic document on “Regulations and Procedures for Organizing and Executing Joint Antiterrorist Actions on the Territories of CIS Member Countries.” Trubnikov, an intelligence general, is currently responsible for CIS affairs in the Foreign Affairs Ministry and reports directly to Putin. Most of the CIS member countries have been dragging their feet in the discussions on that document. They realize that such “joint actions” would in practice be Russian actions on their respective territories, with little control by the host country.

A branch office of the ATC was due to be set up in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and to become operational this past spring, but did not open until August. Its inaugural staff conference was portrayed as a “staff-and-command exercise” by some Russian media; other media accounts, however, made clear that it was little more than an orientation meeting. On September 26 the ATC’s deputy commander in Moscow, Lieutenant-General Valery Verchagin, arrived in Bishkek to continue the uncompleted organizing work on the branch office. Verchagin used to be a deputy head of Kyrgyzstan’s security service until detailed to Moscow earlier this year as senior deputy to the ATC’s commander, Lieutenant-General Boris Mylnikov. Several deputy commanders’ slots remain vacant (Interfax, RIA, Belarusan Radio, Turan, Infotag, Flux, September 28-29; Kabar, September 26; Slovo Kyrgyzstana, September 28; Vyacheslav Trubnikov, “International Terrorism, Sources and Counteraction,” Natsionalnaya Bezopasnost, distributed by Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, September 3; see the Monitor, April 27, May 30).