The Collective Security Treaty summit in Yerevan on May 25 and the CIS-wide summit in Minsk on June 1 determined that the CIS Antiterrorism Center (ATC) does not operate and can barely be said to exist. The secretaries of the member countries’ security councils, meeting in Minsk under the chairmanship of Russia’s Vladimir Rushailo, discussed measures to “complete the formation” of the ATC within “some months.” Meanwhile, the CIS Joint Program to Combat International Terrorism and Extremism, approved for the years 2001-2003 and entrusted partly to the ATC, remains mostly on paper as a collective undertaking.
According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Minsk summit heard calls for “enhancing the ATC’s role in the struggle against terrorism.” Putin specifically urged “getting the ATC to work and focus on the ‘CIS southern borders.'” The summit decided to set up an ATC branch office in Bishkek, and appointed a Russian from Kyrgyzstan, identified as Lieutenant-General Valery Verchagin, to the post of first deputy to the ATC commander.
This commander, Russia’s Lieutenant-General Boris Mylnikov, reported in Minsk to the top political leaderships that only 50 percent of the ATC’s staff positions are filled, and only 65 percent of its authorized budget has been disbursed. Of that authorized budget, Russia covers a 50-percent share and did pay it in full, apparently also using almost fully its staff quota of 50 percent. A few countries–by way of deduction, Ukraine and Kazakhstan–paid fractions of their proportionate shares, while Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Uzbekistan were named as having paid nothing. Mylnikov stopped short of mentioning that Belarus and Tajikistan had from the outset been granted exemptions from funding obligations.
The ATC’s authorized staff and budget are meager in the first place: sixty officers’ slots and 12.7 million rubles for the calendar year 2001. Its mandate seems at least for now confined to creating a databank and producing intelligence assessments for circulation to the national leaderships. Those limitations on size, resources and mandate were imposed at preceding CIS summits by independent-minded countries, which have watched or directly experienced Moscow’s misuse of antiterrorism slogans. Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan added special reservations to the effect that their participation in the ATC’s activities is subject to their national legislations and interests.
Initially, Moscow had proposed empowering the ATC to conduct operations on the territories of member countries. Such operations would inevitably have been Russian-led, though nominally “joint.” Most member countries have, however, proved wary of mandating the ATC to operate on their own territories, or being themselves dragged into operations elsewhere over which they would have little control.
Russia remains unwilling to allow the ATC to become a conduit for intelligence information exchanges with CIS countries, the intelligence-gathering capabilities of which are no match to Moscow’s. While Russia continues to gather, use and manipulate intelligence information through its national means, outside any CIS framework, the ATC churns out its “analytical” papers mainly for political effect within CIS structures.
The creation of the ATC is Putin’s personal initiative. Proposed by him at the January 2000 CIS summit–his first as president of Russia–and approved with reservations at the June 2000 summit, the ATC formally came into being at the December 2000 summit. If Putin’s and Rushailo’s calls at this latest summit are heeded, the ATC might become operational–within its built-in limitations–at the earliest by the December 2001 CIS summit, two years after Putin’s initiative (RIA, May 25, 29, June 1-2; Kabar (Bishkek), June 1; Turan, June 2; see the Monitor, September 13, December 4, 2000, May 25, 30-31, June 4).
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