Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 82

The CIS Antiterrorism Center organized the Osh exercise, and its director–Russia’s General Boris Mylnikov–commanded the joint staff in Osh. In an accompanying press interview, Mylnikov used both direct and oblique language in revealing some of the center’s woes. Founded at the June 2000 summit of the CIS, at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initiative, the center will mark its first anniversary in a badly underfunded and understaffed condition. According to Mylnikov, only Russia disbursed its share–that is, one half–of the center’s budget, and not before the first quarter of 2001.

Of the other CIS countries, only Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan contributed some funds, though short of their due proportionate shares. The meager official budget would only have permitted the hiring of sixty officers for the Moscow-based center. That number represents an upper limit, set last year at the insistence of certain CIS member countries wary of Russian intentions. The funding shortfall, however, means that only some thirty officers could thus far be hired at the center in Moscow. The center now plans to create an office in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan as part of preparations to deal with possible Islamist guerrilla incursions this year.

Owing to the financial and political constraints, the center currently functions mainly as an information clearing house and a source of “analytical” papers, destined for the CIS countries’ top leaders. Those papers offer threat assessments and recommendations for joint response measures by the CIS countries. For its information, the center draws mainly on a pre-existing data bank of CIS countries’ intelligence services. The center now also proposes to begin working out theoretical “models” on counterterrorism operations with the use of various types of forces and to draft legal documents for the consideration of member countries in authorizing such operations. Even the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly would be asked to help with that. In sum, much of Mylnikov’s interview seems to suggest that the center is little more than a talking shop and paper-pushing office at the present stage.

Yet in spite of the meager resources, Russian official comments on the Antiterrorism Center at times take on crusading overtones. Mylnikov’s interview exemplifies the tendency of Russian officials–civilian, military and intelligence alike—in their public comments to lump together the most diverse groups that pose actual or potential “terrorist threats.” In that caricature-like vision, all of those groups are basically of one kind and work together at all times against the same targets and for the same goals. In Mylnikov’s statements, for example, the Grey Wolves and the [Uighur] East Turkestan National Revolutionary Front–secular Turkic nationalist groups–are mislabeled as religious-fundamentalist. The IMU and the Hezb-e Tahrir movement and said by him to be allies, in spite of known differences and rivalries between them. Genuine Islamist fanatics are classified as “mercenaries,” the term “Wahhabi” is used with abandon to describe the most diverse, mutually incompatible Islamist strands, Chechens are said to be fighting in Afghanistan while Afghan Talibs are said to be fighting in Chechnya, and all this is said to require joint actions by the CIS countries under antiterrorism banners and under Moscow’s leadership (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 18; Rossiiskie Vesti, no. 14, April 24; Itar-Tass, April 21, 25-26; see the Monitor, December 4, 2000, March 12, April 1, 10, 2001; Fortnight in Review, December 15, 2000, March 16, April 13).