Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 104

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Alyaksandr Lukashenka of Belarus, Robert Kocharian of Armenia, Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan, Askar Akaev of Kyrgyzstan and Imomali Rahmonov of Tajikistan, with their top foreign policy and defense officials, gathered on May 24 in Minsk in the framework of the CIS Collective Security Treaty (CST). They signed three main documents: a “Memorandum on Enhancing the CST’s Effectiveness and Adapting it to Current Geopolitical Conditions,” a “Procedure for Making and Implementing Collective Decisions on the Use of Force,” and the status and operating rules of the Council of Defense Ministers and the Committee of Security Council Secretaries of CST Countries. The parties deem these documents legally binding. In addition, and ostensibly at Nazarbaev’s initiative, the presidents adopted a declaratory statement on the “CST’s precedence over military-political measures undertaken by individual CST countries in association with other [that is, non-CST] countries.”

While the specific content of these documents has not yet become public, their gist suggests that the CST is beginning to assume institutional shape. As Putin and other presidents remarked in concluding the summit, the CST is no longer a mere document, nor an amorphous grouping of uncommitted participants, but is beginning to turn into an organization, the members of which assume definite obligations. Russia’s Security Council Secretary, Sergei Ivanov, publicly implied that the documents cover such issues as: laying the legal basis for deployment of Russian troops, or of Federal Security Service “antiterrorist” units, on the territories of CST countries; priority access by CST countries to Russian arms deliveries, and price discounts on those deliveries; and coordination of the member countries’ foreign policies, particularly in the framework of international organizations.

Several participants hinted that they had also discussed the possibility of seeking international recognition for the CST as an entity under international law and a regional security organization. Such a goal, however, seems even more far-fetched than the quest for international recognition of the CIS Customs Union, which embraces the same group of countries minus Armenia. The Customs Union summit, held on May 23 in Minsk, was bolder than the CST summit in asserting the goal of international recognition, but just about as unrealistic (see the Monitor, May 25).

The host president, Lukashenka, relished the role which Boris Yeltsin had denied him, but in which Putin seems to be casting him–the role of megaphone for Russian foreign policy proposals. Lukashenka voiced the hope that Ukraine would join the “Slavic family” and the CST group of countries, and went on to urge Uzbekistan–casting aside the “Slavic” argument in this case–to rejoin the CST which Uzbekistan had abandoned last year. Professing to feel threatened by NATO, Lukashenka lectured Armenian President Robert Kocharian that his country, too, faces a NATO threat from across the border–meaning Turkey.

The summit was held against the background noise of Russian saber-rattling against Afghanistan–an accompaniment designed to suggest to Central Asian countries that Moscow is deadly serious about claiming the role of exclusive protector for those countries and their governments (Itar-Tass, RIA, Minsk Radio, May 24, 25; Nezavisimaya gazeta, May 23; Vremya novostei, May 25; see the Monitor, May 1, 16).