On May 25 in Yerevan, 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 signed the founding documents of rapid-deployment troops under the CIS Collective Security Treaty. With bilateral Russia-Belarus and Russia-Armenia alliances already in effect, the Yerevan summit created quadripartite troops of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan for rapid deployment in Central Asia. The mission is to “fight terrorism.”
The force will, initially, number some 2,000 troops, with each of the four countries contributing a battalion-size unit. Russia will contribute the aviation that should enable the Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Tajik battalions to qualify as airborne. Those three battalions will be nationally based most of the time. Russia will allocate one battalion of its 201st division, which is stationed in Tajikistan.
An operational headquarters, to be immediately sited in Bishkek, will supervise the formation and training of this force and command it during exercises and in combat. Reports vary with regard to the authorized size of that headquarters. The oft-cited figure of eight refers only to the most senior officers to be seconded there, two from each country.
The four battalions will follow a single training plan, conduct joint exercises periodically in any one of the four countries and be on call for conducting “antiterrorism” operations by joint political decision of the national leaderships. The doctrine, training and equipment of the joint force will be those of the Russian armed forces. The commander will ex officio be a Russian general. The first incumbent of that post has been identified as Major-General Sergei Chernomordin. The force should be ready for combat action by August 1, which will mark the completion of the first stage in its formation.
At the postsummit briefing, Putin outlined two follow-up stages in the development of this force. In the next stage, the four battalions should be expanded to brigade-size rapid deployment units. The third stage should see the creation of a larger, conventional or “general purpose” joint force. Putin indicated that elements of the joint force should, by the second stage, be available for protecting the borders of Tajikistan, presumably opposite Afghanistan. Putin and other Russian officials also anticipated joint military exercises to be conducted near the borders of Afghanistan.
The summit made no specific decision on financing the first stage. The formation of the four battalions is, in theory, to be funded by the respective Defense Ministries. This year’s military budgets of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, however, do not include that expense, and Tajikistan is even worse off financially. Unless Russia moves quickly to provide the resources, the August 1 deadline for a combat-ready force may not be met. Uzbekistan’s and Turkmenistan’s refusal to participate weakens both the effectiveness and the political legitimacy of Russia’s alliance with the other three regional countries.
WESTERN AND CAUCASUS DIRECTIONS ALSO COVERED.