In his remarks to journalists during the summit, Putin offered a glimpse into the militarized mindset that often informs Moscow’s approach to the CIS. “The economic upswing in Russia and other CIS countries requires corresponding efforts by all of us together to strengthen cooperation in foreign policy, defense and security,” Putin declared, without explaining the logical nexus. The statement leaves room for suppositions that he may have called, in conclave, for higher military spending and more active participation in Russian-led collective security measures.
Earlier this year, CIS Collective Security Treaty signatory countries repeatedly announced their intention to create and field “rapid deployment forces” in Central Asia by August 1 (see the Monitor, May 25, 30-31, June 4-5). Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were to have contributed a battalion-size unit each, with Russia to provide the airlift capacity and most of the funding to that “antiterrorism” force. The August 1 deadline came and went, however, without any sign of implementation of the plan. On that day, Russia selected a motor-rifle battalion from its 201st division, stationed in Tajikistan, and designated that battalion a “collective” rapid-deployment force. The official announcements did not mention the other countries’ contributions.
Airborne troops would have seemed a more fitting choice than motor-rifle troops for a rapid-deployment unit. However, Airborne Troops’ commander Colonel-General Georgi Shpak declared on August 1 that his troops would not be involved.
The Russian military is adept, chameleon-like, at using the CIS label. The 201st division is a case in point. This Russian Army unit had officially been styled “CIS peacekeeping troops” until 1998, at which point it obtained long-term basing rights in Tajikistan, and became Russian officially as well. Now, one battalion of it has reached for a CIS figleaf again.
At the Sochi summit, Putin and President Imomali Rahmonov could no longer keep silent about Tajikistan’s role as the main drug corridor to Russia. For the first time at such a forum, the two presidents publicly mentioned the problem. Putin, however, gratuitously praised the Tajik authorities’ efforts to cope with the problem, when in fact those authorities are notoriously complicit with the drug trade (Itar-Tass, RIA, Russian Television, Tajik Television, August 1-2; see the Monitor, March 12, June 13, 26, July 6, 13, 18).
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