On April 14 Secretary-General Nikolay Bordyuzha of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) arrived in Dushanbe for talks with security and law enforcement officials in Tajikistan. His three-day working visit began with a meeting with Defense Minister Sherali Khayrulloyev, Secretary Amirqul Azimov of the Tajik Security Council and Rustam Nazarov, the head of the Drug Control Agency (DCA). They examined a range of regional security issues including ways of more effectively countering the flow of narcotics and arms from Afghanistan. Bordyuzha expressed concern about the marked increase of drug production in Afghanistan over the past two years, as well as the cultivation of hemp, and discussed ways of combating this within the context of the CSTO (ITAR-TASS, Moscow, April 14). Yet his agenda in Dushanbe also included deeper tension emerging within Central Asia about external political pressure from the West and explored new ways of using the CSTO.
The subjects of Kosovo, NATO expansion, Abkhazia and South Ossetia were raised in his talks on April 14. Since Western pressure has already been applied to Central Asian countries to recognise Kosovo, with a refusal from Kazakhstan and an ambivalent response from neighboring Uzbekistan, Moscow can hardly have failed to notice the politicization of defense and security cooperation among NATO, some of its member states and Central Asian partners. These issues are now surfacing within the CSTO at a time when efforts are underway to enliven practical security cooperation within the organisation. Bordyuzha’s meetings with Tajik defense officials concentrated on Tajikistan’s participation in CSTO events, the combat readiness of the Tajik armed forces and especially the preparedness of Tajik servicemen that will take part in the CSTO Rubezh-2008 exercise in Armenia in May. He was also briefed by defense officials on plans to improve the defense capabilities of the armed forces, though these were not elaborated publicly.
Bordyuzha met Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon on April 15. They examined aspects of bilateral as well as multilateral cooperation in the CSTO, from emergency situations to drug control (Tajik Television First Channel, Dushanbe, April 15). This could be explained in terms of the post-Bucharest search for new ways of assisting NATO’s stabilization efforts within Afghanistan and how the Central Asian states in particular could help. There is, however, an alternative explanation that hinges on the thinking behind these attempts to shore up the CSTO and give sufficient planning and analysis in developing deeper pragmatic cooperation: This is the concern in Moscow, possibly shared elsewhere within the CSTO, that NATO is failing in Afghanistan. Should this failure ensue over the next three to five years, besides the untold damage to the alliance, the immediate security backlash will be faced primarily by Central Asia and Russia.
Russia’s Volga-Urals Military District Commander General Vladimir Boldyrev recently noted that the growing strategic significance of Russia’s base in Dushanbe plays a role in strengthening the security of Russia’s southern CSTO neighbors, while also ensuring the security of Russia. “The 201st Military Base of Russia is an outpost on the CIS’s southern borders. It ensures the territorial integrity of not only Russia, but also of other member countries of the CSTO. Thus, the military district command pays special attention to this base,” he said. Spending on the base has already reached R2 billion, with another R1 billion scheduled to be spent shortly. Boldyrev called for the development of a military infrastructure in Kulyab, Kurgen-Tyube and Dushanbe, where officers’ families are located (Interfax, Moscow, April 17).
Moscow’s anxiety about Afghanistan is also curiously reflected in another quite unusual step being contemplated by an institution with a low reputation in the West in terms of its practical input in security issues: the CIS Antiterrorist Center (ATC). Western critics of the CSTO, its rapid reaction forces and its multilateral intelligence capabilities also tend to be dismissive of the “paper” strength of the CIS ATC. Colonel-General Andrey Novikov, Chief of the ATC, told a meeting of the heads of national antiterrorist centers of the CIS states on April 16 that the ATC needed to form a new unit with the specific task of carrying out analytical intelligence. “It is necessary to develop full-scale and good-quality analytical intelligence work in the interests of the special services of CIS member states. It is analytical intelligence that will make it possible to monitor potential sites of terrorist activity throughout the commonwealth,” he said. This new unit would consist of staff-based analysis obtained from partners, rather than investigative work. Responding to questions from journalists on the terrorist threats currently viewed as paramount, Novikov said, “We are talking about security at oil and gas pipelines, security at transport corridors in the commonwealth, air security and protection of airports, as well as vital state government facilities. This is the full spectrum of potentially hazardous facilities that could be seized by terrorists.” Currently, the ATC cooperates with the the UN, OSCE, PACE, CSTO and the SCO (Interfax, Moscow, April 16).
If such anxieties about NATO’s capability to stabilize Afghanistan underpin the formulation of security policy in Moscow and among its CSTO allies, their potential for cooperation with the alliance narrows or widens depending on the success of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Synergy between NATO and regional multilateral bodies may be found when the common language becomes that of containment and localization of the Afghan conflict.