Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 173

As anticipated (see the Monitor, September 3), Russia seems content to prolong the virtual stalemate in Kyrgyzstan in order to feed the insecurity of Central Asian governments, line them up behind Moscow under the pretense of combating Islamic expansion, and in the process revive at least some organs of the moribund CIS. Moscow is, therefore, letting Kyrgyzstan for the time being twist slowly in the wind of the Islamic insurgency. Only such a policy can explain Moscow’s failure to send any of the military-technical aid it promised three weeks ago (see the Monitor, August 31, September 1). The Russian weaponry and ammunition, vehicles, communications equipment, night-vision devices and uniforms, all of which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev had promised last month to deliver “urgently” to Kyrgyzstan, have yet to materialize. It was not until yesterday that Moscow indicated informally that it would–albeit “in a week’s time”–send two trainloads of equipment.

Moscow is not providing any explanation for such foot-dragging. Although Russian forces are currently using–and losing–large quantities of equipment in the North Caucasus, the equipment needed by Kyrgyzstan to defeat the lightly armed insurgents probably amounts to a fraction of that filtering out illicitly from Russian military depots to all buyers, including Islamist guerrillas. Nor is Moscow explaining its plan to send the equipment–eventually–by train to Kyrgyzstan, instead of airlifting it. Armenia for its part has just dispatched one planeload of unspecified “technical equipment” for Kyrgyz troops. Kyrgyz military officials yesterday termed the delivery as the first to arrive from any member country of the CIS.

The Moscow meeting of CIS countries’ defense ministers on September 15 illustrated Russia’s intention to exploit, in its own interest, the crisis in Kyrgyzstan. In a highly unusual move, Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chaired the conclave. He called for multilateral CIS measures to deal with the situation in Kyrgyzstan and justified such measures in Central Asia with reference to the CIS Collective Security Treaty, urging Azerbaijan and Georgia–who have abandoned that treaty–to rejoin it as part of a common effort to resist “Islamic fundamentalism” in the South Caucasus as well. Only six ministers attended the meeting, but one of the six was that of Uzbekistan, marking that country’s return to the fold after a long absence. The Russian-prepared communique of the meeting stated that actions directed against the stability of any one member state would be treated as a threat to all member states–the classic definition of a military-political alliance. While such statements remain confined to the realm of rhetoric for the time being, they reflect Moscow’s readiness to use regional crises in the hope of resuscitating the CIS in general as a political organization and its Collective Security Treaty to legitimize Russian leadership on the model of the defunct Warsaw Pact (Itar-Tass, KyrgyzHabar, September 19-20; Nezavisimaya gazeta, Segodnya, September 16).

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