MOSCOW OFFERS ASSISTANCE TO CIS IN FIGHTING TERRORISM.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 51
On March 10-11 in Moscow the internal affairs ministers of CIS member countries discussed a Russian plan to institute a CIS antiterrorism program and create a CIS Antiterrorism Center, both under Russian leadership. Russia’s Acting President Vladimir Putin and Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov–a KGB colleague of Putin’s–addressed the meeting to urge adopting Moscow’s proposals. According to Putin, “there is no sense denying it, the [proposed] Center with its assets exists; it was created already in the framework of the Soviet Union;” hence the “Antiterrorism Center can operate on the basis of special units of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).” Ivanov, more explicitly, asked the CIS member countries to adopt national legislation that would authorize those Russian units to operate on the countries’ territories. “We are going to talk about using Russian antiterrorist units if necessary in CIS countries,” Ivanov went on. “We must work out the status of Russian special units in CIS countries, in the event that one country or another turns to Russia with a request for help.” These remarks suggest that Russia’s security agencies would like to obtain for their units the kind of “status-of-forces” arrangements which the Russian military has been seeking for its troops in several of these countries.
Ivanov singled out the FSB’s Alpha unit as one apt to be sent to a “requesting” country as part of “practical assistance” from Russia. That mention could not fail to remind the conferees of Alpha’s dispatch to Yerevan on October 27, 1999–hours after the carnage in parliament–without any known request by legitimate Armenian authorities. The following month, Georgia’s security services were tipped off that elements of Alpha had covertly landed at the Vaziani air base outside Tbilisi, at a time when Moscow was pressuring the Georgian leadership to permit Russian forces to attack Chechnya from Georgia’s territory (see the Monitor, November 19, 1999).
As Putin’s and Ivanov’s comments indicate, the primary intention is not to share assets and intelligence information with CIS countries, but to line them up behind Moscow under the guise of an antiterrorism crusade and to have a license to introduce special purpose units in some of those countries. The discussion on funding corroborates this conclusion. The proposed Antiterrorism Center and the special antiterrorism program–should they be instituted–would be financed from the existing, meager budget of the CIS Executive Committee, cutting the latter staff expenses. This means little or no technical assistance to the security services of member countries. It simply suggests that Russian-initiated, Russian-executed operations might be presented as multilateral undertakings of the CIS.
These circumstances help explain the caution evidenced by most participants in the meeting and its modest results. No decision was made on the Anti-Terror Center. The proposed antiterrorism program was debated and referred back to the working group for further consideration. That working group had drafted the program at two special meetings in Minsk in February (Itar-Tass, February 10, 28, March 2); the Russian leadership had counted on the program’s adoption at the Moscow ministerial meeting. As things now stand, CIS Executive Secretary Yuri Yarov has been tasked to coordinate the drafting and call a further meeting of the working group in Minsk in April. The stage seems set for the usual CIS procrastination.
On the sidelines of the plenary meeting, four ministers–those of Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia–held a separate meeting to discuss the situation in the Caucasus. No specific or significant decisions appear to have been taken at this quadripartite meeting either (Itar-Tass, RIA, March 10-11; ORT, March 10).
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