On October 1-2 in Dushanbe, the heads of intelligence and security services of CIS member countries held an ordinary meeting with an extraordinary agenda. Initiated by Moscow, it focused on ensuring Russian control over Central Asian countries’ cooperation with American forces, in anticipation of antiterrorist operations in the region.
Chaired by Russia’s Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Patrushev, the session confirmed that CIS member countries’ armed forces would abstain from participating in ground operations in Afghanistan. This, as the meeting showed, remains a matter of minimal consensus among all the attending countries. Beyond that, divergent interests made their appearance.
Patrushev proposed that joint mechanisms be worked out for sharing intelligence on Afghanistan and Central Asia with the United States and its allies. He called for “coordinating the actions of CIS countries’ security and intelligence services” as they prepare to cooperate with agencies of “countries outside the CIS.” And he sought joint decisions by Russia and CIS countries’ services regarding “the character and extent of assistance to be made available to the United States and Britain” in the course of the expected antiterrorist operations.
Such formulations imply that Moscow does not want the CIS member countries to cooperate independently with the United States and other Western countries in the sphere of intelligence and covert operations. Instead, Moscow apparently seeks to determine itself the scope and procedures of that cooperation, also placing a Russian hand on the spigot of intelligence sharing between the Central Asian and the Western services.
Patrushev, furthermore, broached “ways of monitoring the actions of Western security services in the zone of Russia’s responsibility in Central Asia, once military forces of the antiterrorist coalition are admitted to that zone.” This agenda item would seem to imply collecting and pooling intelligence information for Russia’s benefit, not only on terrorists but also on the antiterrorist Western forces.
The intelligence chiefs also discussed ways of delivering Russian arms and ammunition to the Afghan anti-Taliban forces, as well as Russian humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. The Russian side stated that it would deliver humanitarian aid only to those Afghan provinces that are controlled by the “northern alliance.” If all this implies keeping Western humanitarian and military aid out of the northern provinces, a big step will have been taken toward carving out a Russian zone of influence in that part of Afghanistan. Should that eventuate, it could fatally undermine any postconflict central government in Kabul, reorient the Tajik-inhabited northern Afghanistan toward Russian-controlled Tajikistan and result in an encircling move against independent Uzbekistan.
The conclave also discussed preparations in individual countries for handling possible protests on the part of Islamist groups, which may ensue if the American military strikes on Afghan territory are seen as “indiscriminate.” Patrushev publicly and preemptively advised the United States that “any antiterrorist actions should be carried out with great competence and precision, and the civilian population should never suffer.” In the same beat he expressed bewilderment over international criticism of Russian “antiterrorist actions” in Chechnya.
According to the Kremlin-connected Strana.ru web site, the special services’ summit in Dushanbe aimed “to convince our Central Asian allies that the CIS Collective Security Treaty is a really operating mechanism,” and that “it is essential for Russia not only to preserve, but also to expand its political, military and economic influence in this part of the world. In the new geopolitical situation, the CIS republics may be drawn into the zone of long-term interests of the United States. Precisely this threat cast its shadow on the Dushanbe meeting’s agenda” (Interfax, RIA, Itar-Tass, Strana.ru, October 1-2).
THREE PRESSURE POINTS ON GEORGIA.