Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 130

On June 27 Russian diplomat Valery Nikolayenko, general secretary of the CIS Collective Security Council, presented Moscow’s version of decisions adopted at the latest meetings of that council and of the defense ministers of countries signatory to the CIS Collective Security Treaty. Those countries are: Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (“Russia plus six”). Their defense ministers and the Collective Security Council conferred during those countries’ May 24 summit in Minsk and during the June 19-21 summit of the CIS in Moscow (see the Monitor, May 26, June 22-23, July 3).

The CIS Collective Security Council gathers the secretaries of the Security Councils of those countries. Moscow seeks to confer on the CIS Collective Security Council the nominal status of policy making body of a nascent alliance under Russian leadership. According to Nikolayenko, the council’s and the defense ministers’ meetings approved Russian proposals to create three “regional groups of forces”: a Western Direction group of Russian and Belarus, a Caucasus group of Russia and Armenia, and a Central Asia group of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, with the latter’s role yet to be clarified. Russia is the only country directly involved in all three regional groups–a situation which both reflects and enhances Moscow’s leadership role.

“For the time being,” the regional groups are to consist of national units designated by each country, stationed on the respective national territories and subordinated to the national political and military leaderships. According to Nikolayenko, each regional group will set up a joint staff, institute command and control arrangements, standardize training and equipment, and establish common programs for military procurement. The national units, earmarked for the regional groups, will conduct regular joint exercises on the territories member countries.

Those arrangements as described resemble the ones which governed the Soviet-era Warsaw Pact military alliance under Moscow’s political and military leadership. Under that system, member countries’ national forces were to be placed under Moscow’s military command in time of war for combat deployment. That would seem to be a logical corollary of the arrangements now planned for the CIS “regional groups of forces.” Nikolayenko’s public presentation, however, did not explicitly address that hypothetical situation.

The Collective Security Council’s and the defense ministers’ meetings produced an agreement on the “main principles of military-industrial cooperation” among the CIS Collective Security Treaty’s member countries. Under the agreement, Russia will deliver arms and other equipment to the member countries at Russian domestic prices. CIS countries which have not joined the treaty or which have abandoned it are to be charged “international” or “export” prices. The cost differentials on any past deliveries will be added to those countries’ state debts to Russia.

Signed in 1992 by nine countries, the CIS Collective Security Treaty remained a dead letter throughout, and was abandoned by Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan in 1999. Moscow all along sought to use the treaty as a basis for creating regional groups of forces. That goal became the primary test of viability for the military dimension of the CIS. With the advent of Vladimir Putin as president, the Kremlin is redoubling its efforts to create those forces and, with them, a Russian-led military alliance. The documents adopted by the Collective Security Council and the defense ministers contain the well-nigh obligatory statements that the emergent alliance is “not a closed bloc”–indeed is “open to countries that may wish to join”–and that it “does not consider any country as a potential enemy.”

But Nikolayenko implicitly cast doubt on those disclaimers when he listed Moscow’s rationales for creating the regional groups of forces. He cited three potential “threats to the member countries:” “the threat from Afghanistan,” NATO’s enlargement in Central Europe, and the development of anti-missile defense systems by the United States, in that order of importance. One weakness of those justifications resides in the fact that only the leaders of Belarus and Tajikistan accept them. They are, moreover, wholly irrelevant to Armenia. For their part, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan will probably drag their feet in creating joint forces with Russia and will cautiously seek military and security links outside the CIS in order at least partly to offset Moscow’s leverage (Itar-Tass, RIA, June 27; Kommersant daily, June 28).