Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 182

According to the CIS Collective Security Council’s General Secretary, Vladimir Zemsky, the presidents of several member countries have signed a “decision” on collective military assistance to Kyrgyzstan in the framework of the CIS Collective Security Treaty. This is the first time in the history of the CIS that the 1992 treaty is being activated and that a decision has–or is purported to have–been made on providing collective military assistance to a member country. On a stopover in Bishkek to collect President Askar Akaev’s signature on October 2, Zemsky described the collective decision as envisaging supplies of arms, equipment and military advisers to Kyrgyzstan; “the sending of combat troops of signatory countries is not under consideration at this time.”

Zemsky portrayed the insurgency in the Kyrgyz-Uzbek-Tajik border area as, (a) an aggression by external forces, and (b) one of two “coordinated operations” by “international terrorism” against CIS countries, the other operation being underway in Russia’s North Caucasus. Conceding that the 1992 CIS Collective Security Treaty envisages mutual assistance against military attack by foreign states, Zemsky argued that “the main emphasis in that document needs to be shifted toward fighting international terrorism.”

The Russian diplomat’s remarks bear out the forecast (see the Monitor, September 17 and the Fortnight in Review, September 24) that Moscow seeks to cast the CIS Collective Security Treaty in the mold of the defunct Warsaw Pact. That treaty, signed in 1955, was supposedly designed for a collective response to external military aggression, but in practice was only invoked against challenges to the internal order in member countries. The Islamic insurgents in Kyrgyzstan are of course not comparable to the Hungarian freedom fighters or the Czech reformers. But these Islamic rebels are for the most part citizens of Uzbekistan and possibly of Tajikistan, so that the CIS Collective Security Treaty is being invoked against an essentially internal rebellion, not an external attack. This situation is one of the reasons behind Moscow’s claims–yet to be seriously substantiated–that the insurgency stems from an international conspiratorial center.

The other similarity in the use of the Warsaw Pact and of the CIS Collective Security Treaty involves a show of multilateralism to cloak the reality of bilateral arrangements. Any CIS military assistance to Kyrgyzstan would clearly be a mainly Russian affair and a matter of bilateral Russian-Kyrgyz arrangements, even if one or two Central Asian countries participate in an ancillary role. Uzbekistan can be a major factor in its own right, but abandoned the CIS Collective Security Treaty earlier this year.

Zemsky publicly listed the countries which agreed to assist Kyrgyzstan militarily as “the six partners to the CIS Collective Security Treaty [Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and the recipient country Kyrgyzstan] and, also, Uzbekistan”–a clear if indirect admission that Uzbekistan has not heeded Moscow’s entreaties to rejoin that treaty. Moreover, Zemsky went on to concede that, of the six partners, the Belarusan and Armenian presidents had not signed the collective “decision” yet, but “are expected to do so” (Itar-Tass, October 2).

This situation points to yet another analogy between the defunct Warsaw Pact and the nascent CIS Collective Security alliance–namely, Moscow’s self-arrogated role of speaking for–and preempting–the junior partners, none of whom have made public their purported decision to become involved in a local conflict. The significant difference between the two alliance systems is that the CIS countries can leave the alliance–as Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia have done–or decline to participate in “collective” actions without fear of serious reprisals by a weakened Moscow.