Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 104

The Yerevan summit also discussed the groups of forces on the “western” (that is, Central European) and the South Caucasus flanks of the three-tiered CIS Collective Security Treaty (CST). Unlike the multilateral Central Asian tier, those in Central Europe and in the South Caucasus are bilateral arrangements of Russia with Belarus and Russia with Armenia, respectively. Russia is the only country present in all three theaters and, in effect, running each.

Russia’s military alliances with Belarus and Armenia involve conventional forces and plans for their use as “joint regional groups.” On the Central Asian flank, however, a “joint group” of conventional forces is only envisaged to develop from the rapid-deployment troops now being created.

Moscow wants all the member countries to bear solitary political responsibility for any consequences of Russian-led actions in any of the theaters. The treaty and the Collective Security Council, supposedly the top political decision-making body, are intended to create an appearance of multilateralism. Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian, as host of the summit, was elected as chairman of the Collective Security Council for a six-month term until the next summit. Meanwhile, Kocharian and his Belarusan counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed a bilateral treaty of friendship and cooperation. Since the demise of former President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Putin and Kocharian are probably the only European heads of state willing to sign such treaties with the international pariah Lukashenka.

The Yerevan summit reviewed proposals to create a preferential system for supplying arms and military equipment to CIS Collective Security Treaty signatory countries. The basic idea is that Russia should supply such items at reduced prices and on a priority basis to its allies. That idea underlay the Agreement on the Basic Principles of Military-Technical Cooperation among Collective Security Treaty Member States, signed in 1992 and a dead letter ever since. Earlier this month, just in time for the Yerevan summit, the Russian government drafted modifications to the 1992 agreement in order to ease its ratification by the Duma and protect the interests of Russia’s military industry. In Yerevan, Putin added to the confusion by announcing that Moscow is also currently drafting a Concept of Russia’s Military-Technical Cooperation with its allies. There was no explanation as to how the unratified, soon-to-be-modified CIS agreement would coexist if at all with the soon-to-be-drafted Russian concept. The situation looks like a prescription for muddle and delay.

Collective Security Treaty member countries in their impoverished condition seek priority access to modern Russian equipment, and would want it delivered by manufacturers without commercial markups. Some in the Russian governments favor that approach, while Russian manufacturers and their supporters in government refuse to forego commercial profits even off allies–and evidently without regard to the presumed sanctity of the “antiterrorism” cause. They would, moreover, sell upmarket items to solvent customers, in preference to CIS allies. Those five allied countries, for their part, are desperate to revive Soviet-era military production on their own territory and to sell–as does Belarus–on non-CIS markets whenever possible. These divergent political and commercial interests are difficult to reconcile.

The five allies interpret the preferential supply system as applying to their national forces overall. Moscow, however, increasingly tends to construe it as applying only to those elements of national forces that are allocated to the Russian-led “collective” or “joint” forces. That interpretation is more of a coercive factor than an incentive to the allies to place their better forces under Russian control–and see their other national forces lag behind (Snark, Noyan-Tapan, AZG; Kabar (Bishkek), Belarusan Television, Itar-Tass, May 25-28; Izvestia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 25-26; see the Monitor, October 16, December 4, 2000, March 12, April 2, 10, May 25; Fortnight in Review, March 16, April 13).

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