A North Atlantic post-Soviet alliance

The military history of the CIS will soon face a decisive moment linked to the fight of NATO and the US for geopolitical leadership on the former Soviet territory and its borders. This leadership is associated with the engagement of the post-Soviet republics in finding solutions for the alliance’s major military and strategic challenges in the region. To the detriment of Russia’s geopolitical interests, the intergovernmental military and political alliances which were formed under Russia’s organization – CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization), and SCO (The Shanghai Cooperation Organization) – are losing their positions and in many ways becoming a “sham,” effectively virtual institutions.
Without any specific or relevant objectives, the SCO joint anti-terrorism training “Peace Mission 2010” will begin on September 10 at the Matybulak base in Kazakhstan.

Three thousand troops from China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan will participate in the training. Similar exercises, “Interaction 2009,” were already held at the same base by the CSTO a year earlier. According to Lieutenant General Oleg Latypov, a former representative of the organization’s military staff, “in the course of various tactical scenarios” the troops fought against armed gangs which threatened the security of a factitious country. In the scenarios, the militia seized oil refineries, pipelines, etc., and the collective CSTO forces, of course, destroyed the militia.

A similar scenario played out in reality in Kyrgyzstan in the spring and summer, when an interethnic conflict between the Kirghiz and Uzbeks erupted. Then, the militia had fully destroyed industrial facilities in the south of the country. But no CSTO forces came to Kyrgyzstan’s rescue, despite the fact that its new leader, Roza Otunbayeva, sent an appropriate request to Moscow, as well as to the leaders of CSTO and SCO.

Against this background, the largest joint exercises in recent years between NATO member countries (US and Great Britain) and Kazakhstan, called “Steppe Eagle 2010,” which were completed last Sunday, are especially effective and important to the interests of NATO countries fighting in Afghanistan. Robert Simmons, NATO secretary general’s special representative in Central Asia and the Caucasus, who was present at the training, said that KazBat (a Kazakh battalion equipped in accordance with the NATO standards) is ready to act together with the forces of the alliance. He noted that the question regarding the involvement of Kazakh troops in the operations in Afghanistan has practically been settled.

“We have already prepared all documents which will allow the deployment of the contingent (troops of the armed forces of Kazakhstan) to Afghanistan,” Simmons told journalists.

So far, the authorities in Kazakhstan have not officially confirmed this information, as such involvement must be approved by the country’s parliament. However, the commander-in-chief of the ground forces of Kazakhstan, Saken Zhasuzakov, in assessing “Steppe Eagle 2010,” stated that his troops are ready and able to take part in joint action with the alliance in any region.

“We have achieved cohesiveness, interoperability and tactical coherence,” Zhasuzakov said.

There is seemingly nothing inappropriate here. Azerbaijani, Armenian and Georgian troops are involved in operations in Afghanistan. Uzbek troops are providing security for the construction of the Hairaton to Mazar-e-Sharif railroad. But NATO has been known to ignore the proposals made by Moscow and the CSTO and SCO leadership on issues regarding cooperation in Afghanistan. Russia, it seems, is only deciding to open a new military base in the south of Kyrgyzstan, while the US is already announcing readiness to allocate funds for the construction of a training center in Osh.

According to Kyrgyz sources, the US Department of Defense published a solicitation for designers and construction companies interested in developing the “Osh Polygon” on the Federal Business Opportunities website; the announcement expired on August 19. It remains unknown as to who will be building the facility. But the project has already been secretly approved by the current president, Roza Otunbayeva. According to the announcement, the US plans to spend $5-10 million on construction, and the aim of the project is to prepare Kyrgyz troops for fighting terrorists.

Note that the US is implementing a similar project and building a military training center in Tajikistan. Not long ago, the governments of Uzbekistan and Germany signed a new agreement on usage of the Termez Airport by Germany’s Federal Defense Force. Thus, the Central Asian states are helping NATO in any way they can to resolve security issues and fight terrorism.

And, what about our organizations, the CSTO and the SCO? Why were they created?

The editor-in-chief of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine, Fyodor Lukyanov, says that SCO’s activity on the territory of Central Asia impedes China.

“China very ably and consistently avoids responsibility, because it is leading a purely pragmatic foreign policy, without getting involved in affairs that do not directly affect Chinese interests,” he said.

As for the CSTO, in his opinion Russia could play a more active role, but it isn’t, “and we have recently witnessed this fact in Kyrgyzstan,” he said. According to Lukyanov, to realize its geopolitical ambitions, Moscow needs assets, which today it lacks. It’s hard to disagree with these assessments.

Although, in all honesty, the virtual nature of SCO and the CSTO was created by Russia itself. Moscow does not have any clear geopolitical or military plans on the post-Soviet territory. This is apparently why it is so easily conquered by other countries and organizations.

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