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Based on an agreement signed in Bishkek in October 2000, a joint rapid reaction force consisting of four battalions from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan would be used to respond to regional crises across Central Asia and to fortify porous border areas against terrorist attacks and incursions. The joint rapid reaction force would be a "small, compact group, consisting of four battalions contributed by the partner states," according to the CIS security chief. (AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, 5 Apr 01; via lexis-nexis)
Nikolaenko also discussed political and military integration of the rapid reaction force with Kyrgyzstan President Askar Akaev in Bishkek. (RIA, 0624 GMT, 2 Apr 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-0402, via World News Connection) Bishkek has been discussed as one of the possible locations for the rapid reaction force headquarters. Kyrgyzstan Defense Minister Esen Topoev, who also met with Nikolaenko, stated that establishing the headquarters would be "the first step in setting up collective rapid deployment forces" under the Collective Security Treaty. (INTERFAX, 0911 GMT, 31 Mar 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-0331, via World News Connection) The command and control relationships for the nascent rapid reaction force will be outlined during upcoming "Southern Shield" exercises in Moscow. As with other CIS ventures, Russia undoubtedly will hold the key leadership positions and dominate the command structure.
Russia also will provide significant military technical assistance and equipment to Kyrgyzstan. (INTERFAX, 0911 GMT, 31 Mar 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-0331, via World News Connection) Kyrgyzstan's forces currently are deployed along mountain passes and other potential invasion routes based on their experience in the past two military campaigns against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and in anticipation of renewed fighting in the region. (The IMU staged several incursions in August 2000 into a remote mountainous region bordering southern Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan from bases in Tajikistan.) The deployed Kyrgyz mountain units will be subsumed by the joint command, Topoev said: "The main role is attributed to the anti-terrorist rapid reaction forces" of the Collective Security Treaty. (ITAR-TASS, 1546 GMT, 30 Mar 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-0330, via World News Connection)
On 31 March, Nikolaenko met with Tajikistan's defense minister, Sherali Khayrulloev, Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov and Security Council Secretary Amirqul Azimov in Dushanbe to discuss regional security issues and CIS efforts to expand military cooperation with Tajikistan. The CIS security chief expressed concern about a possible repeat of last year's IMU border incursions and reiterated that the "Tajik-Afghan border is the main defense line for the territorial integrity and security of the entire Central Asian region." (ITAR-TASS, 0812 GMT, 31 Mar 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-0331, via World News Connection) He added that the rapid reaction force construct would be adopted at the CIS Collective Security Council meeting in Armenia's capital, Yerevan, in May. (ITAR-TASS, 0806 GMT, 31 Mar 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-0331, via World News Connection)
Russia continues to wield considerable military influence in Central Asia although the tenor of that influence is changing from bilateral agreements to multilateral endeavors. Russian efforts to create a rapid reaction force in Central Asia constitutes the first concrete step Moscow has taken to establish regional forces within the framework of the CIS Collective Security Treaty. A Russian-led rapid reaction force in Central Asia will enable Russia to create a buffer zone against "international terrorism" and drug trafficking as well as preserve its military presence on the CIS's southern borders. Indeed, by placing their national rapid-deployment battalions under Russian command, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are surrendering a certain degree of autonomy in defense matters, making them more closely resemble Russian protectorates than sovereign states. ----------------------------
The above story orginially was posted on EurasiaNet partner site, the NIS Observed, a publication of the Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology and Peace at Boston University. Chartered in 1988, ISCIP focuses on conflict-prone societies in crisis, especially Russia and other post-Soviet republics, paying particular attention to destabilizing factors of a political, ethnic, and/or international nature. The members of the ISCIP research team contribute biweekly surveys of the developments in their regions which are posted in The NIS Observed: An Analytical Review.