CSTO To Decide On Future Central Asian Military Bases; Skeptical Of U.S. Drug Help
Each Collective Security Treaty Organization member country will get a veto over any new foreign military bases in member states, the group agreed at a summit today in Moscow. From RIA Novosti:
"Now, in order to accommodate extra-regional military structures on the territory of the CSTO, it will be necessary to obtain official approval of all [CSTO] members,” [Kazakhstan President Nursultan] Nazarbayev said.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev added that “all parties reached a mutual agreement” on the decision.
The CSTO includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The most obvious effect of this is that Russia now can veto any future U.S. bases in Central Asia. As the saga between India and Tajikistan has recently shown, and the last Manas-is-closing scare did earlier, Moscow already has quite a bit of say over this issue. But would Uzbekistan listen if Moscow told them they couldn't host some foreign base? Might Uzbekistan try to veto a new Russian facility in Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan? It seems very doubtful Russia would listen then.
An analysis in Kommersant (in Russian) says that while, publicly, the organization is most focused on the threat to the region from instability in Afghanistan, behind the scenes the real fear is "the West's rising influence on post-Soviet territories." And it includes an interesting tidbit about U.S. regional anti-drug initiatives. Translation via Johnson's Russia List:
A diplomatic source from one of the bloc's countries told Kommersant that this [worry over the West's rising influence] is why members of the CSTO were skeptical of the US anti-drug initiatives in Central Asia. According to Kommersant's interlocutor, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan were interested in the proposal, involving the provision of US funding, but after looking deeper into the initiative, became wary.
According to Kommersant's sources, the US offered to fight drug-trafficking from Afghanistan with the assistance of special units which would have included representatives of all law enforcement and intelligence agencies of Central Asia. This "anti-drug super special unit" should have the most extensive powers, and most importantly, access all operative and secret information. At least in the initial stages, the project was to be managed by the United States. According to Kommersant's interlocutor, the regional states are afraid that, through this initiative, the US could obtain access to sensitive information, which could be used to influence and blackmail leaders of the CSTO member states. "Having realized this, the countries in the region took a time out," concludes the diplomat.
Translation via The Bug Pit: Allowing the U.S. too much access to anti-drug units in Central Asia could expose the extent to which those countries' governments are themselves involved in the drug trade. Of course, it's not at all certain that the U.S. would care to expose those links, given how beholden they are to regional access for the Northern Distribution Network to Afghanistan. So it's not clear who can really blackmail whom here.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.