Kant wants to be friends with Manas

Agency WPS
March 19, 2004, Friday


SOURCE: Russky Kurier, March 16, 2004, p. 2

by Vitaly Strugovets

Operational conference of the United Headquarters of the Organization
of the CIS Collective Security Treaty begins in Moscow. Lieutenant
General Vasily Zavgorodny, Senior Deputy Chief-of-Staff, says that
the conference will be attended by chiefs-of-staff of national
armies, General Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha, and Major General Sergei
Chernomordin, Commander of the Central Asian Fast Response Collective

The decision to establish the United Headquarters as “a permanent
working body of the Organization of the CIS Collective Security
Treaty and its Council of Defense Ministers” was made almost a year
ago, in April 2003. Fifty-five staff officers represent members of
the Organization of the CIS Collective Security Treaty in accordance
with their financial contributions. Russia accounts for 50% of the
budget and other countries (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
and Tajikistan) 10% each.

Chief-of-staff always represents the country whose defense minister
is currently chairman of the Council of Defense Ministers. Nowadays,
it is Tajikistan. Needless to say, chief-of-staff is quartered in his
native country and not in Moscow. Daily activities of the United
Headquarters are supervised by senior deputy chief-of-staff. The
United Headquarters commands army groups – West, Caucasus, and
Central Asia.

Military experts call the Organization of the CIS Collective Security
Treaty a mini-NATO. There truly are some aspects similar to both
alliances. For example, whenever a country of one of the bloc finds
itself under attack, all of the alliance regards it as an attack on
all. This is a major difference between the Organization of the CIS
Collective Security Treaty and the 1992 Treaty. “There are but two
organizations in the world nowadays that view security matters as the
first priority. They are NATO and the Organization of the CIS
Collective Security Treaty,” General Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha
(formerly Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian
Federation, head of the presidential administration, and Ambassador
to Denmark) said not long ago. He believes therefore that the two
alliances must interact. “The Organization of the CIS Collective
Security Treaty already has a plan of cooperation and interaction
with NATO,” he said. “Distance between military bases of the
Organization of the CIS Collective Security Treaty and forces of the
counter-terrorism operation in Afghanistan (that means NATO) is under
three dozen clicks.” Needless to say, Bordyuzha meant airfields in
Kyrgyzstan, Kant and Manas. According to what information this
newspaper has compiled, the Council of Foreign Ministers of the
Organization of the CIS Collective Security Treaty has already
drafted a document which will suggest military cooperation between
bases in Kant and Manas.

Unlike NATO, however, its CIS analog is financially unstable. That is
what generates friction among its members. It is clear nowadays that
the Organization of the CIS Collective Security Treaty owes its
existence mostly to the Russian budget. All its structures are
financed by Russia by at least 50%. Actually, Russian contribution is
even larger than that. Consider for example the Kremlin’s decision to
sell military hardware to countries of the Organization of the CIS
Collective Security Treaty at the prices demanded from Russian
buyers. Not even NATO has come up with that. This lenient terms
regime only applies to the units involved in international
contingents these days, but official Moscow contemplates its
application to all armed forces of all members of the Organization of
the CIS Collective Security Treaty. This assistance may even be made

Russia is also prepared to face the bill of training officers for CIS
national armies. 2,700 men from armies of the Organization of the CIS
Collective Security Treaty are being trained in Russia. Members of
the Organization of the CIS Collective Security Treaty pay $1,000 for
every trainee annually. The subject of training them without charge
is being considered now. Russia pays for maintenance of the forces
comprising the nucleus of all army groups of the Organization of the
CIS Collective Security Treaty. First and foremost, the matter
concerns AF bases in Kyrgyzstan and Armenia.

Aircraft based in Kant, for example, are officially recognized as a
part of the Fast Response Collective Forces. Still, Russia alone
finances the base. It will cost $10 million to outfit the base only,
and annual maintenance is estimated at $4 million more. It is not
exactly a “grant” as some politicians present it.

As a matter of fact, the anti-Taliban coalition pays Kyrgyzstan
$7,000 for every takeoff or landing in Manas. It is this easy money
that spoils the relations between Moscow and Dushanbe, Bishkek,
Astana. The United States alone intends to transact over $6 million
to Kyrgyzstan by way of military assistance (discounting what this
country is paid for the use of the Manas facility, that is). The sum
is double what Kyrgyzstan received in 2003. Kazakhstan is promised
helicopters, military transport planes, and ships under 1,000 tons
water displacement. Considerable technical aid is promised Tajikistan
too. Forget Central Asia for a minute. Even official Minsk in the
course of the recent “gas crisis” began talking of the necessity to
take money from Russia for “the military objects located on the
territory of Belarus.”

It does not take a genius to see that Russia cannot hope to satisfy
all of the demands its “allies” come up with. Financially, that is.
It follows that weapons and military hardware should be offered.
Sources in the United Headquarters say that these deliveries exactly
will be in the focus of attention of the operational conference of
the Organization of the CIS Collective Security Treaty in Moscow.
Defense ministers will even visit Granit, the foremost provider of
antiaircraft means for the Russian Armed Forces. It is common
knowledge that antiaircraft defense is our allies’ major headache.

Official commentary

Major General Sergei Chernomordin, Commander of the Fast Response
Collective Forces: The Taliban has never been abolished

Chernomordin: Headquarters of the Fast Response Collective Forces is
located in Bishkek. The operational group comprising officers from
all countries is quartered there too. National armies of participants
of the Organization of the CIS Collective Security Treaty are
represented in the Fast Response Collective Forces by a reinforced
battalion each. These are units of permanent combat readiness that do
not need a lot of time to up their readiness status. These units are
fully staffed and equipment. Whenever the order is received, the
units are ready for combat in the plains or in the mountains in
virtually no time. These are not ordinary units. I mean, infantry.
The Kazakh Armed Forces for example are represented by a battalion of
paratroops. Hence the weapons – light weapons and portable grenade
launchers. The battalion is quite mobile, up to missions in all
conditions. The national army of Tajikistan is represented by a
similar unit. Kyrgyzstan is represented by a battalion of
mountaineers. All Kyrgyz servicemen are seasoned fighters. The
nucleus of the Kyrgyz battalion is comprised of the veterans who
fought in the Batken region in 1999.

The battalion tactical group of the Russian 201st Motorized Infantry
Division is equipped and trained for mountainous warfare. It has
tanks, armored personnel carriers, mobile artillery systems. All
these units will be promptly airlifted to the endangered area and
deploy there. I do not doubt their efficiency.

Question: Do the Fast Response Collective Forces have an action plan?

Sergei Chernomordin: We have the deployment plan for potential
actions on the territory of any of the four countries. Usually, all
officers and units of the Fast Response Collective Forces remain at
their permanent quarters, working in line with their own curricula.
They come together only in the special period. they have to be
drilled constantly, taught to operate in the designated area. That is
why our units are deployed in Tajikistan today, and tomorrow
exercises may be run in Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan. This is how we
train our units the year round. Along with everything else, we remain
in close contact with the CIS Counter-Terrorism Center and national
armies. Whenever necessary, the Fast Response Collective Forces may
operate under the command of a national defense minister. Together
with armed forces and other security structures, of course. If the
appropriate decision is made, I will submit to the defense minister
of the country where our involvement is needed. Or else, I may
operate independently.

Question: What do you think of the situation in Central Asia?

Sergei Chernomordin: The counter-terrorism operation has hurt the
Taliban but never abolished it altogether. Moreover, Taliban
detachments mount more and more resolute attacks on forces of the
counter-terrorism coalition and the government of Khamid Karzai.
Tribal strife continues as well. Instability has not been routed out,
nor weapons have been laid down. Trafficking via Central Asia to
Europe and America increases in scope. This is what worries the
governments of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Russia, and Kyrgyzstan first
and foremost. Traffic means inevitable infiltration of the
territories of Central Asian countries by armed gangs.

Specialist’s opinion

The Fast Response Collective Forces is the Central Asian army group
of the Organization of the CIS Collective Security Treaty. It
comprises Kazbat paratroops battalion, battalion of Kyrgyz
mountaineers, Tajik paratroops battalion, Russian motorized infantry
battalion (of the 201st Motorized Infantry Division quartered in
Tajikistan), and communications units. Numerical strength approaches
1,500 men. Aviation of the Fast Response Collective Forces based in
Kant includes ten SU-25 and SU-27 aircraft, nine military transport
planes, four training planes, and two helicopters (all of them
Russian). Meeting of the Council of Defense Ministers in December
2003 found it necessary to up numerical strength of the Fast Response
Collective Forces 2.5 times this year. Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and
Russia are expected to provide another battalion each, Tajikistan two

The Caucasus group comprises units of the Russian and Armenian
armies. Russia is represented by the 102nd Military Base in Gyumri.
There is also a considerable antiaircraft group – a wing of eighteen
MIG-29 aircraft and a battery of complexes with radars.

The West group was first mentioned during President Vladimir Putin’s
visit to Belarus in May 2002. A group 3,000 men strong was mentioned
then. The Defense Ministry of Russia explained afterwards that the
group would comprise some units of the Moscow and Leningrad military
districts, Baltic Fleet, and the Belarusian army. Whenever necessary,
they would follow common operational plans. United headquarters were
established for the duration of command exercises on two occasions.