Putin to attend back-to-back summits of former Soviet republics

Associated Press Worldstream
June 17, 2004 Thursday

Putin to attend back-to-back summits of former Soviet republics to
step up security, economic cooperation

by BAGILA BUKHARBAYEVA; Associated Press Writer

ASTANA, Kazakhstan

Russian Vladimir Putin and leaders of several other former Soviet
republics plan to boost security and economic ties at back-to-back
summits in the Kazakh capital, wrapping up a week of intense regional
diplomacy in strategic Central Asia.

The meetings Friday of presidents from member states of the
Russia-dominated Collective Security Treaty and Eurasian Economic
Community come after the summit in the Uzbek capital Tashkent a
day ago of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security group
including China, Russia and four Central Asian nations.

As members of the Collective Security Treaty, the leaders of Armenia,
Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan are expected
to discuss regional security and plans to beef up their collective
rapid reaction forces.

The alliance has nine battalions based in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan,
Kazakhstan and Russia and plans by 2010 to form a mobile force intended
to quickly respond to security threats to its members.

Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry said treaty members will sign an
agreement on joint use of one another’s military facilities.

Russia has been recently seeking closer military and security
ties with former Soviet Central Asia, apparently trying to counter
increased U.S. influence here. The United States set up military
bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to back its anti-terror campaign
in neighboring Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks nearly three
years ago.

Last year, Russia opened a military base in Kyrgyzstan under
the Collective Security Treaty to provide air support for future
anti-terrorist operations.

Russia’s moves have also been prompted by security concerns because
of the spread of radical Islam in Central Asia after the 1991 Soviet

After the security summit, leaders of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will on Friday sign agreements on adopting
unified laws and circulation of securities among the Eurasian Economic

The group was created in 2000 to restore lost economic ties after the
1991 Soviet collapse. Russia has 40 percent of the voting rights in
the organization and covers 40 percent of its budget.

In February, the countries agreed to form a customs union by 2006.
They are also working on creating a transport union and coordinated
migration policies, and are discussing unified energy and agricultural

At Thursday’s summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, China
offered US$900 million in credit to other treaty countries, which also
include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The
group also inaugurated an anti-terrorism center in Tashkent.

That summit was preceded by official visits here by Chinese President
Hu Jintao and Putin, who signed separate bilateral cooperation
agreements with Central Asia’s most populous country.