CENTRAL ASIAN ARMIES START EXERCISES TO COUNTER POTENTIAL ARAB SPRING-STYLE UNREST
6:27PM BST 20 Sep 2011
A Russian-led military alliance has started exercises in Central
Asia partly aimed at defeating any popular uprisings inspired by the
Russian armed forces blow up an inflatable T-72 tank during a previous
training exercise. Photo: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA / Rex FeaturesBy James
Dealing with social unrest is a priority for the Collective Security
Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a security pact including Russia,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Armenia and Belarus.
Last week General Nikolai Makarov, head of the Russian army, told a
newspaper that training to deal with social uprisings similar to those
seen in North Africa and the Middle East and the increasing threat
from militant Islamists would be the focus of the military exercises.
“According to him, the exercises would be especially aimed at defeating
negative developments shown from the examples of Libya and Syria and
the export of destabilisation after NATO leaves Afghanistan in 2014,”
Russian newspaper Vedemosti reported on Sept 13.
The military exercise, running between Sept 19 – 27, is one of the
biggest in the CSTO’s nine year history. Around 12,000 soldiers,
100 tanks, 50 warplanes and 10 ships would take part in manoeuvres
in Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Russian news agency
RIA Novosti reported.
Central Asia’s leaders have been watching as revolutions in North
Africa and the Middle East overthrew regimes which, like many of them,
have been in power for decades.
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They have recently looked to the CSTO to maintain regional stability
and pledged to strengthen its military capability. They have also
said they will monitor social media websites which many people said
helped spread the uprisings across the Arab world.
Earlier this year the Kazakh political elite ditched plans to
make President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been in power since
independence in 1991, the country’s unelected leader until 2020.
Instead, after a popular revolution in Egypt, they organised a hasty
election to prove Mr Nazarbayev’s democratic credentials. He won
another term easily.
In Uzbekistan the state has filtered out images from the Arab
revolutions from the internet.
The CSTO military exercises assumed extra importance earlier this
month when a militant Islamic group released a video promising to
attack government forces and “non-believers” in Tajikistan.
The CSTO has said it is particularly worried about the spread
northwards of militant Islam once NATO leaves Afghanistan in 2014.