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Moscow uses allies to reinforce its positions in Central Asia and the Trans-Caucasus 9 novembre 2007

Posted by Acturca in Caucasus / Caucase, Central Asia / Asie Centrale, Russia / Russie.
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What the Papers Say Part A (Russia), November 6, 2007 Tuesday

Vladimir Mukhin, Nezavisimaya Gazeta

The Russian Defense Minister’s visits to Uzbekistan and Armenia; Moscow is continuing to reinforce its military positions in important regions of the CIS. Evidence of this can be seen in Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov’s recent visit to Uzbekistan and Armenia – Russia’s key allies in the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization.

Moscow is continuing to reinforce its military positions in important regions of the CIS. Evidence of this can be seen in Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov’s recent visit to Uzbekistan and Armenia – Russia’s key allies in the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

The international community seems to have long since written off the CSTO as just another of the ineffective organizations within the former USSR. Yet it’s the principles of the CSTO (cheap weapons, collective defense, and so on) which are enabling Russia to build up its geopolitical influence in the « near abroad » through contacts with certain CIS countries. For example, Defense Minister Serdyukov has met several times this year with Uzbek Defense Minister Ruslan Mirzayev and Armenian Defense Minister Mikael Arutiunian. And the latest meetings and contacts may prove fateful for Uzbekistan and Armenia.

Lieutenant General Yuri Netkachev, former deputy commander of the Russian Trans-Caucasus Group, suggests that Serdyukov’s urgent visit to Yerevan may have been prompted by expectations that a large number of Turkish troops will be sent into Iraq. This prospect is bound to cause concern, since there are some Kurdish villages in Armenia and on Azeri territory held by the Armenian Army (the Lachin corridor). But the Russian military in Armenia appears to be well-prepared for a potential crisis situation. A number of resources have been delivered there in the post-Soviet period: S-300 air defense missile systems, an aviation regiment with MiG-29 fighters, and almost all equipment from the engineering storehouses of Russian forces withdrawn from Georgia. Serdyukov inspected all this.

Serdyukov’s visit to Tashkent came at the peak of the presidential election campaign in Uzbekistan. At his meeting with Serdyukov, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said: « We regard your visit as further confirmation of the growing relationship between the defense ministries of our countries… In military affairs, among other areas, Uzbekistan and Russia are developing alliance relations which have received a powerful impetus since the Alliance Relations Treaty was signed in 2005. » Karimov’s tone is understandable: in the wake of the Andijan events (May 2005), when there was an attempted armed uprising in the Ferghana Valley, Tashkent turned away from the United States and started developing alliance contacts with Moscow. In contrast to the West, Moscow supported the Uzbek military’s harsh repressive measures against the rebels and its own people.

Serdyukov’s visit to Uzbekistan also had a pragmatic aspect. He signed a bilateral military cooperation plan for 2008, and also secured Tashkent’s consent to have the spent stages of Russian rockets and missiles fall on Uzbekistan’s territory (on the Yustyurt plateau in the wastelands of northern Uzbekistan). Note that the Ustyurt plateau will be used in December when a Russian RS-20 ICBM (Satan) is launched from the Baikonur space center (Kazakhstan) to deliver the Teos satellite into orbit. The Strategic Missile Forces staff is neither confirming nor denying this information, stating that launches from Baikonur, including RS-20 launches, are usually aimed north-east, so that spent stages fall in Kazakhstan.

RS-20 launches from Baikonur have been relatively frequent: two launches in 2007 alone. This is usually done for conversion purposes (the Dnepr program); however, since the Satan is still in use by the Russian Armed Forces, some launches are also done to check the missile’s combat capabilities. There have been no RS-20 accidents to date – but a recent failed launch of a Russian Proton rocket, in which the spent stages contaminated some of Kazakhstan’s territory, is prompting Kazakhstan to ban launches of rockets and missiles that pose environmental hazards. The Satan is a liquid-fuel missile, using heptile – an extremely toxic liquid, with one-tenth of a gram being a lethal dose for humans or animals. If any territory is contaminated with heptile, God forbid, the result would be an environmental disaster.

Source: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 1, 2007, p. 8

Translated by Elena Leonova

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