People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 21

June 02,2002

US Set To Enter Central Asia In A Big Way


WHILE the Russian Federation is trying to build bridges with the US-dominated North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) of the western countries, the security alliance that Moscow had entered with members of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States is all set to pass into history.


According to a story Fred Weir files from Moscow, “The six surviving members of the CIS Collective Security Pact agreed at a summit this week to continue their largely symbolic alliance, but pointedly refused to establish a joint military command under Russian leadership” (Hindustan Times, May 17). Weir then quotes “experts” as saying that this “failure” (or refusal!) “to accept integration probably heralds the final break-up of the organisation.”


As a matter of fact, members of the security alliance have been complaining that Moscow has been trying to use the alliance as a means to establishing its domination in the region. This was the stated ground on which Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan quit the alliance in 1999.


And now other members are set to follow suit. At the meeting ending May 15 in the Minsk, the capital of Belorussia, Russian president Vladimir Putin urged that the other five members make moves to fully integrate their forces. They are Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzia. “Today when the geopolitical situation is changing, the task before us is to strengthen our alliance and adapt it to tackle the new challenges our countries are facing,” Weir quotes Putin as saying. But the group declined to have any talk of joint command, for a year at a minimum.


Yet it appears that the stated fear of Russian domination is just a ploy the alliance members are trying to use to forge closer relations with the west, with the US in particular. In fact, all the Central Asian members of the alliance have accepted US forces on their territory since September 11. 


However, Russia cannot escape its own share of the responsibility for this state of affairs. Even though the Russian Federation has been voicing opposition to the NATO’s eastward expansion plan or to the USA’s National Missile Defence (NMD) project, it has been far from consistent on this score. Then, last week, NATO bosses gave Moscow a limited say in policy-making, which has been tragi-comically described as “a historic bargain.” In return, Moscow did not have to give much; it had only to agree to drop “its objection to the western alliance's planned expansion into the former USSR.” Not much of a sacrifice for the Putin dispensation!


At around the same time, after bitterly opposing the NMD project for a year on the genuine ground that it would jeopardise global security and trigger off a new round of arms race, Moscow has agreed to the White House offer to cooperate on the same project.   


Then the question is: If the leading member of the CIS is itself eager to woo the US and western alliance, how can it expect the other CIS countries not to do the same thing?


Be that as it may, the fact is that now the US, with the whole of NATO under its thumb, is all set to get a firm foothold in Central Asia. What it means for the neighbouring region that includes China, India, Iran and Iraq in the main, only time will tell. Yet none can deny that it creates genuine grounds for apprehension regarding the security and sovereignty of these countries and regarding global peace and security.