MOSCOW (Combined Sources)–Heads of State from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have signed an agreement to establish a permanent military force for the post-soviet alliance. The Presidents of Armenia and Russia announced on Sunday in a press conference following a CSTO summit in Moscow.
The official agreement to form the military force came three months after it was announced that the CSTO would hold military exercises for the new military units in Kazakhstan this September.
“The document that has been signed includes an agreement on collective forces and a decision by the Collective Security Council on the rapid-reaction force structure,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying.
“I think a great work has been done,” said Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, commenting on the end of his country’s one year presidency of the CSTO. “The creation of the rapid-reaction forces and the coordination of [CSTO] member states’ foreign policies are evidence that serious work has been done over the past year.”
The forces, which Medvedev said “will be just as good as comparable NATO forces,” are expected to counter such threats as military aggression, terrorist activities, trans-border crimes and drug trafficking.
More importantly, it will add a military dimension to the alliance, which so far has served mostly as a forum for consultations.
The CSTO, a security group comprising Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, agreed in early February to form rapid reaction forces.
The new forces will consist of large military units from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, RIA Novosti said. Those military units will be armed with modern compatible weapons and military hardware, said the Itar-Tass news agency.
The document also includes a number of action plans for CSTO members to implement until 2012.
Two CSTO member states, Belarus and Uzbekistan, however, did not sign the document. Uzbekistan cited “some doubts” and Belarus, which was to assume the rotating CSTO presidency from Armenia did not attend the summit over Russia’s banning of dairy products from the country. The alliance’s presidency was transferred to Russia temporarily.
Medvedev said he believes the two countries will eventually sign the agreement.
In related news, Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov Sunday on the sidelines of the CSTO conference. The two met in “a warm and sincere atmosphere” after the conference for talks on deepening their bilateral relations, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, adding that they also discussed a “wide range of regional and international issues.”