BISHKEK–Kyrgyzstan (Reuters)–Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of five other ex-Soviet states held talks on Wednesday in Bishkek–capital of the tiny Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan–to hammer out a collective security pact.
The pact is one of several slow-paced arrangemen’s aimed at bringing Moscow closer to its former Soviet colonies.
Putin and the leaders of Belarus–Kazakhstan–Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were in the Kazakh capital Astana on Tuesday–where they signed documen’s aimed at tightening a customs union.
That project has been expanded into a "Eurasian Economic Union," aimed at forging tighter political and economic ties along the lines of the European Union.
The separate collective security pact also includes Armenia–whose President Robert Kocharian joined the other countries’ leaders for Wednesday’s meeting in Bishkek.
Russia and the former Soviet states in Central Asia are particularly alarmed by what they see as a threat of Islamic radicalism spreading from Afghanistan–which has been the focus of previous rounds of security talks.
Russia currently helps guard the former Soviet frontier between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. But other key regional states–notably Uzbekistan–are not part of the pact.
Putin’s visit to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is his second tour of Central Asia. Previously he visited Uzbekistan and Turkmen’stan–two states where Moscow’s influence has been seen as waning.