By Hrach Melkumian
Senior defense officials from the Commonwealth of Independent States met in Yerevan on Friday for a regular discussion of ways to deepen military ties among the twelve former Soviet republics making up the loose grouping.
According to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov, who heads the largely ceremonial CIS Council of Defense Ministers, the two-hour meeting marked “yet another positive step to develop military cooperation” across the former Soviet Union. “We considered the pressing issues of improving multilateral military and military-technical cooperation,” he told a news conference.
Ivanov said the Council made a number of “important decisions” that will lead to the creation of a CIS peace-keeping force, the setting up of a system of interstate military communication and improved safety of military aircraft flights. He said the participants also approved plans for the strengthening of a single air defense system covering much of the Soviet Union.
It remained unclear, however, whether the arrangements will encompass all CIS countries. Six of them, including Armenia, are part of the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty (CST) organization and are bound by a formal commitment to defend each other in the event of a military aggression. The treaty signatories regularly hold joint military exercises and receive Russian military supplies on privileged terms.
But the other CIS countries are more wary of close military ties with Moscow. Some of them, including neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan as well as Ukraine, have openly expressed their desire to join NATO. Ukraine was represented at the meeting by its military attaché in Yerevan, while another big ex-Soviet nation, Uzbekistan, sent a liaison officer representing its military in Moscow.
Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan avoided any participation in the Yerevan meeting, with Baku attributing its boycott to the unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. “We don’t knock on the enemy’s door,” a spokeswoman for the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry was quoted as saying.
(Photolur photo: Ivanov, right, presiding over the meeting.)