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Strategic Chess Moves Across Eurasia 

By K Gajendra Singh

08/08/05 "ICH"
-- -- The Kyrgyz government decision allowing continued use of its Manas air base by the US forces , after the 25-26 July visit of US Secretary of Defence , Donald Rumsfeld, followed a few days later by the Uzbek government’s courier delivered note to the US Embassy in Tashkent demanding that Washington wind up its Karshi-Khanabad (K2) base in south Uzbekistan in 180 days , along with the announcement of joint Russian Chinese military exercises scheduled for August , in the wake of 5 July notice to USA by Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to set a time table to withdraw its troops from bases in central Asia, are some of the strategic moves being made on the Eurasian chess board to counter US led Western expansion into eastern and even central Eurasian lands , by Russia as well as its former Soviet republics , with China now joining hands. 

Russia has separated the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) into a core group which with measures being proposed could transform it into a full-fledged collective security organization. 

Along with India, Iran and Pakistan were admitted as Observers to the SCO , at its Moscow summit. 

History never ends as a reading of world history would tell anyone. After the fall of the Berlin Wall , U.S.-led West moved first stealthily , then rampantly to roll back Russia from the strategic space it occupied as a 2nd world war victor , beginning with the removal ofMilosevicofSerbia,anOrthodoxSlavpeople,traditionalfriendsofOrthodoxSlavRussians.opopSPANP 

US then brought about regime changes in Georgia and Ukraine and installed its puppets and allowed Ilham Aliev succeed his father Haidar Aliev , President of Azerbaijan , an US ally , in a disputed 2003 election. In this 21st century struggle for the control of strategic space, energy sources and raw materials, US has built up a million barrel a day Baku-Tibilsi-Ceyhan pipeline, an energy corridor to squeeze Russia and Iran out from energy transportation to Europe . Stationing of troops in Georgia and Azerbaijan to guard it would be a strategic menace for the region, specially Azerbaijan‘s southern neighbour Iran , part of US Axis of evil and off and on its hit list . 

But when the US financed and supported franchised street revolutions to bring about favourable regime changes reached into the very heart of central Asia in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan , it was too close for comfort not only for Russia but also for Kyrgyzstan’s eastern neighbour China ,which is also facing US moves to hem it in from east and south. Whether USA, caught in the Iraq quagmire with its forces thinly spread, can succeed in is objectives is another matter. 

In history ,the former Soviet Union steppes have been the scene of decisive battles and wars by chariot riding Indo-Europeans and horse riding Turkish, Mongol and other tribes who moulded the history of the then known civilized world in Asia , Middle East , Eastern Europe and Mediterranean. Once again it occupies a central space. 

Unprecedented joint military exercises by China and Russia ; 

In a clear message to the United States and others , in an unprecedented move China and Russia would carry out a joint military exercises scheduled for August 18 to 25 near Russia's far-east port city of Vladivostok, before moving to the Yellow Sea and then to an area off the coastal Chinese province of Shandong. Apart from 2000 Russian troops, the exercises would involve Russia's Il-76 transport planes with paratroopers, Tu-95MS bombers firing cruise missiles at targets in the sea and Su-27SM fighter jets simulating coverage of ground forces. 

The exercises are said to concentrate on anti-terrorist drills, when a fictitious state becomes plagued by terrorist violence and seeks assistance from neighboring states (ie Russia and China) to restore law and order. But why the strategic bombers and submarines ! Reports indicated differences over the location, with Russia wanting it near Xinjiang , while China wanted to locate it near Taiwan ,but it is now quite far away from both these places. Sixty five percent of Izvestia ‘s readers in an internet poll indicated that the exercises were aimed at USA .

Russian and Chinese Generals, including defense ministers , Russian Chief of General Staff Yury Baluyevsky and his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie, are expected to attend the exercises . This exercise was first included in a memorandum of understanding between Chinese Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Guo Boxiong, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in July 2004 but made public in December 2004, when Ivanov visited China. 

US base in Kyrgyzstan; 

After meetings with Rumsfeld on 26 July in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, its leaders were persuaded that as Afghanistan remained volatile and the Manas base was needed to provide logistical support for US operations . "The base at Manas will stay as long as the situation in Afghanistan requires," acting Kyrgyz Defense Minister Ismail Isakov said during a news conference with Rumsfeld. "Once there is stabilization, there will be no need. But now I agree with [Rumsfeld], who said the situation in Afghanistan is far from stable." This was Rumsfeld’s second visit to Bishkek this year .

President Kurman Bakiyev thanked Rumsfeld for the US support and said that a new period began with the change in Kyrgyz administration on March 24, culminating with the presidential elections on July 10, ( which he won). He thanked USA for its contribution in ensuring that the elections were democratic and legal. He said that the US administration was always with Kyrgyzstan in its democratic and economic development since its independence. The US has reportedly provided $750 million in aid to Kyrgyzstan since its independence in 1991. 

Assuring Bakiev of continued US support for the development of democracy in Kyrgyzstan , Rumsfeld said that the 10 July presidential elections was a victory for the people for Kyrgyzstan and Bakiyev. The base built to serve their mutual interests had done no harm to the region and played a significant role in the US war on international terrorism, extremism and narcotics, added Rumsfeld. 

About the SCO deadline for the US evacuation from the region, Rumsfeld remarked in his inimitable style "I don't really know. I wasn't at the meeting. We are not a member of that organization. And I don't know what their motives might have been." Rumsfeld emphasized that the situation in Afghanistan was not yet stable. He said that independent countries made decisions without any pressure or outside intervention. 

Bakiyev, who was elected the new Kyrgyz President on July 10 after a popular uprising in March had toppled former US poster boy Askar Akayev, had expressed doubts about the need for the U.S. presence at Manas . He told reporters on July 11 “This issue was raised at the SCO summit, since the situation in Afghanistan has changed. The situation in Afghanistan will soon stabilize. The country has had presidential elections and is getting ready to elect a parliament, so the question about the coalition base’s presence in Kyrgyzstan arises.” 

US claims that the bases serve as important conduits for humanitarian aid and military equipment sent to Afghanistan .But they are seen as part of a shift in Pentagon strategy that establishes near the world's hot spots , small, rapid response outposts that can be quickly ramped up during crises. Central Asia, home to numerous Islamic extremist and terrorist groups, is one of those hot spots. But since 2001 USA has done really little to stop Pakistan from sending terrorists to India or controlling Kurdish PKK militants from Turkey , now holed up in north Iraq under US protection, which even commit terrorist acts inside Turkey. 

Continued Tajikistan support to USA;

Rumsfeld visited Tajikistan after Bishkek and announced that US troops would continue to use Tajik airspace and plants. Rumsfeld and President Imamali Rahmonov said in Tajik capital Dushanbe that Tajikistan remained a close US partner in its Afghan operations, a "solid partner in the global struggle against extremism." Later Rumsfeld described US ties with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in excellent shape.

During his visit to Bishkek and Dushanbe, Rumsfeld clarified that the United States had no intention to withdraw its bases from Central Asia in the near future. He added that the U.S. forces were deployed on the bases according to bilateral agreements for mutual benefits. 

Bases in Uzbekistan;

Although the US had expected the Uzbek decision, the manner of the delivery of the notice to vacate the K2 base without assigning any reason surprised USA, although it put up a brave front . After the Andijan uprising USA and its pillion rider UK soft pedaled their criticism of the violent confrontation, in which after the rebels had killed many security personnel and soldiers and taken over government buildings, in the act of suppressing it , according to Human Rights organizations over 700 persons were killed , while Tashkent maintained less than 180 were killed . 

K2 has been a hub to transfer goods to be taken by road into northern Afghanistan, particularly to Mazar-e Sharif -- with no other alternative during the winter. K2 is also a refueling base with a long runway to handle large military aircraft, the alternative being costly midair refueling. A few months ago Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman had described the airfield "undeniably critical in supporting our combat operations" and humanitarian deliveries, for which USA paid $15 million to Uzbekistan since 2001. 

On 25 July, Rumsfeld told reporters traveling with him that losing access to K2 would not jeopardize U.S. operations in Afghanistan. "We're always thinking ahead. We'll be fine," Pentagon spokesman Lawrence T. Di Rita emphasised that the U.S. did not depend on one base in any part of the world. "We'll be able to conduct our operations as we need to, regardless of how this turns out. It's a diplomatic issue at the moment," Di Rita said.

In a way there was a battle of nerves between the two governments since the May uprising in Andijan. President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan had cut off U.S. night flights and some cargo flights, forcing Washington to move search-and-rescue operations and some cargo flights to Bagram air base in Afghanistan and Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan , with further deterioration in relations . 

The quit notice was given soon after 439 Uzbek political refugees were flown out from neighboring Kyrgyzstan -- over Uzbek objections -- by the United Nations to Romania on temporary asylum . How ever 15 refugees were held behind in Kyrgyzstan named by Uzbekistan. Tashkent had wanted all the refugees be returned but the Bush administration had pressurised Kyrgyzstan not to do so..

The termination note was delivered 4 days before Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns was to pressurize Tashkent to allow an international investigation into the Andijan protests, Burns was also going to warn the government, to open up politically or risk the kind of upheavals witnessed recently in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, U.S. officials said. But surely Buns would have made another try to make Tashkent relent on the base. 

After the May Andijan rioting some commentators viewed it as an important test for the Bush administration - whether the anti-terrorism efforts or promotion of democracy took priority. "We all knew basically that if we really wanted to keep access to the base, the way to do it was to shut up about democracy and turn a blind eye to the refugees," said a senior official, on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive diplomacy. "We could have saved the base if we had wanted." 

This is as usual a false claim which only true info-challenged Americans might believe. Because ,in reality , top US officials did whatever they could to make Tashkent regime change its mind on the US troops' presence, including a well known attempt to block UN action calling for an official investigation into the massacre. Closeness between European nations and the US, a product of years of cooperation, is however often taken for granted for US benefit. So, Europeans did not blink an eyelid when they saw the US block the UN effort to call Uzbek leaders to question on atrocities in Andijan. So much for the tall talk on human rights by USA and its European allies. 

It is unlikely that US will give the promised $22 million in aid to Uzbekistan as in its view it has not complied with the provisions on political and economic reforms included in a 2002 strategic partnership agreement with Washington. Last year, USA withheld almost $11 million. 

View of an insider –Former British Envoy to Tashkent;

Former British Ambassador to Tashkent, Craig Murray, who was relieved of his charge for openly protesting against US and British coddling of Karimov ,said that Washington was only trying to cover its retreat behind a smokescreen of belated concern for human-rights abuse in Uzbekistan. It suddenly discovered “one of their most intensively courted allies – in shock horror - to be an evil dictator. (Remember Saddam?) But the reality is much more complex.”

It might be noted that Tashkent received in 2002 alone $120 m in US aid for the army and $82 m for the security services. Prior to the decision, there was no indication at all that the US was going to review its military links with Uzbekistan - in fact US General Richard Myers had specifically stated that they would continue. Britain gave no indication of stopping cooperation either. Nor “ that we will stop the practice whereby the Uzbek security services share with the CIA and MI6 the so-called intelligence extracted from Karimov's torture chambers. So much for the pretence of moral repugnance. ”

Craig also disclosed that Germany had leased a base at Termez in southern Uzbekistan , with Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister a frequent visitor and admirer of Karimov “Karimov has never intended to move Uzbekistan towards democracy or the free market. His very limited experimentation with attracting western investment in the mid-1990s convinced him that western-style capitalism was incompatible with containing all economic clout in the hands of his family and immediate cronies. Since then he has turned to Russian and Chinese state companies for investment.”

At the end of last year, Karimov finally came off the fence and opted for Russia's Gazprom rather than US firms to develop Uzbekistan's massive gas fields thus “ questioning the viability of the hydrocarbons pipeline over Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea, the holy grail of US policy in central Asia since before the Afghan war.”

The US franchised revolutions in former Soviet republics made up Karimov’s mind .An angry Eduard Shevardnadze visited him after being ousted and warned him against Soros and other NGOs. Karimov immediately kicked out the Open Society Institute and put crippling restrictions on other NGOs, setting his face against US promoted democracy. This helped increasing a warm relationship with Vladimir Putin.

Karimov was, on the face of it, an unlikely man for Putin to embrace. After independence he had encouraged anti-Russian nationalist sentiment, and 80% of ethnic Russians - more than 2 million people - fled Uzbekistan. But Putin and Karimov share many things.

“Uzbekistan has half the population of central Asia, a dominant geo-strategic position and the region's largest and best-equipped armed forces. But to the north, Kazakhstan, under President Nazarbayev, has far outstripped Karimov in economic performance, and not only because of greater hydrocarbon resources. He has kept a balance between Russia and the west, and the economy is relatively open, with much more western investment.” 

But Bush in his penchant for rhetoric to promote democracy called for fair elections in Kazakhstan and upset President Nazarbayev. In a recent letter to him, Bush urged him to allow fair elections later this year when the latter seeks a third term. "The latest events in the region have stressed the importance of a balanced economic growth, responsible governance and democratic development. I urge you to make sure that economic reforms are backed up with bold democratic reforms," said an edited version of the Bush letter. Like US ally late Haidar Aliev of Azerbaujan , both Karimov and Nazarbayev have ambitions that their daughters succeed them .Has it not happened in USA , where Bush senior helped his son with little real federal level political experience and passed on his own his advisers like Dick Cheney , Colin Powell and others. 

Recently Ms Rice said in Cairo that for 60 years US had promoted stability over democracy but would now promote democracy. But US ally President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt , who has ruled for 25 years with emergency powers and has not allowed any other Presidential contender , is again gearing to get himself re-elected in a similar fashion without a whimper from Washington . Ever since Pakistan’s independence, US has been happier dealing with military rulers in Pakistan . Except for those persuaded by ‘manufactured consent’ in USA who re-elected George W. Bush , rhetoric or spin by US leadership and its corporate controlled media , makes little impact elsewhere and only brings down US credibility 

James O' Halloran, editor of the annual publication "Jane's Land Based Air Defence" said the K2 closure could have significant impact. "The [K-2] airfield itself is a forward operating base [in the southern part of Uzbekistan] which, logistically, gives the U.S. a very good jumping off point into Afghanistan when it needs to move troops and logistics in that area," O'Halloran said. But he added that Tashkent's decision did not come as a surprise. 

"I believe that the U.S. has expected to lose the K-2 base for some time now as political pressure has been applied through various sources to hold back the U.S. expansion, shall we say, into the former Soviet empire," he said. "A lot of people are saying that [the United States is] expanding a little too quickly now. They're over-stretching things. And I do believe it is politics which has forced the expected closure of K-2." 

O' Halloran also believed that Putin put political pressure on Uzbekistan to demand for the U.S. withdrawal. "On the world scale of things, I don't think [the U.S. reaction to the Andijon crisis] played a major part in this," he said. "I think the politics coming out of Moscow probably has more to do with it than anything else."

According to Eurasia net , while Kyrgyz and Tajik leaders might see value in maintaining strategic cooperation with the United States, there are many signs that officials in both countries now see Russia as their primary security partner. Soon after Rumsfeld left Bishkek, the Russian news agency Itar-Tass published on July 26, an interview with President Bakiyev, who said that Moscow has "always held and will hold a special place in Kyrgyzstan’s foreign policy." He added that Kyrgyzstan would boost strategic cooperation in the future. 

"We think Russia’s presence in the Central Asian region is, first of all, a safeguard of stability and security," Bakiyev continued. "International terrorism, religious extremism, illegal trade in drugs and arms, organized crime and various kinds of violence – all this requires ever closer cooperation and joint actions based on complete trust."

At the same time Tajikistan ‘s strategic and economic relations with Russia have been strengthened over the past year. During the October 2004 visit of Putin to Tajikistan, Russia agreed to forgive $350 million in debt in exchange for a satellite surveillance complex in Nurek. Russian companies also signed agreements to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Tajik infrastructure and industrial projects. Dushanbe made Russia’s military base permanent after the visit.

Russia maintained silence on Rumsfeld’s visits to Bishkek and Dushanbe .But some claims in the Russian media that the United States granted $200 million in financial assistance for continued access to the Manas air base were denied by Kyrgyz officials .However political observers expect that Moscow will continue to use regional multilateral organizations, including the SCO and the CSTO to undermine the American position in Central Asia.

It is not that the Manas base pumps about $156,000 a day into the local economy and accounted for about 5% of Kyrgyzstan's GDP but the period of laissez faire under deposed President Akayev helped infiltrate US friends in to positions of power in Kyrgyzstan. The country is too infested with US supporters .The training provided to police and military personnel by USA in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan ( there was furor in some US circles that US trained soldiers had fired in Andijan ) is very useful in subverting the loyalty to wards it .This was a routine Cold War game played by the two super powers .That is how Soviets infiltrated into Afghanistan before moving fully in 1970s .

Other bases in the region;

Russia also has a base at Kant in Kyrgyzstan which has about 500 Russian troops and 20 combat and transport planes and helicopters. Moscow is planning to double the number of troops Russian troops which stayed put in Tajikistan after the collapse of the USSR. A recent agreement between Moscow and Dushanbe legalized the Russian presence. 

In April, Afghanistan's Defence minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak said that details were being worked out for permanent basing of US forces in the country , including permanent air bases or “pre-positioned” military equipment that would be used by rapidly deployed US forces in a crisis. Gen Wardak tried to mollify neighbouring countries about permanent US presence, that any agreement with the US would come along with security pacts with regional powers. Iran is worried about reconnaissance operations by USA , which handed over control of a civil-military unit based in the western city of Herat, close to the Iranian border, to Nato. There were reports of even a Pakistan payback for the US largesse in letting its territory be used for spying over Iran, which of course, Pakistan denied. 

As part of Pentagon’s overall policy to rearrange its forces around the world including 13 in south Germany ,11 around Wuerzburg in Bavaria would be handed over to the German government by September 2007 with two later on . It is a part of plans to relocate, convert and deactivate parts of the US Armed forces at home and abroad. Plans are afoot for USA to use air bases in Romania and Bulgaria , although after reprisals against countries helping US led war in Iraq ,such projects are now shrouded in silence .While Romania has a small Muslim population , mostly Tatars , tens of thousands of Israeli citizens holiday in their ‘home’ Romania .Hundreds of Israeli citizens are migrants from Romania and many speak Romanian .They could be targeted as were a synagogue and Jews in neighbour Turkey’s commercial capital Istanbul in end 2003. 

Enough is enough and SCO call; 

The call for withdrawal of US military bases in Central Asia was most likely decided in the meetings between Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Moscow summit from June 30 to July 3, just before the SCO summit. In a bilateral statement, “World Order in 21st Century,” issued on July 2, China and Russia warned of the danger of “unilateralism” in international relations and called for a greater role for the United Nations, and stability in the Korean Peninsula. Hu told reporters after his talks with Putin: “We reinforced our mutual support on key issues like Taiwan and Chechnya, which concern our vital interests.”

Russia might be concerned about China's growing influence and engagement in Central Asia, and China might have been keen to weaken Russia's influence over these countries by strengthening its economic links with them ,but seeing what USA was up in Eurasia made them close ranks.

A significant aspect of the SCO summit was granting of observer status to Iran, India and Pakistan. While India , faced with terrorism from Jihadis operating from Pakistan and Afghanistan , like other members of SCO , was keen to join SCO for some time but for Chinese opposition ,who wanted Pakistan too in the organization , which is a problem and not a solution and certainly does not fit in with the anti terrorism objectives of SCO. Iran in spite of its defensive connections with Hizbullah , now under US threats has become an economic partner with China and India with long term energy deals and technical partner with Russia for arms supply and nuclear energy reactor technology. 

All the SCO states are also opposed to a possible US plan for a regime change in Tehran. The Central Asian republics will have then problems next door as Iraq’s neighbours , even US allies have learnt to their cost . They are concerned at the US bases on their territories being used for aggression against Iran. Not only Russia and China but most other countries do not want to see another major oil producer being transformed if not into a US client state but a source of turmoil. 

China signed a long-term $70 billion agreement with Tehran for a 51 percent stake in Iran’s largest onshore oilfield. At the SCO summit, Iranian vice president, Mohammad Reza Aref, declared his country could become the “bridge” that connected the SCO states to the resources of the Persian Gulf. India , Pakistan and Iran are negotiating for a pipeline to transfer Iranian gas to Pakistan and energy hungry India , in spite of illogical opposition by USA . 

China , with a ruling Communist party is now a status quo power , with a capitalist mode of production with some free market features .It is as unlikely a combination as between luxury loving Saudi Princes and puritan Wahabi ideology and could face strains sooner or later , with very destabilizing repercussions .But as for now China has invested heavily in Central Asia for its energy and other resources . It is constructing a 1,000-kilometer pipeline from Kazakhstan's central Karaganda region to its own adjoining Xinjiang region. Likely to be completed by the end of 2005, the Karaganda pipeline will be a vital link in a 3,000-kilometer project that would link China further west to the Caspian Sea. 

China-Russian Cooperation; 

After forming a “strategic relationship”, bilateral trade between Russia and China rose dramatically to $21.2 billion in 2004 and is expected to grow 20 percent this year. It could touch $60-$80 billion by 2020. Oil imports from Russia by will go up 50 percent this year to 70 million barrels. Chinese oil companies are looking for major investments in Russian energy sector. Rosneft, the main state-owned oil exporter to China has been granted over $6 billion in Chinese loans. 

It appears that the main Chinese energy focus is on Siberia which has half of all the proven oil reserves of the former USSR and 70 percent of total Russia’s coal reserves. The region is Russia’s largest producer of oil, the second for coal and a major centre of metal industries. Some 140 out of some 200 largest enterprises in Siberia are weapon manufacturers, whose main customer is China. 

China is also working with Uzbekistan to develop its gas fields in the Ferghana Valley and has invested in hydroelectric projects in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. China is greatly interested in Central Asian markets for its products. An unstable Central Asia could result in a spillover of conflicts into its already restive Xinjiang province. It has sought to secure its borders by firming up its relations with Central Asian governments. It has invested resources and time in enlarging the scope of the SCO more than any other member. 

The American presence in Central Asia is clearly a challenge and danger to China’s energy security and stability. But China itself is signing energy deals and agreements not only with Iran but in Africa and Latin America , traditionally US oil companies backyard . It even made a bid for US oil giant UNOCOL .( remember it , when Afghan Taleban government reneged on a deal with UNOCOL for energy transport from central Asia via Afghan territory to the Arabian Sea , relations between Talebans and UNOCOL and hence USA went from bad to worse and Talebans welcomed Osama bin Laden. The rest is history.) 

Andrei Grozin, director of the Central Asia section of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] Institute, told the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on July 4 that the SCO might “create a working, functioning structure to support stability and to preserve those political systems that have taken shape in the post-Soviet Asiatic states”. 

Sergei Markedonov, a researcher at Russia’s Institute of Political and Military Analysis, told the Moscow-based RIA Novosti newspaper on July 13 that the recent political unrest in Central Asia [ encouraged by US financed institutions] showed that Russia, in cooperation with China, needed to function as “a regional policeman”. 

Collective Security Treaty Organization to counter aggression and interference; 

According to RIA Novosti of August 2 a press release by the CSTO based in Moscow has drawn up a draft protocol for providing military aid and equipment to member countries in emergency situations. CSTO includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. Member countries would now discuss the draft protocol for approval. 

CSTO ‘s secretary general Nikolai Bordyuzha explained that the protocol would apply in situations which ‘include preparations for aggression and actual aggression as such, the plotting and carrying out of international terrorist attacks, and external threats to the security, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of one or more CSTO members.’ The protocol also lays down guidelines for the interaction between state and interstate CSTO bodies in such situations.

Bordyuzha said aid would be provided if requested by one or more parties and should be sent to the chairman of the Collective Security Council, the supreme CSTO body comprising of heads of state. Requests should include a list of required military equipment, in addition to the amount of equipment and the terms of the requested aid. The aid could include military equipment free of charge or on privileged terms to maintain and restore the combat efficiency of CSTO armed forces.

Before the Russian Chinese Summit on 2nd July, on June 22-23, Moscow hosted a meeting of the heads of state of CSTO ( also members of Commonwealth of Independent States –CIS ) in conjunction with meetings of CSTO countries' ministers of foreign affairs, defense ministers, and secretaries of the national security councils. The meetings approved a framework plan on CSTO development in two stages -- through 2010 and beyond -- as well as plans to upgrade the Collective Rapid Deployment Forces in Central Asia and to create an inter-state commission for handling deliveries and servicing of military equipment at preferential prices. These measures on the agenda have been taken up in view of recent developments. 

Coming in the wake of the so called US franchised ‘Tulip’ revolution in Kyrgtzstan and failed uprising in Andijan in Uzbekistan , the summit decided to separate the CIS Joint Air Defense System (nominally of ten countries) from that of the CSTO's planned United Air Defense System (six member countries). While the Joint System lets forces function under national command, with periodic military exercises coordinated from Russia, with each member's airspace as distinct and sovereign, the proposed United System would place all forces under a single ie Russian planning system and command. It transforms CSTO airspace as a single entity . Russian officials explained the separation because some CIS countries aspired joining NATO.

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov, and CSTO Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha described the the Andijan uprising unambiguously as an act of international terrorism and radical Islam against Uzbekistan. 

Russian leaders and officials including President Putin criticized the failure of U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan to suppress "terrorist training bases, including those supported by certain intelligence services" and for tolerating the booming export of Afghan heroin to Russia and Europe. It was said that the CSTO was prepared to help and assist Afghanistan, as well as setting up "a working group to coordinate with Afghan structures" and a joint anti-drug authority.

But Kazakh Defense Minister General Mukhtar Altynbayev opposed a Russian initiative to create a joint standing conventional military force for Central Asia within the CSTO's framework and told the media, "Creating a cumbersome force for permanent stationing would be worthless." This issue was deferred for the next meeting. The differences on budgeting and financing of the CSTO office , command and control systems and the Rapid Deployment Forces were not fully resolved . 

President Robert Kocharian of Armenia (which is ranged against US ally Azerbaijan ) found comfort "in the CSTO's lineup, one in which we do not disagree among ourselves, but strive for practical results" , while current US bete noire in the region Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka praised the CSTO as a counter weight to the "unipolar dictatorship of a single super-power" [the United States]. For the first time, the Russian military now plans to hold joint ground-force exercises in 2006 at the command-and-staff level in the CSTO's "western region" and "southern region" -- that is, in Belarus and in Armenia so far held in its Central Asian region only. Putin also took over the annual chairmanship of the Collective Security Council (the top political authority of the CSTO) from Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev. 

Caspian Sea Basin ;

The US objectives for bases was to stem the flow of drugs, illicit nuclear material, and small arms illicitly crossing borders. But the Caspian basin is also rich in energy resources, and the United States supported construction of a new oil pipeline from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Ceyhan, Turkey. This has led to the charge that the United States was really after the region's oil. "[Washington is] killing two birds with one stone," fighting terrorists while securing energy sources 

In Azerbaijan , Ilham Aliev , son of late President Haidar Aliev , former Politburo member in Moscow and called father of the Azeri nation , who was allowed to succeed his father in a controversial election in 2003 , might find the US embrace too suffocating .He could be set aside if found not amenable to US designs in the region both for security of oil transportation which begins from Baku and in US aims to attack or destabilize Iran from Azerbaijan . 

As of next year, Central Asia will come fully online to Western energy markets, as twin oil and gas pipelines linking the Caspian sea to Turkey will begin to deliver .Ever since the region's oil wealth  was  freed after the collapse of  the USSR, US policymakers worked hard to get Baku on its side and vice versa. The completion of this key strategic asset, 'East-West energy transit corridor' would run through Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia with oil also from Kazakhstan but exclude Iran and Russia.

Though U.S. officials deny that their forces are already stationed in Azerbaijan, they concede that the country is vital for the future of the US bases in the region. Stratfor website reported in April that some U.S. aircrafts , troops and materiel were already in the country, and more forces and aircraft would be deployed later this year. It claimed that Azerbaijani government sources also confirmed that there was an agreement between Baku and Washington on locating U.S’s "temporarily deployed mobile forces", in a deal struck at the Baku airport by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's and the Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasizade and Defense Minister Safar Abiyev ,acting on behalf of Ilham Aliyev who was conveniently out of the country at the time. 

The recently forged access to a base in Azerbaijan, situated next to Iran, was reportedly subject to some heavy coercing. Discussions between the US secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and officials representing president Ilham Aliyev, publicly might have passed for negotiations but were first hand example of the very bullying that the US officials accuse Russia and China of in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Recently, Nato’s Assistant Secretary-General for Defence Planning and Operations , John Colston visited Baku and reported that "Special reports will be prepared soon, which will identify the main directions of cooperation between the alliance and Azerbaijan.” It is expected Azerbaijan is ready to join the alliance 2006. The issue of disputed Nagorno Karabakh is likely to be the key here.

Georgia has also been compensated and was recently paid US$ 64 million as part of a two-year "train and equip" mission, in which US Special Forces trained a 2,000 strong antiterrorist force that patrols the Pankisi Gorge, which is where Chechen rebels and AI Qaeda fighters hide out. This easily outstrips the country's annual income from overseas workers and tourism. The company building the barracks and other facilities for the US trainers is Kellogg Brown & Root division of Halliburton industries, the former business of US vice president Dick Cheney, which is building plenty of other facilities in this region, as well as in Iraq.

Some facilities are quite advanced notably in Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova , all Members GUAM, an organization modeled on NATO's Conventional Forces in Europe, which was launched in 1996. The countries coordinate their defense policies and pool their diplomatic resources to oppose Russia. The main reason for the organization encouraged by USA was to create more security through collaboration against possible destabilizing action by Russia .But all countries except Azerbaijan are dependent on supplies of oil and gas either from or through Russia which can employ tactics like suspending the supplies or redirecting export routes to manipulate the foreign and domestic policies of the members .

US failed to persuade its Nato ally Turkey in joining and letting US troops use Turkish territory in South East to open another front in north of Iraq in March 2003 . There are reports that in case US decides to attack Iran and ,plans for such contingencies are being formulated in Washington, among others by the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) ,it would involve "a large-scale air assault employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons", reported Counterpunch columnist Gary Leupp, in an article entitled 'Is Iran being set up?' "Do they even realize that southern Iraq and Iran constitute the heartland of historical Shiism, and that an attack on Iran will negate any goodwill among Shiites, U.S. forces have acquired in Iraq?", he wondered. 

This could explain Baku’s preference to delay the arrival of the major U.S. forces' or its formal announcement until after the elections this November. "The current government would be accused of election fraud and treated accordingly by the West and Western-encouraged opposition", according to the Stratfor analysis. It might meet the fate of US loyalist Sheverdnazde , ex President of next door Georgia., Ilham Aliyev favors a pluralistic foreign policy, having resolved differences with Russia over its troops in the Qabala base , northwest of Baku. It is believed that President Putin has tentatively agreed to allowed US troops ( for pipeline security ) being stationed there, but wants that he must be kept informed.

Like the complex Sunni , Shia and Kurd relationships in Iraq , which US did not take into account before invading Iraq , it might like to ponder that Azerbaijan is also a Shia nation , while Iran has twice as many Azeri ( Turkic language cousin) speaking Iranians , including its spiritual leader Ali Khameini . The Muslim masses have seen through US game and its ruthless pursuit of interests .Instead US might worry over Azeris and others sabotaging Baku Tiblsi Ceyhan pipeline . 

Changing USA’s Global preparedness;

In a reorganization of its military bases beyond the stability of cold-war bases in Europe and the Far East , USA is now looking for new alliances with nations from Southeast Asia to the Horn of Africa which promise quick access to the remotest corners of the globe. "We're going to be fighting this global war against irregular forces in much different places than we were willing to fight in the past," says Robert Work, an analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments here. "And in [these places] there are no long-term allies."

"We're going to find this is going to be a rolling process," Douglas Feith, the Pentagon's undersecretary for policy, told Congress last year. "Some of what we're planning to do is either not doable because we can't get the kind of legal arrangements or other commitments that we want, in which case we're going to have to make adjustments, or we may find that some countries are so eager to work with us on certain things that the deals they're offering induce us to change some of our plans," he added.

The shift is part of the Pentagon's Global Posture Review, which looks at overseas bases in much the same way that the Base Realignment and Closure process is now looking at domestic bases. The Pentagon believes that its current network of home and overseas bases is a relic of the cold war and needs change which should be flexible enough to meet unforeseen demands.

During the cold war, "we had forward garrison forces configured to fight near and where they were based," said Ryan Henry, the Pentagon's principal deputy undersecretary for policy, in congressional testimony. "Today we no longer can predict where, when, or in what manner our forces may be called on to fight." "It's a reshuffling of the deck," says Charles Peña, a defense analyst at the Cato Institute. 

Already, the American military has expanded its presence to unfamiliar areas, from Senegal to Singapore. Yet that is taking American forces into more volatile areas. There, they can help stabilize unsettled regions through their presence and training. But in these regions allegiances to America can easily ebb and flow. As happened with Turkey and Saudi Arabia when invading Iraq .Of course it is too much for these worthies to study history and interstate relations . From the corporate sector they believe countries can be treated like machines, bought and sold at will. 

The arrival of American troops at their doorstep after September 11 did trigger worry in Russia and China but neither country objected vigorously to the US setting up bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. But soon it transpired that US had plans to invade Iraq to control its oil and the region as well as bases in central Asia were part of plans of US administrations to control central Asia’s energy and other resources. 

By now it is quite clear that the US War on Terror, beginning with the attack on Afghanistan was exploited by Washington to place its forces for strategic control of regions , as spelt out by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a controversial organization whose members dominate the echelons of power in Washington. 

The idea that that the US should control the oil and gas resources and territories of Central Asia was highlighted in the early 1970s by Zbignew Brzezinski and later explained in his book ‘The Grand Chessboard’. A former advisor to Rockefeller and President Jimmy Carter Brzezinski's book reads like a document for strengthening the neo-cons case for the war on Iraq for its oil . But seeing the mess in Iraq , Brzezinski is now singing a different tune . 

(K Gajendra Singh, served as Indian Ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan in 1992-96. Prior to that, he served as ambassador to Jordan (during the 1990-91 Gulf war), Romania and Senegal . He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies, in Bucharest . The views expressed here are his own.- Email-Gajendrak@hotmail.com) 

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