BISHKEK, May 28 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, on Tuesday to take part in an informal summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member states.
The leaders of the member states of the Russia-led CSTO, an intergovernmental military alliance of former Soviet states, are expected to focus on the situation in Afghanistan, in particular on how to ensure security in the region after NATO troops withdraw from the country next year.
At a meeting on Monday, foreign ministers of the security group’s member states – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan – reiterated the CSTO’s commitment to building up its military capability ahead of the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan in 2014.
Russia remains highly concerned about the persistent threat of terrorism and drug trafficking from Afghanistan, particularly after international combat troops leave next year. According to Russia’s federal drug control watchdog, heroin production in Afghanistan rose 40-fold in the past decade.
Last week, Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, said it expects the influence of the radical Islamist Taliban to grow in Afghanistan after international coalition forces are pulled out. GRU head Lt. Gen. Igor Sergun said the situation in Afghanistan poses a “serious challenge to international stability” and the ISAF withdrawal could also increase the threat of terrorism and religious extremism.
Sergun’s remarks echoed those of CSTO General Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha, who has warned that the situation near Russia’s southern borders will worsen after the ISAF withdrawal. A zone of instability will emerge in regions bordering Afghanistan, and the influence of extremist groups will grow, as will the penetration of Islamist fundamentalist ideas in neighboring states, Bordyuzha said.
Russia is considering deploying border guards on the Tajik-Afghan border, Moscow’s envoy to Kabul, Andrei Avetisyan, told Reuters two weeks ago, adding such a move would have to be agreed upon with Tajikistan.
Although Afghanistan was announced as the key issue for discussions at the Bishkek summit, developments in Syria may steal the limelight from the Afghan problem, particularly after CSTO top diplomats discussed and backed on Monday an international conference on Syria.
Putin is also scheduled to hold bilateral talks with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev and Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon. After the CSTO summit in Bishkek, Putin will travel to Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, where he will attend a summit of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) member states (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan).
Uzbekistan has officially suspended its membership of both the CSTO and the EurAsEC.