Russia-led alliance limits foreign bases

Dec. 22, 2011 at 6:35 AM
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MOSCOW, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- The seven member nations of a Russia-led military alliance this week agreed to rules limiting the presence of foreign military bases within their borders.

In what was seen as a blunt message to NATO and its efforts to deploy a European anti-ballistic missile defense system, the seven nations comprising the Collective Security Treaty Organization declared Tuesday at a Moscow summit that no members can agree to host a foreign military installation without the consent of the others.

The CSTO, comprised of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, issued a strong statement laying out the new rule.

"The unilateral deployment of strategic missile defense systems by one state or a group of states without due account for the lawful interests of other countries and without extending legally binding guarantees to the latter may damage international security and strategic stability in Europe and the world as a whole," the CSTO statement said.

Currently, the only foreign base in the CSTO countries is a U.S. air base at Manas in Kyrgyzstan, established in 2001 to help U.S. efforts in fighting Taliban extremists in neighboring Afghanistan.

But in the wake of tensions between Russia and the western NATO alliance over the missile defense plans and the conflict in Libya, the CSTO said action was necessary to counter "the … tendency for military intervention in critical situations."

"Now, in order to accommodate extra-regional military structures on the territory of the CSTO, it will be necessary to obtain official approval of all (CSTO) members," Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti after the summit.

Nazarbayev took over the rotating presidency of the CSTO from Belarus this year while it marked the 20th anniversary of the treaty that led to its founding.

State-owned RT Television reported Russian President Dmitry Medvedev praised the move against foreign military bases as necessary to consolidate the positions of the organization's members.

"I believe it is very important that all the parties have reached consensus," he said.

The CSTO summit also concentrated on Afghanistan, where the NATO-led Afghanistan International Security Assistance Force continues to battle the Taliban for control of the country 10 years after Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks.

Amid signs of a deepening sectarian strife in the country, the statement noted what it called "the deteriorating situation in the Afghanistan" and called for the rebuilding of the country as a "peaceful, prosperous, independent and neutral state."

The Kremlin has said Afghanistan should be regarded as a neutral nation once ISAF's mission is completed in 2014.

Fighting drug trafficking from the war-torn country is a necessary part of ensuring its future, the CSTO nations have said.

A one-week CSTO-led effort this month led to the seizure of about 16 tons of Afghan drugs within the seven-country bloc, ITAR-Tass reported. Included the in haul as part of the "Channel-2011" operation were more than 1,100 pounds of heroin, 286 pounds of cocaine and 9 tons of opium.

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