NATO Promotes Dialogue and Cooperation in Central Asia

By Arthur Dunn

On June 10th the Kyrgyz Parliament ratified a Treaty in accordance with which the NATO Central Asia Office shall move to Kyrgyzstan.

The location of the Office is changed every three years and at the moment it is based in Kazakhstan.

Presence of the NATO Office shall allow promotion of military-technical cooperation and attraction of grants, as the Defense Ministry of Kyrgyzstan declared.

Most probably the Representative Office of the North-Atlantic Alliance shall be situated in the embassy of one of NATO member-states in Bishkek.

Since January 1st 2011 the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bishkek has been performing the tasks of a Contact NATO Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic. Up till now till the functions have been fulfilled by the Embassy of Turkey.

The tasks of a Contact Embassy except for others include:
the provision of the information on policy and activity of NATO for the host country
support of the visits of civilian and military representatives of NATO to the host country
assistance by arrangement of study trips to the NATO Headquarters of multipliers – representatives of political powers and Mass Media.

NATO has supported political dialogue with Kyrgyzstan since 1992 within the frameworks of Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and starting from 1994 has cooperated within the program “Partnership for Peace” and its special military programs. Main directions of this cooperation are the measures implemented for peace-keeping, fighting against terrorism, borders defense, crisis situations management and measures for disasters prevention. Except for that NATO which assures security of its members also cooperates with partner states within the program “Science for Peace and Security” in the sphere of scientific studies through granting of scholarships for research to scientists of these states,  as well as holding scientific conferences.

Within the frameworks of Individual Partnership Program of the Kyrgyz Republic with NATO the program of PFR with the participation of Defense Ministry of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, Ministry of Ecology and Emergency Situations and other law-enforcement agencies of the country they held various command-scale and field peace-making trainings.

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Military-men of the Defense Ministry of the Kyrgyz Republic, border-security troops of the National Security Service, the Ministry of Ecology and Emergency Situations and other law-enforcement agencies of Kyrgyzstan within this program take part in short-term study courses, seminars, conferences and symposiums on the following subjects: the law of armed conflicts, logistics, military terminology of air traffic control, PFP planning, civil-military readiness for emergency situations, deactivation and disposal of explosive substances, fighting terrorism and illegal drugs traffic, borders security, functions of military observers, etc.

In January 2003 in Kyrgyzstan the accomplishment of the international project “Virtual Silk Way” has begun to establish the access for scientific and educational institutions of the Kyrgyz Republic to European scientific networks and connection to the high-speed Internet network. The given project is aimed to support  academic communities of Central Asia and Caucasus states. It assures the access to informational resources of NATO states, as well as urgent telecommunication infrastructure for Kyrgyz scientific and educational computer network, sufficiently reducing the expenses on the Internet in the Republic.

Within the frameworks of NATO Scientific Program in Kyrgyzstan they also accomplish projects of the program “Science for Peace”, which are aimed at transfer and introduction of scientific achievements into industry. By the assistance of NATO Scientific Committee in Kyrgyzstan a number of international seminars was held (2003 - panel discussion on the issue of cooperation promotion in the sphere of studies of the problems of living and life activity; in 2004 - in the sphere of seismology on the issue of dam security; in the sphere of biotechnology – on food security).

In cooperation with NATO the projects on evaluation and reduction of seismic risk in Tashkent and Bishkek were accomplished.

According to experts’ estimations, today NATO and its member-states are significant partners of the whole Central Asian region in general. Especially it concerns Kyrgyzstan, as from the very beginning of cooperation with NATO (1994) the country has been one of the main partners of the Alliance. This concerns various spheres of cooperation – education, science and technology and military-political one.

Regarding education, it’s noteworthy that in recent years hundreds of specialists have participated in various educational programs “Programs for Peace”. This promotes the extension of partnership relations and development of single, general approaches towards counteracting common security threats: drugs traffic, terrorism and extremism. Current power states that Kyrgyzstan is a reliable, predictable partner, which is demonstrated by its activity on stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan. Among some experts the idea dominates that the states of Central Asia can become a peculiar “bridge” for the development of mutually beneficial cooperation between NATO and such regional organizations as the CSTO and SCO, which gradually turns from the organization initially designed for pure economic cooperation promotion, into the body that influences already not only regional but international security in general.

According to the special representative of the Secretary General of this Organization to Caucasus and Central Asia  James Appaturay, from diplomatic point of view NATO Office in Bishkek shall assist promoting cooperation at site instead of visits to Kyrgyzstan two-three times a year. "From political point of view the opening of the Representative Office expresses support to Kyrgyzstan and the region in general. We are convinced that we will be able to improve relations with Russia as well as other states of Central Asia ", -- said J. Appaturay.

Except for that he noted that Kyrgyzstan can participate in the NATO program “Partnership for Peace” arranged by the Alliance in Central Asia. As J, Appaturay considers, Kyrgyzstan is able to extend the cooperation with the North-Atlantic Alliance within the frameworks of another program the goal of which is to train Armed Forces of the Republic for the participation in peace-making operations.

"Cooperation with NATO doesn’t impede the partnership of Kyrgyzstan with other unions – political or military ones. The North-Atlantic Alliance is not going to compete with them. We collaborate with Kyrgyzstan to improve the level of stability and security, -- declared J. Apparturay.

However, the authorities in Bishkek don’t have the complete support of policy of NATO cooperation.

Some youth unions in Kyrgyzstan are against the opening of the NATO Representative Office in the country.

According to civil activists, during the recent visit of the Special NATO Representative to Middle Asia and Caucasus James Apparturay to Bishkek, in course of the closed meeting with the President Rosa Otunbayeva, the issue on the opening of the NATO Representative Office in Kyrgyzstan has been solved. Youth organizations are anxious about the actions of the authorities, considering that the participation of Kyrgyzstan in the UNO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is enough to assure security in the region.

However, as the practice of recent years shows, the activity of these bodies as well as the OSCE, can’t be acknowledged as efficient in the region. The plans to establish police forces under the aegis of the OSCE turned out to be unreal. And interaction of the CSTO with the UNO has a long way to go to be able to assure security in the region. The CSTO is not that perfect, and the UNO undergoes through almost irreversible crisis of its long-term existence. Otherwise, why Kyrgyzstan has address exactly NATO to assure the security of its southern borders?

And multiple declarations of the CSTO about its intention to establish bilateral cooperation with NATO don’t find understanding in the Alliance Headquarters in NATO. There they consider as efficient to promote bilateral relations individually with each CSTO member. And the levels of such cooperation are pretty different. Also among the states of Central Asian region which are included into this defense union.

Within the interview to Deutsche Welle German specialist on Central Asia, the Head of the Organization Eurasian Transition Group Michael Laubsch notes: "There are fears, that the multi-vector policy of Bishkek in the sphere of security provision in fact shall appear to be the policy of a pendulum fluctuating from one to another between Russia and NATO ".

We can’t ignore that Moscow considers the CSTO as the instrument of its influence within post-Soviet area and thoroughly observes the activity of NATO in Central Asian region, undertaking the attempts somehow to regulate and simply slow down this dynamic process.

By the way it would be wrong to state that in respect to the departure of NATO Office to Kirgizia the relations between the Alliance and Kazakhstan have worsened – the Lower Chamber of the Parliament (Majilis) of this country has ratifies a treaty with NATO, in accordance with which Astana shall send its peace-keepers to Afghanistan minimum for half a year. By this Kazakhstan shall undertake the whole responsibility to transport people and cargoes to the place of dislocation, as well as shall cover the expenses on meals and lodging, medical care, weapon, fuel.

In two weeks the movement of Taliban warned Kazakhstan that the decision to send military men to Afghanistan shall have grave consequences.

This decision has also incited an ambiguous reaction in Kazakhstan itself. But in comparison with Kyrgyzstan, where civil activists held protests, Astana had another reply.

The Upper Chamber of the Parliament of Kazakhstan (Senate) found it’s urgent to decline today a bill on ratification of the Treaty with NATO on sending four officers into the Headquarters of International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

According to the senator Mukhtar Altynbayev the suggestion to decline the bill completely and to return it to the Majilis (Lower Chamber) of the Parliament was introduced by the Committee for International Affairs, Defense and Security.

“According to the Constitution the decision on this issue (participation of Kazakhstani military men in foreign operations) shall be adopted during joint session of the Chambers of the Parliament”, - he explained. Thus, it’s still early to talk about forwarding of Kazakhstani peace-keepers to Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Kazakhstan remains to be the main NATO partner in the region.

It’s should be recognized that despite the fact of effective interaction between Astana, Moscow and Washington during the last-year crisis in Kyrgyzstan, as well as the series of NATO’s and other declarations that the development of relations between the states of Central Asia region and NATO doesn’t at all impede their participation in the CSTO, and other unions, the growth of rivalry of West with Russia for the influence in the resource-reach region still exists.

But it is cooperation rather than counteraction should become the defining one at the current stage. All the actors of this historic process which today promotes within Central Asia should ground on this by developing partner relations with NATO.