Lukashenko signs Belarus up to post-Soviet rapid reaction force

MOSCOW, October (RIA Novosti) - The president of Belarus has signed documents on joining a post-Soviet regional security bloc's rapid reaction force, the secretariat of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) said on Tuesday.

Alexander Lukashenko had resisted signing the treaty establishing the Collective Rapid Reaction Force of the Collective Security Treaty Organization amid economic disputes with Moscow earlier this year.

The CSTO comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Lukashenko did not attend the June summit in Moscow at which the agreement creating the force structure was signed, citing trade problems with Russia and Kazakhstan, while Uzbekistan has also held out against signing the pact, citing doubts over the force's purpose.

The joint force on Friday finished a two-week exercise at Kazakhstan's Matybulak training grounds, with over 7,000 personnel from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan taking part.

According to the CSTO Secretariat, the exercise was aimed at practicing the deployment of the collective rapid reaction force in crisis situations on the territory of CSTO member states.

Analysts say the creation of a powerful military contingent in Central Asia reflects Moscow's drive to make the CSTO a pro-Russian military bloc, rivaling NATO forces in Europe.

Russia's security strategy until 2020, recently approved by President Dmitry Medvedev, envisions the CSTO as "a key mechanism to counter regional military challenges and threats."



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