By Bruce Jones
Belarus formally joined the Rapid Reaction Force of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) on 20 October.
The move follows the 7,000-troop, six-nation deployment exercise 'Interaction-2009' in Kazakhstan that ended on 16 October.
The exercise was overseen by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and also Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who sees the CSTO, which could potentially become a rival to NATO in Eurasia, as "the key mechanism to counter regional military challenges".
The CSTO, formed in 2002, comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Headquartered in Moscow, it now has at its disposal up to 20,000 troops.
"Minsk will contribute a commando brigade, KGB anti-terrorist, special police and emergency situation units" totalling 5,000 troops to the CSTO Rapid Reaction Force, the Russian Defence Ministry confirmed.
Kazakhstan has committed 4,000 air assault, interior ministry and state security forces; Russia 8,000 airborne and air assault troops; Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan one battalion each; with Uzbekistan participating on an 'ad hoc' basis.