|Tuesday, 22 October 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 183, 01-09-26
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 183, 26 September 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN OFFER DIFFERING INTERPRETATIONS OF COUNCIL OF EUROPE RESOLUTIONIn response to a request from Azerbaijan's delegation to affirm its support for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, on 21 September the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution that reaffirms both the principle of the territorial integrity of member states, and also the principle of the right to self determination, ranking the two principles as of equal importance in international law. In an interview with Noyan Tapan on 25 September, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian characterized that resolution as "unprecedented," noting that previously international organizations have ranked the principle of territorial integrity as taking precedence over the right to self determination. Oskanian said Armenia is "extremely satisfied" with the resolution. Azerbaijani commentators and media reports have presented the resolution as an ultimatum to Armenia to formally recognize Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, and thus as a moral victory for Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Azerbaijan Report," 25 September 2001). LF
 POPE LEAVES KAZAKHSTAN...Pope John Paul II left Astana on the morning of 25 September after a four- day visit during which he celebrated a mass in the capital, met with seminary students and students of the Gumilev Eurasian university, and held talks with President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Bidding farewell to the pontiff at Astana's airport, Nazarbaev drew a parallel between the pope's "humane mission to bring the West and the East, Europe, and Asia, closer together," and that of Kazakhstan, Interfax reported. He added that he believes the pope was drawn to Kazakhstan "by his Slavic roots and by the fact that his friends and fellow believers, who were deported to this land together with other Poles," are buried in Kazakhstan. LF
 ...BEGINS VISIT TO ARMENIAPope John Paul II arrived in Yerevan from Kazakhstan on 25 September. "The whole Catholic Church shares your deep joy and the joy of all Armenians on the 1,700th aninversary of the proclamation of Christianity as the official religion of this cherished land," the pontiff said upon his arrival at Zvartnots airport, where he was welcomed by Catholicos Garegin II and President Robert Kocharian, together with other members of the country's leadership, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The pope further noted the "unspeakable terror and suffering" to which the Armenian people was subjected in the 20th century. But in contrast to a joint communique issued after Garegin's visit to the Vatican last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2000) he stopped short of calling the 1915
slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey a genocide. Later on 25 September, the pope attended a joint service with Garegin at the main Armenian cathedral at Echmiadzin, where fatigue prevented him from completing an address. LF
 ARMENIAN-TURKISH CONCILIATION COMMISSION HOLDS FIRST SESSIONThe first meeting of the private Armenian-Turkish reconciliation commission established two months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2001 and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 27, 20 July 2001) took place in Istanbul on 25 September, AP reported. Further meetings are planned this week to enable the commission's six Turkish and four Armenian members to get to know each other. LF
 COUNCIL OF EUROPE SLAMS GEORGIAN HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONSIn an assessment prepared by its rapporteurs, PACE has expressed concern at ongoing human rights violations in Georgia, "Neue Zuercher Zeitung" reported on 26 September. The report noted numerous instances of unlawful arrest, the mistreatment or torture of detainees, the deployment of security forces to intimidate peaceful demonstrators, and failure to curtail violence by Georgian Orthodox believers against members of religious minorities. It also noted that since its acceptance into the Council of Europe in 1999, Georgia has not ratified the protocol to the European Human Rights Convention or documents pertaining to the protection of national minorities and outlawing money laundering. Georgia is "far" from fulfilling its commitments to the council, the report concluded. LF
 HAVE CHECHEN MILITANTS INFILTRATED ABKHAZIA?Two Abkhaz servicemen were wounded in an exchange of gunfire with some 20 unknown assailants in the Gulripsh Raion on 24 September, Caucasus Press reported on 25 September. Abkhaz Defense Minister Vladimir Mikanba told that agency that the identity of the attackers is not known. Interfax, however, on 25 September cited unidentified sources in Sukhum as saying that the perpetrators were members of a group of Georgian and Chechen fighters. That agency further claimed that some 450 Chechens have infiltrated Abkhazia's Kodori gorge and several hundred more are gathered on the Georgian side of the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. Interfax also quoted parliament Defense and Security Committee Chairman Giorgi Baramidze as saying in Tbilisi on 25 September that a group of 400 Georgian guerrillas and members of "other ethnic groups from the North Caucasus" that is not under the control of the Georgian government is moving freely on Georgian territory. The independent Georgian daily "Dilis gazeti" on 26 September quoted Mamuka Areshidze, an expert on the North Caucasus, as claiming that the North Caucasus militants were transported to the Georgian-Abkhaz border in vehicles with license plates identifying them as belonging to the Georgian Interior Ministry. Implicitly corroborating Russian media claims that the Chechens in question are under the command of field commander Ruslan Gelaev, Areshidze said that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has condemned the Chechen action and accused the field commander in question of "treachery." Russian and Georgian media reported in late August that Chechen militants joined forces with Georgian guerrillas and were about to attack Abkhazia, but talks between the Abkhaz and Georgian leaderships succeeded in preventing such an attack. LF
 KAZAKH MOTHERS RENEW PROTEST ACTIONA group of women from the Baidibek district of South Kazakhstan Oblast on 25 September began a new protest outside the parliament building in Astana to demand the payment of overdue family allowances dating back to 1997, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January and 18 and 19 April 2001). They have threatened to commit collective suicide if those allowances are not paid. Police in South Kazakhstan last week arrested the coordinator of the protests, Ulmeken Saidova, on fraud charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2001). LF
 KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN DISCUSS EXPULSIONSKazakh and Kyrgyz diplomats began talks at the Kazakh Embassy in Bishkek on 25 September on the plight of Kyrgyz citizens summarily deported from Kazakhstan over the past week, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2001). LF
 KYRGYZ POLITICAL PARTIES REQUEST MEETING WITH JAILED FORMER VICE PRESIDENTLeaders of the Ata-Meken, Erkindik, Communist, People's, and Republican parties on 25 September made a formal request to President Askar Akaev and to National Security Committee Secretary Bolot Djanuzakov for permission to met with jailed Ar-Namys party Chairman and former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They reasoned that Kulov's assessment of the current situation in Afghanistan is relevant. Kulov served as national security minister in 1997-1998. He was jailed in January 2001 on what many believe were fabricated charges of abuse of his official position. LF
 TAJIK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. ENVOYPresident Imomali Rakhmonov met on 26 September with the U.S. charge d'affaires in Dushanbe, James Boughner, to discuss the situation in Central Asia in light of expected U.S. retaliatory strikes against terrorist bases in Afghanistan, Asia Plus-Blitz reported without giving any further details of those talks. Asia Plus-Blitz also quoted the Press Service of the Tajik Defense Ministry as denying reports that a U.S. aircraft carrying reconnaissance equipment and a special troop unit has landed at an air field in southern Tajikistan. It also quoted Tajik Security Council Secretary Amirqul Azimov as declining to confirm Western media reports that the Dushanbe airport is jointly controlled by the Tajik and Russian authorities. Implying that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov had no right to affirm on 25 September that Russia has agreed to the use of Tajik air fields by the U.S. (see "Russia" section above), Azimov said only Tajikistan's leaders are empowered to take a decision on allowing the U.S. to use the airport. LF
 PRESIDENT SAYS U.S. TROOPS MAY NOT ENTER TURKMENISTANSpeaking on national television on 24 September, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said that during a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell agreement was reached that U.S. troops will not be permitted on Turkmen territory, but that Ashgabat will allow the transportation by rail and air of humanitarian cargos destined for the civilian population of Afghanistan,, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Turkmenistan's Mufti Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah advocated holding an international conference on the subject of "Islam Against Terrorism," ITAR- TASS reported. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT WELCOMES GERMAN LEAD IN 'AMBER FOX'Speaking to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder by telephone from Skopje on 25 September, President Boris Trajkovski welcomed the German offer to head NATO's new, small-scale mission to protect OSCE and EU monitors, known as Operation Amber Fox, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2001). The German military is cash-strapped, but a commentator from the Hamburg weekly "Die Zeit" told the BBC on 26 September that it is "Germany's turn to take the lead" in a NATO Balkan mission. She noted that Britain headed Operation Essential Harvest -- which was to complete its work on 26 September -- and that France is about to assume the leading role in KFOR. PM
 UN STOPS SHORT OF TAKING ROLE IN MACEDONIAReuters reported from the UN on 26 September that the Security Council is expected to pass a resolution later in the day that backs international efforts to bolster peace in Macedonia "and strongly supports in that regard the establishment of a multinational security presence." The wording falls short of the full endorsement for a NATO mission that Berlin had sought. Unnamed diplomats said that the UN is reluctant to take a direct role in Macedonia. Trajkovski told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service recently that he would like to see a UN force in Macedonia on the model of UNPREDEP, which ended in 1998 when China withdrew its support (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Service," 27 September 2001). PM
 NATO'S ROBERTSON TELLS MACEDONIAN LEGISLATORS TO FORGET 'PETTY POLITICS'Speaking at Erebino on 25 September, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson told reporters that "Task Force Harvest has not only reached its target but exceeded it... The confirmed total [of weapons turned in] is 3, 381, and the final figure should be higher still," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2001). Robertson warned Macedonian politicians that the time has come to pass legislation promised by Trajkovski to grant an amnesty to fighters of the National Liberation Army (UCK) who did not commit crimes. He said: "The political process is still incomplete, and the Macedonian parliament must set aside any petty political interests and complete its part of the settlement that was struck at Lake Ohrid [in August]. Failure to implement this agreement would confront the people of this country with the bleak prospect of a descent into civil war. It's up to the parliament of this country to turn the people's hopes into political reality." Robertson warned that "there is no tolerance left anywhere in the international community for terrorism, barbaric aggression, and atrocities," AP reported. PM
 MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN POLICE TRAINEES COMPLAIN OF HARASSMENTMacedonian Deputy Interior Minister Refet Elmazi and Deputy Foreign Minister Muhamed Halili -- both ethnic Albanians -- said in Skopje that unidentified Macedonian police have humiliated and "provoked" the 100 Albanian police trainees at the Idrizovo training camp, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 25 September. The two men said that they are confident that the U.S. police trainers will work to remedy the situation. PM
 RUGOVA SLAMS 'PROPAGANDA AGAINST KOSOVA'Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 25 September that unspecified reports from Belgrade and elsewhere about alleged links between bin Laden and Kosova are "propaganda against Kosova" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2001) The next day, Rugova's press spokesman Skender Hyseni told RFE/RL's Kosova Unit that a story by ITAR-TASS from Rome the previous day is "completely false." The Russian news agency reported that Rugova's Rome bureau issued a statement in which he said unspecified UCK men from Kosova "are ready to organize acts of terrorism for the purpose of supporting Osama bin Laden." The alleged statement added that the UCK is "terrorist." Hyseni said Rugova does not even have an office in Rome, and that the entire ITAR-TASS story is disinformation (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July 2001). PM
 YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT ENDS DIALOGUE WITH MONTENEGROVojislav Kostunica sent a letter to each of the participants he had invited to recent talks on the future of Serbian-Montenegrin relations, but which did not take place because the Montenegrin leaders refused to accept federal Prime Minister Dragisa Pesic as a participant, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 25 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2001). Kostunica wrote to Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic that they have "closed their eyes to reality," and want to determine Montenegro's future through a referendum rather than a dialogue. Consequently, Kostunica argued, any further talks would be pointless. In his letter to Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, Kostunica charged him with seeing political limelight and forgetting that he owes his office to the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition. Kostunica added that Djindjic had devoted his time in talks with the Montenegrins to "technical details" and has not looked at the bigger picture. PM
 SERBIAN, MONTENEGRIN LEADERS REJECT KOSTUNICA'S CHARGESDjindjic replied to Kostunica that his decision to end talks is hasty and irresponsible, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade on 25 September. Djindjic added that no single official has the authority to decide that an agreement cannot be reached. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic argued that the only way to solve the problem is for all parties to sit down and talk. Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac said Kostunica's approach toward the Montenegrins smacks of "paternalism." In their letters, Djukanovic and Vujanovic called Kostunica's move hasty. They argued that he had probably never been interested in finding a solution but was seeking to confer legitimacy on Pesic and his government -- which Podgorica does not recognize as legally elected. For his part, Pesic said that he is willing to absent himself from any future talks and be represented by a cabinet member, such as Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic or Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus. PM
 SERBIAN LEADER SAYS TALKS MUST INCLUDE KOSTUNICASpeaking in Uzice on 25 September, Djindjic said that he has received the latest in a series of "seven or eight" proposals from Vujanovic to have direct talks between Serbian and Montenegrin officials on the future of bilateral relations, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Djindjic replied, however, that he will not agree to any negotiations from which Kostunica is excluded. Meanwhile in Novi Sad, Djindjic and Vojvodina leader Nenad Canak discussed unspecified "reforms" regarding that province's status. PM
 U.S. COMMITTED TO ALBANIA'S EU INTEGRATIONU.S. Ambassador to Albania Joseph Limprecht and Albanian Transport Minister Maqo Lakrori signed an agreement in Tirana confirming U.S. financial support for improving Albania's shaky infrastructure, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 25 September. Limprecht stressed that the new American administration is just as committed as was its predecessor to helping Albania. He stressed that improving the infrastructure is vital for Albania's integration with the EU. PM
 BOSNIAN MUSLIM GENERAL WANTS TO CLEAR NAME IN THE HAGUEFormer Muslim General and cabinet minister Sefer Halilovic surrendered voluntarily to The Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 25 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He is expected to plead innocent later in the week to one charge of murder and other charges of violating the laws or customs of war. The court indicted him for failing to stop or punish actions by troops under his command, which led to the death of 32 Croatian civilians in September 1993. Halilovic has said that he is not guilty of the charges and wants to clear his name. He has previously appeared in The Hague as a witness in cases involving others. PM
 BOSNIA MOVES AGAINST TERRORISMDeputy Foreign Minister Ivica Misic told a news conference in Sarajevo on 25 September that the joint Bosnian antiterror program "reflects the responsibility of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a member of the united international front to combat this challenge to mankind," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2001). PM
 CROATIAN PRESIDENT WANTS WORLD ANTITERROR BODYSpeaking in Bratislava, Slovakia, that same day, Croatian President Stipe Mesic called for setting up a worldwide antiterror organization, CTK reported. He said that membership should be open to all "civilized" countries that support its aims. Its recommendations would require UN approval. It should target the terrorists themselves and not innocent people by, for example, imposing blanket sanctions. The organization could serve as an information clearing house and provide unspecified help to countries hit by terrorists. It would have the authority to ask countries to extradite suspected terrorists. Meanwhile in Zagreb, Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic said that the authorities will step up security on Croatia's borders to help prevent unspecified terrorists from entering the country, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT EXPLAINS DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POSITION ON KOSOVA, INTERNATIONAL TERRORISMIon Iliescu on 24 September said his Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) opposed the NATO military intervention in Kosova because intervention there amounted to "a military action against another state." He said the situation is different at present, when "international terrorism is threatening every state," and that each country must participate in the struggle against terrorism "within its own means," Mediafax reported the next day. Speaking on the private Antena 1 television, Iliescu said subsequent developments have proven that the PDSR's position at that time of the strikes against Yugoslavia was correct, and that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has been removed "by political means and not by the bombardments." In related news, on 25 September the cabinet approved the implementation in Romania of antiterrorist measures adopted on 21 September at the EU summit. MS
 ROMANIA, HUNGARY, STILL DIVERGE ON STATUS LAWSpeaking in Bucharest following a meeting of the joint Romanian-Hungarian Commission on National Minorities, Deputy Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu said the two sides failed to "bridge positions" over the Status Law that was approved by the Hungarian parliament for ethnic minorities in neighboring countries, Mediafax reported. "We are precisely where we were when the law was passed," Diaconescu said. He said Romania wants to receive guarantees from Hungary that the law "is not aiming at modifying historical borders"; that issuance of ID cards by the Hungarian authorities will not follow ethnic, but "professional or functional criteria"; that the law will not apply to nonethnic Hungarian spouses; and that no organization of the Hungarian minority in Romania will be allowed to process ID cards on the basis of ethnic criteria." MS
 BALKAN STABILITY PACT COORDINATOR IN BUCHARESTBodo Hombach, Balkan Stability Pact coordinator, on 25 September told journalists following talks with Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana that "the dramatic events in the U.S. must not deflect attention from the priority tasks laying ahead of the pact in Southeastern Europe," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Hombach discussed with Geoana the preparations underway for a regional conference of the pact, scheduled for 25-26 October in Bucharest. Hombach said this will be the first time that a conference of the pact is held elsewhere than Brussels and that this indicates the "high esteem" Romania enjoys among European countries. Hombach was also received by Prime Minister Adrian Nastase. MS
 SIDEX WORKERS IMPOSE POSITION ON ROMANIAN GOVERNMENTMarcel Oancea, the leader of the Galati Trade Unions, on 25 September said he is satisfied with the results of talks conducted in Bucharest with Privatization Minister Ovidiu Musatescu and called off the protest by Sidex workers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2001). Musatescu agreed to workers' demands to strike out from the envisaged privatization contract with the British-Indian company LNM Holdings the provisions that would have made it possible to lay off workers in exchange for a penalty paid to the Treasury, as well as the provision allowing the transfer abroad of Sidex activities. Musatescu said that an addendum to the agreement on the privatization signed with the unions on 13 June will include guarantees against any of these possibilities. He said the government will approve on 26 September an ordinance for Sidex's privatization. MS
 MOLDOVA PREPARED TO ALLOW U.S. OVERFLIGHTSDefense Ministry sources on 25 September told Flux that Moldova would be willing to open its airspace to U.S. overflights if requested to do so, but added that no such requests had yet been made by Washington. President Vladimir Voronin on 24 September said his country is ready to become "actively involved" in the struggle "against international terrorism and against separatism." Voronin said Moldovan authorities must "take urgent measures to stop illegal immigration by Islam militants who back the terrorists." MS
 VORONIN TELLS STRASBOURG COURT BESSARABIAN CHURCH IS 'SCHISMATIC'In a letter to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, Voronin wrote on 25 September that the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church is "not a separate cult, but a schismatic formation within the Moldovan Metropolitan Church," Flux reported. Voronin wrote that the Moldovan government cannot recognize the separate existence of the Bessarabian Church, since this would amount to interfering in the "internal affairs of the [Moldovan Orthodox] Church and would thus be in breach of the country's constitution." He said he hopes efforts by the Russian and the Romanian Orthodox churches will lead to a solution of the conflict. The Strasbourg court has agreed to examine a complaint by the Bessarabian Church regarding the refusal by successive Moldovan governments to recognize its independence from the Moldovan Metropolitan Church, which is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate. MS
 BULGARIA OPENS AIRSPACE TO U.S. FLIGHTSForeign Minister Solomon Pasi told journalists after a meeting of the Bulgarian State Security Council on 25 September that Sofia has received a request from Washington to open Bulgarian airspace to U.S. planes. Pasi said the request would be formally granted on 26 September. He said the U.S. request mentions only transport planes and helicopters but no landing rights, which makes it possible to grant the request without the parliament's prior approval. President Petar Stoyanov, who chaired the council's meeting, said he was "happy" to grant access to U.S. aircraft. MS
[C] END NOTE
 RUSSIA OUTLINES COOPERATION IN FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISMBy Tony Wesolowsky
In a speech late on 24 September, Russian President Vladimir Putin spelled out in the clearest terms to date how his government plans to help the United States following the 11 September terrorist attacks on Washington and New York. Putin outlined what his government is willing to do to aid Washington's battle against terrorism, which now appears to be focused on Afghanistan. That country is believed to be harboring Osama bin Laden, the main suspect behind the terrorist attacks in the U.S.
"Russia is supplying and intends to continue to supply all the information we have about the infrastructure and the location of international terrorists and their training bases," Putin said. "Second, we are ready to offer Russian airspace for airplanes with humanitarian aid for the region where the antiterrorist action will be carried out. Third, we have agreed on this position with our allies, including Central Asian states."
The Russian leader also said Moscow will intensify its support for the Northern Alliance, the main anti-Taliban opposition in Afghanistan, and is ready to supply the Afghan opposition with weapons and military equipment.
Putin's speech followed a long telephone conversation two days earlier with U.S. President George W. Bush. Afterward, Bush said that "Vladimir Putin clearly understands that the Cold War is over and that the United States and Russia can cooperate" in the battle against terrorism.
Such statements from the Kremlin and the White House seem to herald a new era between the Cold War-era foes. But Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer disagrees. Felgenhauer said Putin's speech can be seen, not as a victory, but as a setback for U.S. military plans to hunt down bin Laden. Felgenhauer said that despite seeming to offer cooperation, "[Putin made] a clear statement that the United States military is not welcome in Central Asia, and that Russia will do its best to prevent any American military presence in the area."
Felgenhauer said Putin also left out important details, especially regarding the use of Russian airspace, and that the Russian president made no specific mention of giving permission to any U.S. military flights. On 25 September, ITAR-TASS quoted Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov as stating unequivocally that Russia will not participate in any U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan. According to Felgenhauer, Putin's statement that his position has been "agreed" with other Central Asian states could spell bad news for U.S. efforts to forge military cooperation in that region. Felgenhauer predicts that "Russia will allow in only humanitarian flights. That means no military planes or planes carrying military equipment or supplies are allowed in. And Russia says this position is agreed with other Central Asian republics, which means that Central Asia is right now out of reach for the American military to establish any kind of bases."
The countries of Central Asia would play a key role in any U.S. effort to hunt down bin Laden. The U.S. has stepped up its efforts to woo Central Asian leaders to convince them to participate in an international coalition against terrorism.
On 24 September, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said his country "is ready to support an action against terrorism with all means it has at its disposal," including the use of Kazakh military bases and airspace. But the other countries -- particularly Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan -- have been vague, failing to state clearly if they will offer assistance to U.S. military operations.
However, Oksana Antonenko, a Russian expert at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that while Putin's speech at first glance may not contain much that's new, there are what she called significant nuances.
"For the first time, he actually explicitly stated that some Central Asian countries may decide on their own to allow the United States-led coalition forces to use their air bases," Antonenko said. "And I think that this is really quite a big difference from what was previously stated by Defense Minister Ivanov, who said even hypothetically there cannot be a possibility that any Western countries can station their forces on any bases."
In Antonenko's opinion, Putin's speech can be seen as a "green light" to Uzbekistan for it to decide on a limited U.S. military deployment on its soil, which some reports say is already taking place.
As regards Putin's statement on increasing Moscow's backing of the Northern Alliance, Felgenhauer is not impressed. He said Russia has long backed the Northern Alliance, providing arms, munitions, and air support. Russia, like the other Central Asia states, fears the spread into Russia of the type of fundamentalist Islam practiced by the Taliban.
Furthermore, Felgenhauer said Putin is unlikely to keep his word on increasing weapons shipments to the Northern Alliance because, he said, the Northern Alliance is already getting from Russia all the weapons it can absorb.
However, Antonenko disagrees, saying Putin's statement may signal Russia's willingness to supply weapons to the Northern Alliance as "military aid," meaning the alliance would not have to pay for them. She also said Moscow may now be willing to supply the Northern Alliance with better and more up- to-date hardware than it has received to date.
Felgenhauer acknowledged that the situation is fluid, and said Putin may become more accommodating to U.S. military plans if Washington expresses a willingness to compromise on issues of importance to Moscow. These issues include, for example, Western support for -- or at least less criticism of - - Russia's war in Chechnya and a halt to NATO expansion into Eastern Europe.
"[Putin] openly said that Russia is open for bargaining -- its position could change," Felgenhauer said. "Russia has already tacitly stated: nonexpansion of NATO, NMD, Chechnya; lots of different kinds of issues [that Russia may be willing to bargain on]."
Tony Wesolowsky is an RFE/RL correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty