Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen, media representatives, colleagues,
We just had another session of the CSTO Collective Security Council. I would like to say straight away that we made some very important decisions, aimed toward the improvement of collective security mechanisms and the significant reinforcement of this Organisation’s potential.
The most important summit event was that we signed the Agreement on the CSTO’s Collective Rapid Reaction Force. This agreement will regulate such most significant, fundamental aspects of this military force’s operation as its purposes, composition, and the application of the mechanism ensuring Organisation’s member states collective security. We also signed a number of regulatory documents detailing this mechanism. In my view, this will allow our nations to more effectively react to today’s major threats of international terrorism, local and cross-border crime, including drug trafficking, and possibly regional conflicts as well.
A joint statement has also been signed to reflect the commonality of our approaches to today’s major international problems and our vision of the current international situation in the context of regional threats within the CSTO geography. A closer foreign policies coordination pursued by CSTO member states is a guaranty of a greater security for our nations. Today, it is exceptionally important for us to supplement our CSTO alliances with growing cooperation and energetic efforts within other authoritative international organisations, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, whose summit is coming up in just a few days, and the EurAsEC.
Our CSTO colleagues have expressed their support for other initiatives which we discussed on several occasions; I think this includes the initiative for an agreement on European security, an issue we have discussed many times. This work in CSTO member states’ interests will continue.
We signed many other important documents too. These set priorities for out endeavours through 2012. We have approved the key action plan on reforming mechanisms of joint response to emergencies. The document is intended to improve prevention of natural and man-made disasters and mitigate effects thereof.
Furthermore, we signed an Action Plan in order to jointly counter illegal migration.
In conclusion, I would like to thank President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan for the multiple and beneficial labours during his CSTO chairmanship. As I mentioned at the plenary session, given certain organisational aspects, the Russian Federation has accepted CSTO technical chairmanship until the next chairperson is selected which I think will happen really soon. We will also ensure efficient and uninterrupted operation of relevant CSTO mechanisms.
Question: I have a two-part question for both presidents. What is your assessment of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force Agreement in the context of further CSTO development? My second question is: in your opinion, how efficient Armenia’s CSTO chairmanship was? Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Sargsyan and I agreed prior to this news conference that I would answer first, and he will think about what else he can add. Since I have already essentially given my view of the CRRF Agreement and the CSTO’s potential, there are just a couple more things I would like to add.
At an informal summit in Kazakhstan last December, we elaborated the idea of building up our CSTO forces and transforming the rapid deployment forces into special rapid reaction forces. This would be more than a simple name change or a development of our existing forces into something very similar. This would reflect some fairly fundamental changes in how we see our collective forces.
Clearly, they should be mobile, but at the same time, they should be sufficiently large to face the most essential, most important, and most sophisticated threats, such as terrorism, crime, and other regional challenges and conflicts. Thus, our forces shouldn’t be small, but they must be compact and capable of being used for diverse purposes. They should be equipped with the latest military technology. They should have everything they may require for an efficient operation. By having signed today the Agreement on the Collective Rapid Reaction Force, we made a step toward creating a military force to be reckoned with, truly capable of responding to a variety of threats. Last time, I said that although the rapid deployment forces had been created, they had never been used or even gathered together, the fact illustrating their effectiveness.
In order for these forces to be ready and prepared, they must be quick, and they must be equipped with everything they need. Most importantly, though, they need joint military exercises and joint operations. That is the only way to build up a solid military force that, as I said, can be reckoned with. That is the only way to train military and special units to deal with the exceptionally difficult problems that our countries face either together or individually.
I therefore feel this is an important step forward. I am glad that we have come to an agreement. We have had certain discussions, and some countries are still considering the prospects for their involvement in these military forces. There is nothing wrong about this; other, similar forces were never formed overnight, and their participants did not all join at once. We are open to the possibility that our partners who have not yet signed these documents will ultimately sign them later, after giving it some thought and evaluating the situation. I am referring to Uzbekistan, which has a number of doubts, but has not excluded the possibility itself. The President of Uzbekistan said he would analyse certain aspects to resume discussion of the agreement at a later stage. The same is true of Belarus, which was not present at our summit today, but which, we hope, will resume these talks and make the decision on its participation in the Collective Rapid Reaction Force, especially since both countries have supported the creation of the CRRF.
Serzh Sargsyan: In my opinion, CRRF is a practical implementation of the ideas at the foundation of the Collective Security Treaty. I am certain that over the past year we have added much substance to the previously made decisions.
When Armenia took on the CSTO chairmanship a year ago, I said that Armenia and other CSTO member states will not only strive to accomplish the decisions already made, but will also bring forward new ideas on upgrading the Collective Security Treaty. I think we have done a lot of good things. I will mention just two points,
the creation of the CRRF and our improved foreign policy cooperation. It was for the first time that we gathered to put forward our common approaches to specific issues prior to the UN General Assembly and OSCE Council of Foreign Ministers session.
I think these two examples alone are enough to demonstrate that during the past year we have had serious and substantial achievements.
Question: I have a question for Mr Medvedev. You have already mentioned the absence of Belarusian delegation and my question relates to this issue. Today, it has become clear that certain problems in the Russian-Belarusian relations are, to some degree, affecting the activities of the entire CSTO.
How did the presidents resolve the issue and do you think that unilateral steps by some CSTO member states may have an effect on the Organisation’s overall efficiency? Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. Personally, I hope that a particular member’s position will not affect the CSTO’s efficiency.
First of all, each country has the right to an independent position on its membership in a given organisation; there is nothing surprising about this, and it is something we have seen in the past. In my view, what’s most important is to learn to separate bilateral problems from our multilateral resolutions.
But what happened today – the Belarusian side’s decision not to participate in today’s CSTO summit – is, after all, a decision by one country which we should respect. Nevertheless, I cannot say that I fully understand this decision, since I do not think it is right to let bilateral problems spill over into a multilateral format. Bilateral problems should be resolved through consultations, which is what we have been doing with our Belarusian partners, including consultations on the dairy products issue.
This is a technical issue, although I would like to point it out that our Belarusian partners make significant use of resources, namely financial resources, that come from the Russian Federation, and that 93% of their total dairy and nearly 100% of their meat exports go to Russia.
That means that Russia – and we understand that — is a very important market for Belarus. At the same time, when dealing with such matters, the regulations should be observed and export quotas should be abided by. This was a generally technical issue that could have been resolved relatively quickly if it had not been over-politicised, particularly by linking, as was done here, a CSTO decision with our bilateral relationship, regardless of the significance of the subject to Belarus.
I would also like to say that in a situation like this one may be expected to act in a partner-like way. I mean one could pick up the phone and call. Unfortunately, that did not happen and President Alexander Lukashenko did not speak with me on the phone of his decision not to come, although his executive office did contact us on the mater.
It seems to me that the best way to resolve economic conflicts is through direct contact, rather than letting the economic issue spill over to a multilateral format, one that deals with the lives and security of people living in multiple countries. Nevertheless, that was the decision made by our partners and we accept it with tranquillity and without dramatising these actions.
I am certain that the Belarusian side will come to appreciate all the advantages of resuming discussions on its CSTO membership and signing the Agreement on Collective Rapid Reaction Force, particularly because earlier, our Belarusian partners agreed to all respective provisions.
Thus, I hope that this dairy and meat hysterics will not in the end ruin our efforts of creating CRRF, since its advantages are quite clear and since Belarus itself will benefit from it.
It is important to always separate the wheat from the tares and make measured economic and political decisions. We hope this turmoil will be over soon.