MOSCOW (Combined Sources)–Russia and Armenia will create an integrated air defense network as part of a plann to create a joint air defense system stretching from NATO’s borders to China, the Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Nikolay Bordyuzha told a press conference in Moscow Friday.
The announcement comes after plans to build a joint Russian-Belarusian air defenses system were revealed on February 3.
"We are expecting Russia and Armenia to set up a similar joint air defense network," he was quoted by Ria Novosti as saying. "
The CSTO, which includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, is scheduled to create three regional air defense networks in Belarus, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Bordyuzha said the CSTO “will advance to a higher level of cooperation” after the joint network is established.
The project, which would combine early warning systems of member states and create a single control center, has been talked about for years. Bordyuzha did not say when the project would finally be accomplished.
Russia and Belarus, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania, agreed to merge their air defense systems a day before the CSTO agreed to establish a rapid-reaction military force to combat terrorists and respond to regional emergencies.
The decisions have been accompanied by hefty Russian financial aid to allies struggling with the global crisis. Moscow has recently stepped up efforts to reinforce economic, military and security ties its ex-Soviet satellites most of whom are being actively courted by the West and show some willingness for a more balanced foreign policy less dependent on Moscow.
Russia has promised to consider nearly $3 billion in fresh credits to Belarus and agreed to contribute up to $7 billion to a $10 billion regional emergency fund.
A day after the CSTO announced plans to create the military force, Kyrgyzstan announced it would close a U.S. air base near its capital Bishkek, a key element in supplying U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The decision was made after Russia offered Kyrgyzstan a life-saving aid package of over $2 billion.
Armenia too recently received approval for a large-scale loan from Russia. On February 4 after weeks of negotiations, Russian Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin announced his government’s decision to provide Yerevan with a $500 “stabilization credit” to minimize the fallout from the global economic crisis.
Analysts say the creation of a joint air defense system may also be a response to the U.S. missile shield plans in Europe viewed by Moscow as a direct threat to national security.
Moscow is seeking to persuade new U.S. President Barack Obama to review a decision by his predecessor George W. Bush to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech republic.
Stronger regional alliances may give Russia a stronger say in talks with Washington, which will also include the sensitive issues of NATO membership for ex-Soviet Ukraine and Georgia and Russia’s support to the U.S.-led operation in Afghanistan.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who has sought to persuade NATO and the European Union to review global security arrangemen’s, has said he will speak to Western partners on behalf of CSTO allies as well.