Six ex-Soviet republics agree to form air defense network

August 25, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- Defense ministers of a half-dozen former Soviet republics, trying to revive some parts of one of history's greatest military machines, agreed yesterday to pool resources and forge a common air and missile defense network.

The top military officials of the six countries, led by Russia's Gen. Pavel S. Grachev, also voted to collaborate to monitor outer space and draw up a long-term concept of joint armed forces.

All ministerial decisions, however, are subject to approval by the heads of state of the countries concerned, and many grand plans have been stillborn in the past. The next summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States is scheduled for Sept. 7 in Moscow.

"If they have agreed on something this time, then that would really be a first," one Moscow-based military attache said. "In the past, they mostly agreed to agree on something later."

The air defense agreement was not joined by all commonwealth members but only by those six -- Russia, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan -- who signed a collective security pact in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on May 15, 1992.

The Soviet air defense and missile early warning networks had boasted radar and monitoring stations in all 15 republics, including many installations on the fringes of the Soviet Union.

Therefore, when the Baltic, Caucasus and Central Asia republics became independent, Russian air defense in many sectors effectively was blinded.

Russia also managed to persuade other signatories of the collective security pact to endorse the idea of fielding "coalition forces" under a single command along the troubled Afghan-Tajik frontier, with the exact arrangement to be decided later.

General Grachev stressed that Russia will not be sending additional troops, so it seemed likely that his government, prey to economic and political crisis at home, was searching for a way to share the burden.

Also meeting in Moscow were the commonwealth foreign ministers, who approved eight documents to be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly committing them to efforts in combating terrorism, drugs, pollution and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

The ability to agree on concerted action, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyrev said, shows that the commonwealth is not dying or dead as its critics claim.

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