Moscow is forming a “new international economic organization” comprising
most of the land mass of the former Soviet Union, and those states joining
Moscow will engage in “cooperation in all spheres,” according to official
Russian sources.

A report on the new Eurasian Union was carried by the Voice of Russia World
Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.

Russia, Belarus and the Central Asian former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan,
Kirgizia and Tajikisatan are the participants in the newly formed “Eurasian

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has stated that “a new economic
community… is coming into being,” which will provide for “cooperation in
all fields,” with “coordination of their (member states’) economic, social,
industrial, and monetary policies.” A draft treaty establishing the new
“community” has just been agreed upon and is scheduled to be signed by the
presidents of the respective states today.

Russia and Belarus first established the Customs Union in January 1995, and
were later joined by the other three present members. In December 1999,
Russia and Belarus went further in the process of combining their two states
by establishing a Union State.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Central Asia has become a contested area
with NATO and Islamic fundamentalist rebels seeking to oust Russia from an
area it has controlled since the 19th century. At stake is a vast region
with remarkable mineral wealth — including substantial reserves of natural
gas and oil — that is also strategically located along a land route

connecting Europe, the Middle East, and Far East.
Russia’s most important space-launching facility is also located in Central Asia, Kazakhstan’s Baikonur space station.

U.S. and NATO officials are regular visitors to Central Asian capitals. Military exercises combining Western troops and the military from various nations in the region occur periodically. NATO Secretary-General George Robertson in May stated that Russia was unable to assist the Central Asian states in their struggle against Islamic separatists without aid from NATO, and that Moscow and NATO should join together to defeat the rebels.

The post-Soviet governments in Central Asia are currently

in a serious
battle against Islamic fundamentalism.
The Sept. 16 international edition of Le Monde featured a report proclaiming, “Islamic Fundamentalist Guerrilla Shock Wave Extends into Central Asia,” detailing Islamic rebel advances, particularly in Uzbekistan, a neighbor of Kirgizia and Kazakhstan.

Events in Uzbekistan were featured in the Sept. 6-12 issue of Moscow News in a report that described developments in the most populated area of Uzbekistan, the Fergana valley. Under the headline “Fergana Valley on Fire,” Moscow News speculated that “A Fergana caliphate might appear on the map of Central Asia as early as next spring.”

The Russian weekly urged all the governments in the region not to “stand in the way of a real union of Central Asian states.”

Moscow continues to supply most of the military hardware and support to the Central Asian states, and all of the region’s economies are almost completely dependent upon Russia for survival.

All of the area’s leaders have close ties with Moscow, and all are former influential Communist Party members.

The president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, once held membership in former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev’s Politburo. Kirgizia’s President Askar Akayev wants his nation to join the Union State of Russia and Belarus.

The Eurasian Union treaty follows upon Moscow’s abandonment of a 1992 agreement allowing visa-free travel throughout the 12 former Soviet republics making up the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), successor entity to the now-defunct Soviet Union. The newly established Eurasian Union will, however, permit visa-free transportation of goods and personnel — a significant inducement for further enlargement of the organization, as well as cooperation with Moscow.

The U.S. State Department had no immediate comment on the new union.

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