Moscow: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday Moscow has agreed to establish a rapid reaction force with a regional security group, deepening a rift with longtime ally Belarus which boycotted the talks.
“The main result of the summit is an agreement on a CSTO joint rapid reaction force,” Medvedev said after a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in Moscow.
He added the establishment of the force “aims to improve collective security and strengthen the organisation’s potential.”
The agreement had been expected after the idea of such a force was discussed during a previous summit in Moscow in February.
But it angered Belarus, a member of the security group, which has been at odds with the Kremlin after Russia banned the import of Belarussian milk.
Strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko announced earlier Sunday that Belarus would not attend the Moscow meeting, in a blow to Russian efforts to tighten military cooperation among countries of the former Soviet Union.
Minsk branded the agreement on the new force as “illegitimate” following the meeting as it was made without all the members of the security group present.
Medvedev urged Belarus and Uzbekistan, another member of the group which refused to sign Sunday’s agreement, to reconsider their decision.
The CSTO is a group of former Soviet states that Moscow has touted as a counterweight to NATO. It also includes Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The so-called “milk war” broke out between Belarus and Russia on June 6 when Moscow abruptly banned the import of 500 kinds of Belarussian dairy products, ostensibly for health reasons.
Ties between Russia and Belarus have become strained in recent months as Moscow has expressed anger at Lukashenko’s moves to seek closer ties with the European Union.