MOSCOW, May 14 (RIA Novosti) - The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is planning to create a large military contingent comprising units and formations of several Central Asian states, the head of the post-Soviet security group said Monday.
CSTO members - Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - use the organization as a platform to fight drug trafficking, terrorism, and organized crime, and have pledged to provide immediate military assistance to one another in the event of an attack.
The bloc has a Collective Rapid Reaction Force deployed in Central Asia, and is continuing to build up its military forces.
"We are planning to create a larger [military] contingent on the basis of a Collective Rapid Reaction Force in Central Asia that would comprise units and formations from four or five Central Asian states," CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha told a news conference at RIA Novosti.
Bordyuzha said that experts are finalizing the coordination of a draft agreement and documents on effective combat strength and deployment of a new military contingent.
He also said the next meeting of the CSTO's Collective Security Council has been scheduled for July 17 in Moscow to discuss the organization's peacekeeping mechanisms.
The enlargement of the CSTO military contingent could be viewed as a step to counter-balance NATO's further eastward expansion and to keep Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries under Russia's military protection.
Russia earlier said a united regional air defense system could encompass almost all the territory of the former Soviet Union within the CSTO framework in the future.
Bordyuzha reiterated Monday that the proposed placement of a U.S. missile shield in Europe and attempts to expand it to the Caucasus and Central Asia is a threat to all CSTO member countries.
"It is all a part of large-scale work aimed at creating a well-developed military infrastructure around Russia, Belarus and other CSTO countries," the official said.
"It is a loaded gun...And I do not understand the assurances given by Western diplomats that it is not aimed against Russia," Bordyuzha said.