From Associated Press: “Two former Soviet republics refused to sign onto a deal Sunday to create a NATO-style rapid-reaction force for a Moscow-dominated security alliance, undermining a Kremlin bid to bolster its power and prestige amid a struggle with the West for regional clout.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko angrily boycotted the Moscow summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization amid a politically charged trade dispute with longtime ally Russia. Central Asian power Uzbekistan attended the summit but balked at signing a deal that could increase Moscow’s influence over its affairs . . .
An effective rapid-reaction force would raise the profile of the alliance, seen as an anemic answer to NATO, and would increase Moscow’s influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus, where the Kremlin is competing with the West over political influence, energy resources and export routes.”