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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

7 Ex-Soviet Nations to Form Rapid Reaction Force

The Associated Press

Seven former Soviet republics including Russia will form a joint rapid reaction force, President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday.

President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia, Armenia, Belarus and four Central Asian nations — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — had reached the agreement to form a new security force during a summit of the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization on Wednesday.

The force would add a military dimension to the Moscow-dominated alliance, which so far has served mostly as a forum for consultations.

"We all have agreed on the need" for the force, Medvedev said, but he did not give details of how the force would be composed.

On Tuesday, he said Russia and Belarus would also be forming a joint military system to monitor and defend their air space.

Wednesday's announcement about the joint rapid reaction force was made just a day after Kyrgyzstan said it would end its U.S. lease of a key air base that supports military operations in Afghanistan. Evicting U.S. troops from Kyrgyzstan would mark a victory for Moscow in its battle for influence in what it considers its historic backyard.

Russia, the United States and China have been vying for influence in the Caspian and Central Asia region, which is believed to contain the world's third-largest energy reserves.

When the U.S. launched the war in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, then-President Vladimir Putin welcomed U.S. troops in Central Asia. The move helped to temporarily improve U.S.-Russia relations, but as relations worsened again Moscow became impatient about the U.S. presence.

Moscow set up its own air base in Kyrgyzstan in 2003, and then scored another point in 2005, when Uzbekistan evicted U.S. troops from an air base near the Afghan border.