“We managed to save in very difficult conditions”: What has CSTO come to in 20 years?

The Collective Security Treaty was signed in Tashkent in 1992 and exactly 10 years later a military-political Organization emerged on its basis. During this time, a lot has changed, starting with the composition of the participants (the same Uzbekistan has twice withdrawn from the Treaty and is now not a member of the CSTO) and the international arena as a whole.

The new reality was discussed at the anniversary summit in the Kremlin on May 16, which was attended by six state leaders – Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia.

The Prime Minister of the latter, Nikol Pashinyan, presided over the Collective Security Council, the highest organ of the organization, in 2022, and arrived in Moscow despite opposition protests in his country.

As a result of the Moscow summit, the leaders of the countries adopted a special statement containing very conciliatory expressions.

After the frank part of the meeting where NATO’s actions were widely criticized, the real surprise was that the CSTO was ready to establish practical cooperation with this alliance to “de-escalate” Eurasia.

In addition, the Allies agreed to condemn any attempt to “falsify historical events relating to our joint contribution to Nazi aggression” and be prepared to oppose “any attempt to glorify Nazism and spread neo-Nazism, racism and xenophobia”.

Ukraine is not mentioned once in the final document.

However, in the speech of the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, the events in the country “completely under the control of the West” were emphasized. He called for unity against the background of hostilities and sanctions – now, in his opinion, the CSTO is not as united as it was during the January events in Kazakhstan.

“I am sure that if we had acted immediately as a united front, there would not have been these hellish sanctions, as they say,” said Lukashenka. He added that Russia should not fight the NATO enlargement attempt alone.

Lukashenka’s reference points are both the European Union and China. True, both examples are about discipline – the President of Belarus likes the monopoly voting in the European Union and Beijing’s experience in the information war on the Internet.

Pashinyan also reminded Armenia’s complaints about the position of some CSTO countries in their conflict with Azerbaijan.

In particular, Armenia asked the Organization for help (the last time was in 2021, during the aggravation in the Syunik region), but there was no reaction to it. Also, Yerevan asked Azerbaijan not to sell weapons, but the allies ignored this request. At the same time, Pashinyan thanked Russia for helping to end hostilities in Karabakh.

Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, spoke very moderately about the “artificially created NATO enlargement problem (in the context of Finland and Sweden’s applications for membership). He believes that this decision is in the interests of US foreign policy, but he sees no problems and threats from such an expansion to Russia, other than the appearance of a military infrastructure there. But Moscow promised to answer it.

In addition, Putin proposed to grant CIS observer status in the CSTO, even though all its members are already members of the Commonwealth. Theoretically, we are talking about the inclusion of Moldova’s enemy Azerbaijan, which has chosen the pro-Western path of Armenia, twice withdrawn from the Uzbekistan Treaty, and even Ukraine, which the CIS still considers, included in the CSTO mechanisms. its member.

However, in the CSTO there are already countries between which conflicts periodically flare up – Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan really fought in 2021, exacerbations also occurred this year. But this does not hinder development – a series of exercises within the framework of the CSTO are planned soon: for example, the exercises Frontier-2022 will be held in Tajikistan, and the exercises of Indestructible Brotherhood-2022 will be held in Kyrgyzstan.

Is unity possible?

The experts socialbites.ca interviewed agreed that the CSTO has not gone through the easiest way to develop in 20 years. However, it was the rapid response to the events in Kazakhstan that gave new impetus to the Organization.

There, in January 2022, mass protests turned into pogroms, after which Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev turned to the CSTO for help. After that, he decided to use his peacekeeping forces to protect strategically important businesses for the first time in history. This freed up the resources of the local security forces to regain control of the cities. It is worth noting that the mission of CSTO MC ended abruptly as it began.

Vladimir Evseev, head of the SCO’s department of Eurasian integration and development at the Institute of CIS Countries, believes there were “slightly overestimated expectations” when creating the CSTO, in a comment to socialbites.ca.

“Not all happened. However, the Organization survived in very difficult conditions. Probably the main difficulty in recent times was the Second Karabakh War, which could lead to the withdrawal of Armenia from the CSTO.

However, this did not happen despite the criticism of the CSTO in Armenia, because some of its members sided with Azerbaijan in this war. Although Russia finally liberated the Armenian army. And before that, in 2018, when the General Secretary of the CSTO Yuri Khachaturov was arrested on charges of overthrowing the constitutional order, the Armenian leadership itself did not have quite enough actions, ”says the expert.

The main task in the creation of the CSTO was to create a defense organization that would allow to coordinate security efforts in the context of the collapse of the USSR. International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences told Gazeta.ru.

“There was quite a lot of risk – Afghanistan, other conflicts in the post-Soviet space. And the process of creating the CSTO was very long: after all, after the signing of the agreement in 1992, it took more time to create an organization with permanent rapid reaction troops.

The main achievement in 20-year history, of course, is the study of the transfer of a peacekeeping unit in Kazakhstan in a very short time in January 2022. “This served as the main factor in stabilizing the internal crisis and demonstrated the CSTO’s readiness to respond to internal and external challenges.”

Vladimir Evseev, Head of the Department of Eurasian Integration and Development of the SCO at the Institute of CIS Countries, agrees that the CSTO showed its relevance during the events in Kazakhstan. However, the ambiguous stance of some CSTO countries, and especially Nur-Sultan, towards the Russian military operation in Ukraine raises the question of how real the unity Lukashenka demanded is again.

Therefore, the expert believes that Kazakhstan responded to the support with “inadequate reciprocity” in January and pays attention to the words of Tokayev’s deputy Timur Suleymanov that Nur-Sultan will not help Russia circumvent sanctions.

“The most interesting thing is that no one in Kazakhstan wants such a statement. And he was the only one from Central Asian countries who spoke so clearly. Also, the news regarding the assembly of Turkish drones in Kazakhstan under current conditions is confusing. And Turkey participated, at least indirectly, in the January events, and for some reason, Turkish shops were not destroyed in Alma-Ata. CSTO makes a very vague impression in light of recent events. If it was possible to speak of its strengthening after the events of January, I now very much doubt it. Because Kazakhstan does not actually act as an ally or even a strategic partner. With such allies there is no need for enemies, ”says Evseev.

The military expert believes that if the events in Kazakhstan were repeated, it would be difficult for Russia to make a decision to “recover it”.

Pritchin acknowledges that it is not always possible to reach consensus on certain topics and events at the CSTO.

“On the one hand, this protects the Organization from the dominance of a single power. There are different views on different issues, but this shows that the organization still acts on the principles of common interest. For example, Armenia sought more support in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which was unacceptable to others due to good relations with Azerbaijan. But look at what’s happening in NATO where there are those who disagree with, for example, the admission of Finland and Sweden. “I don’t see it as a major tragedy, it’s just a normal process of coordination within a single organisation,” he said.

Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin expressed his confidence that the CSTO will expand to several dozen countries in the future.

“The CSTO has shown that it is war-ready, peaceful, and I think in a few years there will be no more six countries. “These will be dozens of states that value peace and stability, not the aggression of other states and the change in their political system,” he said.

Pritchin, from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, says it is still very difficult to talk impartially about the possible expansion of the CSTO, because the defense sector is particularly sensitive for countries.

According to the expert Evseev, under certain conditions, Uzbekistan can return to the CSTO with the status of an observer, relations in which Russia reminds the expert more allies than Kazakhstan. Evseev views traditionally neutral Turkmenistan as another contender for observer state status at the CSTO.

A summit of leaders of the CSTO countries was held in Moscow, dedicated to two anniversary at once – the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the founding of the organization on its basis. Experts say that the organization in 2022 clearly demonstrated its effectiveness during the January events in Kazakhstan. At the same time, sometimes the contradictions of CSTO members reach a scale that is not quite compatible with the status of the allies. “socialbites.ca” – about what CSTO has achieved in 20 years and what awaits it in the future.

Source: Gazeta


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