By Penza News
The regular session of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Collective Security Council completed its work in Dushanbe on September 15, 2015. Adequate response to the biggest current military and political challenges, including an upsurge in activity by terrorist and extremist groups and destabilization of the situation on the CSTO countries’ borders dominated the meeting which was attended by the presidents of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The summit’s main focus was also on the results of unannounced inspections for carrying out the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces’ (RRF) objectives. It was noted that the goals were achieved; the CSTO crisis response mechanisms connected with use of forces and means of collective security were successfully tested as well as the combat readiness of the CSTO contingents to implement a package of measures in accordance with national plans.
According to the President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambaev, expanding influence of the Islamic State terrorist group in Afghanistan poses a direct threat to security of CSTO countries.
“We are concerned about numerous cases of recruitment and departure of our citizens to participate in the armed conflict on the side of IS. Their subsequent return for continuation of terrorist activities and recruitment in their countries causes special vigilance,” he said and added that in such situation it is important to focus on solving practical problems.
The President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said that smoldering conflicts were exacerbated, with new hotbeds of instability appearing in the Middle East, Afghanistan and near the borders of CSTO.
“Therefore it is important to pay great attention to the development and successful operation of CSTO RRF,” he stressed speaking at the CSTO Collective Security Council expanded meeting.
Meanwhile, the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan drew attention to the fact that the organization has passed its 20-year period of formation, and stated the need for a new long-term strategy.
“This work should be continued in a systematic way, having clearly designated focus of development in the medium term. Therefore, I suggest as one of the first priorities to finalize the strategy of CSTO collective security until 2025, and adopt it in 2016,” he said.
In turn, the Russian President Vladimir Putin recalled that Islamic State controls significant stretches of territory and plans to expand its activities to Europe and Asia.
“Basic common sense and a sense of responsibility for global and regional security require the international community to join forces against this threat. We need to set aside the geopolitical ambitions, leave behind the so-called double standards and the policy of direct or indirect use of individual terrorist groups to achieve one’s own opportunistic goals, including changes in undesirable governments and regimes. As you know, Russia has proposed to immediately take on forming a broad coalition to counteract the extremists. It must unite everyone who is prepared to make, or is already making, an input into fighting terrorism, just as Iraq and Syria’s armed forces are doing today. We support the Syrian government – I want to say this – in countering terrorist aggression. We provide and will continue to provide the necessary military technology assistance and urge other nations to join in,” the Russian leader said.
According to him, the CSTO countries plan to continue strengthening cooperation between their armed forces.
“We plan a whole set of activities in this area. I would like to also stress that our cooperation within the CSTO framework is certainly not directed against anybody. We are open to constructive cooperation, and that is precisely the approach that is reinforced in the final statement,” Vladimir Putin stressed.
Commenting on the results of the summit, Ivan Monkov, research fellow at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies department of regional security problems, called the CSTO session a significant step towards a sustainable system of collective security in the region.
“Growing international tension, isolation of Moscow and terrorist threat from Islamic State that is gaining influence necessitate increasing the combat capability of the organization. In this regard, the main attention in Dushanbe was focused on the development of the military component of the association. Reports on the results of the CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Force unannounced inspections and joint exercises prove that the organization is able to respond to possible crisis situations on the borders of the CSTO which can no longer remain within the exclusive competence of a single country,” he said in an interview to “PenzaNews” agency.
According to the expert, the most important result of the summit was signing an agreement on collective aviation forces of the CSTO and an agreement on transportation of military and other formations, movable property and military products. Initial discussion on the creation of collective air defense system was also considered significant.
“As for terrorism, it is the first time in the 20-year history of the organization when member countries face the need to confront the real external threat posed by Islamic State, an international terrorist group, which is spreading its influence on Afghanistan. This fact calls for greater defense capability of the organization and readiness for rapid crisis response,” the speaker said.
At the same time, he praised the level of the CSTO development, highlighting the significant progress in its work.
“The CSTO gradually develops from a formal regional association into a working trans-regional structure the members of which declare their intention to stand together at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in New York on the subject of preventing the deployment of weapons in outer space, as well as measures to combat international terrorism,” Ivan Monkov explained.
Discussing the prospects of future cooperation between the CSTO member states, he said that the determining factor is the Syrian crisis.
“In case of Bashar Assad’s defeat, the IS fighters may turn towards Iran, and then the Caucasus and the Central Asia. In this situation, the CSTO can grow from a regional military-political bloc into the guarantor of collective security of the global scale,” the expert said.
In turn, Tevan Poghosyan, the deputy of the National Assembly of Armenia, suggested that the CSTO failed so far to become an organization that places the concept of collective security at the forefront.
“In fact, the interests of the member countries of the alliance are mainly focused on cooperation with Russia but not with each other, not to mention protecting each other. It must be admitted that such associations are the most effective when working as a network system of mutual aid and interdependence. The CSTO allies have no common sentiments or goal-setting mechanisms. As a result, sometimes a member country can deliberately ignore the vital interests of its ally on the international arena,” he explained his position.
According to the politician, statements made at the summit do not constitute an adequate response to the real threats and challenges of each member country.
“Azerbaijan organizes sabotage and military attacks on the border with Armenia every day but the CSTO ignores it. I believe that Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Russia as allies of Armenia must discuss the issue. Such steps would follow the letter and the spirit of collective security,” Tevan Poghosyan said.
According to him, the CSTO will not significantly increase its importance in the international arena in the near future, while the members of the alliance will strengthen the security component in bilateral cooperation with Russia.
Richard Giragosian, director at Regional Studies Center in Yerevan, former US Senate staffer, also noted that the recent Dushanbe summit meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization was largely seen as a disappointment by many in Armenia.
“This negative view was due to the lack of any specific or direct mention to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the summit declaration. Given the serious escalation in attacks from Azerbaijan, the Armenian people expected a more direct show of support from the CSTO partners,” he explained.
In the meantime, according to him, the summit’s emphasis on security and terrorism is both natural and important, for two main reasons.
“Firstly, the priority areas correctly address the rise of Islamist terrorism, namely through Islamic State, which also has direct links to the North Caucasus and Central Asia, and secondly, because of the security situation in Afghanistan, which also has an immediate impact on overall stability in the Central Asia region,” Richard Giragosian clarified.
In his opinion, the CSTO is now a Russia-dominated security group, and while this was a positive feature in the past that reflected Moscow’s willingness to provide greater security for the other members, more recently, this has become negative, as the CSTO is directly associated with Russian confrontation with the West.
Richard Giragosian also noted that future cooperation within the CSTO is challenged by the inherent rivalries and competition between the individual member states.
“The CSTO will require firm Russian leadership as a promoter and patron of cooperation within the CSTO until they can better resolve these differences,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sharbatullo Sodikov, researcher at the Analytical Center of MGIMO, expert of the Russian Council on International Affairs, assessed the prospects of further cooperation more positively.
“The CSTO nowadays is one of the largest regional organizations that has no complete analogue: it protects the security on the former Soviet Union space ― the geopolitical integrity which appeared rather recently. The urgency of the CSTO tasks lies in its foreign policy activity, the activity of the general command of its troops built on the principle of RRF. Its deepening cooperation with the UN with the aim to intensify the work in the regions of the world in order to improve security underlines the importance and influence of the Collective Security Treaty Organization,” the analyst said.
According to him, the results of the CSTO summit must not be underestimated.
“The threat of terrorist attacks on the Tajik-Afghan border was declared internationally important. Against the backdrop of growing cooperation between the UN and the CSTO, the summit decision taken in the interests of military assistance to Tajikistan has universal importance – particularly in dealing with the Tajik opposition which comes close to IS on a number of points,” Sharbatullo Sodikov said.
“Adhering to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of the CSTO member states, the organization found an accurate method for armed resistance against Afghanistan encroachments on freedom and independence of Tajikistan, and summarized the challenges of the future – preservation of security stability in Central Asia,” he added.
Moreover, according to the expert, the RRF is an effective instrument to promote border security and sovereignty of the member states.
“It appears that the main and most successful direction of further cooperation will be an effort to avert the security threats coming to Central Asia from Afghanistan. Thus, Russia as the leading and richest member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization will set the goal: to build a new (not pro-American) coalition for fighting terrorism and extremism, and IS in particular,” Sharbatullo Sodikov said.
In turn, Stefan Meister, head of the program on Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia at the Robert Bosch center of the German Council on Foreign Affairs, said the results of the summit were meager.
“The Russian President is trying to link Islamic terrorism in the Middle East with the Central Asia but ignores the domestic roots of growing support for Islamic groups in some of the countries. While there is a growing Islamic pressure from Afghanistan on the Central Asian borders, for IS this region is not a target. That means Vladimir Putin used the summit to send messages to the US and the international community but less so to the region,” the analyst said.
He added that Russia is the only country that really has an interest to be a security provider in the region and help the states that need border protection in terms of weapon supply.
The expert does not see any big effect of this summit on the region, except for the ongoing cooperation in the security field.
“The focus of the organization is increasingly on domestic policy. It will stay a regional organization which helps to stabilize security first of all in Central Asia,” Stefan Meister concluded.
Meanwhile, according to Vadim Kozyulin, senior fellow at the Center for Political Studies of Russia, the summit showed that the leaders of the CSTO member states see the real threat posed by IS near their borders and get ready to face it in practical terms.
“The practical side of this preparation was a cross-cutting theme of the summit. In part this may be due to the fact that the meeting took place against the backdrop of the anti-terrorist operation conducted at this time by the special services of Tajikistan. That was why the discussion was about strengthening the Tajik-Afghan border, strengthening the armed forces. They discussed the issue of member sates’ commitment to the CSTO decisions and establishment of a permanent effective joint groups of forces, including air defense associations and special operations forces. The countries decided to establish a CSTO crisis response center on the basis of the Defense Ministry of Russia and discussed the formation of the joint aviation forces. That is about transferring some sovereign rights of the countries in hands of the organization, and this is a very serious measure,” the expert said.
“Large-scale maneuvers of CSTO forces took place in Tajikistan along the Afghan border this year. It is important from a military point of view as it allowed to work out the interaction model and rapid response to the crisis. Moreover, it has important political and psychological aspect: inhabitants of remote areas of Tajikistan understood that the CSTO would not abandon them, and the organization would be able to help by deed, not by word. At the same time, fighters from the neighboring Afghan areas got a signal that it would be better to live with their neighbors in peace, as they have serious defenders,” he added.
According to the analyst, the CSTO is a relatively young organization that still has a great track record and experience in conducting joint operations and cooperating with international organizations.
“In addition to military and counterterrorism aspects, it gained a peacekeeping component. According to international news, this element can end up being in great demand soon,” Vadim Kozyulin suggested.
He also stressed that member countries have established a good practice of cooperation both on military and on political issues.
“The world situation is heating up, new threats appear while the old ones do not vanish. That means the Collective Security Treaty Organization will have opportunities to show its worth,” the expert concluded.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is an intergovernmental military alliance that is based on the Collective Security Treaty (CST) signed by Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on 15 May 1992 in Tashkent.
Azerbaijan, Georgia and Belarus joined the block in 1993.
Later on, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan left the organization.
The Organisation’s objectives are the collective protection of freedom, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of its member-states from any external military and political aggression, international terrorism, or large-scale natural disasters.