Bottom Line

Text of report by the website of heavyweight liberal Russian newspaper Kommersant on 2 November

[Article by Carnegie Moscow Centre expert Aleksey Malashenko: "Bottom Line"]

Repeated attempts have been made to increase the regional and world influence of the military-political association of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, which will be 20 years old next year. Suffice it to say that the Collective Security Treaty itself was signed in 1992 – soon after the breakup of the USSR – and 10 years later, at Russia’s initiative, it was renamed an organization, in which form the Collective Security Treaty Organization [CSTO] exists to this day.

During their regular meetings the leaders of the CSTO member countries invariably adopt important resolutions and declare their desire to keep control of the situation in the post-Soviet area. The purport of these statements boils down to appeals to use the institutions and mechanisms created within the CSTO framework to maintain security and stability and not to admit the NATO bloc to the former Soviet republics’ sphere of strategic interests: They say that Brussels must know that our borders are reliably bolted and there is no point in strangers poking their nose in here.

However, during the two decades of its existence the CSTO has essentially never once tested itself in a really big matter connected with maintaining security in the expanses of the CIS. The events of the second "tulip revolution" in Kyrgyzstan in the spring and summer of last year can serve as the most obvious example of its helplessness. Blood was being shed in a member country of the organization, but the CSTO was quite unable to react to the situation in Kyrgyzstan and extinguish the conflict, to all intents and purposes acknowledging its impotence. Although, if it had intervened, maybe things would have been still worse: Just imagine order being instilled in Kyrgyzstan by Uzbekistani subunits, let’s assume!

Nevertheless, paradoxical though this may be, the CSTO is not a useless organization either for Russia or for the other member countries. However, its value lies not in the aims proclaimed by the CSTO. For Moscow the CSTO represents, first, the opportunity to maintain the semblance of increasing its military-political influence in the post-Soviet area -which is meant to compensate for having yielded its economic positions in the former republics. Second, it provides cover for Russian military installations in the post-Soviet area. In addition, for Moscow the CSTO also means one more card in grand bargaining with the West.

As for the other CSTO members, for them membership of the organization means the opportunity to obtain Russian weapons at domestic Russian prices. And, of course, they are still warmed by the glimmering hope that the CSTO will emerge into a qualitatively new stage of its development and formulate a "crisis response" strategy, which will enable it to prevent a repeat of the "Arab spring" close to Russia’s borders.

Source: Kommersant website, Moscow, in Russian 2 Nov 11

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