by M. Ali Samay

2019-09-30

The post-Soviet Central Asian states are members of several military and security organizations. Their most important aim and expectation is promoting multilateral solutions to security, political and economic challenges. Some conceptual approaches have been developed and formed to address the question of security, military and collective defense policy of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) members among Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The council of the Ministers of Defense works on coordinating military cooperation of the Commonwealth of the Independent States (CIS). Additionally, the member states of the CIS have been actively involved in bilateral and multi-lateral military relations under the umbrella of Russia in the Collective Security Defense Organization (CSTO). The Eurasian Economic Community also establishes a similar process to group the states but it focuses on economics, including the creation of a common or single market, border security standardizing and structuring, a customs union, stable and standardized currency exchange and joint programs or action plans on social and economic development. All of these organizations and bilateral military and securitizations ties are highly supported and even capitalized by Russia to prevent armed conflicts and escalations in the area.

Not the all members of the Commonwealth of Independent States could manage to accept and ratify the Tashkent Treaty on Collective Security initiated by Moscow in May 1992. Finally, the Collective Security Treaty came into force on April 20, 1994 with the signatories and membership of Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Belarus joined it subsequently. Moscow wanted to militarize the member states through a political-military pact envisioned as a competitor to NATO and the European Union under the “regional security structure initiative within the CIS. Some of the member states were not interested in such an idea. The differences in interest resulted in the fact that Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan did not sign the prolongation of the CST of the CIS in April 1999.

The Moscow-initiated Collective Security Treaty of the CIS transformed itself from a classical military-political bloc into a multifunctional regional organization and became the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) by the May 2002. Two years later, on December 2, 2004, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution granting the CSTO an observer status in the UN General Assembly.[1] The CSTO established a joint command center in Moscow with a collective rapid reaction forces in Central Asia by 2003. Rapid reaction forces were designed to operate throughout the territory of the Central Asian region under the aegis of the United Nations. At a summit on 4 February 2009, the CSTO member states signed an agreement to set up and create a new joint rapid-reaction force which was to be based in Russia. The larger and more frequent military exercises among the bloc’s members and the establishment of the CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Force agreement in 2009 increased the organization’s credibility and prestige on the global stage. The force acts in the interest of the member states and nations of the CSTO. Russia contributes an airborne division and an air assault division, Kazakhstan also contributes an air assault division, and teach of the remaining members contributes a battalion-size force.[2]

The CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Forces

Russia 98th Guards Airborne Division (Ivanovo) 31st Guards Air Assault Brigade (Ulyanovsk)
Kazakhstan Marin Forces Battalion 37th Air Assault Brigade (Taldykorgan)
Belarus Spetsnaz Brigade  
Kyrgystan Infantry Battalion  
Tajikistan Infantry Battalion  
Armenia Infantry Battalion  

The CSTO Structure

CSTO

The organization in its new shape focused on preserving territorial integrity and seeking closer cooperation with other multilateral institutions, such as the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and NATO. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov introduced CSTO as a potential Eurasian Partner for NATO. He pointed out, “The next logical step may be to work out a mechanism for cooperation between NATO and the CSTO with corresponding, clear defined sphere of responsibility”.[1] According to the official documents published on CSTO’s website, the fundamental objectives of the Organization are to continue and strengthen the close and comprehensive relations in the foreign policy, military policy, military-technical sphere, coordinating the joint efforts in combating international terrorism and other security threats and the key objectives are provision of national and collective security, intensive military-political cooperation and integration, foreign policy coordination on international and regional security issues, the establishment of multilateral cooperation mechanism, including a military component, the development of cooperation in the counteraction to modern challenges and security threats such as international terrorism, drug trafficking, illegal migration, transnational organized crime, information and cyber security, military-technical cooperation”.

Beside all above-mentioned functionalities, institutions, structure and technical and military infrastructure the CSTO has, it still struggles with weaknesses and limitations. The fundamental objective of the CSTO is collective security and defense, but first of all, the absence of Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia highly undermines the article 4 of the CSTO’s treaty which says “the aggression against CSTO member states is considered by other participants as aggression against everyone”. For instance, the organization could not intervene on its behalf in the ethnic violence broke out between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010. However, Bishkek asked the CSTO to take joint action, but the secretary-general of the CSTO declined to take any action by saying the conflict was a domestic affair. The secretary-general did not accept Belarusian President’s request to intervene and take a course towards collective action on clashes between rebels and military forces in the eastern Tajik region of Gorno-Badakhshan. In this regard, the CSTO will have the same reaction towards any escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, too, because Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus maintain strong ties to Azerbaijan. Secondly, the involvement of Russia in conflict with Ukraine and Georgia, the Presence of Russian Army in Syria and Venezuela is not coordinated with the CSTO, which also displays a vulnerable future of the organization. Finally, there is an effective willingness on Russia’s side to promoting military-to-military contacts via bilateral channels with the post-Soviet republics that can be recognized as a barrier for the development of the multilateral approaches that should characterize CSTO’s role in the region.[2]

In order to illustrate a practical bilateral cooperation on the securitization between the post-Soviet countries, we can mention the bilateral agreements, which enable the countries to be ready to defend their own selves and keep secure Russia’s zone of influence and regional interests. The example of such an agreement is the new bilateral agreement of Russia-Tajikistan. According to an agreement under the title of “Major program of joined modernization of Tajikistan’s Military”[3] signed by Moscow and Dushanbe in 2014, Russia supplied about $1.2 billion worth of weapons and military equipment to the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan. Tajikistan is under direct threat by the Islamic State (IS) from its area bordering Afghanistan. The weapons and equipment would include personal weapons and ammunitions, communication systems, aircraft, artillery systems, and missiles. The major objective of this program is securing the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. This task has become especially important after the Coalition Forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and the growing threat posed by the so-called Islamic State (IS). In early March 2015, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told that Russian intelligence gathered information about increased activity of Islamic States’ cells near the southern border of the Russian Federation, and particularly near the border of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. That is why Russia beefed up its military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to counter the threats. Point to be noted, Russia’s 7,000-strong military base near Tajikistan capital Dushanbe is the largest Russian military contingent in Central Asia and one of the strongest units in the region. “We received confirmation the Islamic State is making contacts with terrorists in Russia’s North Caucasus. We will bear this in mind when we make decisions aimed at strengthening Russia’s security and protection of its borders,” he noted. In this vein of thoughts, speaking about the threats, Antanov exactly outlines Russia’s security responsibly for the region.  The head of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said that the Russian Federation planned to coordinate the additional steps in combating Islamic States with partners in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (the Eurasian military-political bloc uniting China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and recently India and Pakistan).[1] Currently Russia has its military bases in Armenia, Belarus, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Transnistria (breakaway state of Moldova), Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam. There were Russian military basis in Azerbaijan, Cuba, Georgia, and Uzbekistan that are no longer on the spot after being liquidated by the parties. The Crimean military base is now on Russian territory after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, but in Uzbekistan in relation to securitizing its borders a Russian military base would be required if the security challenges are going to be more considerable in North-Afghanistan which it borders.


[1] Eugene Chausovsky (Jan, 2017): Why Russia’s Military Alliance Is Not the Next NATO, Stratfor, Internet, https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/why-russias-military-alliance-not-next-nato, 2019-08-16, 16:29. [1] Global Security Organization: Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Internet, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/int/csto.htm, 2019-08-15, 17:38.

[2] Belarussian Diplomatic Service: Collective Security Organization, internet, http://mfa.gov.by/en/organizations/membership/list/cddd96a3f70190b1.html, 2019-08-15, 18:29.

[3] Global Security Organization: Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Internet, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/int/csto.htm, 2019-08-15, 17:38.

4] Collective Security Treaty Organization: Interet https://en.odkb-csto.org/25years/, 2019-08-16, 14:59.

[5] Eugene Chausovsky (Jan, 2017): Why Russia’s Military Alliance Is Not the Next NATO, Stratfor, Internet, https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/why-russias-military-alliance-not-next-nato, 2019-08-16, 16:29.

[6] Collective Security Treaty Organization: Interet https://en.odkb-csto.org/25years/, 2019-08-16, 14:59.

[8] In 2013, Tajikistan agreed not to charge rent for the base, in return for major Russian aid to its military forces and drug enforcement agency, delivered in weapons and hardware.

[9] Mihail Mokrushin (2015): Russia to give Tajikistan multi-billion military aid to fight ISIS, rt.com, http://rt.com/politics/246485-russia-tajikistan-isis-aid/, 2018-10-26, 15:39.


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