Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)

The Central Asian Republics are members of several regional organizations whose stated aim is promoting multilateral solutions to security and economic challenges. These groupings that include the Central Asian states are receiving increased scrutiny around the world. The Collective Security Treaty Organization, formed under the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States, serves as a mutual defense alliance among Russia, Belarus, Armenia and the four Central Asian states except Turkmenistan. The Eurasian Economic Community comprises a similar grouping of states but focuses on economics, including the creation of a common market, border security standards, a customs union, standardized currency exchange and joint programs on social and economic development. Both of these organizations are strongly supported by Russia and capitalize on residual political, economic, and bureaucratic linkages among former Soviet republics.

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) has been unproductive and has not materialized into the political-military pact Moscow had envisioned as a competitor to NATO and the EU. Moreover, several states rejected the May 1992 Treaty on Collective Security, or Tashkent Treaty, which Moscow had initiated as a "regional security structure within the CIS."

In May 2002, the Collective Security Treaty of the CIS renamed itself the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), with the stated focus of preserving territorial integrity and seeking closer cooperation with other multilateral institutions, such as the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and NATO. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov spoke of the CSTO as a potential Eurasian partner for NATO. According to Ivanov, "the next logical step may be to work out a mechanism for cooperation between NATO and the CSTO with corresponding, clearly defined spheres of responsibility."

CSTO members are Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Russia's clear preeminence within the organization limits its legitimacy. Neither Uzbekistan nor Turkmenistan is party to the CSTO, nor is Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan, nor the three Baltic Replubics. In 2006, Uzbekistan took steps to rejoin the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Community (EurASEC), both organizations dominated by Russia.

Moscow's nominal allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) are either too weak (Kyrgyzstan), too self-centered (Armenia), or not loyal enough (Tajikistan). By 2007 the remaining bigger CSTO members, Belarus and Kazakhstan, were increasingly independent-minded. Russia has supported multilateral approaches including CSTO-NATO parity in Central Asia, but has been more effective in promoting bilateral relations with its former republics. This is especially true in military-to- military contacts.

The May 2002 decision to create the CSTO was based on the reactivation of long standing plans to create a joint CIS rapid reaction force needed to support "collective security". The plan also called for a common air defense architecture and a coordination in foreign, security and defense policies. By 2003 President Putin had invested considerable time and effort in "reenergizing" both the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). By 2003, the framework included a joint command center in Moscow with a rapid reaction force based in Central Asia. This force is designed to be available to operate under the aegis of the United Nations and, according to the CSTO General Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha, is "ready to operate throughout the territory of all [the] Central Asian region." Supporting the various military-security networks are the 201st Division with 5,500 military personnel and a large contingent of border guards in Tajikistan.

Serious questions remained about the potential for a CSTO rapid deployment force to be an effective entity in the foreseeable future given resource constraints of all the member nations, but the effort underscored Russia's interest in reasserting some influence in the region.

In the case of the CSTO, Russia set up a base at Kant, Kyrgyzstan, to provide air support to the rapid deployment force. In September 2003, Bishkek and Moscow finally concluded a long delayed agreement on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for the establishment of a Russian managed air base and the stationing of Russian air force personnel and combat aircraft in Kyrgyzstan. These assets will be part of a joint (Russian/Kyrgyz) air element that will be a component of CSTO's rapid reaction force and support its antiterrorist role.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization launched the first stage of the international anticrime operation "Channel 2005" in Belarus. This cooperative effort between CIS law enforcement officials resulted in the seizure of more than 80 kilograms of narcotics in Belarus in October 2005. Overall, the interdiction effort known as Channel-2005 seized close to 9 MT of drugs in 2005, including over 200 kg of heroin.

In January 2006 the Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Nikolay Bordyuzha, did not rule out the possibility that the CSTO will use its military potential in the event that Azerbaijan attacked Armenia. The CSTO Secretary General said this in the interview published in the Moscow 'Nezavisimaya Gazeta' on 14 January 2006. "Article 4 of the Collective Security Treaty Organization says that the aggression against CSTO member states is considered by other participants as aggression against everyone. No comments are needed in this case. The key task of the CSTO, despite its military potential, is to create such a system which will allow not to enable the armed forces. The Treaty aims to prevent bloodshed and application of force for solving problems both inside the country and on the borders with other states."

Russia has used its position in international fora to build cooperative mechanisms and programs to counter terrorism. For example, Russia led efforts to make counterterrorism cooperation a key element in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Through the CSTO, Russia committed financial and technical resources and also supported the OSCE's initiative to develop projects aimed at strengthening security along Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan.

The CSTO is not a Warsaw Pact II. The Russian Armed Forces aim for full strategic and operational self-sufficiency, even as they exercise with CSTO and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

An agreement to create a joint rapid-reaction force was signed by the leaders of all CSTO member states in 2009. The force reportedly includes an airborne division and an air assault brigade from Russia, and an air assault brigade from Kazakhstan. The remaining members contribute a battalion-size force each, although Uzbekistan only agreed to “delegate” its detachments to take part in operations on an ad hoc basis. In line with the agreement, the force will be used “to repulse military aggression, conduct anti-terrorist operations, fight transnational crime and drug trafficking, and neutralize the effects of natural disasters.”

Members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military alliance of former Soviet states, are planning to allocate some 33 billion rubles ($1 billion) to procure new weaponry for its joint rapid reaction force, a senior CSTO official said 26 December 2013. According to CSTO Deputy General Secretary Valery Semerikov, an arms procurement program for the bloc’s rapid reaction force has been approved by all member states and will be soon signed by their presidents. “We will begin implementing this program in 2014. It will require an allocation of some 33 billion rubles,” Semerikov said at a news conference in RIA Novosti.

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