Russia-led CSTO pledges to counter external, internal challenges
A top level meeting of the Russia-led security alliance, Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), reiterated pledges to deal with security threats both foreign and domestic.
The heads of states of the CSTO gathered in Tajik capital Dushanbe on September 14-15. In a joint statement, they voiced concerns about a possible infiltration of ISIS militants from Afghanistan into Central Asian states, and probably Russia too.
On September 15, President Vladimir Putin told the meeting that multilateral cooperation within the CSTO is not directed against any third party. He also used the opportunity of the CSTO summit meeting to reiterate his calls to form a broad international coalition against ISIS.
Putin also defended Russia’s continued military support of the Syrian government. He insisted that Russian efforts were aimed to counter terrorists and militants in Syria and elsewhere. Putin warned against the use of terrorist groupings for regime change purposes.
The CSTO officials revealed new unconventional measures to counter ISIS in cyberspace. The CSTO general secretary, Russian general Nikolai Bordyuzha announced that the CSTO’s authorities identified and shut down more than 50,000 websites involved in ISIS recruitment.
Nonetheless, the summit meeting apparently decided to replace Bordyuzha and make the CSTO general secretary a rotating post from 2016 on.
Not surprisingly, the CSTO summit highlighted a collective military response to security challenges. The CSTO’s Rapid Reaction Collective Force (KSOR) became a major factor of security in the region, the summit’s joint statement said.
The CSTO includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. The summit in Dushanbe adopted more than ten agreements, including deals on joint military transit.
The summit meeting reportedly discussed creation of a new security institution, the CSTO’s Crisis Reaction Center (CRC). The CRC is expected to rely on resources of the Russian Defense Ministry. This plan apparently indicates the CSTO’s continued dependence on Russia’s vast military resources.
Although the CSTO states technically remain Russia’s closest military allies, the summit meeting refrained from any direct anti-Western pronouncements. The CSTO leaders only criticized sanctions not approved by the UNSC, in an apparent reference to the Western sanctions against Russia.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon suggested to prioritize cooperation between the CSTO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). This statement appeared to reflect the preference of some member states to encourage increased Chinese involvement in the region, as China plays a major role in the SCO.
Incidentally, Tajikistan hosted the CSTO summit in the immediate aftermath of armed violence near the country’s capital. On September 15, Putin noted that Tajikistan’s military successfully dealt with the country’s problems, but promised Russian assistance to Tajikistan in case of need.
Putin apparently referred to a brief mutiny by Tajikistan’s former deputy defense minister Abdukhalim Nazarzoda in early September. Although the rebellious defense official was forced to flee into hiding eventually, the attacks that killed 26 people came as a grim reminder of the continued instability in Tajikistan.
The CSTO has been outlining measures to counter threats from the territory of Afghanistan since 2011. In 2013, the CSTO pledged increased assistance to Tajikistan aimed to boost protection of the country’s border with Afghanistan.
The KSOR, formed in 2009, currently includes some 22,000 personnel. Last May, KSOR conducted unprecedented exercises in Tajikistan aimed to counter security threats from Afghanistan. On May 12-22, some 2,500 personnel of KSOR representing all CSTO member-states took part in the drill. The drill’s scenario involved land operations and air strikes against the incursion of some 700 militants from Afghanistan. These exercises came as KSOR’s largest drill in Central Asia so far.
However, the latest challenges to Tajikistan’s security apparently came not from Afghanistan, but from within the country’s. And Nazarzoda’s mutiny was not prevented by the KSOR recent show of force in Tajikistan.
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