Belarus (bbabo.net), - The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for many years was a structure that many treated with a certain amount of skepticism. The small number of participants and their indecision, the lack of a clear development strategy, as well as a number of other problems that have always been inherent in the CSTO, were previously considered by most experts as the main reasons for the stagnation in the organization.
At the same time, global changes in the international arena, as well as the growth of conflict situations in the Eurasian space, forced the member countries of the association to intensify their relations. And one of the main initiators of this process today is Belarus, which was once again confirmed by the summit of the Collective Security Council of the CSTO held on November 23 in Yerevan.
It is worth recalling that initially the CSTO, which today includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, was seen by many as a kind of response to NATO, since in the post-Soviet space after the collapse of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact system, all previous ties that provided military and other security cooperation. Therefore, back in May 1992, the Collective Security Treaty appeared, the fourth paragraph of which read:
“If one of the participating States is subjected to aggression (an armed attack that threatens security, stability, territorial integrity and sovereignty), then this will be considered by the participating States as an aggression (an armed attack that threatens security, stability, territorial integrity and sovereignty) against all states are parties to this Agreement.
It was assumed that in this case, the countries would provide partners with the necessary military assistance and support. Subsequently, it was this point that became one of the most controversial and criticized both by supporters of the CSTO, which appeared in the continuation of the Treaty in 2002, and by its opponents.
It is known that the goals of the CSTO are "strengthening peace, international and regional security, collectively protecting the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the member states." However, in all the years of the existence of the organization, the countries have been able to achieve the greatest progress only in the field of countering drug trafficking and terrorism. The main obstacle to the development of the CSTO into a full-scale military-political organization was the prevalence of state interests over coalition ones. Each member of the association has always been preoccupied with its own problems, which can be seen today during various summits and meetings.
Thus, Moscow is concerned about the global activities of NATO led by the United States, Minsk is concerned about the growing tension near its western borders and the internal political situation, Astana, Bishkek and Dushanbe see the main danger in the situation in Afghanistan, and Yerevan sees the confrontation with Azerbaijan. Such differences have more than once become an obstacle not only to the development of the organization, but also to the adoption of operational decisions necessary to maintain security within the CSTO. You can, for example, recall that Kyrgyzstan turned to partners for help three times in 1999, 2010 and 2021 and was refused each time. The only case when the CSTO agreed on a peacekeeping mission was the crisis in Kazakhstan at the beginning of this year. Then, after Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's appeal for help in the fight against terrorist gangs, the decision to send the CSTO peacekeeping forces was made almost instantly, and a group of more than 2,000 military personnel and 250 pieces of equipment quickly arrived in Kazakhstan.
Old problems in the CSTO once again appeared at the current summit in Yerevan. Despite the fact that this year it was already the fifth meeting of the leaders of the countries of the organization, it again showed that national interests prevail over common ones. Thus, the leader of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, spoke about the conflict between his country and Azerbaijan, not only criticizing his partners for indecision, but also recalling that there is no mutual understanding within the CSTO, as evidenced by the recent conflict between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Pashinyan’s dissatisfaction ultimately even resulted in his refusing to sign the draft declaration of the Collective Security Council and the document on joint measures to provide assistance to Armenia, since they did not reflect the aggression of Azerbaijan and did not contain a demand for Baku to withdraw troops from they occupied Armenian territory.In turn, Vladimir Putin tried to soften the negative rhetoric that sounded in Yerevan, reminding everyone of global problems and the need to have "coordinated positions on political and military-strategic issues, topical issues of regional security and the international agenda." He again mentioned the threat of terrorism and extremism, transnational crime, illegal migration, drugs, as well as "natural and man-made emergencies." In addition, Putin, unlike the rest of the participants, made a special emphasis on the ideological component of the CSTO, expressing concern about the "spread of extremist ideology in the countries of Central Asia", and also recalling the need to preserve "the memory of the common history of our states, that our nations won together in the Great Patriotic War. Representatives of the Central Asian republics again spoke about the problem of Afghanistan, and the leader of Kazakhstan, as before, was extremely restrained and used only general phrases during the part of the summit open to the press.
A special place during the summit was occupied by the speech of the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, which once again demonstrated that Minsk still has high hopes for the CSTO, although it is extremely dissatisfied with the way things are now in the organization. It is worth recalling that the Belarusian leader has previously criticized his partners for sluggishness. Back in 2010, he was perplexed, wondering “what kind of organization is this if blood is shed in one of our countries, there is a coup d'etat and ... silence?”. This position of Lukashenka remains virtually unchanged today, as evidenced by his latest statements and the desire to radically change the situation in the CSTO.
The Belarusian leader spoke a lot, noting problems both of a private nature and common to all members of the organization. And here Lukashenka's statements were similar to what his Russian colleague was talking about. The President of Belarus recalled the "unprecedented aggravation of the military-political situation on the Eurasian continent", the "polarization of approaches to the issue of a new world order", the growing "dictatorship of force" and the practice of "sanctioning "recalcitrant" countries", as well as the need to establish peace in Ukraine and between Armenia and Azerbaijan. At the same time, the Belarusian leader was quite critical this time too, reminding everyone that there are problems within the CSTO itself that cannot be resolved so far.
“If we cannot resolve these issues in our own circle and move forward, then I agree with you: what are we capable of then? Therefore, there are very serious steps forward in this direction,” the Belarusian leader said.
In this regard, Lukashenka presented his vision of what needs to be done in terms of further development of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. In particular, we are talking about “increasing the cohesion of the CSTO member states”, “reducing the level of tension and resolving contradictions between them in order to strengthen the organization itself”, as well as “ensuring security and stability in its area of responsibility”, including by strengthening military cooperation. In addition, Lukashenka considers it necessary to increase the role of the organization in the international arena. And here the interests of Belarus are clearly visible, since Minsk currently has an acute shortage of international platforms where the Belarusian authorities could convey their point of view on what is happening both inside and around the republic. Moreover, in the event of an increase in the international status of the CSTO, the organization can be used to establish ties with the West through strengthening contacts with countries friendly to Minsk today.
All this formed part of the current Belarusian concept of the development of the CSTO, which Belarus will try to implement in 2023. In particular, Lukashenka proposed several main directions at once, which are somehow connected with the national interests of his country.
Firstly, it is "settlement of crisis situations and prevention of further destabilization in the CSTO area of responsibility." In this case, it is important not only that this initiative should "increase the level of mutual trust through joint actions", but also that it will allow the organization to turn into a real instrument of military and other assistance to its participants. It is no coincidence that in this context, Minsk plans to seek both "improvement of the regulatory framework of the organization and national legal acts" and "simplification of the procedure for the transit of contingents with weapons and military equipment through the territories of member states."In addition, the Belarusian side plans to intensify cooperation within the organization by increasing joint work on various issues that affect the interests of the republic. Thus, Lukashenko plans to organize various events with the invitation of representatives of "other interested countries and specialized international organizations." The main issues should be the fight against disinformation and cyber threat, countering the drug threat, as well as the protection of critical infrastructure, including nuclear facilities, and biological security.
Secondly, increasing the role of the CSTO in the international arena through the "development of cooperation with international organizations and third countries." To this end, Minsk plans to organize in 2023 "a high-level international conference on Eurasian security issues with the invitation of senior officials from the secretariats of the UN, the SCO, the CIS and other international organizations." It is noteworthy that in Belarus they are well aware of the West's attitude towards the CSTO, and therefore they expect to realize their plans using other global players, primarily China. To this end, Minsk plans to initiate a “CSTO-PRC Strategic Dialogue”, within the framework of which meetings will be held between representatives of the ministries of foreign affairs, defense and the staffs of the security councils of states.
Thirdly, it is planned to "increase the readiness of the components of the CSTO troops to carry out tasks for their intended purpose, as well as to strengthen the military-technical cooperation of the member states." This fully correlates with the position of Russia, since Vladimir Putin agreed in Yerevan with the need to equip the organization's peacekeeping forces with "modern weapons, military and special equipment and special equipment." Lukashenka also stated this, proposing in 2023 in Belarus to conduct “a number of joint exercises with the command and control bodies and formations of forces and means of the CSTO collective security system”, as well as to continue the development of cooperation in the production of promising military products. This initiative of the Belarusian side is quite understandable - Belarus is located on the border with NATO countries and needs to strengthen its defense potential by any means. Demonstration of the fact that the CSTO is not just an organization on paper, but a real force with modern weapons may well play a role in curbing the West's plans to organize an invasion of the republic.
Fourth, taking into account current trends, Minsk plans to "emphasize the institutional capacity of the CSTO in the information and analytical sphere." Lukashenka even formulated a proposal that only experts had previously spoken about - to form a "network of national analytical institutes for strategic research" on the territory of the organization's member countries. For this, a meeting of the heads of these structures may be held in 2023 to “organize systematic work.” This means that Minsk has finally realized the importance of information countermeasures against external threats, but they cannot yet cope with the implementation of such a task alone. Therefore, it is extremely important for Belarus to receive support not only from Russia, but also from the countries of the Asian region, through joint work with which it will be possible to disseminate the narratives necessary for Belarus in the information space.
Thus, all the initiatives of the official Minsk within the framework of the CSTO, which sounded separately before, in Yerevan acquired the features of a clear plan. It became obvious that Belarus sees in its chairmanship a real chance to change the situation in the organization, directing its activities not only to the general needs, but also to the country in particular. To what extent this can be done, next year will show. However, it is already obvious today that official Minsk will do everything in its power to turn the CSTO into a structure capable of helping the republic in ensuring its national security.