CSTO Prepares for Aftermath of the Crisis in Syria

September 24, 2013

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) met in Sochi to discuss security concerns facing the former Soviet bloc. Izvestia, a pro-Kremlin outlet, highlights the discussion of Syria. According to the report, the CSTO is concerned about “gangs” from Syria endangering their borders. This is curious, as one would think that the “gangs” in Syria have a conflict far closer to their own homes to worry about. Furthermore, the Armenian President praised the “Russian-American agreement,” which is either a reference to a year-old agreement that doesn’t exist, or it is a reference to the new plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, a plan that hasn’t been formulated yet and may never come together because of differences between the West and Russia.

Hidden at the bottom of this article is an interesting claim that the CSTO stayed away from Kyrgyzstan’s ethnic pogroms due to “legal reasons.” As Interpreter translator Catherine A. Fitzpatrick points out, however, Uzbekistan objected to the move because it would put Russian troops on its border when they had the situation under control. – Ed.

At the summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Sochi, a decision was passed regarding serious development of the combat component of the military bloc due to growing external threats, including the possibility of the spread of extremist forces from Syria to the zone of the CSTO’s responsibility. Already this year, the power ministries of the CSTO have immediately conducted three exercises: “Interaction 2013” in Belarus, “Thunder-2013” in Kyrgyzstan and “Indestructible Brotherhood-2013” in Russia.

“We are unanimous that the settlement of the Syrian conflict must proceed only through peaceful means. Any external aggression will lead to the destabilization of the situation in the Middle East and negatively reflect on the countries of the CSTO,” Vladimir Putin told journalists.

Earlier, the heads of the states of the CSTO, which includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Tajikistan and Belarus expressed support for the peaceful initiatives on Syria coming from Moscow.

“The gangs did not come from nowhere and they aren’t going to disappear somewhere. The problem of the spillover [of gangs–Izvestiya] from one country to another is quite real,” the Russian leader believes.

“Armenia has a large community in Syria. We have felt the Syrian crisis more acutely. We are for a rapid settlement in Syria and welcome the Russian-American agreement on settlement of the conflict,” said Armenian President Sergzh Sargsyan.

“Regarding Syria, we’re acting in concert with our ally, the fraternal country, the Russian Federation,” Aleksandr Lukashenka, head of Belarus added. He managed to speak several times tete-a-tete with Vladimir Putin. According to Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov, the presidents discussed disputes around the company Uralkali.

“The decision of the Syrian authorities to hand over the chemical weapons became a real opportunity to stop the conflict. This is the result of enormous efforts by Russia, and we support them,” noted Serik Akhmetov, prime minister of Kazakhstan, who unexpectedly replaced President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the summit. Even the Kazakh press pool didn’t know the reasons for the absence of the Kazakh leader in Sochi.

President Nazarbayev’s presence was important; after all the foundation for the military component of the CSTO is the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces (CRRF). These are the divisions that will actively participate in various operations. For now, the lion’s share of the CRRF are made up of Russian and Kazakh soldiers.

Furthermore, at the CSTO meeting, due to the departure of the USA from Afghanistan, it was decided to provide serious assistance to Tajikistan to reinforce the Tajik-Afghan border.

“We plan to build another 40 border posts, but for example, we have only two MI-8 helicopters in the air force of our border troops,” Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon complained.

The presidents of the CSTO countries decided to jointly provide aid to Tajikistan, approving an intergovernmental program of funding for the modernization of the borders with Afghanistan, since it will become the external border of the CSTO. A delegation of the allied countries has already reviewed portions of the border and has decided to strengthen it, since next year, the USA will withdraw its contingent from Afghanistan.

“Emergency assistance will be provided to supply Tajik border guards with what is most needed. We have to outfit the border troops of Tajikistan, as they will guard the border themselves, there are sufficient numbers of border guards, but just not enough equipment,” Nikolai Bordyuzha, chair of the CSTO explained to journalists.

According to Bordyuzha, Russia may provide weapons to Tajikistan and Belarus will provide military optical instruments.

Vladimir Putin also proposed using the CSTO forces in the capacity of peace-keeping forces.

This was first discussed after June 2010, during the period of inter-ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan, when CSTO forces could not interfere in the conflict due to the absence of legal mechanisms.