The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is a military alliance that was established in 2002, comprising of six member states: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. The organization’s origins can be traced back to the early 1990s, when Russia and several of its allies in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) signed a new Collective Security Treaty, which came into force in 1994. The CSTO’s main aim is to enhance the security and stability of its member states and the wider region of Central Asia.
Background and Origins
- The CSTO’s origins can be traced back to the end of the Cold War in 1991, when the Warsaw Pact, an alliance of eight socialist states, and the Soviet Union’s answer to NATO, dissolved.
- Less than a year later, Russia and five of its allies in the CIS, which was nothing but a loose club of post-Soviet countries, signed a new Collective Security Treaty. Although it wasn’t as powerful as the Warsaw pact, in 2002, as Central Asia loomed larger in geopolitics, it declared itself the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a full-blown military alliance.
- In the last decade, the CSTO’s ambitions have grown. In 2007, it agreed to create a 3,600-strong peacekeeping force and two years later, it established a rapid-reaction force comprising 20,000 elite personnel who are kept on high alert.
- The alliance has also held joint exercises, including a series of high-profile “anti-terrorism” drills last summer and autumn in response to the growing chaos in Afghanistan. This week, though, was the first time that the organization invoked Article 4, which is very similar to NATO’s Article 5.
- Article 5 says that the response may include armed force, but it does not mandate it. All that NATO actually promises is to take “such action as it deems necessary” to restore and maintain security. That could be anything from nuclear war to a stiff diplomatic protest.
CSTO Invokes Article 4
- CSTO invoked Article 4 owing to the growing chaos in Kazakhstan as the President blamed foreign-trained “terrorist gangs” for the protests. Nikol Pashinyan, the prime minister of Armenia, which holds the rotating chair of the CSTO, said the group had agreed to send in peacekeepers. In addition to Russia and Belarus, Tajikistan and Armenia also agreed to send contingents.
Russia’s Growing Influence
- For Russia, the CSTO is a useful tool to tighten its grip on Central Asia, against both Western and Chinese encroachments. It justifies Russian military facilities in member countries, while also giving Russia a veto over any other foreign bases in the region. In turn, the CSTO’s members benefit from cooperation with Russia’s advanced armed forces, including training and discounted arms sales.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is a military alliance that plays a significant role in the security and stability of Central Asia. The organization’s recent developments, such as the creation of a peacekeeping force and a rapid-reaction force, along with the invocation of Article 4, demonstrate its growing ambitions and capabilities. For Russia, the CSTO serves as a useful tool to tighten its grip on Central Asia against foreign encroachments and for its members, it provides valuable cooperation with Russia’s advanced armed forces.