CSTO Holds First-Ever Peacekeeping Exercises
The Collective Security Treaty Organization has begun what it calls its first-ever peacekeeping exercise, in Kazakhstan. According to the CSTO, the exercise will work on standard peacekeeping tasks like separating the parties to a conflict and ensuring compliance to a cease fire. But the scenario of the exercise seems a bit more active than that: "According to the scenario, a crisis situation arises connected with the activity of international extremists and terrorist organizations and conflict between ethnic groups living in the country." And a Kazakhstani military spokesperson is a bit more detailed: "People portraying terrorists will attack a military base checkpoint and retreat to a village, after which the troops will respond to free the village."
In any event, about 950 troops are taking part, the majority (535) from Kazakhstan, 160 from Russia, 50 from Kyrgyzstan and small contingents from Armenia, Belarus, and Tajikistan. This exercise, called "Unbreakable Brotherhood 2012," follows closely on the heels of another CSTO exercise in Armenia. But this one was (ostensibly) about peacekeeping, and observers from the United Nations, with whom the CSTO has agreed to cooperate on peacekeeping, were present.
Deputy General Secretary of the CSTO Valeriy Semerikov said at the opening ceremony that "the opening of the exercise is the beginning of the arrangement of national peacekeeping contingents into a single structure -- comprising the collective peacekeeping force of the CSTO."
It's interesting that this first CSTO peacekeeping exercise took place in Kazakhstan. Developing Kazakhstan's ability to send peacekeeping forces abroad has been a top priority of the U.S. in its military relationship with Kazakhstan. The annual Steppe Eagle exercise is the centerpiece of this effort, and this year's version just ended, at the same training ground (Iliysky) that is hosting Unbreakable Brotherhood. Lest the Americans think that they can break this Russian-Kazakh brotherhood...
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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