CSTO Says ISIS Threatens Post-Soviet Countries; Blames NATO
The head of Russia's post-Soviet security organization warned that Islamist radicals from ex-Soviet countries now in Afghanistan or the MIddle East are simply "awaiting orders" to go back home and fight. And he blamed NATO and the United States for refusing to cooperate with Russia in the fight against Islamist radicals thus exacerbatig the problem.
The statements, by General Secretary of the Collective Security Treaty Organization Nikolay Bordyuzha, are the part of a growing tendency by Russian and other former Soviet officials to present ISIS not only as a threat to Syria and Iraq, where it is present now, but also to the states of the former Soviet Union. Notes RFE/RL in a recent discussion on the issue:
The leaders of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan both made references to the IS in their recent Independence Day addresses to their people. All five of the Central Asian leaders also attended the CIS summit in Minsk earlier this month. That does not happen very often. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon even called for a common CIS strategy to confront IS at the Minsk summit.
In a roundtable with Russian reporters, Bordyuzha said that "we have information that on the territory of Afghanistan, even today there are armed units made up of emigrants from our countries, who are simply awaiting orders to begin active measures to destabilize the situation on our countries." He said that at camps on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, militants from the CSTO countries are being trained. "After training in these camps they carry out tours in Syria, in Iraq, including in the ranks of ISIS."
And he said that NATO's refusal to cooperate with the CSTO (an issue Bordyuzha has been raising for a long time) has led to the growth of terrorism: "Thanks to the efforts of people like [former NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh] Rasmussen, the efforts of the Barack Obama administration in the U.S., a colossal split in the antiterror coalition, which the terrorist forces have taken advantage of," he said. "Thanks to that situation the terrorists are gaining strength. This is the result of not well thought out policy, especially of the U.S."
The latter point echoed one that Russian President Vladimir Putin made in his much-discussed speech at Valdai, when he called the U.S.'s strategy in Syria "a very short-sighted and incompetent policy that has no basis in reality. We heard that we need to support the civilised democratic opposition in Syria, and so they got support, got arms. And the next day half the rebels went off and joined the Islamic State. Was it so hard to foresee this possibility a bit earlier?" But Putin did, however, stop short of saying that ISIS posed a threat to Russia or other CSTO countries.
That there are fighters from ex-Soviet states in ISIS is indisputable; whether they are awaiting orders to destabilize Russia or Central Asia... well, the CSTO has "information." Bordyuzha's statement could be either presaging a policy shift in some way towards ISIS, or could represent just the usual fearmongering, or could be an attempt to make the organization seem relevant when all of the security crises are happening outside of its remit.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
Sign up for Eurasianet's free weekly newsletter.