CSTO Struggles to Find New Leadership
The Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-led security bloc, is having trouble finding its first non-Russian secretary general, as the man who had apparently been tapped for the job has turned it down.
Last week, Interfax reported, citing unnamed Armenian government sources, that Armenian Defense Secretary Seyran Ohanian would be appointed as the new CSTO secretary general. Ohanian would replace Nikolay Bordyuzha, a Russian former KGB officer who has been the only head the organization has had, serving since 2003.
But on Friday, Ohanian said that he wouldn't take the job. "As concerns my appointment as the CSTO secretary general, there has been no such offer. Today I'm carrying out my duties as minister of defense and I don't have any plans to work in any sort of international structure," he said in an interview with the website news.am. Asked if he would turn down the job if offered it, he said: "Definitely."
Bordyuzha himself said that his successor would be named by October 14, when a CSTO summit is scheduled in Yerevan, and that it would be an Armenian.
This is not the first hiccup the CSTO has experienced in finding a successor for Bordyuzha. Last December Yuriy Ushakov, a senior adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that a new appointment was imminent. But just a few days later the CSTO announced that it would instead be extending Bordyuzha's appointment for another year. At that point, too, it was also said that the replacement would be an Armenian.
The current CSTO leadership search is taking place in the midst of an Armenian government shakeup. Karen Karpetian was named prime minister on September 13 and will be forming a new government in the coming days or weeks, with Ohanian likely to be replaced.
It appears that President Serzh Sargsyan has been given the choice of whom to appoint as new CSTO secretary general, said Emil Sanamyan, a regional analyst and journalist, in an email interview with The Bug Pit. Sargsyan apparently offered the CSTO job to Ohanian as a sort of consolation prize for being passed over as Sargsyan's successor, Sanamyan added. "He's upset at Serzh for that," Sanamyan said.
In the search last year, Vagharshak Harutiunyan, who had served as Armenia's defense minister in 1999-2000, was Bordyuzha's likely successor, and it stands to reason that he will be a candidate this time around as well, Sanamyan said.
This sort of reverse leadership struggle comes at a difficult time for the CSTO, which is increasingly facing challenges to its unity and credibility. It will be interesting to see how a non-Russian secretary general affects the CSTO, which has often appeared to be merely a multilateral fig leaf for Russia's bilateral military relations with the other members: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
And an Armenian secretary general could be especially sensitive, given Armenia's frequent complaints that other CSTO members -- particularly the Central Asian ones -- don't adequately support Armenia in its conflict with Azerbaijan. It seems likely that a non-Russian secretary general is only going to add to these struggles.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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