CSTO: We're No More Useless Than NATO
Russia's new political-military bloc, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, has been widely criticized for its inaction in the face of real threats to security in the region that it covers, most recently when fighting broke out between CSTO member states Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. But it's rare that the organization has had to explain itself: it operates, for the most part, in countries where the press doesn't often challenge authority figures. But when Yevgeniy Denisenko of Kyrgyzstan newspaper Vecherniy Bishkek interviewed the CSTO's secretary general, Nikolay Bordyuzha, he actually asked the question that outside observers of the organization have been asking:
Denisenko: However, threats to stability in the CSTO do not come only from outside, but from inside, too. It is sufficient to recall the events in the Kazakh town of Zhanaozen [the riots of December 2011], the conflict on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border [in 2010] and the current incident involving the use of weapons on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. Does it not seem to you that concentrating on foreign dangers, the CSTO is underestimating the internal risks?
Bordyuzha: There are questions that should be solved bilaterally. The Kyrgyz-Tajik incident is one of them. That was a border incident and no-one except these two states themselves and those responsible for the demarcation and delimitation of the border, can solve this question. It is another matter that the CSTO can act as a mediator, which is what we are doing. This role involves providing the platform for a deeper discussion of the problems that have emerged.
Denisenko: However, in this case we are talking about colleague countries, CSTO members.
Bordyuzha: I am sometimes surprised that the CSTO is expected to deal with various developments of this kind. Well, for example, a criminal shootout took place in the Tajik town of Khorugh. And immediately articles appear asking "why is the CSTO not intervening?" Or, when something else takes place in another CSTO country, "why is the CSTO silent?" In such cases, I ask myself: why no one accuses NATO, for example, of not working with Turkey on the problem of the Kurds? Or, on the border problems that are emerging, for example, between Hungary and Poland, and so on? No one tries to get NATO involved in such problems in any way. They say that the CSTO should deal with everything. But if we start intervening in the domestic affairs [of CSTO member states], then, we will act like the police. The CSTO - let me emphasize it again - is there for ensuring security for our states. This is a delicate line which we try not to overstep. Moreover, the CSTO heads of state have not granted us this mandate, either.
(Translation via BBC Monitoring)
The comparison to NATO is especially interesting. Russian officials routinely question the existence of NATO, describing it (mostly correctly) as an outdated institution based on Cold War geopolitics. And yet, it's the standard by which the CSTO should be judged? More broadly, it's interesting that he draws a parallel to NATO at all. While outside observers often refer to it as a "NATO of the East" or even "Putin's NATO", CSTO and Russian officials don't usually make that comparison.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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