In Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Conflict, CSTO's Absence Is Conspicuous
As tensions continue to simmer between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan after a border clash over the weekend, it's looking like the two countries are being left to resolve their differences by themselves. A particularly noteworthy absence: Russia's nascent political-military bloc, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which has declared for itself the lead role in providing security in Central Asia but which has so far taken a low-profile approach so far to the conflict between two of its member states.
The CSTO has yet to make any public statement on the event, during which several troops on each side of the border and which (according to Kyrgyzstan) involved some heavy weaponry. All that we know is that the "leadership structures of the CSTO" have been in contact with the security services in each country. This, while the CSTO has been taking on such ambitious missions for itself as creating a joint air force, joint rapid-reaction forces, capabilities to defeat cyberterrorism and even "color revolutions."
Now that a genuine security crisis has arisen,the CSTO's absence -- in Kyrgyzstan, in particular -- is being noted. On Wednesday, Kyrgyzstan's parliament discussed "the position of the CSTO, which did not respond to violations of agreements by its members," reported 24.kg. The site quotes unnamed parliamentarians saying that "Under the [CSTO] agreement, use of force is not allowed against members of the organization. However a Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan conflict with the use of weapons took place. The CSTO should intervene and give its assessment of the events." And a military expert quoted by vesti.kg, Toktogul Kakchekeev, said the CSTO should get involved in delimiting and demarcating the fuzzy Ferghana Valley border. "Even now, we need CSTO experts to come to the conflict site and be able to figure out what actually happened there; both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will portray themselves as 'innocent children.'"
Edil Baisalov, a Kyrgyzstan analyst/activist and former presidential adviser, told The Bug Pit that Russia is losing credibility as a security provider in Central Asia with its silence:
If we were ever close to the nightmare of Balkanization of Ferghana Valley, this is it, all the friends and self-proclaimed guarantors of peace and security in Central Asia should wake up now.... Given that both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are part of the organization and recipients of Russian military aid and security guarantees, any further escalation will signify Moscow's failure and lack of leadership in the region. Are they operating privately, we don't know. But yes, any military conflict between their close allies in the sphere of responsibility they so eagerly have asserted - it's hard to see how Russia could could emerge unblemished.
This criticism recalls 2010, when brutal ethnic conflict in southern Kyrgyzstan erupted, and the CSTO also took a passive role. But this is nearly four years later, the year when -- as Moscow has consistently warned -- the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan is going to increase instability in Central Asia. In this context, the absence of Russia and the CSTO is especially conspicuous.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.