The early April upheaval in Kyrgyzstan is helping to define what the Collective Security Treaty Organization is, and is not. The Russia-led alliance is definitely not an instrument that can be depended upon by authoritarian-minded leaders in Central Asia to prop up their regimes during times of trouble. The grouping’s central purpose is to shield Russian and Central Asian states from sources of instability in Afghanistan, Russian experts say.
The CSTO consists of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Belarus and Russia. Seen by many as a counterweight to NATO expansion; CSTO members are not allowed to join other military alliances, and, on paper at least, the allies are committed to the collective defense of any member that comes under outside attack. Less clear was the CSTO’s potential role in instances of destabilizing domestic turmoil: could the organization be used -- as was the Warsaw Pact, the Cold War-era military alliance -- to buttress the status quo against internal forces pushing for change?
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David Trilling is EurasiaNet’s Central Asia news editor.