Russian officials think the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a bloc of friendly ex-Soviet republics, can develop into a security grouping on par with NATO. But recent CSTO military exercises show that Moscow lacks a clear vision for how to utilize the alliance.
While the CSTO has existed since 2002, it has appeared to gain energy over the past several months. “For a long time, Russia had a very uncertain position with the CSTO: it wanted allies, but it didn't want to have to pay,” Yevgeny Buzhinsky, a retired general who until last year headed the Russian Ministry of Defense's International Cooperation Directorate, told EurasiaNet.org.
“When I was in my last position, I tried to convince two ministers of defense and two chiefs of general staff that if you want to have allies, you have to pay, like the Americans do – if they wanted to have allies in Europe, they paid,” Buzhinsky continued. “Now it seems to me that the political decision has been taken that Russia is ready to pay. So the plan now is to strengthen the CSTO and make it a real political/military alliance.”
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Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC,-based writer who specializes in security issues in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East. He is the editor of EurasiaNet's Bug Pit blog.