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CST D’Oh!

The Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization is set to discuss options for providing military and technical assistance to member state Kyrgyzstan at a two-day informal summit opening in Yerevan on August 20.

As a military source told Russian news agency Interfax: 

"Issues related to the possible delivery to Kyrgyzstan of armored vehicles, helicopters, special weapons, uniforms and other materiel are being considered. There are many subtleties here related, for instance, to the capabilities of CSTO countries and to the development of a mechanism of deliveries."

The CSTO has been distinctive for its passive response to unrest in Kyrgyzstan over recent months, so the prospect of yet more jibber-jabber is unlikely to set hearts fluttering in Bishkek.

Utter failure to take a decisive line of action over the June violence should prompt existential questions over the bloc’s very existence and modus operandi. Its regularly vaunted military exercises have tended to focus on nebulous and indistinct trans-national threats (i.e. terrorists) to be scotched by means of loud bombs and implausibly well-coordinated storm attacks on strategically high-value buildings.

Without underestimating the danger that terrorists may pose to Central Asia, the primary hazard to stability is the region’s poverty-stricken population itself.

And the CSTO has, perhaps for politically correct reasons, done little to address that matter. There is hardly an imaginable scenario in which, say, an international battalion would be dispatched to quell any manifestations of unrest in one of the member states.

That’s not what the CSTO is for, one could fairly object.

Well, try telling that to Kyrgyzstan’s prickly Deputy Prime Minister Azimbek Beknazarov, who upbraided the CSTO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization last week for failing to heed appeals for assistance in the interethnic clashes in Osh:

"When the tragic events in the southern part of the republic began happening on June 11, we appealed for help to the CSTO and the SCO through official channels the same day, but we were ignored."

He complained that the two organizations in question only got around to responding to Kyrgyz requests for help on June 16, a full six days after the violence began and two days after it had all but ended. A pretty feeble performance overall any way you slice it.

So, whither CSTO? Will it just become an annual boys’ retreat for blowing stuff up in war games or is there any point to all this malarkey?

For the time being, the CSTO in Kyrgyzstan has limited itself to volunteering an advisory group to help investigate the June events and help prevent potential mass disturbances – an agenda that sounds slightly like the one OSCE police force has set for itself.

The more meat and potatoes stuff, however, will likely be doled out on the hush-hush and in a purely bilateral (Moscow-Bishkek) fashion. This is, after all, the inconvenient truth at the heart of the security bloc, which is probably why CSTO General-Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha alternately refers to the Kant air base outside Bishkek as the “CSTO base” and the “Russian base.”

Visitors to Osh in recent months report spotting Russian CSTO advisers already on the ground, looking about as inconspicuous as Carmen Miranda at an Afghan funeral. 

CST D’Oh!

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