Russian officials want to establish a global presence for the Collective Security Treaty Organization in the wake of the signing of a cooperation pact between the Moscow-led group and the United Nations.
The UN-CSTO pact was signed in Moscow on March 18 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Nikolai Bordyuzha, the CSTO's secretary general.
A joint declaration issued in Moscow suggested the CSTO could become involved in UN operations covering "conflict prevention and conflict resolution, [as well as] combating terrorism, trans-national criminality [and] illegal arms trafficking." Cooperation would take into account "the respective spheres of competence and the procedures of either organization," the joint declaration added.
Bordyuzha portrayed the pact as the UN's "recognition of our organization's authority and its ability to contribute to safeguarding global security." Russian officials have long expressed interest in raising the CSTO's international profile. Bordyuzha, accordingly, indicated that CSTO forces could participate in UN missions in different parts of the globe in the not too distant future. The CSTO comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia and Uzbekistan.
Any CSTO force deployed under UN auspices would likely be drawn from the organization's rapid deployment forces (KSBR), which currently comprises 10 battalions (five from Russia, two each from Kazakhstan and Tajikistan and one from Kyrgyzstan). The KSBR is due to be replaced soon by the Russian-led Rapid Reaction Force (KSOR). [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
The UN cooperation pact marks a potential watershed in the CSTO's long-standing quest to bolster its legitimacy as a security organization. Russian officials are especially eager for the CSTO to be seen as NATO's equal. Since the CSTO's inception in 2002, NATO has kept the Moscow-led group at arm's length. Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have been increasingly vociferous in complaining about NATO's stance, accusing the Atlantic Alliance of maintaining "ideological" stereotypes.
While the UN cooperation pact may make it more difficult for NATO to avoid engagement, alliance officials in Brussels remain plainly reluctant to work with the CSTO in any meaningful way. On February 22, Bordyuzha voiced hope that the CSTO could cooperate with NATO on combating narcotics trafficking out of Afghanistan. NATO officials have not publicly responded to the CSTO proposal, but Bordyuzha still suggested that joint cooperation remained a possibility.
With or without NATO's cooperation, Russia appears intent on getting involved in anti-trafficking efforts concerning Afghanistan. During a meeting in Moscow on March 16 between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin and visiting Afghan security officials, both sides stated that the CSTO could play a role in containing the trafficking problem. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Sergei Blagov is a Moscow-based specialist in CIS political affairs.