CSTO To Exercise In Armenia; SCO In Tajikistan (And Uzbekistan To Stay Home)
The two big post-Soviet military blocs, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, have announced their respective plans for large-scale exercises this year. The CSTO's will take place in September in Armenia, while the SCO's will happen in Tajikistan in June.
Last September's CSTO exercises were a pretty big deal, involving 24,000 troops and taking place amid a concerted Kremlin effort to gin up the threat from Afghanistan, prompting a lot of observers to speculate that Moscow was trying to use the CSTO as a means of exerting a heavier hand in Central Asia. This year's exercises were still months away, and there are few details available about them, so it's hard to compare yet. But the choice of location in Armenia is curious, given that last year so much of the rhetoric justifying the organization's existence related to Afghanistan. So now is the shift toward the Caucasus, or is it just Armenia's turn?
Meanwhile, the choice of Tajikistan for the SCO exercise, Peace Mission 2012, has prompted one dropout already: Uzbekistan won't be taking part in the exercise, Regnum reports (in Russian):
"During the exercises, a special anti-terror operation in a mountainous area will be worked on. New methods will be used to detect, block and destroy mock outlawed armed formations that have captured a mountain village, according to the legend," the [Tajikistan Ministry of Defense] press centre said.
One Tajikistan member of parliament interviewed by Regnum had harsh words for Uzbekistan's decision:
"Many countries' experience shows that it is impossible to fight alone against terror. Even the USA and the entire Western coalition in Afghanistan are not so successful in fighting against terrorism. Uzbekistan itself has repeatedly encountered terror challenges, especially in the Fergana valley, where the forthcoming exercises are to be held. Therefore we regret that country does not want to participate in the joint anti-terror exercises. Although the situation in the world and the region is not so rosy. There are forces which are prepared to seriously destabilise the situation at an opportune time," the MP noted in a conversation with a correspondent of REGNUM.
The CSTO and SCO each include Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; the SCO adds China and the CSTO Armenia and Belarus. But Uzbekistan has been an increasingly reluctant member of both (it's unclear whether or not they'll participate in this year's CSTO exercise, but they didn't in last year's). This shift has been abetted by Tashkent's improved relationship with the U.S. and NATO; it'll be interesting to see how their attitude towards the SCO and CSTO change once the U.S. starts withdrawing from the region in 2014.