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CSTO: We Complement Eurasian Union, Won't Join It - Yet

The Eurasian Economic Union complements the role of the Collective Security Treaty Organization but the two organizations shouldn't be merged -- at least in the short term -- the CSTO's Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha said in an interview. He added that the organization was creating "special operations" forces that would be involved in thwarting "cyberattacks." Bordyuzha compared Russia's post-Soviet integration schemes to those of Europe, with the Eurasian Economic Union the analog of the European Union, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization similar to NATO. He told Belarussian news agency BelTA;

For example in Europe you have NATO and the European Union. Not one government is accepted into the European Union without joining NATO. NATO deals with security, the EU with politics, economics and so on. The same scheme is proposed for relations between the CSTO and the EEU. That is, the EEU will resolve economic issues, and the CSTO -- politics and security. I think that we will work precisely in this vein.

That's an interesting division of labor, with the "politics" being the responsibility of the EU in Europe, but of the CSTO in the post-Soviet world. The EEU members have been stressing that the union is purely economic, not political, in order to assuage Russia's wary allies that they won't be giving up any of their sovereignty by joining. But do those allies want a "political" alliance if it's in the form of the CSTO, rather than the EEU? Anyway, Bordyuzha continues:

But I don't exclude that at some stage when the CSTO, and especially the EEU become more complete, when all of the mechanisms for their cooperation are worked out, there will arise demands for them to merge.... Personally, I think that to join the two structures in one union, at least in the short term, would be a mistake. This union would be unwieldy, difficult to manage. It would be better if the organizations cooperated, strictly defining their spheres of activity and delineating their authorities. I think that it's this that we're coming toward in the short term.

There are interesting caveats in that explanation -- "at least in the short term" -- that may also give pause to some suspicious residents of Russia's neighbors. Regardless, this appears to be the first time a top Russian official has described so directly the relationship between these two largest integration projects. The other newsworthy part of the interview was Borsyuzha's description of further plans for different types of CSTO units. He said that the planned CSTO joint air forces should be finished and decisions about how they'll be formed will be made. He also said that the CSTO is planning to create "special operations forces," though it's not clear if these are spetznatz-type fighting units or "special" in other ways:

In addition, special operations forces are being formed in the CSTO. These units will be tasked with providing support to the activities of various armed formations in the CSTO by special forms and methods. These measures are absolutely necessary in the conditions of contemporary warfare. Likewise, these special forces will be able to fight against cyberattacks, using special means to intercept various signals, informational messages and so on. It's planned that there will be a whole set of units, for example, like for information-psychological operations.

These would be added to the continually expanding roster of CSTO units, which Bordyuzha himself enumerates: in addition to the air forces and special operations forces the CSTO is creating "bilateral groups, Collective Rapid Reaction Forces, Collective Forces for Rapid Deployment of the Central Asian Region, and peacekeeping forces."

UPDATE: Reader Casey Michel makes the point that should have been made in this post originally: that, contrary to Bordyuzha's assertion, you don't have to be in NATO to be in the EU, as the examples of Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Malta and Cyprus prove. But Bordyuzha does seem to imply that you would have to be a CSTO member to be in the EEU, which is the case so far with EEU members Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, as well as candidates Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

CSTO: We Complement Eurasian Union, Won't Join It - Yet

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