03/11/2022, 09.45
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Moscow and the future of the Eurasian alliance

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Kremlin is seeking to strengthen its control of the CSTO, the political-military bloc that incorporates several former Soviet republics. Putin wants a right of "coordination". The member states have not yet ratified the changes demanded by Russia. In Kazakhstan, part of the population is asking to leave the alliance.



Moscow (AsiaNews) - In recent days, in the midst of the "special" military operation in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has presented a ratification of an amendment to the statute of the CST (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) to the State Duma.

A sort of Eurasian NATO, it brings together with Russia several former Soviet republics, mainly in Central Asia. The Russian leader proposes to introduce the concept of the Alliance's 'coordinating country', to be decided by its Council, and to create 'Csto peacekeeping forces' to participate in UN peacekeeping missions.

In the current context, the proposal seems paradoxical, both because of Russia's obvious predominance over other countries, which should be celebrated with the title of 'coordinator', and because of its propensity for peace missions, while it is precisely Russia that imposes itself on the world as the prince of warmongers.

The CSTO members approved the changes at their meeting in Dushanbe on 16 September. Well before the January unrest in Kazakhstan, with the mobilisation of allies to crush the uprisings, and Russia's war against Ukraine and the entire West. So far none of the member countries have ratified the new protocol.

Shortly before violating Ukraine's borders, the UN held a session on 16 February at the suggestion of Russia, the rotating president of the Security Council, to evaluate cooperation with the Csto. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had expressed his approval of the Eurasian alliance's ability to prevent and contain conflicts, referring in particular to the situation in Taliban-held Afghanistan. TheCSTO has had observer status at the UN since 2004, and a cooperation agreement was signed in 2010.

Kazakhstan began discussing amendments in December, but the January riots postponed ratification until a later date. The other members of the CSTO, apart from Russia, are Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which sent a total of 2,500 soldiers to Kazakhstan to contain the riots, with a mission that lasted the space of a weekend between 13 and 18 January.

The CSTO appeared on that occasion to be a military parade to reaffirm Russian control over the other countries, arousing protests in various sectors of the Kazakh population, which after the invasion of Ukraine is demanding an exit from the Alliance and also from the Eurasian Economic Union, also dominated by Moscow.

The new "coordinating" role would not impose any rights on the other members, who decide to participate in military missions on a voluntary basis, but only the right to represent everyone before the UN and agree on the organisational part of the missions themselves. Kazakh military expert Ermek Seytbattalov believes that the reason for the changes actually lies in the very limits of the CSTO structure, which is unable to take important decisions due to the requirement of unanimity, hence the need to legitimise a strong state as 'coordinator'.

It appears evident that Russia is trying to prepare a counter-Nato at its own disposal and without the Chinese presence, in order to make the present conflict stable as a confrontation between political-military systems in imitation of the twentieth-century "cold war", always assuming that the present war is able to cool down. The Armenian or Kyrgyz armies certainly cannot be compared to the Russian one, yet, as Seytbattalov states, "in Ukraine Russia has shown great strategic, tactical and operational weaknesses, and the other CSTO countries are perplexed by its claims".

Russia's international reputation collapsed after the invasion of Ukraine, and it is not excluded that the coordination of the CSTO could be entrusted to Kazakhstan or one of the other countries, however under the control of Moscow. Other countries, such as Uzbekistan, Hungary and Azerbaijan, have also been involved in various initiatives of the Eurasian Alliance, which is open to the entry of other members from all over the world.

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