Moscow seeks to develop a clear vision for the Central Asian military alliance
The Russian authorities believe that the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which unites the friendly republics of the former USSR, can turn into a defense organization on a par with NATO. However, as the recent military exercises of the bloc have shown, Moscow lacks a clear vision regarding the ways to use this alliance.
The CSTO has existed since 2002, and only in recent months has received a boost of energy. "For a long time, Russia did not have a clear position on the CSTO: it wanted to have allies, but did not want to pay for it," stock general Yevgeny Buzhinsky, who headed the international treaty department of the Russian Defense Ministry until last year, told EurasiaNet.org.
"At the last post I held, I tried to convince two defense ministers and two chiefs of general staff that if you want to have allies, then you have to pay, as the Americans do - if they needed allies in Europe, they forked,” he continues. I think a political decision has been made that Russia is ready to pay. So the plan now is to start strengthening the CSTO, turning the organization into a real military-political alliance. "
However, what form this alliance will take is still an open question. 27 September ended a series of CSTO exercises called "Center-2011", in which 12 thousands of military personnel from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan took part. The Center-2011 exercises were held in parallel with other exercises with the participation of Russia and Belarus, also part of the CSTO. A contingent of more than a thousand people in 12 was involved in these exercises. In the last year’s exercise, all 1700 troops took part from all the CSTO member states.
It was assumed that the purpose of the exercise was to work out methods of fighting the militants who had landed on the territory of Central Asia from Afghanistan, as well as uprisings similar to those that had occurred over the past year in the countries of the Arab world. (For Russia, in which the "Arab Spring" raises serious suspicions, these two types of threats practically merge into one).
"What happened in a number of countries in North Africa and the Middle East was difficult to predict. What will happen next? What will be the leadership? This should be a signal for all states. We have similar questions in the states of Central Asia. We must be ready to Therefore, we are working on all of these at the exercises, "said Army General Nikolai Makarov, chief of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces, on the eve of the exercises." We, the military, must be prepared for the worst-case scenarios.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, whose country currently holds the CSTO presidency, recently made a proposal to use the CSTO collective rapid reaction force (CRRF) to prevent state coups. “This is not only about the application of the RRF in case of intervention by other states from the outside, but also about the interference of other states from within the CSTO,” he said. “Because no one will fight us at war, but to make a constitutional coup — many ".
Statements by Makarov and Lukashenko have led many observers to wonder whether the Kremlin sees the collective CSTO rapid reaction forces — the dominant role in which is played by Russia, far superior in military power to all member states of the organization — a means of suppressing popular uprisings against its authoritarian allies in Central Asia
Some analysts doubt that Moscow has a desire to be drawn into the internal conflicts of the Central Asian countries, citing Russia's reluctance to interfere in the Kyrgyz unrest of the summer of 2010. "Russia's goal is to strengthen the governments of Central Asian countries so that they themselves can put down the uprising," says the director of the World Trade Analysis Center. weapons at the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation Igor Korotchenko.
Having mentioned the refusal of Russia to satisfy Kyrgyzstan’s request for help last summer, Korotchenko said: “If their army is not able to do it herself, Russia and Belarus will not do this.”
“Our people are afraid to go there - we cannot distinguish between Uzbeks and Kyrgyzs,” adds Russian journalist and Central Asia expert Arkady Dubnov. In his opinion, the reasoning about the Islamist threat in Central Asia is only a pretext to unobtrusively give Russia the opportunity to strengthen its influence in the region. "Everyone knows that the Taliban will not go from Afghanistan to Central Asia, but everyone claims that such a threat exists," he says. "These are all words. We want to intimidate them so that they let us go there beforehand, our goal is presence, not military action. "
But the CSTO, nevertheless, is preparing for time for war. The Center-2011 exercise scenario, although it is focused on working out methods to counter small terrorist groups, also includes many components that suggest preparation for classic warfare. For example, the training program included working out tasks to protect troops from air strikes; the entire Caspian flotilla was also involved in them, although Islamic terrorists would hardly use aviation or naval forces.
On the territory of Kyrgyzstan, the CSTO forces worked out the scenario in which the militants occupied the valley under the capital Bishkek. On the state television channel was a story in which Kyrgyz troops, with the support of Russian fighter jets and Kyrgyz helicopter formations, eliminated the alleged enemy. In Kazakhstan, air defense exercises were held at the test sites in the Karaganda region and Mangistau district. A group of militants landed from boats on the Kazakh coast of the Caspian Sea, and groups of naval and border forces of Russia and Kazakhstan with the support of attack helicopters and artillery fought off the attack.
The Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets published documents allegedly detailing the scenario of the Kazakh-Russian part of the exercise, which involves working out tasks to protect troops from air strikes from the south of the Caspian Sea using dozens of aviation units, including the F-4, F-5 and Su-25 fighters . Such a scenario certainly suggests that this time Iran was the imaginary enemy.
“If groups of Islamic extremists enter the territory of Central Asia, it will not be like an invasion from outside, which needs to be repelled with the help of thousands of tanks and aircraft. This task will require specially trained special forces,” said Arkady Dubnov.
The fight against extremism also involves the use of other than military means, analysts say. "Russia's strategy can be effective in terms of responding to an attack by extremists, and not preventing it," said Yulia Nikitina, a researcher at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, who recently co-authored the work on the CSTO, published by the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Development.
The CSTO has yet to formulate a clear task for itself. The possibility of connecting to the solution of a number of other problems in the field of security, including programs to combat extremism on the Internet, illegal immigration and drug trafficking, is now being discussed, adds Julia Nikitina. “This can be an unbearable burden for an organization that does not yet know what it wants to be,” she said.
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