CSTO establishes joint defense force

The seven former Soviet republics that are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have agreed on a legal framework for using their Collective Rapid Deployment Force (CRDF). At a summit in Moscow, the leaders of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan signed 34 documents setting out the terms and conditions for CRDF operations in the territories of CSTO members.

According to a pre-summit statement by CSTO spokesman Vladimir Zainetdinov, the legal framework created by those documents will help regulate issues related to crossing international borders and deploying the CRDF “internationally, as well as providing various services and procurement to those forces by the host country to which CRDF will be sent by the CSTO Collective Security Council to conduct operations there.”

The urgency of this step became evident last summer, when the interim government of Kyrgyzstan asked the CSTO to intervene to prevent a possible breakup of their republic. The organization failed to act upon the request of a member country due to a lack of necessary political tools. This helplessness called into question the CSTO’s viability as an institution: Is it even capable of fulfilling its own charter, which provides for collective defense among other things, if a member is attacked?

“It’s evident to us that the events in Kyrgyzstan were a reality check for the organization. Joint efforts resulted in a range of measures that helped stabilize the situation. This once again confirmed that the CSTO is necessary as a key element for ensuring collective security in the post-Soviet area,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told RIA Novosti in an interview.

The documents signed in early December include agreements setting out procedures for forming and deploying the CRDF in various operational situations.

“They define the formation and means of the collective security system, and the procedure for dispatching them to the territory of a host party in accordance with an official request for the purpose of exercising its right to collective defense in the event of a threat and/or an armed attack against one or several members,” said a press release. The CRDF will also have to stand up to other challenges or threats to collective security, assist in emergency situations, and conduct joint military exercises. The documents allow for an infinitely greater efficiency of the alliance’s actions in the territories of CSTO member countries.

First Deputy CSTO Chief of Staff, Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, pointed out in remarks to RIA Novosti: “The ideology of a plan to establish a CSTO peacekeeping force has been given the momentum of political and practical implementation.” According to Nogovitsyn, during a joint meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers, Council of Defense Ministers, and Committee of Security Council Secretaries of the CSTO member states, an agreement was reached with the Defense Minister of Kyrgyzstan to hold the next event as part of the peacekeeping program on the territory of Kyrgyzstan.

Although some of the steps along the CSTO path replicate what NATO has already managed to achieve, most Russian experts agree that comparing the CSTO to NATO is at least premature. For example, Vladimir Zakharov, a senior researcher with the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, told the Independent Military Review: “Not only do CSTO members not coordinate their national military doctrines, but they often develop them with the help from specialists from countries belonging to different military and political blocs.” The expert also pointed out that NATO spends an estimated $1.5 billion a year to maintain its unified infrastructure, whereas the CSTO’s budget for this purpose is equivalent to only around $5 million.

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