CSTO opens security umbrella
[b]Belarus chairs Collective Security Treaty Organisation in 2011 [/b]Alexander Lukashenko chairs the CSTO at a crucial time for the orga-nisation. In recent years, its member states have witnessed a range of challenges to their security, such as the war in the Caucasus in August 2008. 2010 was notable for the coup and ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan.
Alexander Lukashenko chairs the CSTO at a crucial time for the orga-nisation. In recent years, its member states have witnessed a range of challenges to their security, such as the war in the Caucasus in August 2008. 2010 was notable for the coup and ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan. Even the forest fires in Russia — although not comparable to the events that took place in South Ossetia and Bishkek — were a serious threat to a CSTO member. This threat could have been confronted by collective action, but instead the organisation stood by, undermining its prestige in our country and abroad. As the President of Belarus noted when speaking about the situation in Kyrgyzstan, “We had not the forces, the means, or the powers…” And yet the very name of the organisation indicates that its members have pledged to protect each other. With this in mind, a re-evaluation of the CSTO was called for, leading to new mechanisms for dealing with modern challenges. At the Moscow Summit in December, agreement on reform of the CSTO was reached. Changes were made to the constitution of the CSTO and a range of new agreements adopted. These, together with the political will demonstrated by the seven presidents, should soon make the CSTO a more effective body.
Introduction and conclusion
The CSTO made a close analysis of recent events within its member states. “Of course, the events in Kyrgyzstan were a challenge for us,” noted CSTO Secretary General, Nikolay Bordyuzha. “We qualified the mass disorder that took place there as an internal matter and, in line with the existing mandate, the CSTO had no right to intervene. On the other hand, the organisation should have reacted to the recent disorders on Manezhnaya Square in Moscow and to those that took place in Minsk, near its Government buildings…”
Nevertheless, Mr. Bordyuzha believes that the organisation has not been wholly inactive. When the events in Kyrgyzstan began to threaten the established order, the CSTO held consultations in Moscow (just one day later) with the secretaries of the member states’ security councils and co-ordinated a joint plan of action. “We did not send troops into Bishkek. I’m convinced that was the right decision,” says Mr. Bordyuzha. “We decided to assist the country’s authorities and law-enforcement bodies and to help their economy, sending money and construction materials. We held political consultations. The foreign ministers of Russia and Kazakhstan visited Bishkek many times, while the presidents of those countries made announcements.”
According to Mr. Bordyuzha, 2010 was a productive year: an important agreement on co-ordination with the UN was signed, while the CSTO was placed on a new legal footing, allowing it to develop further in the most effective manner.
Rules for document registration
Significant steps were taken in December during a session of the CSTO’s Collective Security Council. Over three dozen decisions were taken by this, the supreme body of the CSTO, mostly dealing with the formation of a crisis response system. The Collective Security Treaty was completely overhauled. For example, the obligation for collective action (covered by Article 4) will apply not only in cases of external aggression against one of the seven states, but also in the event of any other kind of armed attack, for example, by a gang of drug dealers.
Article 6 allows for the deployment not only of the member states’ armed forces, but also of their law enforcement agencies, special services, border guards and emergency services. In effect, the collective security arrangement now envisages not only joint responses to aggression from foreign states, but, for example, joint responses to terrorism as well as joint recovery operations in the wake of natural disasters.
“It’s no need to say that this is a drastic breakage. Sincerely speaking, nothing pivotal has happened. In turn, we’ve had to speed up,” said Mr. Lukashenko regarding the decisions taken by the Collective Security Council.
Agreements regulating the deployment of the recently established Collective Rapid Reaction Force were also signed in Moscow. The agreements make clear how the Rapid Reaction Force will cross borders in cases of emergency. In addition, they state where the troops will be located and which country will supply them. Decisions on military-economic co-operation were also taken.
These days, regular armies play a smaller role in ensuring order and stability and several European countries are cutting back their armed forces. For example, Germany has ended conscription and is now drastically cutting its army. Both NATO and the CSTO now emphasise mobile, compact and highly professional forces that can be quickly deployed.
The CSTO’s timely formation of an operational reaction force was a landmark event under the previous chairmanship, held by Russia. The agreement establishing the Collective Rapid Reaction Force was concluded by five of the member states in 2009 at the Moscow Summit. Belarus signed the agreement on October 20th, 2010, after the resolution of a ‘milk war’ between Minsk and Moscow and the elimination of the threat to the country’s economic security. Uzbekistan is still considering the possibility of signing up to the agreement.
The Collective Rapid Reaction Force comprises both mobile military divisions of the Armed Forces and special purpose units of the Interior Ministry and security services, in addition to units from the Emergency Ministry. All member states that have signed the agreement have already allocated troops to the force, which, as Dmitry Medvedev announced, now totals 20,000, with Russia providing the majority of the troops.
In line with the agreements, the operational collective reaction force may undertake pre-emptive military action, in addition to countering new challenges and threats — such as international terrorism and illegal drugs and weapons trafficking. They will also be used for clean-up operations and to provide humanitarian assistance, in addition to other tasks stipulated by the CSTO Collective Security Council.
Commenting on the establishment of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force, Alexander Lukashenko noted, “This is a framework agreement. In no way does it harm our state. We will have military units which, following a joint decision, may be sent to a particular place; however, no one will send them if I’m against it.”
Lessons in security
The CSTO and other international organisations are concerned with protecting their states, and with finding effective mechanisms for doing so. Before the Cold War ended 20 years ago, the world was black-and-white. NATO and the Soviet Bloc ensured their security by similar methods — with ever-larger armies and through the arms race. Ten years ago, we witnessed the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Although this was a new challenge to our security, the situation was clear: it was ‘them’ (the terrorists) and ‘us’. Now, the situation has become more ambiguous and complex.
Even NATO, a long-standing and powerful organisation, is actively seeking a new security concept. The Group of Wise Men, headed by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, is involved in developing proposals for a new Strategic Concept for NATO. Consultations are being held within the Alliance and with neighbouring partner states. The Head of the Belarusian Armed Forces’ General Staff, First Deputy Defence Minister Major General Piotr Tikhonovsky, went to Brussels in late January for such consultations.
Belarus joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) in 1995, just after it was established. The Alliance established PfP as a mechanism for co-operation with its neighbours. The programme is an integral part of a nascent European security system. Partnership for Peace encompasses 22 countries and a range of co-operation agreements which help it adapt to the peculiarities of a certain region. As a member of PfP, Belarus participates in constructive dialogue on security-related issues within NATO, which is a very important aspect of ensuring the country’s national security.
In its strategic development, the CSTO is developing in similar ways to NATO, with Minsk contributing to new ways of thinking. “For a long time, we have viewed ourselves as a military-political union but, when the CSTO chairmanship passed to Belarus in 2006, we outlined an initiative which envisages the transformation of the CSTO into a structure able to confront the modern security challenges of its member states,” noted Mr. Bordyuzha. “We’ve shifted from a focus on military co-operation to ensuring safety in other areas of primary importance for our states.”
Food for thought
The events taking place in the international arena demonstrate that it is high time for the CSTO to develop, and change its mandate. It’s original raison d’кtre, to counter external armed aggression, has disappeared. Troops are no longer necessary to influence another state; a country can employ information technology as well as finance a range of non-governmental organisations to undermine a state from the inside. Mr. Bordyuzha believes that about a dozen states have been attacked in this way including Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Iran (where street riots lasted for over a month), Tunisia, Serbia and Moldova. In Chisinau, for example, people went to the streets, and broke into the Presidential Residence and the Parliament building.
What concerns do our seven states now have? What challenges and threats do they consider to be of primary importance? What responses is the CSTO preparing? One major threat is illegal drug trafficking. A division of the CSTO was set up in 2006 to confront his threat, with responsibility for detecting and eliminating supply channels to our countries. The CSTO Co-ordination Council was established to counter human trafficking. In addition the Emergency Situations Co-ordination Council was established.
The CSTO is now also involved in IT security and, in 2009, a co-ordinated information technology policy was submitted to the Presidents of the CSTO member states, at the initiative of the CSTO Secretariat. The Centre of Information Technologies was set up in Moscow and, in September, it will start training specialists in the fields of IT and information counteraction, on the basis of Moscow State University programmes. The lecturers, in addition to IT specialists, will be drawn from the security services and law-enforcement bodies of all the CSTO member states. All of these spheres are very important and of no less significance than military co-operation.
Undoubtedly, whatever agreements are adopted by the CSTO, whatever new structures are established under its aegis, whatever powerful armies its member states own, the core principle remains unchanged — this is the political will of its Heads of State. Only this can ensure the organisation’s viability and efficiency.
Political co-operation within the CSTO is the basis of its existence. This includes enhancing solidarity between the states and mutual support in the international arena (in terms of protecting their national interests). “For example, when there was an attempt to promote an anti-Belarusian resolution to the UN Security Council, it failed to be promoted — owing to the co-ordination and mutual efforts of the CSTO delegations,” says Mr. Bordyuzha.
At the CSTO Summit in Moscow on December 10th, our delegation brought a list of initiatives to Moscow. These included strengthening the organisation and giving it more weight in the world during Belarus’ chairmanship. The President of Belarus did not hide that ‘someone does not wish to notice that such an organisation exists in the world’. When its representative meets someone — i.e. a NATO representative, he should represent not only his own country. Everyone should know that our joint security pact stands behind this state.
Belarus has advocated and still promotes the development of relations between the CSTO and other states, as well as other international organisations. The Chairman of the CSTO Collective Security Council, Alexander Lukashenko, stressed, “I’m convinced that we have what to propose and how to arouse interest among the bordering states and states on other continents. These initiatives are aimed at the expansion of the sphere of influence and enhancement of the organisation’s role on the international arena and regionally.”
Minsk proposes to develop the co-ordination of the CSTO’s members states’ foreign political co-operation, including with the UN. Since 2004, the seven states hold observer status at the General Assembly and new impetus to relations between these organisations was provided after a joint declaration on co-operation between the UN Secretariat and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation was signed in March 2010.
The CSTO proposed to the UN that Afghan drug trafficking be labelled ‘a global threat’. Cocaine trafficking from Colombia already has that status. Meanwhile, some states don’t wish to recognize the continental threat caused by Afghan trafficking for some reason…
Minsk proposes to concentrate the CSTO’s efforts on creating its peacekeeping potential. Training will be vital, as well as suitable equipment and effective management systems.
Belarus has considered the prospects for peacekeeping activities within the UN-CSTO context. In 2007, an agreement on the CSTO’s peacekeeping role was signed and has now come into force. “It’s time to shift from theory to practice. Our organisation should have an efficient peacekeeping component,” notes Mr. Lukashenko. At the UN General Assembly’s 65th session, he announced that the CSTO is ready to participate in UN peacekeeping operations.
The CSTO already co-operates with many countries — i.e. with Iran (on joint action against drug trafficking). It liaises with the Ukrainian Parliament, while the Serbian Parliament is showing interest. There is no need for Serbia to join the CSTO, as we are able to co-operate in certain areas and conduct joint projects. Other partner-states also exist and Minsk believes it’s high time to consider a partnership institute.
Belarus’ proposals also include raising the CSTO’s international status and increasing the potential of its member states’ security forces. Minsk is now developing a programme of supplying the member states with modern and compatible weapons, in addition to special purpose means and other equipment.
Belarus also proposes to equip the Collective Rapid Reaction Force with modern arms, raise international squadrons to full readiness for joint action, including rapid airlifts. In fact, the Collective Rapid Reaction Force is not merely troops but anti-terrorist forces.
Mr. Lukashenko believes we have positive experience of training member states’ forces to work in co-operation with each other, thanks to the joint Belarusian-Russian strategic training operation, Zapad-2009 (West-2009), which brought together the armed forces of Armenia, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. In 2011, Russia will host joint operational training for the Belarusian and Russian armed forces, with other CSTO members welcomed.
Minsk concentrates not only on military issues. It also hopes to strengthen other CSTO branches. The Belarusian address to the CSTO member states reads: ‘Taking into account the fact that the newly-established Collective Rapid Reaction Force will include units to deal with emergency situations, we think it appropriate to establish common regulations for their deployment in the event of emergency situations on CSTO member states’ territories.’
Belarus is now actively involved in reforming the CSTO, with support from other members of the organisation. It is fair to assume that as a result the country will be even stronger at the end of its CSTO chairmanship than it was at the beginning.
By Igor Kolchenko