New CSTO Head: Organization's new course and its consequences for Ukraine

Author : Svyatoslav Bohdanov

Source : 112 Ukraine

For Ukraine, CSTO is gradually turning into one of the hybrid threats, as it is expanding its capabilities to conduct "peacekeeping" missions
14:16, 3 May 2017

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CSTO is a military-political alliance that includes Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, in addition to the Russian Federation, which was initiated by Russia in opposition to NATO. Of course, Russia is the "locomotive" of the organization.

For more than 13 years, the Secretary General of the CSTO was a representative from Russia, Nikolai Bordyuzha, a former head of the presidential administration and secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. Obviously, this person was completely under Putin's control and led the CSTO exclusively by the Russian scenario.

At the end of 2015, the member states decided to appoint the Secretary-General of the organization, on representative from each country (in alphabetical order) should rotate every three years. However, only now the rotation to be realized.

RIA Novosti

Yuriy Khachaturov

Today, 64-year-old general-colonel Yuriy Khachaturov occupies the post of secretary of the National Security Council of Armenia. A regular soldier with a long career, from the platoon commander in 1974 to the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Armenia in 2016. He was a member of the fighting in Afghanistan and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In 2008-2010 years, he was the head of the Joint Staff of the CSTO. It would seem that this is a worthy biography for a man who plans to lead an interstate military-political alliance. But only from the third attempt was Yuriy Khachaturov approved to the post.

First, together with the decision to rotate the secretary general, the member states decided to leave Bordyuzha on duty until January 1, 2017. Then in the autumn of 2016, the president of Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev, did not come to the CSTO summit, and in December of the same year Alexander Lukashenko did not appear. Despite the fact that decisions in the organization are taken by consensus of all members, it automatically made it impossible to appoint a new secretary from Yerevan. Why did this question drag on as much as 1.5 years? The opinions of experts on this issue vary.

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 Director of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies Valentyn Badrak believes that "the delay in appointing a new secretary general came about because the Armenians understood very well that the Kremlin thus draws all the CSTO countries into the possibility of armed conflicts of regional significance." Some experts assumed that these "no-shows" are connected with good relations between Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Azerbaijan. Therefore, their concern was with the fact that the next secretary general will be the representative of Armenia, moreover, the direct participant of the Karabakh conflict, for whom it is more personal than a political problem.

However, Gevorg Mirzayan, associate professor of the Department of Political Science at the Financial University under the government of the Russian Federation, believes that the nationality of the secretary general should not influence the development of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. "The appointment of Khachaturov does not bring Azerbaijan any threats, because he cannot give an order, for example, to launch an offensive against this country." The only problem is the weighted statements of the new secretary general regarding the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

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Khachaturov has already allowed himself to openly criticize the CSTO in 2015 for the lack of response to the aggravation of the Karabakh conflict. "The fact is that CSTO members do not react... Of course, we would like them to be more active, but for now, unfortunately, there is no serious reaction. I would like to feel that we are members of the same organization, of one security system," he told in an interview. Now, being at the post of general secretary Khachaturov cannot simply criticize the inaction of the CSTO, but he try to change something from within. At least, update this question. After all, the CSTO was formally created just for the joint defense of member countries against external threats. Armenia has an open and protracted armed conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan, and no one says anything about the promised security. The Karabakh conflict is not even mentioned in the statements adopted on the results of the organization's summits. "The CSTO is a project where every participant tries to beat out some privileges and ensure their own interests ... It's natural, Armenia agreed to continue its role in the CSTO only if Russia supports it and does not support Azerbaijan. Khachaturov will certainly raise the issue of the Karabakh conflict," Valentyn Badrak believes.

Related: NATO plans to expand its mission in Afghanistan

So, despite some disagreements, all experts agree that regional conflicts are a stumbling block for the CSTO member countries. There is a new instrument in the structure - the peacekeeping contingent, and it is in this aspect that the danger to Ukraine from the organization's side should be considered.

Political analyst Anton Kuchukhidze specifies that according to the CSTO Charter, the supreme body, whose decisions are binding for all member states, is the Collective Security Council, which includes the presidents of the countries. And the secretary-general with the secretariat carries out organizational, not political functions.

In his opinion, there will not be any changes in CSTO policy towards Ukraine because of the Minsk agreements, since all the member countries of the organization agree with the necessity of their implementation as a resolution of the UN Security Council. Indeed, the change of the secretary should not affect Ukraine. But this is a separate element of the overall strategy of the Russian Federation to strengthen its influence on the mainland.

Related: Ukraine’s Defense Minister visits Italy

For example, now the CSTO is actively providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Syria. For example, humanitarian goods from Russia, Armenia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan have already arrived in the country. The format is absolutely noble, but isn’t it the new stage of the Kremlin's multi-game play?

"For Ukraine, the CSTO is gradually turning into one of the hybrid threats. CSTO is expanding its capabilities to conduct "peacekeeping" missions," says Valentyn Badrak. According to him, the ex-secretary general of the CSTO Bordyuzha during 2015-2016 conducted fruitful work with the UN through peacekeeping operations, reaching for the Kremlin to use the UN actually blind. Confidence in the achieved results was manifested in Bordyuzha's statement for RIA Novosti following the results of the exercises of the Collective Peacekeeping Force (CMS) of the CSTO "Unbreakable Brotherhood-2016:" "There is no UN mandate as such, there is an opportunity to participate in peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the United Nations ... The secretariat and the Joint Staff are in constant interaction with the relevant departments of the United Nations ... This is about a decision of the presidents to use the peacekeeping forces beyond the UN mandate’s territory... Representatives of the UN and we know today about the right to conduct peace operations. We only need the corresponding decision of the heads of states and in the UN Security Council, where such an operation would take place outside the territory of the CSTO member countries," he said.

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Perhaps, Syria would become a training field for the first operation of the CSTO CCM outside the union. And if successful, what would prevent Russia from take advantage of this scenario in Donetsk, Afghanistan, and Karabakh?

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