Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has hollowed out ‘alliance’

The latest summit of a Russian-led military alliance has highlighted the fact that the organization has become hollow and lost its substance as Moscow’s sphere of influence because its members do not share any ideals or values. This is the result of Russia’s reckless invasion of Ukraine.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which consists of six former Soviet Union republics, held a summit in November. In an extraordinary development, the meeting ended with the members exposing divisions among themselves.

The Armenian prime minister, who chaired the summit, expressed frustration over the CSTO’s failure to provide military support when his country clashed again with Azerbaijan — which is not a CSTO member — in September. The prime minister refused to sign a joint statement for the summit.

Kazakhstan’s president called for Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine and seek a ceasefire.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin referred to the Soviet Union’s victory over Germany during World War II, emphasizing that memories of the victory “have united us together.” Putin could only cite history as a base for the alliance’s unity, a sign that Russia’s political influence has been weakening.

The CSTO was established in 2002 to fill the security vacuum created after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The alliance aims to protect the independence and territorial integrity of its member states. If a member is attacked, other countries are supposed to provide necessary support, including military assistance.

In reality, however, the CSTO has been used as a way for Russia to exert dominance over other members and maintain its sphere of influence. The organization is essentially different from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Japan-U.S. alliance, both of which adopt a collective security system based on shared values and an equal relationship.

As Russia’s prolonged invasion reduces its national strength, making it difficult for Moscow to intervene in conflicts involving other CSTO members, there is no doubt that these countries will move away from Russia at an accelerating pace.

Some CSTO members, such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, have already been strengthening relations with China by cooperating in its Belt and Road Initiative, which is aimed at creating a huge economic zone. Turkey has also been increasing its investments in Central Asian countries, as it has strong ethnic ties with this region.

There are concerns the region could be destabilized due to changes in power dynamics.

Tajikistan is a route for smuggling drugs from Afghanistan, and it has been noted that there has been a flow of Islamic extremists into the country. Russia has sent troops to help Tajikistan with border control, but Moscow could reduce the number of personnel. Also, political unrest continues in Kyrgyzstan.

Central Asia must not become a hotbed of international terrorism and crime. Stakeholder countries have a responsibility to prevent the situation from deteriorating by helping countries in this region improve their security measures and governance capabilities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 4, 2022)