A scheduled meeting of CSTO Collective Security Council took place in Dushanbe. It closed the year of Tajikistan's chairmanship in the organization. Issues on the agenda showed that peace is that Central Asia can only dream of today.
A couple of kilometers from shooting
For the success of the summit, the Tajik authorities had to take unprecedented security measures. The whole city on its perimeter was cordoned off by the military officers as far back as on Sunday, September 13. Helicopters regularly patrolled the airspace, and this is not an obsessive phobia of Emomali Rahmon. There was a real threat for participants of the summit. Dushanbe is still conducting counter-terrorism operation in Ramit Gorge. According to current data, it is exactly the place where the rebellious general Abduhalim Nazarzoda is hiding.
Police officers were on duty on the streets of Dushanbe almost around the clock. The local residents were strongly recommended to refrain from visiting the city from September 13 to September 15. Residents of the country obeyed, there were few people on the streets who were for the most part either immigrants from Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, or the officers of the law enforcement agencies.
On the day of the summit, the Tajik authorities have limited access to social networks. It was impossible to send SMS. They explained it by care about safety of the participants of the summit and the ongoing security operation.
Despite the challenging environment, participants of the summit preferred not to openly discuss the delicate situation. All the talks about security in the region of CSTO responsibility came down to a discussion of complex situation in Afghanistan, Syria, and increasing influence of followers of Islamic State (IS) movement in Central Asia.
It was planned that the summit will sum up the work of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in 2014. CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha traditionally delivered a report. However, it has not added confidence in the future, although CSTO has done a great job for the year. In particular, it in practice checked readiness of the air forces of the organization as a part of the unannounced exercises of the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces. CSTO also actively conducted work to combat drug trafficking. In total, there were seized more than 120 tons of drugs, including more than 60 tons of hard drugs.
Another vector of the organization is information security. It is exactly the sphere which brings more and more work from year to year. Just since the beginning of 2015, there were revealed more than 57,000 extremist websites. More than 50,000 thousands of them were blocked.
"All these measures are implemented within cooperation in the fight against extremist and terrorist activities of the group under the Committee of Secretaries of the CSTO Security Council. But in general, there is a sharp increase in the number of extremist Internet resources, operating in Central Asia," Nikolai Bordyuzha said. He added that the organization needs to provide a real mechanism for combating terrorism and extremism.
"CSTO should pay particular attention to the improvement of the developed, and we can say, exclusive mechanisms for collective security. At the same time we need to provide a real mechanism for combating terrorism and extremism, and complete creation of the Crisis Response Center of the Collective Security Treaty Organization," Nikolai Bordyuzha noted.
Beware of ISIL
The growing influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist group in the Central Asian was also discussed at the CSTO summit. President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev is sure that the expansion of ISIL influence in Afghanistan poses a direct threat to the security of the region. According to him, the current military and political situation in the world is characterized by unpredictable development of events, growth of separatism, national and religious extremism. All of these challenges also relate to Kyrgyzstan. The country, like other countries in the CSTO zone of responsibility, faced with the challenges posed by cross-border organized crime syndicates, terrorist and extremist groups.
"In point of fact, religious extremist and terrorist organizations, having consolidated forces on the basis of a single extremist ideology, become powerful criminal structures having a wide network of associates. Extension of influence of "Islamic State" group in Afghanistan poses a direct threat to the security of Central Asia. Disruptive aspirations of the terrorist organizations in the Central Asia direction lead to possible complication of the situation. They should be considered by us in the complex of threats to regional and national security," Atambayev said.
"In addition, we are concerned about numerous cases of recruitment and departure of our citizens to participate in the armed conflict on the side of ISIL. Their subsequent return for continuation of terrorist activities and recruitment in their countries also causes concerns," he added.
A similar position was expressed by the Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, his ideas to counter the "world evil" went further. He suggested all to join and support Syria and the acting regime of its President Bashar al-Assad. "The so-called "Islamic State" controls large areas of Iraq and Syria. Terrorists openly say that they have plans on Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem. They plan distribution of their activity in Europe, Russia, Central and Southeast Asia. We are concerned about this, especially because militants from many countries, including, unfortunately, the European countries, Russia and many former Soviet republics, undergo ideological and military training in the ranks of ISIL. And, of course, we are concerned about their possible return," Vladimir Putin concluded.
Tanks against extremists
The growing threats from the outside, very close to the borders of CSTO, forced the organization leaders to more frequently talk about strengthening of military power. The theme was raised by the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. "Today we face with new hotbeds of instability, including those near the borders of CSTO. The implication of this is destruction of states, impoverishment of the people, and a large stream of refugees. Therefore it is important to pay great attention to the development and successful operation of CSTO rapid reaction forces. We need to make some changes in the military component, including determining the regional air defense system of peacekeeping forces. Today, in the planning of organization's work, we have to rely on existing resources, to set specific targets, based on an assessment of internal and external threats. The current environment requires strengthening of military power and the crisis mechanism of CSTO," he stressed.
The President Vladimir Putin also spoke of the need for the global fight against extremism. Unlike previous statements, his speech touched on many opponents of Russia in the international arena but not the allies. Vladimir Putin had emphasized that there should not be double standards in the fight against terrorism.
"We have to put aside geopolitical ambitions, abandon the double standards, policy of direct or indirect use of certain terrorist groups to achieve own tactical objectives, including change of unwanted to somebody governments and regimes. In Euro-Atlantic space Russia offers to reach legally binding guarantees of security and combat extremism and the attempted coups," Vladimir Putin said.
Almost every speech at the extended meeting of the Collective Security Council included the idea that the organization should go to the international arena.
"We have to intensify the work of CSTO on rapid exchange of information between ministries and agencies to combat the redeployment of recruits for international terrorist organizations. Appropriate efforts as well as maintaining of a high degree of readiness of the collective security forces and the detailed planning of their use in case of a threat should contribute to strengthening the capacity of CSTO and consolidate its position in the international arena," the head of Kyrgyzstan said.
Continue in the same direction
Following the meeting, the heads of CSTO states signed a number of documents, including an agreement on cooperation in the field of transport and other military formations, their movable property, as well as military products. The participants have endorsed the Protocol on extension of the Agreement on the establishment of a unified system of technical protection of railways, CSC decision on improvement of activities of the Coordinating Council on Emergency Situations and the CSTO Secretariat, they approved budget of the organization.
Speaking to reporters, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon called the work of the CSC "very efficient." He noted that there was a frank conversation about the state of cooperation and priority directions of development of the organization.
Tajikistan passed on CSTO chairmanship to Armenia. It was decided to hold the next session of CSTO Collective Security Council in the second half of 2016 in Yerevan. The President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan has already presented the program of the organization's development, which would be implemented in the coming year. Yerevan considers the development of the CSTO crisis response system as important, and intends to focus on enhancing the peacekeeping capabilities of the organization, deepening military-technical and military-economic cooperation between the countries.
"We will ensure continuity of CSTO policy to increase its effectiveness. The organization has passed a 20-year period of formation. This work should be continued in a systematic way, having clearly designated focus of development in the medium term. Therefore, I suggest as one of the first priorities to finalize the strategy of CSTO collective security until 2025, and adopt it in 2016," Serzh Sargsyan said.
We can just only hope that the concluded agreements will be successfully implemented. But the experts disappoint by their projections. For the years of its existence, the organization has not interfered in the internal affairs of its member but provided technical assistance. Meanwhile, the agreement on the establishment of air defense forces and the CSTO Crisis Response Center show that the organization is ready to restructure under the threat of new security challenges.