International Relations

What is the CSTO, a security pact dominated by Moscow?

Armenia’s Prime Minister accused the Moscow-led security alliance Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) of abandoning Armenia amid renewed hostilities with Azerbaijan.

What did Armenia have to say?

  • Armenia has repeatedly chastised the CSTO for failing to protect it.
  • Russia has kept a delicate diplomatic balance between Armenia and Azerbaijan, avoiding any forceful action.

What exactly is CSTO?

  • The CSTO is a military alliance of seven former Soviet states led by Russia that was formed in 2002.
  • Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, and Tajikistan are current CSTO members. Afghanistan and Serbia are both CSTO observers.
  • Its goal is to ensure the collective defence of any member who is subjected to external aggression.
  • Political scientists have compared it to NATO’s Eurasian counterpart, which has 29 member states compared to the CSTO’s six.

CSTO Functions Outlined

  • The CSTO is the most important multilateral defence organisation in the former Soviet Union, supporting arms sales, manufacturing, and military training and exercises.
  • Aside from mutual defence, the CSTO coordinates efforts to combat illegal weapon circulation among member states and has developed law enforcement training for its members in this pursuit.

What benefits does CSTO membership provide?

  • While CSTO membership precludes member states from joining other military alliances, it does limit their relationship with NATO.
  • Its members benefit from discounts, subsidies, and other perks when purchasing Russian arms, facilitating military cooperation.
  • Most importantly, membership requires certain key security guarantees, the most important of which is the deterrence of military aggression by third countries.
  • Aggression against one signatory is perceived as aggression against all in the CSTO.
  • However, it is unknown whether this feature works in practise.

Concerns and Threats to Armenia

  • The PM emphasises the risk of escalation along Armenia’s border and in Nagorno-Karabakh, citing Azerbaijan’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric.
  • Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan rose in December when Azerbaijani protesters blocked the Lachin corridor, leaving residents of Nagorno-Karabakh without food and basic supplies.
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