After declining to intervene in southern Kyrgyzstan’s turmoil over the summer, the Collective Security Treaty Organization is facing a fresh challenge in Tajikistan. And once again the Russia-led security group appears set to refrain from acting. The CSTO’s hesitancy is a reflection of a lack of clarity about the possible mission in Tajikistan, as well as underlying problems with its decision-making mechanism.
Kyrgyzstan’s recent upheaval and the war in Afghanistan have obscured the fact that other important developments are occurring in Central Asia. For example, Nikolai Bordyuzha, the secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), announced in March that the Russia-dominated security group and the United Nations would henceforth cooperate in countering terrorism, transnational crime (including illegal arms trafficking), and in settling conflicts.
In the past two weeks, the Russian media has fiercely criticized the Kyrgyz President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s, regime. Newspapers and TV programs have sought to reveal the president’s corruption and nepotism, with some newspapers alleging the regime’s involvement in the killing of journalist Gennady Pavluk last December. The role of the president’s son, Maksim, in corruption was also scrutinized.
On March 18, in Moscow, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s (CSTO) Secretary-General, Nikolay Bordyuzha, signed a declaration on cooperation between the two secretariats. The document, and the UN’s steps preceding it, can be interpreted as UN recognition of this Russian-led bloc in the “post-Soviet space.” The Russian side will doubtlessly construe the UN’s blessing as a full and unambiguous recognition of the CSTO (Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan).
Russia has reacted angrily to the forthcoming NATO-led Partnership for Peace (PfP) exercises in Georgia. President Dmitry Medvedev called the decision to hold the exercises "shortsighted and not worthy of true partnership." He warned that tensions in the region will rise, saying: "these actions are a clear military demonstration, a buildup of military muscle," and that Russia "shall be following everything that will be happening there in the most attentive way, and, if need be, take this or that decision".