Vladimir Andreichenko. the chairman of the House of Representatives in the parliament of Belarus, greeted a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, yesterday and on the occasion issued a solemn warning about Western threats to nations of the former Soviet Union.
He spoke to the Council of the CSTO Parliamentary Assembly in a country that is on the front line of the destabilization emanating from Afghanistan. Afghan government troops have recently fled fighting with Taliban forces into Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In late April Tajikistan and neighboring Kyrgyzstan were embroiled in a deadly border conflict.
The CSTO was established after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. By 1993 the security alliance, described by some as a post-Soviet NATO, though that is hardly the case, included nine members: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Russia was and remains the dominant party in the group, much like the U.S. is in NATO. However, Azerbaijan and Georgia left the CSTO in 1999 and Uzbekistan ( a second time) in 2012. It has proven embarrassingly ineffectual, not supporting Russia in its war with Georgia in 2008 or Armenia from last year’s aggression by Azerbaijan and Turkey.
If words alone could preempt and resolve conflicts, those of the Belarusian parliamentarian would be of invaluable assistance in preventing the further, perhaps fatal, destabilization of the former Soviet Union. After expressing gratitude to his Tajik hosts, Andreichenko said:
“The constant escalation of East-West tensions, the rejection of multilateralism, the destruction of international arms control mechanisms…This is the harsh reality of today.NATO is defiantly ‘flexing its muscles’ on training grounds in Poland and the Baltic States, in close proximity to the western borders of the CSTO. The U.S. missile defense system in Europe is being systematically expanded. Substantive talks are underway about Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO. We understand what this means for the security of our countries.”
The CSTO could and should be the embryo of just the sort of alliance required to respond to NATO’s threat against its members’ borders and, with so-called interceptor missiles batteries near Russia’s and Belarus’ borders as mentioned above, threat to the very survival of those nations. However, its members – all of whom remain members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program except Russia – have demonstrated no resolve to make it such. It may now be dawning on Belarus that having abandoned fellow CSTO states Russia and Armenia in the past, it won’t receive much help from them when its turn comes – which appears to be now. Tajikistan, squeezed between Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, will not be far behind.
The Belarusian MP went on to describe the threat to his nation:
“The fundamental principles of international law are completely ignored by our opponents. Instead, they have turned to the methods of blatant pressure, sanctions and interference in internal affairs. The events around Belarus are a direct proof of this. Over the past year, we experienced the latest technologies of hybrid warfare – from attempts to destabilize the society from within to attempts to eliminate the head of state. It was a challenging time, but we held our ground. As we see, attempts to pressure Belarus do not stop. Under the guise of fictional interests of our people, the collective West has proceeded to economic strangulation of the country….”
He advocated the strengthening of the CSTO, including its military capabilities. The problem, however, is although it has an Article 4 comparable (indeed seemingly modeled after) NATO’s Article 5 –
“If one of the participating states is subjected to aggression (an armed attack threatening security, stability, territorial integrity and sovereignty), then this will be considered by the participating states as aggression (an armed attack threatening security, stability, territorial integrity and sovereignty) against all states – parties to this Agreement.”
That commitment exists only on paper. Now when at least two-thirds of its members are being threatened – Armenia, Belarus, Russia and Tajikistan – for that commitment to remain dormant is tantamount to collective suicide.
On the nature of the dangers that most immediately confront his own nation, though hardly it alone among CSTO member states, Andreichenko added:
“History does not forgive those who forget or denounce it. This topic will always be crucial for Belarus, as every third citizen of Belarus sacrificed his/her life for the sake of the Great Victory….[We] should not forget that revision of the war outcomes is just an element of a broader and more profound information war against our countries. Underestimating its destructive nature is fatally dangerous for the country’s territorial integrity and citizens who are dragged into ethnic, religious, or social conflicts. We are especially concerned that this war is waged aggressively, with the help of modem digital technologies and the latest solutions for psychological influence. In my opinion, we often fail to provide an appropriate response in time in this confrontation. In view of this, we need a robust information policy targeting all groups of the population, primarily the youth….”
Belarus recently exhibited the political good sense to withdraw from the European Union’s Eastern Partnership initiative that was launched to lure former Soviet republics in Europe and the Caucasus not already in the European Union and NATO (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) into the Brussels-based blocs, and thereby isolate Russia from the rest of historical Russia and effect a cordon sanitaire between it and Europe. It was Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s unwillingness to commit to an association agreement under the auspices of that program seven years ago that led to his government being overthrown in a violent, Western-orchestrated coup and his nation being plunged into endless war.
The Belarusian parliamentarian’s warnings may have been sounded too late. But they nevertheless warrant attention and acknowledgement…and to the extent possible action.