in the face of Growing domestic unrest and apparent uncertainty On the loyalty of law enforcement and military forces, Kazakhstan’s president has turned to the Russia-dominated security coalition for help.
Within hours, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, announced its readiness to accept a plea for aid.
As of Thursday, planeloads of Russian elite airborne units were flying over Kazakhstan. Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Shukrat Nurishev said 2,500 CSTO peacekeepers would be deployed.
This is the first time that the CSTO has been involved in an active campaign.
What is CSTO?
The Collective Security Treaty Organization was formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
In addition to Russia, it includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Despite its name, the block has struggled at times to define its exact purpose. The failure to engage in several security woes among its members over the years has led security analysts to question its viability.
Last spring, two members, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, engaged in a messy and bloody border dispute.
The CSTO looked on impatiently.
Instead the bloc’s focus is on increasing preparedness for a potential spillover from Afghanistan, which shares a long border with Tajikistan. Russia has about 7,000 troops stationed in that country.
Why did Kazakhstan support the CSTO?
In a bid to legitimize his plea for external military help, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on television late Wednesday that the unrest was being perpetrated by “international terrorist groups”.
This framework was important because the CSTO was explicitly designed to protect member states from external aggression.
However, it is not clear which outside groups are reportedly causing problems in Kazakhstan.
The current crisis began with peaceful protests earlier this week over the sudden hike in car fuel prices.
As large rallies began across the country, and violence erupted in the country’s commercial capital, Almaty, reports emerged in some places that law enforcement eased to suppress gatherings, which is normal protocol in Kazakhstan.
This has fueled speculation that Tokayev, who became president in 2019, was nervous about the loyalty of his security apparatus.
What is CSTO Mission?
The Russian Defense Ministry says its troops are being sent to Kazakhstan on 70 Ilyushin-57 and five AN-124 heavy transport aircraft. Russian military transport will also bring troops from Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia.
Russia’s constituent forces are being drawn up from units specially trained for quick response tasks: the 45th Guards Special Purpose Brigade, the 98th Guards Airborne Division and the 31st Separate Guards Order.
A group of soldiers from the 98th Guards Airborne Division were captured by the Ukrainian Armed Forces while apparently involved in covert military operations in the war in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Russia claimed that they had crossed the border by mistake.
The mission in Kazakhstan will be led by 59-year-old Andrei Serdyukov, overall commander of the Russian Airborne Troops.
How do the Kazakhs view the participation of the CSTO?
The sight of Russian soldiers patrolling the streets of their country will arouse deep bilateral feelings among the Kazakhs.
Kazakhstan is a close and loyal ally of Moscow and sentiments towards Russia are generally positive.
Still, there is intense concern over Russia’s historically aggressive behavior toward its neighbors.
The Kremlin cited alleged concerns over the persecution of ethnic Russians in Ukraine when it annexed Crimea in 2014.
Kazakhstan, whose lands were annexed by the Russian Empire during the 19th century, has a large ethnic Russian population in its northern regions, and nationalist politicians in Moscow regularly talk about the need to intervene one day. Huh.
In an interview with the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zass ridiculed that the bloc’s troops were a cover for imposing Russian authority on Kazakhstan.
“There’s some ambiguity about how this is an invasion or something,” he said.
“Well, I’m sorry, this is totally stupid.”
Tokayev will still have to face questions from his own people whether his eagerness to welcome foreign troops has not undermined Kazakhstan’s sovereignty. Whether attacked or not, damage has been done.
How long will the CSTO personnel last?
As long as it takes, Zass told RIA Novosti. It can also mean days or weeks. The official position is that Kazakhstan has only words to say and the CSTO troops will leave.
Russian troops have already been deployed at the airport in Almaty, where the most serious unrest has occurred.
However, Nurishev, the deputy foreign minister, said that in total about 2,500 CSTO troops were being stationed in Kazakhstan, with Russian media reporting 3,000 troops between Russia’s missions alone.
Kazakhstan’s government said on Friday that “constitutional order” had been restored throughout the country, but unrest still raged in Almaty.