Explained: What is CSTO, the organization that helps the President of Kazakhstan deal with protesters

At the beginning of January 6, Russian paratroopers and Belarusian special forces boarded the plane to Almaty, One of the largest metropolis of Kazakhstan. The oil rich country of 19 million people has seen Mass unrest at the start of the new year On the government’s decision to end subsidy on liquefied petroleum gas.

Though the decision was taken three years back, fuel prices became completely market based on January 1. The price of LPG, which many Kazakhs use instead of petrol or diesel to power their cars, soon soared, doubling from 60 ten ($0.14) per liter late last year in some places to 120 by January 2. Tang is gone. Protests immediately broke out in Xanaozhen and it didn’t take long for them to spread across the vast country, snowballing from a specific complaint about fuel prices to widespread demands for regime change.

When things started to get out of hand, the country’s president, Kassym-Zomart Tokayev, appealed to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for help. It is this group’s soldiers who began storming the nation to quell protests that threatened the very existence of the regime that has ruled the Central Asian country since it became an independent republic in 1991.

So, what is the Collective Security Treaty Organization?

When the Cold War ended in 1991, the Warsaw Pact, a coalition of eight socialist states and the Soviet Union’s response to NATO, disbanded. Less than a year later, Russia and five of its allies in the Commonwealth of Independent States, which were nothing more than a loose club of post-Soviet countries, signed a new Collective Security Treaty, which was signed in 1994. implemented in

Although it was not as powerful as the Warsaw Pact, in 2002, as Central Asia grew into geopolitics – the US had invaded Afghanistan the previous year – it declared itself the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a full-fledged military alliance. Today it has six members: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan left the coalition in 2012.

Peacekeepers board Russian military planes at an airfield outside Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan on Friday. (Photo: AP)

However, the ambitions of the CSTO have grown over the past decade. In 2007, it agreed to create a 3,600-strong peacekeeping force and two years later, it established a rapid reaction force comprising 20,000 elite personnel who have been put on high alert. The coalition has also conducted joint exercises, including a series of high-profile “counter-terrorism” exercises last summer and autumn in response to the growing chaos in Afghanistan.

This week, however, was the first time that the organization invoked Article 4, which is similar to Article 5 of NATO. Article 5 states that the armed forces may be involved in the response, but it does not mandate it. NATO actually promises to take “such action as it deems necessary” to restore and maintain security. It can be anything from nuclear war to strong diplomatic opposition.

Military vehicles of Russian peacekeepers wait to be uploaded onto Russian military aircraft at an airfield in Russia on Friday. (Photo: AP)

The CSTO invoked Article 4 due to the growing chaos in Kazakhstan as the president blamed foreign-trained “terrorist gangs” for the protests. Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who holds the rotating chair of the CSTO, said the group had agreed to send peacekeepers. In addition to Russia and Belarus, Tajikistan and Armenia also agreed to send contingents.

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Russia’s growing influence

For Russia, the CSTO is a useful tool to strengthen its hold on Central Asia against both Western and Chinese encroachments. It justifies Russian military facilities in member states, while giving Russia a veto over any other foreign bases in the region. In return, CSTO members benefit from cooperation with Russia’s advanced armed forces, which includes training and subsidized arms sales.

Russian military aircraft ready to fly to Kazakhstan stand in an airfield. (Photo: AP)

President Vladimir Putin has long claimed that Kazakhstan, like Ukraine, is not a real country, but is instead part of the “greater Russian world”.

The coalition’s quick response could be a reassuring sign for the coalition’s other strongmen, including Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, who received Russian – but not the CSTO – aid last year against his own protesters, and Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan, who has been in power for 28 years. , In 2010, when Kyrgyzstan sought the group’s help to stem the outbreak of violence, Russia refused to step in. A decade later, and with the wars in Ukraine and Syria, Russian influence has only grown.

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