CSTO Transform Itself into a Police Force
CSTO Transform Itself into a Police Force
Ozodlik Radio, January 13, 2022
The official Tashkent has so far kept silent about the statement made by the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who called upon Uzbekistan to “learn lessons from the events in Kazakhstan.”
On January 10, speaking at an extraordinary summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said that “the views [of the organizers of the unrest in Kazakhstan] can be projected on Uzbekistan” and called on the official Tashkent to “learn lessons from the events in the neighbouring country”.
On January 11, in response to the journalist’s question whether Moscow is supporting the “advice” of the Belarusian leader, the Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia is not participating in the discussion of this topic.
“This is a topic for communication between Minsk and Tashkent,” the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Peskov as saying.
Independent experts from Uzbekistan and social media users regard Lukashenka’s words as a “threat” and “a call for Uzbekistan to join the CSTO.”
As a well-known Uzbek expert Alisher Ilkhamov writes, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which sent its troops to Kazakhstan on January 6, thereby re-established itself into a police force.
“In Kazakhstan, the CSTO was involved for the first time, not as a defensive alliance, – he said, – but as a police structure. Thus, a precedent has been laid, and most likely, in the future, the organization will continue to act this way, performing police functions.
But it is precisely in this capacity that it represents a value for the authoritarian ruling regimes in the region of Central Asia, especially in situations of power crises and mass protests. Thus, a new reality is being created, a kind of a two-tier system for protecting authoritarian rulers from domestic revolutions and unrests.
The Kremlin has realized the value of this new CSTO mandate for strengthening its political control over the former Soviet republics since the organization’s (read Russian) military assistance will not be given for free but in exchange for loyalty.
This creates a new argument to convince Mirziyoyev to join this organization, since he, as an authoritarian ruler, is an interested client of such kind of police services. That is why a new campaign of pressure on Tashkent was to be launched to force him to change his position regarding this organization. And in this campaign, the Kremlin entrusted the role of messenger to Lukashenka, who had himself barely survived the autumn of mass protests last year, which made his chair wobble back then.
I’m afraid that Mirziyoyev may not be able to resist these arguments and pressure as he faces the challenge of extending his term of office indefinitely, beyond the current, second presidential term. The longer he stays in power, the higher the likelihood of a power crisis and the growth of the protest movement in the country will be, as the example of Kazakhstan has shown. That is why, most likely, he will not be able to resist the temptation to use the help of the CSTO to maintain his power.
At the same time, in the short term, Uzbekistan is unlikely to face the prospect of such mass protests as in Kazakhstan. Mirziyoyev has just begun his second term and is still diligently working to maintain his legitimacy in the eyes of society. But in the longer term, he may be interested in the help of CSTO as a police structure. That said, the accession process, if Mirziyoyev decides to go ahead with it, may drag on for several years and be completed by the end of the current presidential term,” writes Alisher Ilkhamov.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization was established in 1992 in Tashkent by several countries of the former USSR as a military-political union. At different times, it included from 6 to 9 states. In 1999, Uzbekistan, then under the rule of Islam Karimov, left the CSTO, but in 2006, after the events in Andijan, he was again forced to join back, to leave it again in 2012. In the Concept of Foreign Policy of the Republic of Uzbekistan adopted in the same year, Uzbekistan announced that it would not participate in any military-political blocs. Now the CSTO members are Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia.