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Belarus’ chair in CSTO unlikely to lead to breakthrough

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October 17, 2016 11:25
Official website of the president of Kazakhstan

At the CSTO summit in Yerevan, Belarus was inaugurated as the CSTO chair. Before the summit, Alexander Lukashenka talked about the intention to develop the organisation and to propel it to the next level. Apparently, the Belarusian president has inflated expectations. The Belarusian chairmanship in the CSTO is unlikely to produce significant results and is unlikely to differ from chairs in other post-soviet organisations due to the iconic nature of such chairmanship.

The CSTO, similar to other post-Soviet integration projects, is basing on the Russian patronage. Conventionally, Russia’s ‘junior partners’ aim to achieve maximum benefits from participation in Russia-led associations without actually committing.

It is worth noting that Russia bears 95-96% of the defence costs of the CSTO member-states. Since military potential of the CSTO member states is incomparable, Russia is the main driver of the organisation. However, whether her leadership is effective is a good question. Over the past five years, Russia has repeatedly attempted to initiate control over military capacity of other participating states and to re-equip the CSTO Rapid Reaction Collective Forces to counteract NATO. However, her initiatives were never implemented. Moreover, Russia did not even receive the moral support when a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian bomber during the Syrian campaign. In addition, Armenia was left alone during the recent deterioration in Nagorno-Karabakh.

That said, Belarus is unlikely to give an impetus to the CSTO development, provided, that even Russian is unable to ensure solidarity among the CSTO members. Moreover, the CSTO per se is of no interest for the Belarusian authorities. Belarus’ membership in the Organization is primarily a demonstration of the political loyalty to the Kremlin in exchange for economic benefits. Theoretically, Russia and Belarus could resolve all issues of mutual interest within the framework of bilateral cooperation in the defence field. The Belarusian chairmanship in the CSTO is iconic and has a mere propaganda value. Minsk is likely to put forward ambitious initiatives within the CSTO, it being understood that they have a negligible chance to be implemented.


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