CSTO evolves into the Holy Alliance of post-Soviet autocracies
Yet another bargaining stage between the CSTO states has ended. The parties have come to a common conclusion that they need to counteract jointly internal political instability in the participating states. Economic challenges and growth in protest moods in the CSTO states have prompted them to such an agreement.
At the informal CSTO Summit held in Bishkek last week, Belarus resumed full-scale activity within the framework of the Organization. For instance, she stopped blocking the appointment of an Armenian representative as the new CSTO Secretary General.
Earlier, the appointment of the new Armenian CSTO SG was blocked twice. In October 2016, Nursultan Nazarbayev did not take part in the Summit under the pretext of being ill. In December 2016, a quorum could not be secured due to the absence of Lukashenka, who did not provide an excuse. Clearly, in addition to the symbolic gesture of support for Azerbaijan, a strategic partner for Kazakhstan and Belarus, sabotaging the new CSTO Secretary General appointment has become an outward manifestation of the behind-the-scenes negotiations among Minsk, Astana and Moscow.
Arguably, the CSTO member states have united in order to counteract the so-called "colour revolutions". Namely, Vladimir Putin, after meetings with the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus, said that Russia would assist the CSTO states in retaining domestic political stability. The CSTO autocracies (4 of 6 participating states) deny the right and capacity for their citizens to publicly protest and change the government, believing that such an action could only be prompted from the outside. "Colour revolutions" are regarded as a complex instrument of external aggression by non-military means.
Clearly, the CSTO has not materialised into a full-fledged military alliance. And, as it often happens in the post-Soviet space, it has found a different niche, evolving into a modern analogue of the Holy Alliance of European Absolutist Monarchies of the 19th century. That said, this has ended the ambitions of the CSTO leadership to acquire international legal personality for the organisation. Further, the CSTO is likely to focus on ensuring internal security of political regimes in the participating states, evolving into a gendarmerie rather than a military union.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.