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 have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.