The strength of the CSTO is being tested by internal conflicts
Despite the enthusiasm of official declarations, the CSTO cannot be considered to guarantee the security of its participants. Bilateral relations with Russia remain a central but not decisive pillar of military security for all member states, including Belarus.
The de facto two-day war between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan again demonstrates the lack of solidarity and sharp contradictions between post-Soviet states. Despite its short duration, the conflict engulfed several areas of both countries, with an intensity resulting in at least 23 deaths and more than 230 wounded. Both parties fired mortars and redeployed armoured vehicles and helicopters to the conflict area. Although a ceasefire agreement is currently holding, the willingness of Bishkek and Dushanbe to seek compromise is uncertain.
The Kyrgyz and Tajik authorities reached a ceasefire agreement without mediation by Moscow, although the Kremlin expressed its willingness to take on such a role. Meanwhile, the CSTO hopes for the best without taking any tangible steps to resolve such conflicts between members, presumably because no such action is requested. This serves to further undermine the already feeble authority of the organisation.
Previously, Belarusian-Armenian disagreements regarding the post of Secretary-General of the CSTO left the organisation leaderless for 14 months, while during the recent Second Karabakh War, the CSTO and Russia ignored attacks on Armenian territory by Azerbaijan leaving their notional ally isolated.
The devaluation of the CSTO is a consequence of Russia's inability and unwillingness to call for solidarity between its formal allies, each of which prefers to build relations with Moscow on a bilateral basis rather than within multilateral structures.
No reliable multilateral mechanisms for ensuring military security in the post-Soviet space exist. Belarus cannot ignore the fact that Russia's position is often ambiguous. Still, until the political crisis caused by the falsifications during the 2020 presidential elections and the subsequent mass repressions are resolved, Minsk will have no other option than zealous alignment with Moscow. There are no other multilateral bodies to coordinate military security other than the CSTO, but this state of affairs cannot be satisfactory, even for the ruling regime.