Following exercises in the southern Ural mountains just weeks ago, Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have now moved their activity to the north of Kyrgyzstan, in the neighbourhood of Russia’s military base near the town of Kant. Drills in the area are to last from July 29 till August 1. It could be suggested that insinuations that the Ural drills were an indirect signal that Russia would not hesitate to mobilise its Central-Asian allies in case of a confrontation with western-backed Ukraine have motivated the CSTO alliance to demonstrate that Afghanistan rather than Ukraine has priority in attempts to shield themselves from external threats.
“Members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Russian-led security alliance of former-Soviet republics, launched on Tuesday joint military drills on a firing range in Kyrgyzstan, Itar-Tass reported [http://en.itar-tass.com/world/742692] on July 29 referring to observations by the organization’s secretary general. “Considering the present-day realities, when various terrorist organizations carry out destructive activities, it is highly important to develop interaction between military mechanisms of the CSTO members,” CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha was quoted as saying while addressing the opening ceremony of the drills.
“The CSTO, which is comprised of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, regularly holds military drills on the territories of its member states and the current exercise, codenamed Enduring Brotherhood-2014, is held at Kyrgyzstan’s Ala-Too firing range near the capital of Bishkek,” the report explained. “Asanbek Alymkozhoyev, the chief of the Kyrgyz General Staff, said addressing the opening ceremony that ‘particular attention in the course of the current drills would be paid to peace maintenance in the Central Asia by means of collective peacekeeping units from the CSTO.’ The high-ranking Kyrgyz military official added that the active phase of the exercise had been scheduled for August 1, which is also the closing day of the antiterrorism drills. Belarus and Tajikistan are represented at the exercise by operative groups and peacekeeping platoons, while Russia has put up commanding post staff and 60-men-strong task force. Kazakhstan sent to the drills an operative group, a battalion, an air assault company, an engineer platoon, a medical platoon and combat aviation. Armenia is represented by an operative group and an infantry platoon and hosts Kyrgyzstan provided for the drills a mountain infantry battalion and combat aviation. Last year the post-Soviet security organization held a total of six large-scale military exercises. The largest of them, codenamed Zapad -2013 (West-2013) was held last September in Belarus. Zapad military drills are held biannually since 2009 and last year’s six-day exercise involved up to 13,000 military servicemen from Russia and Belarus, some 350 armored combat vehicles, including 40 tanks, over 50 aircraft as well as warships from the Russian Baltic Fleet.”
In an earlier interview, the Kyrgyz chief commander explained how real he thought the danger from Afghanistan could be, including the risk that the tragic events of 1996/’97 could repeat themselves. “The CSTO exercises in Kyrgyzstan, of course, are systematic, and they are also held in readiness of our troops in Kyrgyzstan and CSTO to counter security threats,” the Kyrgyz state news agency [http://www.kabar.kg/eng/society/full/10544] quoted General Alymkozhoev as telling a press conference in Bishkek. “Presidential elections almost failed. They agree among themselves who of them will become president. The situation is complicated. After the withdrawal of NATO troops, the Taliban will raise the head. In this regard, there can be complications on the southern borders of the CSTO, ” The commander appeared to be of the opinion that should the Taliban come to power, representatives of the current government will be destroyed and killed. “They will run away respectively from Afghanistan to any party, including the territory of the CSTO member states, ” said Alymkojoev.
If other allies agree with Alymkozhoev’s observaations, or in a worse case if they appear to come true where Afghanistan is concerned, drastic measures on military and paramilitary levels will have to be taken to stem the tide and save whatever security Central Asia has secured for itself so far. A few military exercises every now and then will not be enough to create an effective buffer against attempts by Taliban activists to undermine Afghanistan’s neighbours to the north. This could mean that the People’s Republic of China joins the CSTO, without which the alliance has little chance to gain enough clout.
This, in turn, would mean the first proactive, and permanent, strategic cooperation between Russia and its allies and China ever since the break-up of the short-lived alliance during the early years of the People’s Republic. Should countries such as India, Thailand and Vietnam join the camp in any form, Japan and South-Korea are bound to become geographically and politically isolated. It all comes down to the rather bizarre conclusion that a country like Afghanistan, which has neither political nor economic clout in the world, could become a major key to a major shift in world politics all the same, with the Russian Federation breaking its current chains imposed by the rebellious government of Ukraine, should such a synergy between the Eurasian Economic Union, the CSTO and the Shanghai Security and Cooperation Organisation, now a paper tiger but with the potential to take tangible shape, become a reality.