Armenia to leave the CSTO Russian military bloc? Opinion from Yerevan
In the CSTO military bloc, which allows members to assume leadership posts under a quota system, Armenia has abandoned its own quota for the post of Deputy Secretary General. This was confirmed by Foreign Ministry spokesman Vahan Hunanyan, who did not comment on the reasons for this decision by Yerevan.
This is the second controversial decision by Armenia concerning the bloc operating under the leadership of Russia this year. On January 10, the Prime Minister of Armenia announced that the country was refusing to conduct CSTO military exercises on its territory.
Political commentator Hakob Badalyan believes it is important to understand whether this decision is “the result of existing or new grievances.” He believes it is possible that in this way Armenia is making it clear that it does not want to take sides in the Russian-Ukrainian war.
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“These are not superficial problems”
In the context of a collapsing world order, security systems are changing significantly, Badalyan believes, and the CSTO was not a “strong, ideological alliance based on common interests.”
“Most of the states that are members of this bloc have no desire to take sides in the Russian-Ukrainian war. Here internal problems and aggravations also arise, which are expressed in different ways, including in the context of Armenia-CSTO relations,” he told JAMnews.
In addition to being involved in the ongoing war in Ukraine, Armenia has another rhetorical question for the CSTO — how ready are the members of the organization to take practical responsibility for Armenia, which of course means “against Azerbaijan”?
The members of the CSTO are Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The majority of Armenian society is disappointed that both Russia and the entire bloc operating under its auspices did not provide military assistance to the country, despite numerous appeals.
The country’s authorities have more than once openly expressed their claims that the CSTO is not ready to defend “the sovereign territory of Armenia from occupation by the armed forces of Azerbaijan”, to which the President of Belarus said that the members of the CSTO “have very strong ties with the Muslim state of Azerbaijan.” Ilham Aliyev himself said that in this organization “Azerbaijan has more friends than Armenia.”
Badalyan does not believe that Armenia will have to “pay dearly” for the decision to abandon the post of the Deputy Secretary General, despite the “touchiness of Moscow.” In his opinion, it should be understood whether this issue is of great importance for other CSTO member countries or whether it has “little weight compared to deep issues.”
Badalyan believes that Armenia must find out “what prospects of security architecture we are creating for ourselves.”
“It’s impossible to get away completely”
Badalyan recalls that a few weeks ago, Alexander Lukashenko, at a meeting with the CSTO Secretary General, said that the members of the organization should develop a common position on the issue of Ukraine, as they would not be able to “sit quietly” and endlessly evade a decision.
In his view, Russia considers Belarus a “resource of possible war scenarios.” And Lukashenko, who has no desire to get involved in a war, is trying to achieve “collective resistance” through the CSTO countries, to form a “field for maneuver”:
“Perhaps, in this situation, Yerevan is simply trying not to be represented in such discussions, even at the level of deputy secretary general, in order to avoid direct or indirect responsibility. Of course, it will not be possible to completely move away from all this, because we are a member of the CSTO. And if the issue reaches the organization, it will affect us one way or another.”
“Withdrawal from the CSTO – an extreme scenario”
According to Badalyan, despite all the discontent, Armenia declares that it is not going to leave the CSTO.
In his opinion, the possibility of such an extreme measure as Armenia’s withdrawal from the CSTO or, what amounts to the same, a break in relations with Russia, is doubtful:
“If we are not able to withstand the challenges and risks in the status of a member of the CSTO, then by refusing this status, we are unlikely to get the opportunity to solve any significant problem.”
Badalyan considers allegations that Armenia will receive military support from the West if it leaves the CSTO a “delusion or deliberately manipulative assessment”:
“In the issue of our security, the West has set a very clear bar of responsibility — to regulate relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey. Due to the existing risk factors, no one will take responsibility on our behalf. It will not provide the protection.”
Nor does he count on the active participation of the CSTO in ensuring the security of Armenia. He says that these illusions have long been dispelled.
“The current situation is beneficial to everyone”
According to Badalyan, in the current situation Armenia and Russia manage to resolve some issues, some being postponed. He says that this is not about behind-the-scenes agreements, but about “tacit consensus”:
“Yerevan expresses its dissatisfaction and is pleased with it. Russia does not interfere, does not use the CSTO as a tool, and it has no problems with Azerbaijan. Other CSTO member states are also satisfied, who, again, do not get involved in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, because it is not in their interests.”
Behind the scenes, according to Badalyan, lies the crisis of the world order that existed before and the collapse of security systems, which is also observed in the CSTO — a bloc that has never been an integral, stable security system.
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