Stanislav Zas: In the Republic of Kazakhstan, the CSTO has sent a signal to the whole world - we do not leave allies behind30.05.2022
The Collective Security Treaty Organization Secretary General spoke about whether its expansion was possible and how the relationship with NATO would be built
Author: Nikita Vyatchanin
Stanislav Zas © Photo by Sergey Rusanov
The CSTO is considering the possibility of deploying a peacekeeping contingent of the Organization outside its area of responsibility, if there is a UN mandate and consent of all member States. Stanislav Zas, the Collective Security Treaty Organization Secretary General, spoke about this in an interview with our publishing house.
- Stanislav Vasilievich, this year the CSTO is celebrating a double anniversary: the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the Organization itself. What is the CSTO today?
- Over the years of its existence, the Collective Security Treaty Organization has transformed itself into an influential multifunctional structure. Today it effectively operates in three priority areas: foreign policy coordination, military cooperation and countering challenges and threats.
The CSTO has a clear structure consisting of statutory, permanent and subsidiary bodies. The highest body is the Collective Security Council, which consists of the heads of state or government of the CSTO member States. In addition, there is a multilevel system of regular or urgent consultations of the Organization's States. And to fix coordinated positions and promote collective interests in the international arena, joint statements of CSTO states are adopted.
The main task of military cooperation is to ensure the collective security of the countries of the Organization - the necessary sufficiency of the forces and means is maintained for this purpose. And we have military, police and civilian personnel dedicated to peacekeeping tasks. I would like to emphasize that our peacekeeping contingent has been established in accordance with all UN requirements.
In order to respond quickly and effectively to contemporary challenges and threats, the CSTO is constantly improving the anti-terrorist component of the collective security system, developing mechanisms to counter drug trafficking and migration, protect the information space, cooperate in protecting state borders, and provide humanitarian assistance to the population in emergency situations.
- The mission to the Republic of Kazakhstan was the first time that the CSTO troops were involved in resolving a major crisis. How do experts assess this operation?
- The opinion of political and military experts, both in the member States and many outside experts, is unambiguous: the operation was a success. First of all, the promptness of the action draws attention: the urgent online consultations of the heads of the member States took place immediately after receiving a request from the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. It took only a few hours from the end of the consultations and the political decision to conduct the operation to the departure of the first units of peacekeepers.
In the area of the operation our servicemen acted professionally: clearly and coherently - just as they had practiced in the joint trainings. They accomplished all the tasks assigned to them. The actions of the Collective Peacekeeping Forces were highly commended by the leadership of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the CSTO Collective Security Council. I hope that the course and results of this mission will send a clear signal to everyone: we will not leave our ally alone with provocateurs and criminals.
- The decision to conduct a peacekeeping mission in the Republic of Kazakhstan was unanimously adopted by the leaders of the CSTO member States. Do the countries of the Organization always manage to find consensus on important issues?
- There is complete mutual understanding between the CSTO States on fundamental issues related to the strengthening of peace and stability in the Organization's area of responsibility. And this is a good basis for developing common approaches to solving many important international problems. There is a clear understanding that weakening the security of any CSTO State automatically means weakening the security of all others.
At the same time, our Organization is an association of six independent states with equal rights. At all levels of the CSTO there are responsible people, professionals who are able both to defend their point of view and to take into account the arguments of their partners. Therefore, respect for any position of an ally has always been part of our political tradition. I should note that the history of the CSTO is a history of open, interested and at times tense discussions. This is usually the case with true friends and partners in difficult but extremely important work.
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- After the peacekeeping operation in the Republic of Kazakhstan, the CSTO was perhaps for the first time mentioned as a real force that is ready to compete with (and, if necessary, confront) NATO. Can the CSTO be considered a counterweight to NATO?
- In the charter documents of our Organization - primarily the Treaty, the Charter and the Collective Security Strategy to 2025 - NATO has never been mentioned as an adversary. Moreover, representatives of the leadership of the CSTO member States have always supported the idea of building a system of interaction involving all countries and blocs interested in strengthening peace and stability. Such an approach was due to the fact that many problems in this area have long ago acquired a global character and require an appropriate response.
On the other hand, NATO is currently in fact pursuing a hostile policy towards a number of countries of our Organization. We are closely monitoring the alliance's steps and will act strictly in accordance with the provisions of the charter documents and the decisions of the CSTO's highest body, the Collective Security Council. I want to stress - the CSTO is not engaged in the search for enemies. And drawing dividing lines is not our choice.
- The CSTO is an Organization that brings together the considerable political and power capabilities of six states with a total population of close to 200 million people. At the same time, Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a leading nuclear power. How rationally are the capabilities of the Organization used?
- The member States are in constant contact with each other and discuss the CSTO's activities and ways of development in various formats. For example, in addition to meetings of heads of state and ministries, which are widely covered in the media, the Organization's Secretariat and Joint Staff regularly hold meetings of the permanent representatives of the six countries and expert consultations in various fields. There is not, and cannot be, any discussion vacuum or thematic gaps in the CSTO. All issues - primarily those concerning the use of its potential - are discussed openly and in detail.
The main indicator of the effectiveness of our work is the state of collective security and the level of protection of our countries and their citizens. And by and large the CSTO is coping with these tasks. At the same time, we definitely have issues that require special attention, as our leaders talked about during the Moscow summit in May 2022. They concern, in particular, greater consistency in approaches and actions. Specific areas include strengthening the functions of analysis and forecasting. Additional efforts on these tracks will allow us to better understand the nuances of the situation, and to more rapidly develop responsive measures. In addition, the CSTO should be more active in biological security issues.
- What is the role of interparliamentary cooperation in CSTO activities?
- The Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization functions in the CSTO format. This structure does a lot of work to bring together and harmonize the legislations of the member States. By the way, on June 6 the meeting of the Council of the Parliamentary Assembly consisting of the heads of the parliaments (chambers of parliaments) will be held in Yerevan with my participation. During the meeting it is planned to consider a number of important issues concerning the activity of our Organization.
- Who do the CSTO see as its main international partners?
- The ability to combine capabilities and work together in today's world remains a critical factor in achieving goals. In this sense, cooperation with international forces capable of contributing to the strengthening of security in Eurasia is certainly very valuable for us. The CSTO maintains an intensive dialogue with a large number of associations and individual states. However, of paramount importance to us is interaction with the UN, the OSCE, as well as the SCO and the CIS, including their anti-terrorist structures - the SCO RATS and the CIS ATC.
I would like to draw attention to the fact that in 2004 the CSTO was granted an Observer status at the UN General Assembly, and the principle of strict compliance with its charter is enshrined in the founding documents of the CSTO. In turn, the UN views our Organization as an important regional partner. In particular, the General Assembly periodically adopts updated resolutions on the development of bilateral cooperation, and a UN Security Council meeting in February of this year with the participation of the two Secretaries General was devoted to this very topic. In May, I had a very informative discussion with the SCO Secretary General Zhang Ming on a wide range of relevant issues.
- Are there plans to expand the CSTO in the near future? Are there any countries with which such negotiations are under way?
- The legal framework of the Organization provides for the procedure for new states to join it. In accordance with Article 19 of the charter, any country that shares the goals, objectives and principles of the CSTO and is ready to undertake the corresponding obligations may apply for membership. The legal institution of CSTO Partners and Observers has also been formalized: states and international organizations that share our views and goals have the opportunity to obtain this status and participate in the implementation of common security tasks taking into account their interests.
At the moment we are not negotiating with anyone. At the same time, we have organized the work within the Organization and the algorithm of cooperation with external partners so that we confidently control the situation in our area of responsibility.
- The State Duma passed a law ratifying a protocol on amendments to the CSTO Peacekeeping Agreement. The document creates legal conditions for the participation of the CSTO Collective Forces in operations under the auspices of the UN. It was previously reported that the Organization has for many years prevented the participation of the CSTO peacekeepers outside its area of responsibility. What will happen now?
- The states of our Organization independently build their foreign policy strategies and determine the nature of relations with other countries and international organizations. The CSTO has no authority, and has never sought to influence these kinds of decisions made in capitals. Another thing is that there is a clear understanding in CSTO countries that collective participation in political and military-political processes, including peacekeeping missions, often provides additional advantages. It is for this reason that the CSTO peacekeeping units regularly conduct joint trainings and theoretical training, mastering the best methods for carrying out tasks in their profile. And the level of training and coordination of these units was demonstrated in January of this year in the Republic of Kazakhstan.
At the same time, the CSTO is still considering the possibility of deploying a peacekeeping contingent of the Organization outside its area of responsibility with the consent of all member States and under a UN mandate. Incidentally, at the end of 2021, a CSTO delegation visited the UN mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL), where representatives of the CSTO member States – the Republics of Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan - are also serving.
- What are the current challenges and threats most relevant to the CSTO and what are the prospects for neutralizing them?
- Quite recently, when analyzing the challenges and threats to the security of the Organization's States, we listed the conflict zones that exist near the borders of our countries - the activation of NATO in Central and Eastern Europe, the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the risks associated with the situation in Afghanistan. Today, we can regretfully state the crisis of the world security system as such: the agreements that existed for decades are virtually no longer effective and the level of distrust among a number of leading players has reached a critical point. At the same time, the regional challenges and threats mentioned above have not only not lost their acuteness, but, due to the growing global uncertainty, tend to become more acute.
The CSTO principled position remains the same: we are convinced of the need for a political settlement of all existing contradictions and call upon all forces on which the state of international security depends. At the same time, we are taking all necessary measures to strengthen peace and stability in the member States of the Organization and are ready to protect their interests 24/7.
Read more in the Parlamentskaya Gazeta: https://www.pnp.ru/politics/stanislav-zas-v-kazakhstane-odkb-podala-signal-vsemu-miru-soyuznikov-my-...