CIS: BUILDING A COLLECTIVE SECURITY SYSTEM

Sergey MINASIAN


Sergey Minasian, Ph.D. (Hist.), lecturer at the Russian-Armenian (Slavic) State University World Politics and International Relations Department, research associate with the Armenian National Academy of Sciences Institute of History (Erevan, Armenia)


Formation of a collective security system in the post-Soviet area began with the breakup of the Soviet Union and creation of the CIS. Thus, on 14 February, 1992, it was decided to establish the Council of Defense Ministers and the Main Command of the CIS Joint Armed Forces (JAF), and on 20 March, 1992, an agreement on the JAF for a transition period was signed. So an attempt was made to preserve a unified defense area and to reform the former Soviet military as a unified CIS military. Nonetheless, many FSU republics at the same time began to form their own national militaries. This in effect led to a divvying-up and nationalization by the newly independent states of Soviet military assets, equipment, and property deployed in their territory. Then a treaty on quotas to the CFE Treaty was signed in Tashkent.

Thus, by May 1992, it became clear that a centralized CIS military under a single command could not be preserved. The main reasons for that were the strengthening of centrifugal forces, disintegration of the military command and control system, conflicts between FSU republics, and a number of other factors. At the same time the leadership of the majority of the republics was increasingly aware of the need for new, more effective forms and mechanisms of integration in the military-political sphere that would help put in place a more viable security system at far lower economic, scientific, and technical costs, and stop escalation of armed conflicts in the post-Soviet area.1 It was with these considerations in mind that, on 15 May, 1992, representatives of Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, in Tashkent, signed the Collective Security Treaty (CST)an example of a regional security organization formed in full compliance with the provisions of Art 52 of the U.N. Charter. Subsequently, it was joined by Azerbaijan (24 September, 1993), Georgia (9 December, 1993), and Belarus (3 January, 1994). The Treaty went into effect on 20 April, 1994, following the deposition of instruments of ratification by the signatory states.

It needs to be said here that the Treaty was originally conceived as a military component of the Commonwealth of Independent States, on the assumption that it would be joined by all CIS countries, becoming part of a general and comprehensive security system in Europe and Asia.

For a number of reasons, however, not all of the CIS states acceded to the Treaty. As a result, in the following decade, the process of military integration within both the CIS and the CST advanced with a varying degree of intensity and on a different scale. Since it proved impossible to preserve the JAF by reforming the former Soviet military, just as it was impossible to create new coalition forces at the time as the national armed forces of the newly independent states had yet to be formed, in September 1993 it was decided to reorganize the CIS JAF Main Command as Headquarters for Coordination of Military Cooperation between the CIS States (HCMC). Then, within the framework of military integration, a number of agreements were signed and new military-political agencies were put in place, designed to stimulate military cooperation between the signatory states. These include, among others, an agreement, signed on 10 February, 1995, on creating a unified air defense system with a coordinating committee as part of the Council of CIS Defense Ministers. Furthermore, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Military-Technical Committee, the Personnel and Indoctrination Committee, and a number of other agencies were established.2

Geopolitical stratification within the CIS, however, brought about a situation wherein the evolution of a unified security system in the post-Soviet area was marked by a trend toward multi-tier, multi-track integration (typical of the CIS in general), thus drastically diminishing the role of CIS military-political agencies in building a security system. The process of military integration gradually acquired a three-tier character: CIS-wide, within the CST framework, and on a bilateral level.

Even so, already at the initial stage, the military integration system showed its viability. Thus, thanks to the firmness of the JAF leadership, in mid-May 1992, Turkey was prevented from getting directly involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, thereby eliminating the threat of force being used against Armenia as a CST member state. Meanwhile, creation of the CIS JAF helped preserve some elements of a unified air defense and missile early warning and space control system3. The unified air defense system is, in fact, the first most effective and viable military-purpose system within the CIS framework, also including some non-CST member countries. According to the Russian Air Force press service, the CIS air defense system is now comprised of 31 antiaircraft missile units, 17 fighter aviation units, 23 electronic warfare sub-units, and three independent EW battalions.

It is also important to mention the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center whose role increased as the threat of Islamic terrorism grew, especially in the wake of the 11 September, 2001 events.

Finally, one of the most effective results of military cooperation within the framework of the CIS as a whole have been collective peacekeeping operations within the CIS. It should, of course, be borne in mind that the role of the CIS in organizing these operations has been rather moot. On the one hand, they are conducted either without any CIS participation, based on agreements with conflicting parties (the Dniester Region, South Ossetia) or under purely formal CIS auspices (Abkhazia, Tajikistan). In other words, the real influence of the CIS structures, including the CIS Heads of State Council, on these operations is at best insignificant. But on the other hand, CIS involvement in these operations ensures that they are brought in line with the basic requirements of international practice. Without CIS participation, even if purely formal, they would have turned into unilateral Russian actions in the territory of independent states, which, among other things, would have provoked a negative reaction from the international community.4

Despite the increasingly resounding statements about the ineffectiveness of the CIS collective forces in peacekeeping operations, today they are the only tool in preserving peace and stability on the line of contact between conflicting sides virtually across the CIS area (with the exception of Nagorno-Karabakh), even given that they are collective only on paper since they are manned in effect only by Russian military servicemen.5 Naturally, Russias active participation in peacekeeping operations to resolve armed conflicts in the FSU area has above all to do with the fact that Moscow sees these conflicts as a direct threat to its vital interests and even to its national security. Whereas the Russian Federation sent only one unarmed police officer to Somalia, one to Haiti and 1,200 military servicemen to Bosnia as part of international peacekeeping operations, by the late 1990s, it had approximately 16,000 peacekeepers in various parts of the CIS.6

The efforts to put in place a common security system within the CST framework appear to be far more effective. Thus, on 10 February, 1995, the Collective Security Council, its supreme political body, approved a collective security concept, laying down the main principles for interaction between the member states in the military-political sphere. In November of the same year, the Collective Security Treaty was officially registered at the U.N. Secretariat. The Treaty has been repeatedly invoked since 1996, in connection with threats by Islamic terrorists in Central Asia. By the late 1990s, however, CST member states came to the conclusion that it does not fully meet their security interests, citing contradictions between certain countriessay, Russia and Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In this context, in 1999, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan refused to prolong the CST.

Meanwhile, in Russia itself, which has always been the prime mover behind the entire security system in the CIS, there was a growing conviction that the future of the system could only lie within the framework of the CIS as well as its bilateral military-political contacts with CST member states. This position was finally presented in February 2001, in a statement by Sergey Ivanov, then secretary of the Russian Security Council, at the 37th International Security Conference in Munich. According to him, the Russian leadership had come to the conclusion that rapid transformation of the CIS as a full-fledged integration vehicle was impossible in the foreseeable future, and so the choice was made in favor of ensuring Russias national security interests, above all through furthering bilateral relations with CIS countries.7

Another factor was the creation, in CIS territory, of a new, alternative regional organizationGUUAM. Its attempts to emerge as a military-political bloc and create its own collective armed forces even if they pursue (on paper) such limited objectives as, say, resolution of humanitarian problems and protection of communication lines and pipelines, cannot but arouse concern among the CST member states. Not surprising, therefore, are statements such as the one by V. Trubnikov, first deputy foreign minister, to the effect that Russia will strongly object to attempts to introduce a military dimension into GUUAM activities.8

The Bishkek (October 2000), Erevan (May 2001), and jubilee Moscow (May 2002) sessions of the Collective Security Council were key to the future of the CST. In the course of the Bishkek meeting, the CST heads of state decided to establish three regional security sub-systems within the CST (European, Caucasian, and Central Asian), also signing an agreement on the legal status of collective security forces. Creation of regional security sub-systems within the CST was necessitated by the fact that the signatories (except Russia) did not see many security challenges on the regional level as direct threats to their national security and vital interests. Say, whereas the main national security threats to Central Asian states are Islamic terrorism and ethnic separatism, Belarus sees as such the whole complex of problems related to the NATO eastward expansion.9

In this context, it is noteworthy that Art 2 of the Protocol on the Procedure for the Formation and Operation of the Collective Security Forces and Assets of the CST Member States says in part: In the event of an act of aggression being committed against any one side, at the request of one or several sides, regional armed formations of one collective security region (district) may take part in repulsing this act of aggression (armed attack) in another collective security region (district) in conformity with the provisions of Arts 4 and 6 of the Treaty. So the creation of security sub-systems provides for both a more target-specific and effective response to regional threats and their close coordination within the framework of the entire collective security system.

The Erevan session of the Collective Security Council became a landmark in the advancement of military integration within the CST. For the first time in CST history, it was decided to form, on a multilateral basis, collective rapid reaction forces in Central Asia with the participation of Russian, Tajik, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz military units. Furthermore, it was agreed that collective rapid reaction forces headquarters would be based in Bishkek and that regional groups of forces would be formed in other sectorsEastern Europe and Caucasuson a bilateral basis.10 The collective force in the Caucasus is to comprise units of Russian Military Base No. 102 in Armenia as well as a part of the Fifth Army Corps of our republics armed forces. A similar regional group is to be formed in the East European sector, with the participation of units of Russian and Belarusian armed forces.

In May 2002, a jubilee session of the Collective Security Council was held in Moscow, timed for the 10th anniversary of the CST, which decided to reform the CST as an international regional organization: Organization of the Collective Security Treaty (OCST). By 1 July, 2002, a working group was formed on the level of deputy heads of the respective ministries and departments of the CST states with the participation of the CST secretary general, which, several months later, by November of the same year, drafted an array of documents regulating the activity of the organization and its agencies, based on the Treatys legal framework.

It is an open secret that no OCST member state except Russia is today in a position single-handedly to deal with threats to its security in the event of a large-scale armed aggression. Moreover, the present condition of the RF general-purpose forces also does not enable them to effectively respond not only to a large-scale act of military aggression but even to local conflicts. In this context, the so-called nuclear safeguards on the part of Moscow take on a paramount importance for all OCST member states in ensuring their national security. The revised national security concept and military doctrine of the Russian Federation played a very important role here. These fundamental documents state in no uncertain terms that Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in the event of an attack on it or its allies.11 Highly relevant to OCST member countries, including of course Armenia, are the provisions of the doctrine declaring Russias readiness, in the event of armed aggression, to use nuclear weapons also against non-nuclear statesin the event of an attack on the Russian Federation, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation or other troops, its allies or a state with which is has mutual security obligations, carried out or supported by a state that does not possess nuclear weapons, jointly or through allied obligations with a state possessing nuclear weapons.12

A deepening of bilateral military-technical and military-political cooperation of OCST member states could be instrumental in their closer integration. In this context, the decision on supplies of arms and military equipment between OCST states at preferential prices was very important.13

Another line of enhancing the OCSTs effectiveness and its ability to meet various threats and challenges is the creation and advancement of military infrastructure in OCST states, including the shared use of military logistics and infrastructure systems in their territories.

It is essential to complete a regulatory groundwork for a decision-making mechanism in using the forces and assets of the evolving collective security system and coordinating the efforts to ensure a prompt and effective response, above all in implementing Art 4 of the CST, providing for assistance to a state that has been subject to an act of armed aggression.14

Furthermore, it is necessary to finalize the creation of an interstate military command and control agency, based on the RF General Staff. Experts believe that it will essentially differ from the amorphous structure that the CIS Headquarters for Coordination of Military Cooperation has turned into. A new coalition force command and control system will exist within the framework of the RF General Staff Main Operations Directorate and will be manned by its career officers. The OCST Coalition Headquarters will exercise command and control of collective rapid deployment forces, regional staffs of coalition structures in the East European, Caucasian, and Central Asian sectors, and will closely interact with the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center, NATO headquarters, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, etc. The recent antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan showed that OCST states can effectively cooperate with the United States as well as with European and regional states in combating terrorism and other threats to peace and security.

Alongside the positive moments, however, it is necessary also to point to some problems and omissions, especially those of a conceptual character. This applies in particular to the definition of such concepts as collective security and collective defense.

The concept of collective defense presupposes formation of a regional system uniting states in a given region for joint defense against external aggression. Its basic elements are the existence of an enemy (or at least a common perception of external threats) and credible military crisis response structures and concepts. Classic examples of such systems are NATO and the former Warsaw Pact.15 The current status of military integration within the CIS shows that a viable option in this case would be a collective defense system that unites only some of the CIS countries and is designed to ensure joint defense against an external threat.

As for the concept of collective security, it refers to a system wherein all members of a given community renounce the use of force against each other and undertake to provide assistance to any member state that has been subject to attack by another member of this community.16 This system is, above all, inwardly orientedthat is to say, it is designed to address security problems within the system itself. At the same time, a collective security system can also comprise elements of collective defense. A case in point are the attempts to create a comprehensive security system within the framework of the League of Nations and the U.N., even though the lack of will in the world community and the shortage of effective tools give little hope that a global collective security system could be put in place in the foreseeable future. As far as a regional collective security system is concerned, probably the only successful example thereof today is the creation of such a system within the framework of the WEUs military-political structures.

How justified is the use of the term collective security with respect to the security system that has evolved within the CIS? Analysis of the main CIS documents and the performance by its member states shows that there is today considerable confusion over the concepts of collective defense and collective security. Thus the CST itself is a typical treaty on formation of a defensive alliance while its description in terms of collective security is nothing but a tribute to fashion for a certain international-political jargon. Meanwhile, the CIS Charter, adopted on 22 January, 1993, which also uses this notion, has to do with collective security only insofar as concerns a passage in Art 11 saying that member states will maintain security within the Commonwealth. Yet no article of the Charter provides a clear-cut explication as to whether the member states can take any measures in the event of armed aggression or a threat to the sovereignty, security, or territorial integrity of one CIS state on the part of another state.17 At the same time a security system that is being formed within the CIS should be designed to deal effectively with attempts by other states to use the breakup of the Soviet Union in their own interests while enabling the participating states to pursue a common policy to protect the rights of ethnic minorities in the post-Soviet area so as to lessen the likelihood of the escalation of ethnic conflicts.18

This said, it needs to be pointed out that the growing realization of the pernicious effects of armed conflicts in the CIS necessitated an elaboration of effective mechanisms to resolve these conflicts. In fact, the signing, and implementation, of an agreement on military observers and collective peacekeeping forces in the CIS as well as a concept on the prevention and settlement of conflicts were the first decisive steps toward formation of a credible collective security system within the CIS.

The concept of collective security is closely related to the concept of cooperative security. It has a number of variations, including one proposed by researchers at the Center for European Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (George C. Marshall Center). Their concept of cooperative security posits a synthesis of collective security and collective defense as well as the incorporation of a new element related to cooperation in handling new-generation conflictsstability projection. This new element is designed to ensure the resolution of security problems in the interest of all participants in the cooperative security system, including in areas adjacent to the cooperative security systems area of responsibility.19 According to Richard Cohen, one of the most well-known experts in the field, for the new security model (which he describes as a cooperation based security system) to be useful and effective, it should be oriented both inside and outside, comprising two additional dimensions, not envisioned in the concepts of collective security and collective defense. The first dimension should be based around the concept of individual security and the second, active provision and augmentation of stability (stability projection).20

At first glance, this concept appears fairly promising for practical application in the post-Soviet area. A closer examination, however, turns up one substantial shortfall. The concept of cooperative security, developed primarily by Western authors, was designed to suit NATO capabilities and the new European realities arising from the enlargement of the alliance. This is the most pronounced in the element of force projection to ensure common security, which is but yet another variation on humanitarian intervention, a theory widespread in the West, which naturally arouses doubts about its feasibility in the CIS in the foreseeable future.

Detailed analysis of these security schemes not being among the aims of the present article, it will be noted that, in the opinion of some Russian experts, certain elements of the cooperative security concept could be used to good effect in advancing the integration processes within the CIS, primarily within the CST framework. Say, more active support by CIS states of military reform in Russia should lead these countries to a greater involvement in reducing strategic offensive and conventional weapons and as a result, a direct interest in Russias having a sufficient deterrence capability to repel any possible adversary. This would make CIS countries more sensitive, than in a collective security set-up, to an erosion of Russias military capability. Another positive factor could be a rationale behind a common military-technical policy, vital in a common security environment to neutralize unilateral military advantages through the acquisition of unconventional weapons, primarily in the West, as well as to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the post-Soviet area.21

Summing up the aforementioned, there is good reason to say that the CIS has already forged a credible collective defense system, as represented by the OCST (true, it still does not quite measure up to the existing challenges and threats). As for a collective security system, only first attempts are being made to put it in place, and this process will be long and tortuous. Whereas formation of a collective defense system is in principle possible through legislative and regulatory acts, many Russian and Western experts believe that creation of an effective collective security system in the CIS, apart from a substantial legislative/regulatory base, will require a long and tortuous process of stage-by-stage integration in the political, socioeconomic, and cultural spheres by its participants. This will enable the regional security system to incorporate non-military elements, enhancing their role in safeguarding security by means other than the use of force. Western Europe shows that formation of a credible collective security system also requires a long process of transformation of the national security interests of participating states into collective interests.22

The decade that has passed since the Collective Security Treaty was signed provides a good base for summing up the results and assessing the present status of and prospects for military-political integration. Collective armed forces are in their formative stages with command and staff games and field exercises held annually both with the participation of all OCST member states and on a bilateral basissay, the exercises by Russian and Armenian armed forces at the Armavir military base. Some non-OCST CIS states, e.g., Ukraine and Uzbekistan, participate in air-defense exercises on a regular basis.23 The fact, however, is that defense integration within the CIS has led to, on the one hand, the creation of the OCST (a regional military-political organization) and on the other, a further deepening of contradictions and even conflicts between some CIS countries.

All of this, unfortunately, points to the conclusion that formation of a viable, credible collective security system within the CIS, comprising all of its member states and becoming part of a common security system in Europe and Asia, is still a distant prospect, despite some success stories in the field. One reason for its insufficient effectiveness could be that the elaboration of a conceptual foundation for a collective security system in the post-Soviet area has yet to be finalized. It is also essential to take into account that it would be wrong here to copy even the most successful mechanisms developed in the West, which have already proven themselves in Western Europe; instead, it is critical to continue the development of CIS-specific concepts in the security sphere.


1 See: L.G. Ivashov, A.N. Bulygin, Kollektivnaya bezopasnost v ramkakh Sodruzhestva Nezavisimykh Gosudarstv: sostoianiie i perspektivy obespecheniia, Voennaia mysl, No. 3, 1998, pp. 8-10.
2 See: P.N. ndreiev, Voenno-politicheskoie sotrudnichestvo gosudarstv SNG: etapy i osnovnyie napravleniia razvitiia, Voennaia mysl, No. 4, 2000, pp. 22-30.
3 See: L.G. Ivashov, A.N. Bulygin, op. cit., pp. 8-9; Iu. Bondarev, byedinennaia sistema PVO SNG, Krasnaia zvezda, 21 August, 2000.
4 See: A.I. Nikitin, O.N. Khlestakov, Iu.E. Fedorov, A.V. Demurenko, Mirotvorcheskiie operatsii v SNG, Moscow, 1998, p. 20.
5 See: V. Gavrilov, Mirotvorcheskiie operatsii v SNG, Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, 5 July, 2002.
6 See: D. Trenin, Russian and Western Interests in Preventing, Managing and Settling Conflicts in the Former Soviet Union, in: Commonwealth and Independence in Post-Soviet Eurasia, ed. by B. Coppieters, A. Zverev, D. Trenin, Portland, Or., London, 1998, p. 175.
7 Sovet Bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii [www.scrf.gov.ru].
8 See: Desiatiletiie Sodruzhestva Nezavisimykh Gosudarstv, zhdunarodnaya zhizn, No. 11, 2001, p. 13.
9 See: V. ukhin, Dogovor o kollektivnoi bezopasnosti obretaiet konkretnyie ochertaniia, Nezavisimaia gazeta, 19 October, 2000.
10 See: M. Khodarenok, Preimushchestva kollektivnoi bezopasnosti, Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, 6 July, 2001.
11 See: Kontseptsiia natsionalnoi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, 14 January, 2000.
12 See: Voennaia doktrina Rossiiskoy Federatsii, Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, 28 April, 2000.
13 See: S. Skut, Kreml mostit dorogi k oboronnoi integratsii, Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, 15 June, 2001.
14 See: problemakh kollektivnoi bezopasnosti gosudarstv-uchastnikov SNG, Analiticheskiy vestnik Soveta Federatsii Federalnogo Sobraniia Rossiiskoi Federatsii. Seriya: Problemy natsionalnoi bezopasnosti, No. 1 (89), Moscow, 1999, pp. 47-48, 59.
15 See: P.A. Tsygankov, riia mezhdunarodnykh otnoshenii, Moscow, 2002, p. 323.
16 See: Ch.A. Kupchan, The Case for Collective Security, in: Collective Security Beyond the Cold War, ed. by G.W. Downs, Michigan, 1994, pp. 43-44.
17 For more detail, see: A.V. lgin, bespecheniiu regionalnoi bezopasnosti v SNG, in: Rossiia i mezhdunarodnye rezhimy bezopasnosti, ed. by A.D. Bogaturov, oscow, 1998.
18 See: S.M. Walt, Collective Security and Revolutionary Change: Promoting Peace in the Former Soviet Empire, in: Collective Security Beyond the Cold War, pp. 180-181.
19 See: P.. Tsygankov, op. cit., pp. 341-342; idem, Bezopasnost: kooperativnaia ili korporativnaia? Politicheskie issledovaniya, No. 3, 2000, pp. 130-136.
20 See: R. Cohen, Cooperative Security: Individual Security to International Stability, The Marshall Center Papers / The George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, No. 3, April 2001, pp. 10-11.
21 See: I.A. Nikolaichuk, Voennoye sotrudnichestvo stran SNG kak element ikh natsionalnoi bezopasnosti, Politicheskie issledovaniia, No. 5, 1997, pp. 167-170.
22 See: M. Ortega, Military Intervention and The European Union, Chaillot Papers, No. 45, Institute for Security Studies, Western European Union, Paris, March 2001, pp. 61-68.
23 See: V. ukhin, litsionnye ucheniia v Ashaluke priznany uspeshnymi, Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, 1 September, 2000.

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