Azhdar Kurtov, Researcher, Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (Moscow, Russia)

It is impossible to understand the structure of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) or GUAM (a regional organization comprising Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova) outside the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and its evolution. On the one hand, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the political elites of the newly independent states did not have a clear idea of how the CIS should develop. CIS documents only made general declarations about the need to get rid of the Soviet past and build relations on a new, civilized basis. On the other hand, the political elites in those states sought, as far as possible, to limit any interference in their domestic policies, which were aimed mainly at creating their own independent institutions of governance and administration.

Political elites in those states where serious internal civil conflicts had erupted before the formal disintegration of the U.S.S.R. were inclined to attribute their failures to Russian interference or to Moscows recurring imperial aspirations. They extended their assessments to new integration projects with Russias participation. Indeed, conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia Nagorno-Karabakh, the Transnistrian region, and Tajikistan in the early 1990s stimulated the search for new structures to deal with security problems. However, at that time security was understood in a broad context, including the neutralization of an external military threat. To Russia, a former superpower, that appeared to be a consideration of the utmost importance.

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The CSTO is a successor to a structure that was formed soon after the split-up of the U.S.S.R., which led to the disintegration of a unified defense area. The U.S.S.R.s defense infrastructure historically evolved on the territory of an entire state, as a single whole, and on a sound technical basis. It is important to note that a substantial part of Soviet defense elements were positioned in border areas (including in the Union republics). By deploying defense infrastructure in the periphery, the central authorities effectively pushed the hypothetical battlefields as far away as possible from Moscow. For example, missile attack early warning systems were based in Belorussia (Belarus), the Baltic republics, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan. Submarine and surface ship bases were deployed in the Baltic republics, Ukraine, and Georgia. Nuclear weapons were concentrated in Russia, Belorussia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. At first, each of the said republics even tried to claim a nuclear status.

Following the breakup of the U.S.S.R., each post-Soviet state started building its own armed forces. Except for the Russian Federation, no other country sought to include its forces into..

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