Sarkisian, Bordyuzha Discuss Armenia’s Role in an Expanded CSTO

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–The Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization was in Yerevan Thursday for talks with President Serzh Sarkisian and Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan on Armenia’s role in the transformation of the once loosely organized military alliance of former Soviet states into a NATO like-alliance complete with UN-Peacekeeping responsibilities and a large rapid reaction military force.

Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha discussed with Sarkisian and Ohanyan the legal aspects of the CSTO decision to establish a rapid reaction force made at a special summit in Moscow on February 4.

The CSTO, traditionally an unorganized military alliance between many of the former Soviet states, was formed in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Russia-led security organization was intended to replace the Warsaw Pact as Moscow’s security bulwark. But up till now it has largely been a little more than “a Russian claim to influence in the former Soviet Union,” said a February 23 analysis of the CSTO decision issued by Stratfor, a private intelligence firm based in Texas.

The CSTO rapid reaction forces will consist of two parts–a military unit and a special unit, Bordyuzha said, adding that Russia would contribute a division of air-borne paratroopers, as well as a fighter brigade to the military wing of the force.

He said the military component will operate in war time and during border conflicts.

The Former Soviet Union is littered with border disputes, frozen since the early 90s. The most recent flare up in violence came in August last year when Georgia attacked its breakaway region of South Ossetia in a failed bid to reclaim the territory.

Russia currently has thousands of troops deployed as peacekeepers in South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia. Moscow formally recognized the independence of the two regions, after its August war with Georgia.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is also among the many conflicts left unresolved since the Soviet Union collapsed. Full scale fighting in Karabakh has not erupted since a Russian brokered cease-fire in 1994 left the Karabakh Republic in control of 7 districts liberated from Azerbaijan.

The current negotiations for a settlement of the conflict call for the return of most of those liberated districts and the deployment of an international peacekeeping force that neither the United Nations, NATO, nor the OSCE have the resources to manage. The ability to secure the region until Karabakh’s final status is set has been a determining factor in the ongoing Minsk Group mediated peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Now, Russia is transforming the CSTO to allow its forces to serve as peacekeepers under a U.N. mandate.

The CSTO rapid-reaction force would be made up of approximately 16,000 troops, according to Stratfor. The new rapid-reaction force reportedly would consist of 8,000 Russia’s, 4,000 Kazakhs and 1,000 troops each from Tajikistan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. Russia will be sending 5,000 of these troops to Central Asia while discussions are already underway to determine the specific locations where the rest of these forces could be based, Stratfor said, adding that Russia is said to be planning a deployment of its reconfigured security alliance in Armenia and the Caucasus.

Although Azerbaijan is not a member of the CSTO, it has indicated that it is considering participating in the alliance and may even contribute troops to the rapid-reaction force to have a “say in the strength and deployment of the alliance,” stratfor said.

Bordyuzha told Sarkisian and Ohanyan that he hoped “the rapid reaction forces will be set up and ready to operate by June."


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