The Collective Security Treaty Organisation consists of seven states: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Collective Rapid Reaction Forces in the CSTO total about 20,000. According to the charter of the organisation, the CSTO may use force to repel direct military aggression, for counter-terrorist operations, and to combat drug trafficking and organized crime. From September 21 to 26, CSTO forces conducted large-scale strategic exercises, involving armoured vehicles, aircraft and warships. Commenting on the training exercises, Russian chief of general staff Nikolai Makarov said that the CSTO forces were working with crisis situations similar to the recent events in the Middle East and North Africa.
Nearly 20 years on, experts say it no longer fully satisfies any of the organisation’s member countries.
The issue of reform has been on the agenda at every CSTO summit. But following last year’s revolution in Kyrgyzstan, the discussions have gained momentum. The main question is whether, in the event of a similar uprising, the organisation should defend the existing regime and intervene directly in the conflict. But the organisation does not have such powers.
Leaders of the CSTO were reminded of the need for reform in the midst of the Arab spring. At the August summit, Belorussian president Alexander Lukashenko, who is the current CSTO chair, confirmed to journalists that the leaders had spent most of the time discussing how the CSTO might help them avoid the experience of their colleagues in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.