Presidents of CSTO member states (except Kazakhstan, which sent its prime minister) at the CSTO summit in Sochi. (photo: CSTO)
The Collective Security Treaty Organization held its annual summit in Sochi, Russia, on Monday and the hottest topic (other than Syria) was how to strengthen the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border. The group, in the words of Russian President Vladimir Putin, resolved to "provide additional collective assistance to Tajikistan to reinforce its national border with Afghanistan." The aid will include "constructing new buildings of frontier posts, restoring warning and signaling systems and providing border troops with means of air patrol and surveillance as well as radar," said Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, speaking at the event.
According to the official CSTO statement, "On the basis of a request from Tajikistan the member states of the CSTO will, according to their abilities, within three months render military-technical assistance to the border forces of the State Committee for National Security of the Republic of Tajikistan." Interestingly, the aid package appears not to include Russian troops, which no doubt the Russian side was pushing for. Russia has been pushing the CSTO as its primary tool for preventing the spread of instability from Afghanistan after U.S. and NATO forces leave the country starting next year. Said Putin:
We discussed the situation in Afghanistan in light of the international coalition’s troop withdrawal planned for 2014. Unfortunately, there is reason to expect a considerable rise in Afghan drug trafficking activity and in terrorist groups’ activeness.
Extremists are already attempting to spread their activity into neighbouring countries, including the Central Asian countries that are CSTO members.
Among the other, not very specific, announcements, the CSTO said it intended to strengthen the group's joint rapid-reaction forces, prepare peacekeeping forces, and working on "increasing the intergovernmental cooperation between CSTO member states on crucial issues of international and regional security."
In that spirit, the group adopted a joint statement on the conflict in Syria, voicing approval for the U.S.-Russia plan to remove Syria's chemical weapons and opposing international interference in the conflict.
A couple of interesting side stories from the summit: First, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan used his speech at the group to ask for CSTO members' help in Yerevan's efforts to become an observer at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and to criticize (without naming names) certain CSTO members for diverging from the organization's official stance on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
And secondly, the only head of state to not go to the summit was Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who instead sent Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov. It doesn't seem that Nazarbayev had more pressing business: he spent the day inspecting the economic development plans of the Kyzyl-Orda province, before jetting off on an official visit to, of all places, Monaco.