The Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization announced on Thursday that it would stop all contacts with NATO. It's a decision not likely to be deeply mourned in Brussels, which rarely had evinced any interest in cooperating with the CSTO in the first place.
CSTO Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha said at a Moscow press conference that: "For now we will not be making any efforts to establish contact with NATO, due to their stance during the Ukrainian crisis.... Today, NATO is blackmailing all of the CSTO member states ... showing that they are extremely dissatisfied with Russia's actions in recent months."
Bordyuzha's remarks echo those made by Russia's deputy defense minister, Anatoly Antonov, earlier this week:
"There is moral pressure and an attempt to convince people that 'Russians are bad' and therefore they should look up to European democracy. They are talking about some military-technical assistance, about sending advisers and increasing the number of joint exercises. NATO has only one task to pursue — to drive a wedge between Russia and its allies, to tear us away from each other," Antonov said.
It's no doubt true that U.S. and European countries would like the CSTO countries -- Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan -- to have closer ties with NATO than with Russia. But this has been true for a long time. And it hasn't stopped the CSTO, somewhat out of its character of being the "anti-NATO," of doggedly seeking closer ties with its nemesis. Last March, Bordyuzha complained that NATO, at Washington's insistence, was refusing to cooperate: "We invited the U.S. to do it jointly because we see that the challenges facing the CSTO member states are similar or almost identical to the challenges NATO's member states have encountered. But they are not yet ready for it," he said. "Just read the U.S. State Department's cables on the WikiLeaks. Everything is clear there. 'The elder brother' does not permit, and all the others obey."
He's right: Wikileaks cables offer many examples of Washington rejecting the notion of working with the CSTO. In 2009, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was preparing to propose formal engagement with the CSTO, but U.S. officials managed to block the move, arguing that doing so would legitimize “a waning organization” that “has proven ineffective in most areas of activity.”
And after a 2010 meeting with Bodyuzha, the U.S. embassy in Moscow wrote a cable describing Bordyuzha as “condescending” and “true to his background as a career KGB/FSB official.” It concluded: “If the Russian government is serious about promoting the possibilities of CSTO cooperation with NATO, they will need a better front man than Bordyuzha.”
Ukraine crisis aside, it's maybe most remarkable that it took the CSTO five-plus years to realize that NATO was not going to return their advances. In the absence of ties with NATO, the CSTO is now going to step up cooperation with the other anti-NATO, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Bordyuzha said: "Now the CSTO intends to step up cooperation with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and with China and Iran in the fight against drugs trafficking," the Belarusian Telegraph Agency reported: “We are also about to start cooperating with other organizations that take care of security matters in the Asian region,” Bordyuzha said.