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Belarus Presidency in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO): Approaches and Priorities

photo: wric.com
1 December 2022
Alexander Shpakovsky Alexander Shpakovsky

Alexander Shpakovsky |Minsk

CISS expert

On November 23, 2022, a regular session of the Collective Security Council (CSC) was held in Yerevan, Armenia. The CSC is the supreme body of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). It is composed of the leaders of the member nations of that military and political bloc.

It should be noted that the summit was a special event, due to the forthcoming transition of the presidency in the CSTO from Armenia to Belarus in 2023. In addition, the past high-level meeting further confirmed the presence of certain disagreements between the member states of the alliance, where the position of official Yerevan, which refused to sign the final declaration, stands out. [1]

In light of the above circumstances, priorities of the Belarusian presidency in the CSTO have emerged as a particularly poignant issue for future existence of the organization. In this context, it seems appropriate to analyze the CSC session and the speech of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, which, in our opinion, sounded like a keynote address.

Current Threats to CSTO Security

Speaking at the summit, the leader of Belarus said in particular that «the time has come to have a substantive discussion of issues of military and political interaction and security issues on the CSTO platform. Their relevance is growing day by day». In his usual frank manner, the Belarusian president stated directly that despite repeated discussions of problematic issues, including at the Samarkand summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), during the CIS summit in Astana, within CSTO meetings, both in video format and in person, «unfortunately, we have few reasons to be optimistic».

The Belarusian president noted the continued escalation of the international situation, «a crisis of the system of international relations, which is unlimited in its depth and scope, with many pressure points around the globe». It is noteworthy that Minsk perceives these developments as a consequence of gradual destruction of the existing unipolar world order, which, «objectively speaking, is becoming a thing of the past, whether we want it or not». [2]

At the same time, Mr. Lukashenko emphasized that a number of «pressure points» were located in the European and Eurasian space, including within the CSTOs area of responsibility, and the Republic of Belarus intended to use its presidency to try and make the situation more stable.

In our view, ahead of the Collective Security Council session in Yerevan, the Belarusian leadership had commissioned a detailed analysis of the military and political situation, highlighting the complicated issues that require a prompt response, including with the use of the CSTO toolkit.

Specifically, among the most urgent threats to security in the blocs area of responsibility, the Belarusian president outlined the following challenges in his speech:

  • Further escalation of the military and political situation in the area of an armed conflict in Ukraine;
  • Military support of the Kiev regime by the West in order to prevent peace negotiations;
  • Constant provocation of Belarus by Ukraine in order to draw it into the hostilities and expand the war space;
  • A systematic build-up of the military presence of the U.S. and other NATO countries near the western borders of the CSTO;
  • Nuclear blackmail, including Warsaws requests to deploy U.S. nuclear weapons on the territory of the Republic of Poland;
  • Challenges of «color revolutions» with respect to Russia, Belarus and Central Asian states;
  • International pressure from the collective West and its satellites against nations attempting to pursue an independent policy line, including through UN structures and other supranational organizations;
  • Replication of speculation about the «Russian threat» in order to justify increased spending on armaments and stimulation of the U.S. military-industrial complex;
  • The actions of Western elites in simulating crises in the area of global food and energy security;
  • The threat of resumption of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, the backpedaling of the peaceful settlement process by Yerevan, attempts to involve the CSTO;
  • The border conflict between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, activities of external forces to deepen animosities between CSTO member nations.

Position on the Conflict in Ukraine

It should be noted that an analysis of the Belarusian presidents speech allows us to conclude that certain work has already been or is being carried out in some areas to curb the negative trends.

In particular, Alexander Lukashenko signaled deployment of the regional military grouping of the Union State of Russia and Belarus in the Belarusian territory as a natural symmetric response to Ukrainian provocations and NATOs military activity near the western borders, the increased intensity of operational and combat training of the North Atlantic Alliance, which reveals that a potential theater of military operations is being studied and explored.

The Belarusian leader also recalled official Minsks peacekeeping mission with regard to the conflict in Ukraine, and Belaruss diplomatic efforts that have been undertaken since 2014. This line remains unchanged, and the search for appropriate solutions continues, but in the absence of identity on the Ukrainian side and its dependence on the West, which takes an aggressive stance, precludes building any serious channels of communication with Kiev.

«Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are being trained under NATO programs at their training facilities», said Alexander Lukashenko. «Kiev is provided with Western weaponry and military equipment. What is this if not direct involvement in the conflict? And how should one understand the statements made by the NATO Secretary General, who says that a defeat of Ukraine will mean a defeat of the North Atlantic Alliance?» he added.

The president of Belarus compared the events in Ukraine to a rising tornado, which pulls more and more countries into its vortex and creates new problems all the time. «This bloodshed must be stopped, and peace negotiations must be started. The question is, will Ukraine be allowed to sit at the negotiating table?» wondered Belarus head of state. [3]

During the press scrum, after the official part of the negotiations was over, Mr. Lukashenko spoke more harshly, but very clearly to potential listeners: The alternative to peace talks is the complete destruction of Ukraine.

«Everything is in Ukraines hands», the Belarusian leader said on the sidelines of the CSTO summit in Yerevan. «Its not because I want to pass the buck to Zelensky and Ukraine. For real, everything is in Ukraines hands now. If they dont want deaths of people, and in huge numbers, too. Its hard, its difficult, but it must be stopped, an end must be put to it, because, going further, there will be a complete destruction of Ukraine». [4]

Thus, the Belarusian leadership objectively assesses the situation in the CSTOs area of responsibility and together with Russia pursues a course towards strengthening of the defense capabilities of the western borders of the Union State and, consequently, of the military and political bloc. With regard to Ukraine, we are seeing both a desire to provide comprehensive assistance to the peaceful settlement of the conflict on the basis of the principles originally declared as the goals of the special military operation, and also willingness to support Russia in the toughest actions that could force the Kiev regime to peace.

Approaches to the Settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict

The Belarusian sides approaches to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and the attempts of official Yerevan to involve the CSTO in this confrontation and use the capabilities of the defensive union to withstand Baku deserve special attention.

Notably, Alexander Lukashenko identified peaceful settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan as a topic that «should be in the focus of the CSTO» and would be «one of the priorities of the Belarusian presidency [in the CSTO]». That said, the Belarusian leader voiced his categorical opposition to attempts of resolving the conflict militarily, including by supporting Armenia, which is what Yerevan insists on. «I will repeat what I said during the extraordinary session of the CSC on October 28: We want the conflict between two neighboring countries, which are both friendly to us, to be resolved peacefully», stated the Belarusian president.

According to the Belarusian leader, the developments in the South Caucasus may be polarized and might depend directly on the good will of the parties, first of all, Armenias leadership, which must fulfill its obligations under the Trilateral Statement of November 10, 2020 and subsequent agreements. Addressing Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Mr. Lukashenko stressed: «Yes, Nikol Vovayi, there are nuances. And serious ones, perhaps. But we can fundamentally resolve this conflict, which may flare up again, now. If Armenias leadership is willing, in the first place. And, of course, [if] Azerbaijan [is willing, too]».

At the same time, the Belarusian president reiterated the invariability of allied commitments towards Armenia, noting that achievement of peace is ultimately in line with social demands of Armenian society and is in the interests of further sovereign development of the Armenian state. «Armenians are not strangers to us, and we want to support them», said Alexander Lukashenko. «But Armenia should be the principal driving force in this regard. Lets come to an agreement, lets do everything so that people wouldnt die there. This would be welcomed in Armenian and Azerbaijani society», Mr. Lukashenko added with conviction. [5]

It also seems important to highlight the Belarusian leaders extremely negative reaction to the Armenian authorities attempts to involve external actors in the peace process in the region, namely the European Union and the OSCE.

«But I dont understand in this connection, maybe somebody will explain, what are the European Union and the OSCE here for, in this conflict, besides Russia, which is involved in mediation?» wondered the Belarusian president. «To further drive a stake into the relations between us, between allies? This has always been the case in history. We know what this kind of mediation leads to. It will simply freeze the conflict again for many years, at the very least. They do not need stability and peace in our region; they need destruction under their control», he declared.

In this context, it should be noted that Alexander Lukashenko made a conscious reservation in his statements assessing the situation in Transcaucasia: He was expressing not only his personal standpoint or that of the Belarusian state, but he was voicing «a general opinion». This statement was backed by further developments, as the final declaration was signed by all participants of the meeting, with the exception of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

In this connection, we believe that the Armenian leadership is erroneous in its assessments of the existing situation and is nurturing some illusions, seeing intensification of contacts with the West, including military-political ones. In fact, Washington, Paris and Brussels use Armenia to pursue their own goal of bringing confusion to the CSTO, without assuming any obligations regarding that countrys security.

Characteristically, the CSTOs relevance in the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani antagonisms was also stressed by the press secretary of the Russian president, who commented on Yerevans claims with respect to the organizations activities. «Speaking at the very beginning, in a narrow format meeting, the Armenian prime minister said that he was rather inclined to interpret the CSTOs work in the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan as a fiasco», said Dmitry Peskov. «It is the right of the Armenian side to interpret the situation this way. But, on the other hand, the relevance of the CSTO in this situation is obvious». [6]

Thus, the Minsk and Moscows positions on this issue are almost identical, and Alexander Lukashenkos rather high degree of frankness in expressing «general opinion» is probably a coordinated attitude. In this context, it seems possible to predict that during the presidency of Belarus in the organization the CSTO will be actively promoting a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, blocking any attempts to use the organization for the benefit of one of the parties [Yerevan].

Priorities of the Belarusian Presidency

Regarding other objectives of the presidency of the Republic of Belarus in the CSTO, Alexander Lukashenko outlined the fundamental priorities in accordance with the organizations regulations.

Given that Minsk is assuming the CSTO presidency amid a systemic crisis in the international and regional security architecture, and with an increasing pressure faced by the military and political bloc due to both transnational threats and interstate antagonisms, Belarus sees enhancement of cohesion between the organizations member states as its main objective. It means a reduced level of tension, settlement of conflicts, and ensuring security and stability in the CSTOs area of responsibility. «We need to remove these conflicts if we want to be a truly responsible organization», said Alexander Lukashenko.

On the outer circuit, Belarus plans to focus on strengthening the role and importance of the CSTO in the system of international relations, as well as on bringing the organizations activities largely in line with the context of regional and global security.

In particular, there are plans to improve the organizations regulatory framework and national legal acts in order to ensure quick decision-making on the use of forces and means of collective security. Special attention will be paid to a simplified procedure for transit of contingents with weapons and military equipment through the territories of member states.

Another aspect of the CSTO geopolitical advancement could be effective positioning of the bloc in the system of international relations through the development of cooperation with international organizations and third countries. The CIS, the SCO and the UN are in the focus of attention. A high-level international conference on Eurasian security is scheduled to be held in Minsk in 2023, where senior officials of the secretariats of these organizations could be invited.

Alexander Lukashenko also pointed out that the CSTO «has not fully worked out the issue of the use of flexible political tools, the so-called soft power, which is actively used by Western countries, i.e. mechanisms of consultations, monitoring and field observation». In this regard, Minsk is planning a series of panels to work out solutions to this problem, which representatives of relevant departments of CSTO countries and other interested friendly states could also attend.

In this connection, it is planned to strengthen the analytical and forecasting component in the organizations activities, to build the institutional capacity of the CSTO in the field of information and analysis, to create a network of national thinktanks of strategic research spanning across the member states. The consolidation of the academic and expert capabilities would contribute to a more effective response to transnational threats, including information and psychological operations, cyberterrorism and drug trafficking.

Belarus plans to develop a common policy in the field of biological security deserve special attention, especially given the fact that U.S. biolaboratories operate in Kazakhstan and Armenia, and the authorities of these countries do not have a full understanding of the content of the research and of the experiments conducted. With that in mind, it is quite important that an updated Concept of National Security of the Republic of Belarus will lay a special stress on biological security, and the experience of Belarusian experts in the area may be of use to the countrys allies within the CSTO. In the context of the growing relevance of biological security issues, Alexander Lukashenko suggested holding a meeting of the Coordination Council of Authorized Bodies of the organizations member states in Belarus.

In the military area, Belarus is going to draw a scenario of and carry out a number of joint exercises in 2023, with the involvement of command bodies, forces and facilities of the collective security system. Alexander Lukashenko also signaled the need to develop the coalitions military-technical component and stressed the importance of a coordinated policy in this area. The Belarusian president suggested that CSTO allies should get involved in Moscow and Minsks joint projects in the production of conventional and advanced weapon systems, pointing out that Belarus and Russia had «accumulated serious experience in military and technical cooperation» since the beginning of Russias special military operation in Ukraine.

It seems significant that the SCS adopted a resolution to approve Denis Manturov, Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade, as the new chairman of the CSTO Interstate Commission on Military-Economic Cooperation for a three-year term of office. [7] This decision is likely to boost the development of the potential of military-technical cooperation between the CSTO countries, where the Russian Federation will be the flagship and the main ordering customer.

Due to the transition of the presidency in the Collective Security Treaty Organization in 2022-2023 from the Republic of Armenia to the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Grinevich, representative of Belarus to the CSTO, was elected chairman of the CSTO Permanent Council in rotation on December 1.

1. Pashinyan criticizes the work of the CSTO and refuses to sign documents. Gazeta.RU, 23.11.2022. https://www.gazeta.ru/politics/2022/11/23/15831991.shtml?ysclid=lazn9u1dvf430645598

2. Participation in the CSTO summit in Yerevan. Website of the President of the Republic of Belarus, 23.11.2022. Available in Russian and in English (select language): https://president.gov.by/ru/events/aleksandr-lukashenko-23-noyabrya-primet-uchastie-v-sammite-odkb-v-erevane

3. Lukashenko on the events in Ukraine: This bloodshed must be stopped and peace negotiations must be started. BELTA, 23.11.2022.  https://www.belta.by/president/view/lukashenko-o-sobytijah-v-ukraine-nado-ostanovit-eto-krovoprolitie-i-nachat-peregovory-o-mire-536479-2022/

4. «Everything is in Ukraines hands». Lukashenko urges Kiev to begin peace talks. Radio Sputnik, 24.11.2022. https://radiosputnik.ria.ru/20221124/lukashenko-1833916132.html?ysclid=lazns8mdds420344255

5. Lukashenko responds to Pashinyans remark about the position of the CSTO. Sputnik Armenia, 23.11.2022. https://ru.armeniasputnik.am/20221123/gotovy-reagirovat-lukashenko-otvetil-pashinyanu-o-pozitsii-odkb-po-situatsii-v-armenii-51734852.html?ysclid=lazsx8aoic715890466

6. Kremlin says Armenia will stay in the CSTO. RIA Novosti, 23.11.2022. https://ria.ru/20221123/armeniya-1833794543.html?ysclid=lazt426qcg513573138

7. On November 23, in Yerevan, the Collective Security Council has discussed current problems of international and regional security and their impact on the security of the CSTO member states. Collective Security Treaty Organization, 24.11.2022. Available in Russian and in English (select language): https://odkb-csto.org/news/news_odkb/sovet-kollektivnoy-bezopasnosti-23-noyabrya-v-erevane-obsudil-aktualnye-problemy-mezhdunarodnoy-i-re/#loaded

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Publications

Belarus Presidency in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO): Approaches and Priorities

photo: wric.com
1 2022
Alexander Shpakovsky

Alexander Shpakovsky | Minsk

CISS expert

On November 23, 2022, a regular session of the Collective Security Council (CSC) was held in Yerevan, Armenia. The CSC is the supreme body of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). It is composed of the leaders of the member nations of that military and political bloc.

It should be noted that the summit was a special event, due to the forthcoming transition of the presidency in the CSTO from Armenia to Belarus in 2023. In addition, the past high-level meeting further confirmed the presence of certain disagreements between the member states of the alliance, where the position of official Yerevan, which refused to sign the final declaration, stands out. [1]

In light of the above circumstances, priorities of the Belarusian presidency in the CSTO have emerged as a particularly poignant issue for future existence of the organization. In this context, it seems appropriate to analyze the CSC session and the speech of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, which, in our opinion, sounded like a keynote address.

Current Threats to CSTO Security

Speaking at the summit, the leader of Belarus said in particular that «the time has come to have a substantive discussion of issues of military and political interaction and security issues on the CSTO platform. Their relevance is growing day by day». In his usual frank manner, the Belarusian president stated directly that despite repeated discussions of problematic issues, including at the Samarkand summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), during the CIS summit in Astana, within CSTO meetings, both in video format and in person, «unfortunately, we have few reasons to be optimistic».

The Belarusian president noted the continued escalation of the international situation, «a crisis of the system of international relations, which is unlimited in its depth and scope, with many pressure points around the globe». It is noteworthy that Minsk perceives these developments as a consequence of gradual destruction of the existing unipolar world order, which, «objectively speaking, is becoming a thing of the past, whether we want it or not». [2]

At the same time, Mr. Lukashenko emphasized that a number of «pressure points» were located in the European and Eurasian space, including within the CSTOs area of responsibility, and the Republic of Belarus intended to use its presidency to try and make the situation more stable.

In our view, ahead of the Collective Security Council session in Yerevan, the Belarusian leadership had commissioned a detailed analysis of the military and political situation, highlighting the complicated issues that require a prompt response, including with the use of the CSTO toolkit.

Specifically, among the most urgent threats to security in the blocs area of responsibility, the Belarusian president outlined the following challenges in his speech:

  • Further escalation of the military and political situation in the area of an armed conflict in Ukraine;
  • Military support of the Kiev regime by the West in order to prevent peace negotiations;
  • Constant provocation of Belarus by Ukraine in order to draw it into the hostilities and expand the war space;
  • A systematic build-up of the military presence of the U.S. and other NATO countries near the western borders of the CSTO;
  • Nuclear blackmail, including Warsaws requests to deploy U.S. nuclear weapons on the territory of the Republic of Poland;
  • Challenges of «color revolutions» with respect to Russia, Belarus and Central Asian states;
  • International pressure from the collective West and its satellites against nations attempting to pursue an independent policy line, including through UN structures and other supranational organizations;
  • Replication of speculation about the «Russian threat» in order to justify increased spending on armaments and stimulation of the U.S. military-industrial complex;
  • The actions of Western elites in simulating crises in the area of global food and energy security;
  • The threat of resumption of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, the backpedaling of the peaceful settlement process by Yerevan, attempts to involve the CSTO;
  • The border conflict between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, activities of external forces to deepen animosities between CSTO member nations.

Position on the Conflict in Ukraine

It should be noted that an analysis of the Belarusian presidents speech allows us to conclude that certain work has already been or is being carried out in some areas to curb the negative trends.

In particular, Alexander Lukashenko signaled deployment of the regional military grouping of the Union State of Russia and Belarus in the Belarusian territory as a natural symmetric response to Ukrainian provocations and NATOs military activity near the western borders, the increased intensity of operational and combat training of the North Atlantic Alliance, which reveals that a potential theater of military operations is being studied and explored.

The Belarusian leader also recalled official Minsks peacekeeping mission with regard to the conflict in Ukraine, and Belaruss diplomatic efforts that have been undertaken since 2014. This line remains unchanged, and the search for appropriate solutions continues, but in the absence of identity on the Ukrainian side and its dependence on the West, which takes an aggressive stance, precludes building any serious channels of communication with Kiev.

«Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are being trained under NATO programs at their training facilities», said Alexander Lukashenko. «Kiev is provided with Western weaponry and military equipment. What is this if not direct involvement in the conflict? And how should one understand the statements made by the NATO Secretary General, who says that a defeat of Ukraine will mean a defeat of the North Atlantic Alliance?» he added.

The president of Belarus compared the events in Ukraine to a rising tornado, which pulls more and more countries into its vortex and creates new problems all the time. «This bloodshed must be stopped, and peace negotiations must be started. The question is, will Ukraine be allowed to sit at the negotiating table?» wondered Belarus head of state. [3]

During the press scrum, after the official part of the negotiations was over, Mr. Lukashenko spoke more harshly, but very clearly to potential listeners: The alternative to peace talks is the complete destruction of Ukraine.

«Everything is in Ukraines hands», the Belarusian leader said on the sidelines of the CSTO summit in Yerevan. «Its not because I want to pass the buck to Zelensky and Ukraine. For real, everything is in Ukraines hands now. If they dont want deaths of people, and in huge numbers, too. Its hard, its difficult, but it must be stopped, an end must be put to it, because, going further, there will be a complete destruction of Ukraine». [4]

Thus, the Belarusian leadership objectively assesses the situation in the CSTOs area of responsibility and together with Russia pursues a course towards strengthening of the defense capabilities of the western borders of the Union State and, consequently, of the military and political bloc. With regard to Ukraine, we are seeing both a desire to provide comprehensive assistance to the peaceful settlement of the conflict on the basis of the principles originally declared as the goals of the special military operation, and also willingness to support Russia in the toughest actions that could force the Kiev regime to peace.

Approaches to the Settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict

The Belarusian sides approaches to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and the attempts of official Yerevan to involve the CSTO in this confrontation and use the capabilities of the defensive union to withstand Baku deserve special attention.

Notably, Alexander Lukashenko identified peaceful settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan as a topic that «should be in the focus of the CSTO» and would be «one of the priorities of the Belarusian presidency [in the CSTO]». That said, the Belarusian leader voiced his categorical opposition to attempts of resolving the conflict militarily, including by supporting Armenia, which is what Yerevan insists on. «I will repeat what I said during the extraordinary session of the CSC on October 28: We want the conflict between two neighboring countries, which are both friendly to us, to be resolved peacefully», stated the Belarusian president.

According to the Belarusian leader, the developments in the South Caucasus may be polarized and might depend directly on the good will of the parties, first of all, Armenias leadership, which must fulfill its obligations under the Trilateral Statement of November 10, 2020 and subsequent agreements. Addressing Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Mr. Lukashenko stressed: «Yes, Nikol Vovayi, there are nuances. And serious ones, perhaps. But we can fundamentally resolve this conflict, which may flare up again, now. If Armenias leadership is willing, in the first place. And, of course, [if] Azerbaijan [is willing, too]».

At the same time, the Belarusian president reiterated the invariability of allied commitments towards Armenia, noting that achievement of peace is ultimately in line with social demands of Armenian society and is in the interests of further sovereign development of the Armenian state. «Armenians are not strangers to us, and we want to support them», said Alexander Lukashenko. «But Armenia should be the principal driving force in this regard. Lets come to an agreement, lets do everything so that people wouldnt die there. This would be welcomed in Armenian and Azerbaijani society», Mr. Lukashenko added with conviction. [5]

It also seems important to highlight the Belarusian leaders extremely negative reaction to the Armenian authorities attempts to involve external actors in the peace process in the region, namely the European Union and the OSCE.

«But I dont understand in this connection, maybe somebody will explain, what are the European Union and the OSCE here for, in this conflict, besides Russia, which is involved in mediation?» wondered the Belarusian president. «To further drive a stake into the relations between us, between allies? This has always been the case in history. We know what this kind of mediation leads to. It will simply freeze the conflict again for many years, at the very least. They do not need stability and peace in our region; they need destruction under their control», he declared.

In this context, it should be noted that Alexander Lukashenko made a conscious reservation in his statements assessing the situation in Transcaucasia: He was expressing not only his personal standpoint or that of the Belarusian state, but he was voicing «a general opinion». This statement was backed by further developments, as the final declaration was signed by all participants of the meeting, with the exception of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

In this connection, we believe that the Armenian leadership is erroneous in its assessments of the existing situation and is nurturing some illusions, seeing intensification of contacts with the West, including military-political ones. In fact, Washington, Paris and Brussels use Armenia to pursue their own goal of bringing confusion to the CSTO, without assuming any obligations regarding that countrys security.

Characteristically, the CSTOs relevance in the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani antagonisms was also stressed by the press secretary of the Russian president, who commented on Yerevans claims with respect to the organizations activities. «Speaking at the very beginning, in a narrow format meeting, the Armenian prime minister said that he was rather inclined to interpret the CSTOs work in the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan as a fiasco», said Dmitry Peskov. «It is the right of the Armenian side to interpret the situation this way. But, on the other hand, the relevance of the CSTO in this situation is obvious». [6]

Thus, the Minsk and Moscows positions on this issue are almost identical, and Alexander Lukashenkos rather high degree of frankness in expressing «general opinion» is probably a coordinated attitude. In this context, it seems possible to predict that during the presidency of Belarus in the organization the CSTO will be actively promoting a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, blocking any attempts to use the organization for the benefit of one of the parties [Yerevan].

Priorities of the Belarusian Presidency

Regarding other objectives of the presidency of the Republic of Belarus in the CSTO, Alexander Lukashenko outlined the fundamental priorities in accordance with the organizations regulations.

Given that Minsk is assuming the CSTO presidency amid a systemic crisis in the international and regional security architecture, and with an increasing pressure faced by the military and political bloc due to both transnational threats and interstate antagonisms, Belarus sees enhancement of cohesion between the organizations member states as its main objective. It means a reduced level of tension, settlement of conflicts, and ensuring security and stability in the CSTOs area of responsibility. «We need to remove these conflicts if we want to be a truly responsible organization», said Alexander Lukashenko.

On the outer circuit, Belarus plans to focus on strengthening the role and importance of the CSTO in the system of international relations, as well as on bringing the organizations activities largely in line with the context of regional and global security.

In particular, there are plans to improve the organizations regulatory framework and national legal acts in order to ensure quick decision-making on the use of forces and means of collective security. Special attention will be paid to a simplified procedure for transit of contingents with weapons and military equipment through the territories of member states.

Another aspect of the CSTO geopolitical advancement could be effective positioning of the bloc in the system of international relations through the development of cooperation with international organizations and third countries. The CIS, the SCO and the UN are in the focus of attention. A high-level international conference on Eurasian security is scheduled to be held in Minsk in 2023, where senior officials of the secretariats of these organizations could be invited.

Alexander Lukashenko also pointed out that the CSTO «has not fully worked out the issue of the use of flexible political tools, the so-called soft power, which is actively used by Western countries, i.e. mechanisms of consultations, monitoring and field observation». In this regard, Minsk is planning a series of panels to work out solutions to this problem, which representatives of relevant departments of CSTO countries and other interested friendly states could also attend.

In this connection, it is planned to strengthen the analytical and forecasting component in the organizations activities, to build the institutional capacity of the CSTO in the field of information and analysis, to create a network of national thinktanks of strategic research spanning across the member states. The consolidation of the academic and expert capabilities would contribute to a more effective response to transnational threats, including information and psychological operations, cyberterrorism and drug trafficking.

Belarus plans to develop a common policy in the field of biological security deserve special attention, especially given the fact that U.S. biolaboratories operate in Kazakhstan and Armenia, and the authorities of these countries do not have a full understanding of the content of the research and of the experiments conducted. With that in mind, it is quite important that an updated Concept of National Security of the Republic of Belarus will lay a special stress on biological security, and the experience of Belarusian experts in the area may be of use to the countrys allies within the CSTO. In the context of the growing relevance of biological security issues, Alexander Lukashenko suggested holding a meeting of the Coordination Council of Authorized Bodies of the organizations member states in Belarus.

In the military area, Belarus is going to draw a scenario of and carry out a number of joint exercises in 2023, with the involvement of command bodies, forces and facilities of the collective security system. Alexander Lukashenko also signaled the need to develop the coalitions military-technical component and stressed the importance of a coordinated policy in this area. The Belarusian president suggested that CSTO allies should get involved in Moscow and Minsks joint projects in the production of conventional and advanced weapon systems, pointing out that Belarus and Russia had «accumulated serious experience in military and technical cooperation» since the beginning of Russias special military operation in Ukraine.

It seems significant that the SCS adopted a resolution to approve Denis Manturov, Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade, as the new chairman of the CSTO Interstate Commission on Military-Economic Cooperation for a three-year term of office. [7] This decision is likely to boost the development of the potential of military-technical cooperation between the CSTO countries, where the Russian Federation will be the flagship and the main ordering customer.

Due to the transition of the presidency in the Collective Security Treaty Organization in 2022-2023 from the Republic of Armenia to the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Grinevich, representative of Belarus to the CSTO, was elected chairman of the CSTO Permanent Council in rotation on December 1.

1. Pashinyan criticizes the work of the CSTO and refuses to sign documents. Gazeta.RU, 23.11.2022. https://www.gazeta.ru/politics/2022/11/23/15831991.shtml?ysclid=lazn9u1dvf430645598

2. Participation in the CSTO summit in Yerevan. Website of the President of the Republic of Belarus, 23.11.2022. Available in Russian and in English (select language): https://president.gov.by/ru/events/aleksandr-lukashenko-23-noyabrya-primet-uchastie-v-sammite-odkb-v-erevane

3. Lukashenko on the events in Ukraine: This bloodshed must be stopped and peace negotiations must be started. BELTA, 23.11.2022.  https://www.belta.by/president/view/lukashenko-o-sobytijah-v-ukraine-nado-ostanovit-eto-krovoprolitie-i-nachat-peregovory-o-mire-536479-2022/

4. «Everything is in Ukraines hands». Lukashenko urges Kiev to begin peace talks. Radio Sputnik, 24.11.2022. https://radiosputnik.ria.ru/20221124/lukashenko-1833916132.html?ysclid=lazns8mdds420344255

5. Lukashenko responds to Pashinyans remark about the position of the CSTO. Sputnik Armenia, 23.11.2022. https://ru.armeniasputnik.am/20221123/gotovy-reagirovat-lukashenko-otvetil-pashinyanu-o-pozitsii-odkb-po-situatsii-v-armenii-51734852.html?ysclid=lazsx8aoic715890466

6. Kremlin says Armenia will stay in the CSTO. RIA Novosti, 23.11.2022. https://ria.ru/20221123/armeniya-1833794543.html?ysclid=lazt426qcg513573138

7. On November 23, in Yerevan, the Collective Security Council has discussed current problems of international and regional security and their impact on the security of the CSTO member states. Collective Security Treaty Organization, 24.11.2022. Available in Russian and in English (select language): https://odkb-csto.org/news/news_odkb/sovet-kollektivnoy-bezopasnosti-23-noyabrya-v-erevane-obsudil-aktualnye-problemy-mezhdunarodnoy-i-re/#loaded