Collective rapid reaction forces to scarcely likely provide military guarantees to Armenia that it seeks: ACNIS Director

Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict Materials 9 June 2009 17:02 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, June 9 / Trend , E. Tariverdiyeva/

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will most likely neither provide Armenia with the specific military guarantee that it seeks nor will it become any sort of pressure against Azerbaijan, Richard Giragosian, Director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) said.

At a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha informed the president that a package of documents to the next summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which will be held on June 14, has already been prepared. The document includes an agreement on CRRF, annexes concerning the issues of command, rules of conduct, documents that define the composition of military units belonging to CRRF and a roster of forces, RIA Novosti reported.

The decision to form the CRRF was made at the February summit of the CSTO in Moscow.

According to Bordyuzha, CRRF is not occupied with regional conflicts of CSTO participating countries.

Armenia is not satisfied with the decision, considering that the CRRF group must defense CSTO countries of local conflicts.

"Yerevan is interested in a logic question what will be CSTO's reaction in case of military aggression to Armenia by its eastern neighbor. The answer that we have heard (the reaction will be reserved or neutral) does not satisfy us," senior official of the Armenian Foreign Ministry told the Vrema Novostei newspaper, who asked to remain anonymous.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 surrounding districts.

Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations.

Not all CSTO member states are in full agreement, however, and Armenia and Uzbekistan have reportedly "blocked progress" on the proposal. "Armenia seeks a clarification of the rapid reaction force's potential use in the South Caucasus region, and wants a military security guarantee from CSTO," Giragosian said.

Guarantee is that the force can be used to defend Armenia "in times of crisis," reflecting Armenia's threat perception form both Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Despite the apparent threat to Azerbaijan, at least potentially, from the issue of the CSTO and its rapid reaction force, the overall course of Azerbaijani-Russian relations will not be negatively affected, for two reasons, according to Giragosian.

"First, there is already a pronounced trend now underway in Russian strategy to engage Baku and improve relations. In fact, there can also be a coming shift in Russian policy, away from its traditional support for Armenia and toward a more balanced policy toward Azerbaijan, perhaps even over the Nagorno Karabagh conflict," he added.   

Second, the CSTO remains an effort aimed more at containing the West and NATO and is less effective in dealing with Azerbaijan.

Moscow may even see a need to entice Azerbaijan to seek some sort of cooperation with the CSTO over the long term, and will not adopt any decision that could turn the CSTO into any kind of balance of counter against Azerbaijani interests in the region, Giragosian said. 

It seems clear that since the August 2008 war with Georgia, the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has sought to transform itself into a security group capable of balancing or countering NATO in the former Soviet space, Giragosian said. 

For its part, Uzbekistan seeks to limit its participation to a "case-by-case basis," arguing along with most Central Asian states, that the Russian position is incorrect, and that the only real security threats that the CSTO should address are "internal threats" from "Islamist movements and political opponents," rather than any "external threat.", he said.

"Thus, while the summit may reach an agreement on this proposal, any such document will need to balance the interests of all member states in what may be a "lowest common denominator" compromise that does little to meet Moscow's strategic goals to truly counter NATO," Giragosian said. 

E.Ostapenko contributed to this article.

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