Explanation: Kazakhstan seeks help from a Russian-led security organization

MOSCOW-In the face of increasing domestic unrest and apparent uncertainty about law enforcement and military loyalty, the President of Kazakhstan has turned to the Russian-led security alliance for help.

Within a few hours, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) announced that it was ready to accept requests for assistance. By Thursday, the aircraft of the Russian elite airborne troops had flown to Kazakhstan. The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Shukhrat Nureshev stated that 2,500 Collective Security Treaty Organization peacekeepers will be deployed.

This marks the first time that the Collective Security Treaty Organization has participated in an initiative.

What is the Collective Security Treaty Organization?

The Collective Security Treaty Organization was established after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the first half of the 1990s. In addition to Russia, it also includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

Despite its name, the group sometimes finds it difficult to determine its exact purpose. Over the years, it has failed to trigger numerous security crises among its members, which has prompted security analysts to question its feasibility. Last spring, two members of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were involved in a chaotic and bloody border dispute. CSTO looked indifferently.

Instead, the group’s focus is more on strengthening preparations for potential spillovers from Afghanistan, which has a long border with Tajikistan. Russia has approximately 7,000 soldiers stationed in the country.

Why does Kazakhstan call for CSTO support?

In order to legitimize his request for external military assistance, Kazakhstan President Kassim-Jomat Tokayev said on television Wednesday evening that the riots were caused by an “international terrorist organization.” This framework is important because the Collective Security Treaty Organization ostensibly aims to protect member states from external aggression. However, it is still unclear which external groups may be suspected of causing trouble in Kazakhstan.

The current crisis began at the beginning of this week when people peacefully protested against the sudden increase in car fuel prices. As large-scale rallies have sprung up across the country and violence broke out in Almaty, the country’s commercial capital, reports of law enforcement agencies refusing to suppress rallies have appeared in some places. This is a normal practice in Kazakhstan. This has led to speculation that Tokayev, who became president in 2019, is becoming increasingly nervous about his loyalty to his security agencies.

What is the mission of CSTO?

The Russian Ministry of Defense stated that its troops are flying to Kazakhstan on 70 Ilyushin-57 and 5 An-124 heavy transport aircraft. Russian military transport aircraft will also bring in troops from Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia.

The Russian component comes from the military’s special training for rapid response operations: the 45th Guards Special Purpose Brigade, the 98th Guards Airborne Division, and the 31st Independent Guards Command. In 2014, a group of soldiers from the 98th Division of the Guards Airborne Division was apparently taken prisoner by the Ukrainian armed forces while participating in a secret military operation in the Eastern Ukraine War. Russia claimed that they crossed the border by mistake.

The mission in Kazakhstan will be led by Andrei Serdyukov, the 59-year-old commander-in-chief of the Russian airborne forces.

How does Kazakhstan view CSTO’s participation?

The sight of Russian troops patrolling the streets of their country will arouse deep ambivalence among Kazakhs. Kazakhstan is a close and loyal ally of Moscow, and its feelings for Russia are usually positive.

However, people are deeply disturbed by Russia’s historical aggression against its neighbors. When the Kremlin annexed Crimea in 2014, it raised concerns about the oppression of ethnic Russians in Ukraine. The territory of Kazakhstan was conquered by the Russian Empire in the 19th century, and its northern region has a large ethnic Russian population. Nationalist politicians in Moscow often talk about the need to intervene on their behalf one day.

In an interview with the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, Stanislav Zas, Secretary-General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, mocked the EU military as a cover for imposing Russian power on Kazakhstan. He said: “There is some gibberish about how this is the invasion or other things.” “Well, I’m sorry, this is totally stupid.”

Nevertheless, Tokayev will still face the question of his own people whether his desire to welcome foreign troops has not weakened Kazakhstan’s sovereignty. Invasion or not, the damage has been done.

How long will the CSTO troops stay?

As long as needed, Zas told RIA Novosti. This may mean days or even weeks. The official position is that Kazakhstan only needs to say a word, and the collective security treaty organization army will leave.

The Russian army has been deployed at the Almaty airport where the most serious riots occurred. Although Deputy Foreign Minister Nurishev stated that a total of about 2,500 Collective Security Treaty Organization troops are being deployed in Kazakhstan, Russian media reported that there were 3,000 soldiers in the Russian mission alone.

The government of Kazakhstan said on Friday that the country has restored “constitutional order”, but the riots in Almaty are still going on.