The Prospects for a Common Foreign Policy Among CSTO Member States

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Why did the choice of the Americans fall on Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan?

On June 11th the Russian “Kommersant” newspaper wrote about an increase in the number of “conflict cases” in relations between Russia and its partners in the CSTO because of the placement of US logistic infrastructure in the Caspian ports of Kazakhstan. In reality, the matter is about something else – about Moscow’s attempts to achieve the development of a coordinated foreign and defense policy among the member-countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

The agreements between the US, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan on the creation of a new version of the “Northern Distributive Network” – a supply route of the American military contingent deployed in Afghanistan – became the reason for the emergence of information about the “strengthening of contradictions” in the CSTO. Earlier such a route passed through the territory of the Russian Federation, then through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan towards the border with Afghanistan. After the aggravation in 2014 in Russian-American relations because of Crimea and Donbass Moscow curtailed military cooperation with Washington in this area. And after Donald Trump accused Pakistan of “supporting terrorism” the US started to look for new routes of access to Afghanistan. And their choice fell on Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Washington has unceremoniously pushed forward the decision to give Astana transit opportunities. At the end of December of last year $22 billion was arrested in Belgium by a court decision in favour of the National Fund of Kazakhstan, which accumulates income from the export of oil and gas resources. The arrested sum was the equivalent of nearly 1/5th of the GDP of Kazakhstan. In addition, in Sweden the shares of Kazakhstan in 33 State Swedish companies were frozen. The money was blocked because of the claim of the Moldavian businessman Anatol Stati, who had previously developed the gas field in the west of Kazakhstan and claimed damages of $4 billion, but the sum of the arrested means was incomparable with the sum of the claim.

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The sense of these actions was cleared up during the January visit of the president of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev to Washington: following the results of the visit the accounts were released, and Nazarbayev made a statement in support of the US’ fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. In addition, the parties signed a protocol to an agreement on the transit of American cargo through the territory of Kazakhstan, providing the use of the Caspian ports of Aktau and Kuryk. This agreement was indeed met half-heartedly in Russia. Moscow couldn’t welcome the idea of transiting American military freights near its borders, through the republic, where some large Russian military facilities are located. However, the Russian Foreign Ministry wasn’t going to submit this problem for discussion in the public domain.

The no less information about the “disagreements” between Russia and its allies in the CSTO became for some media agencies a reason to accuse Moscow of … “imperialism” and of aspiring to turn allies into satellites. And if “Kommersant” wrote that between the Russian Federation and other participants of the CSTO “the number of conflicting stories has multiplied”, without much thought called this situation a scandal that neither the press services of diplomatic departments, nor other media for some reason report. Commenting on this state of affairs, Arkady Dubnov noted that Moscow recently, apparently, is in general dissatisfied with the behavior of Astana on the international scene. As some of the reasons for the dissatisfaction he named the agreement with the United States on the Afghan transit, the refusal of Kazakhstan to vote in the UN Security Council for the Russian version of the resolution on Syria, the holding in Astana of a summit of countries of Central Asia, and the introduction of a visa-free regime by Kazakhstan with America. And the “further escalation of anti-Kazakhstan outbursts in the Russian media” (A. Dubnov’s expression) “can in the short-term lead to a growth of anti-Russian phobias [?! – ed] in the public consciousness of Kazakhstan”. Allegedly, in the long term it will negatively affect Russia’s positions, because the next generation of Kazakhstan politicians, unlike N. Nazarbayev (Dubnov glances at the horizon), won’t have the Soviet experience at all.

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He gave his 10 cents about this anti-Russian information campaign and the Kazakh nationalist website “Altyn Orda”, according to which Astana could present to Russia its list of claims because of the behavior of Moscow on the international scene – from its actions in Syria and in Ukraine to sanctions and counter-sanctions that indirectly affect Kazakhstan. And the decision to give the Americans access to Kazakhstan’s Caspian ports and railway infrastructure supposedly corresponds to the spirit of the SCO summit in Qingdao, where it was decided to combat three “evil forces” – terrorism, separatism, and extremism. The editor-in-chief of “Altyn Orda” Serik Maleev classified Afghanistan, Syria, and Ukraine (in the same column!) as countries that have problems with terrorism, having given his comment the title “We Are Not Retarded Enough to Quarrel with the Whole World Because of Russia” and having called the reunion of Crimea with Russia an example of “separatism”.

And now let’s look at the situation carefully, having put this nonsense aside for a moment. Firstly, there was no “scandal” at the Almaty meeting of Foreign Ministers of CTSO member countries. There was a complicated process of coordinating interests and solving differences that arise in any international organisation. Secondly, the purpose of Russia, and this should be said with certainty, is not to turn its allies into “satellites”, but to develop a strategy of a coordinated, predictable and joint foreign policy within the framework the CSTO and EAES. This also concerns the assessment of the activity of the Pentagon on the territory of Kazakhstan under the cover of a biological laboratory – activity that, first of all, threatens the people of Kazakhstan, and not anyone else.

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And as for certain comments (“”, “Altyn Orda”), they would indeed remain unaddressed if diplomats in Astana and Moscow had already reached a mutual understanding of how the “multi-vector” path of Kazakhstan will be coordinated with its partner and allied obligations within the framework of the EAES and the CSTO.

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