What is NATO planning at the border of the CSTO space?

 

Seymur Mammadov is the Director of the International Expert Club EurAsiaAz.

By Seymur Mammadov

NATO is slowly but surely approaching the borders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The infrastructure of NATO is moving closer to the borders of the CSTO space.

This issue has been troubling the CSTO countries for several years. The activation of the North Atlantic alliance on the western and southern borders of the Organization’s space raises concern and raises many questions for the West.

In May, this issue was raised with particular seriousness at a meeting of the Council of the Parliamentary Assembly of the CSTO member states. The participating countries drew attention to the increase in the number and expansion of the scale of NATO exercises in the European direction, entailing an increase in the American presence in Europe. The particular activity was noted at the borders of Belarus and Russia. In addition, Georgia’s persistent desire to integrate into the bloc also caused alarm.

Attention is drawn to the fact that NATO lays special emphasis exclusively on the Black Sea region.

The topic was again raised a few days ago at a session of the CSTO Collective Security Council. Speaking at the event, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said that the world is once again on the verge of unleashing an uncontrolled arms race. The most dangerous phenomena, namely the military confrontation between the world centers of power, are escalating.

Indeed, military exercises supported by the North Atlantic Alliance are becoming more regular and large-scale from year to year. Even a pandemic did not prevent large-scale maneuvers. On the contrary, during a pandemic, exercises, both staff and live-fire exercises, became more frequent and pompous than before.

Attention is drawn to the fact that NATO lays special emphasis exclusively on the Black Sea region.

US Air Force bombers flew over the Baltic Sea near the Kaliningrad region to practice training strikes on the Russian enclave.

A few days ago, the US Navy and its NATO allies held military exercises there, which the American side calls a “warning to Russia.” The US Navy destroyer Donald Cook (entered the Black Sea on November 23 and stayed there until December 4) and NATO aircraft took part in the exercise. US military forces regularly operate in the Black Sea region in cooperation with NATO allies Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, and Georgia. The number of calls by NATO navies at the Black Sea ports of allies and partners and flights of reconnaissance aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles along the Russian borders is increasing.

This fact is a rather disturbing trend. Exercises by themselves cannot lead to clashes, but escalating the situation can lead to explosive tensions.

In the meantime, the situation continues to strain. In late September, US Air Force bombers flew over the Baltic Sea near the Kaliningrad region to practice training strikes on the Russian enclave. According to the Russian side, two American B-52H aircraft took off from the British Air Force base in Fairlond and flew over the territory of the Kaliningrad region without violating Russian airspace. A Russian Su-27 fighter jet was raised to intercept American aircraft.

The reason for such attention to the Russian enclave is that the S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, as well as the Iskander missile systems, are deployed on the territory of the Kaliningrad region.

The factor of building up NATO’s combat capabilities in the Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation raises many questions. Strike units of the alliance’s member countries are pulled here. Russia, in turn, pulled a motorized rifle division into the region and strengthened its air defense system.

Belarus is no less alarmed. President Lukashenko believes that NATO is creating a military grouping to “seize western Belarusian lands.” He drew attention to the actions of Poland and the Baltic states, which “directly propose to change the government, laws and social guidelines” in the republic.

In parallel with the increase in the frequency and scale of the exercises, NATO is expanding the geography of accusations against Russia. For the first time, NATO raised the issue of Russian peacekeepers deployed in the post-Soviet countries – in certain parts of Georgia, in the East of Ukraine, in Moldova (in Transnistria).

Recently, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that “Russia violates the territorial integrity of Moldova by deploying peacekeepers in Transnistria.” He plans to meet with the President-elect of Moldova Maia Sandu and discuss this issue. It is possible that the events in Karabakh, where Russian peacekeepers were brought in, became the impetus to the topic of peacekeepers. And we should expect that the West will play this card even more actively next year.

Be that as it may, the countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization face serious challenges. They emanate not only from NATO, but also from the internal political problems of the member states themselves, which pressure from the alliance further exacerbates. It is enough to recall the events in Kyrgyzstan, the constantly warming situation in Belarus, the military defeat, and the resulting internal political crisis in Armenia.

Time will show which key challenges the CSTO will face in 2021 …