The CSTO: Russia’s Answer to NATO?

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The collapse of the Soviet Union was one of the most significant events in Russian history. The Soviet Union conquered new territories and expanded its model of communism to other parts of the globe. Russians felt a sense of honor and dignity, not just in themselves, but in the Soviet system because of its victory in World War II and its accomplishments in the fields of aeronautics, space and satellite technologies, and various different forms of nuclear technology. Russians were exasperated and in disbelief when the Soviet Union faced unprecedented challenges in the late 1980s, which eventually led to its demise in 1991.

After World War II the U.S., Canada, and Europe made sure that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) put enormous pressure on the Soviet Union both militarily and geo-politically. NATO’s chief objective was not just to contain the Soviets, but to repel a potential Soviet invasion of mainland Europe. Furthermore, NATO allowed European nations to deploy nuclear missiles to counter a possible Soviet nuclear strike.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the NATO alliance was seen as a complete success. In theory, many believed that NATO could have been disbanded. In reality, NATO decided not just to keep the alliance intact, but decided to expand it further.

Since NATO did not dissolve in a timely manner, many Russian leaders decided that a Russian alliance was still needed to counter the existing NATO alliance. On May 15, 1992 five post-Soviet states and Russia signed The Collective Security Treaty (CST). The five post-soviet states consisted of Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. In 1994, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Georgia signed the treaty, which officially took effect that year. In 1999, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Uzbekistan all decided not to renew the treaty. In 2002, the CST officially became the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) which was officially seen as a military alliance.

The CSTO become an even more significant alliance system to Russia once NATO underwent a drastic increase of membership nations. In 1999, Poland joined NATO. This was seen as a major blow to Russian foreign policy. Poland was formerly aligned with the Soviet Union through the Warsaw Pact. Poland’s NATO membership sent shockwaves through the Russian military due to its strategic position in Eastern Europe. Russia saw Poland as the primary geographical roadway to Germany and Western Europe. Between 1999 and 2009, NATO would continue its colossal expansion plan. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, and several others would all join NATO. This move greatly agitated the CSTO and forced the Russians to rethink a more proficient strategy.

Since its existence, the CSTO has faced a series of challenges, russia Ukraine war particularly in convincing nations to stay as members of the alliance. The CSTO was confronted with a grave problem in 1999; both Azerbaijan and Georgia withdrew from the CSTO. Russian leaders encountered a dilemma which not just humiliated them, but increased the chances of NATO absorbing the nations that exited the CSTO. The CSTO dealt with the same issue once again in 2012, when Uzbekistan decided to withdraw from the alliance.

Many experts believe that the CSTO plays a dual role. Its primary objective is to counter NATO expansion. The other role of the CSTO is seen by many as a tool to rebuild the Soviet Union. When certain former Soviet states decided to exit the CSTO, Russian leaders believed they could implement a risky, last resort strategy. This strategy consisted of using brute Russian military force to regain back these territories. In recent years Russia has mobilized its military and attempted to take back several of these territories. In many cases the results varied and ended up causing high casualties and massive collateral damage on both sides.


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