States of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have delayed the issue of establishing a joint air and missile defense system (JAMDS), Acting Secretary General of CSTO Valery Semerikov stated during the CTSO meeting in the Kazakh capital of Astana on November 8. Semerikov said that the sides had not been able to agree on the establishing of the JAMDS and the plan should be developed further.
CSTO member states – Belarus, Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – have been discussing an idea to establish the JAMDS for a few years. However, no real steps have been taken in this direction so far.
Currently, Russia has a practical cooperation in the field of the air and missile defense with Belarus. The cooperation between the states goes in the framework of “Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus on a joint security of the outline border of the the Union State in airspace and the establishment of the United regional system of air defense of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus“. Furthermore, Russia and Belarus continue to develop their cooperation in this field, including carrying out staff exercises. This cooperation also includes mechanisms of air defenense units communication, airspace control and establishment of a united air-defense HQ in case of a growing foreign threat.
Formally, a similar “regional system” also exists between Russia and Kazakhstan. However, in fact, the Kazakh-Russian cooperation in this field is less deep and the Russian and Kazakh militaries use this “united regional system” to exchange data. For example, Russia and Kazakhstan willl establish a joint air-defense HQ only in case of war.
In 2014, when Russia and Kazakhstan signed the agreement establishing united regional air defense system, Kazakhstan’s Deputy Defense Minister Okas Saparov emphasized that the united air defense system will be empliyed in war-time only.
It should be noted that in both cases, the cooperation between the states are limited by the regional level (Russia-Belarus, Russia-Kazakhstan) and decisions to employ air defense forces in peace-time are made on the national level. This regional cooperation serves its own purpuses, but it’s far from any kind of the JAMDS in the framework of the CSTO.
This situation is mostly caused by the changing political situation in CSTO member states, first of all in Armenia and Kazakhstan. Both these states seek to use the Russian military capabilities to guarantee their own national security. For Armenia, the main issue is the frozen conflict with Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Kazakhstan has no such issues in the short-term period. However, it may face other “threats” in the future:
- mid-term: instability in Central Asian and South Asian states, which can obtain offensive missile and air means and measures;
- long-term: Chinese expansion in the region;
There is also difference in appraoches employed by different CSTO states in their defense cooperation with Russia. While Belarus mostly seeks to cooperate with Russia on an equal level, Kazakhstan and Amrenia are using their geographical location and contacts with Russia’s geopolitical competitors in attempts to manipulate Russia. The situation has become especially complicated over the past year. The power in Armenia was seized by a pro-Western leader, Nikol Pashinyan. The internal political situation is also shifting. For example, this can be observed in changes of the Kazakh government stance towards Russian-speaking population and its attempts to distance itself from Russia on the international scene.
The relations between Russia and Uzbekistan started moving in a positive direction only during the past few years. However, for Uzbekistan, establishment of a united missile and air defense system with Russia is complicated because of technical and political issues. Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan do not have enough means and measures to impact significantly air defense capabilities of the CSTO.
It’s unlikely that the current situation will change significantly in coming years. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will not likely obtain signficiant air defense capabilities. The internal political situation will continue to change in Kazahstan as a new generation of political elites, at least partly oriented towards the West, will come into power. The situation in Armenia will be changing even more rapidly if the country’s new pro-Western government remains in power. Moreover, Armenian diasporas in the US and France are deeply linked to the global capital and are impacting the internal political situation in their homeland.
Theoretically, if some state declares war on Russia or stages airspace provocation against Russia, will Kazakhstan or Amrenian open their airspace immidiately for Russian aircraft or employ their military forces to exacerbate relations with Russia’s geopolitical opponents? The answer is likely no.
Thus, it’s hard to expect that the CSTO’s JAMDS will be created on a practical level and a equal basis within the next decade. Practically, the current cooperation in the framework of the CSTO is mostly focused on counter-terrorism efforts in the Central Asia and these efforts have appeared to be successful for the benefit of all involved sides. So, it’s possible that the CSTO will continue its shifrt from the strategic defense organization to a format of the regional counter-terrorism cooperation.