MOSCOW (Eurasianet)—A few weeks ago there was some back and forth between Armenians and Azerbaijanis about whether Russia would come to Armenia’s defense in the case of a war over Nagorno Karabakh. Well, now a top Russian general has weighed in, and he sounds pretty certain that Russia would get involved. General Andrei Tretyak, the Chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the Defense Ministry, discussed the Russian military’s future plans with some analysts.
In a discussion on the situation in Karabakh, General Tretyak agreed with a participant’s assessment that the possibility of conflict in that region is high, but argued that it is gradually decreasing as a result of Russian efforts to reduce tension in the region.
He disagreed with the suggestion that Russia’s relationship with Armenia is eroding and made clear that Russia will carry out its promises to that country. No one should see Russia’s refusal to intervene in Kyrgyzstan last summer as a precedent for Karabakh, as that was a very different situation.
That can’t make too many folks in Baku feel too confident. Tretyak also weighed in on Central Asia, and suggested that the Collective Security Treaty Organization could help fill the security vacuum that will be created by the U.S. leaving Afghanistan. And he seems to acknowledge that the CSTO kind of dropped the ball on Kyrgyzstan last year, when it did nothing to stop the pogroms that took place there in what many saw as the first big test of the collective security group:
He also said that what he saw as the inevitable US withdrawal from the region will have a negative effect on stability.
In this context, the CSTO may come to play a more important role in the region. General Tretyak pointed out that CSTO reforms are continuing. The major Russian military exercises in the summer and early fall will include CSTO states. The Russian military has looked at the issues that arose in conjunction with the Kyrgyzstan crisis and know how to act if a similar situation arises in the future; according to General Tretyak, there are no disagreements on this with Russia’s CSTO partners. The general further noted that the forces assigned to the CSTO are the best prepared of Russia’s forces, because Russia wants to increase the organization’s military effectiveness. General Tretyak reiterated the Russian position that it would like NATO to recognize the legitimacy of the CSTO and establish cooperation with it.
This seems to be a pointed message that the CSTO is learning from its mistakes in Kyrgyzstan — and that those who expect it to stand aside in the future should think again.