Context: India’s Defence Minister is visiting Moscow from September 3-5, 2020 at the invitation of Defence Minister of Russian Federation to attend the combined meeting of Defence Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member States in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of victory in the World War II.
- The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is a Russia-led military alliance of seven former Soviet states that was created in 2002.
- The CSTO’s purpose is to ensure the collective defence of any member that faces external aggression.
- It has been described by political scientists as the Eurasian counterpart of NATO, which has 30 member states (North Macedonia joined NATO in 2020), while the CSTO has just six.
- Current CSTO members are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan.
- Uzbekistan again became a CSTO member in 2006 but then withdrew its membership in 2012.
- Afghanistan and Serbia hold observer status in the CSTO.
- The organization uses a rotating presidency system in which the state leading the CSTO changes every year.
- Beyond mutual defence, Members also use the organization to counter cyber warfare, narcotics trafficking, the illegal circulation of weapons, transnational crime, and terrorism.
What Does CSTO Membership Provide?
- While CSTO membership means that member states are barred from joining other military alliances, limiting, for example, their relationship with NATO, members receive discounts, subsidies, and other incentives to buy Russian arms, facilitating military cooperation.
- Most importantly, membership presumes certain key security assurances – the most significant of which is deterring military aggression by third countries. In the CSTO, aggression against one signatory is perceived as aggression against all.
- In particular, the organization has given Russia the power to block NATO operations in the region and provided a way for Russia to contain Chinese military influence in the region.