Uzbekistan rejoined a Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)
allowing the organization to extend its reach beyond the borders of the former
Soviet Union. The CSTO includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,
Belarus and Armenia.
At a CSTO summit in Minsk, Belarus, Russian President Vladimir Putin said “We
were pleased to have been informed by Uzbekistan that it has lifted its
moratorium on active work in CSTO.” Having initially joined the defense pact in
1992, Uzbekistan suspended its membership in 1999 to develop a closer policy
towards the US. In 2001, it hosted a US military base on its territory for the
However, US-Uzbek relations soured after so-called “colored revolution,” seen
to be backed by the US which resulted in “coups” in several former Soviet
states. President Islam Karimov was criticized by the US on his handling of an
Islamist armed revolt in Andijan, a province in the south. With Uzbekistan
reinstated in CSTO, the military bloc now straddles a vast region from NATO
borders in the West to China in the East, prompting comparisons with the Cold
War-era Warsaw Pact. Uzbekistan also shares a long border with Afghanistan and
it was from Uzbek territory that the Soviet troops entered Afghanistan in 1979.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenka, who took over from Russia rotating
chairmanship in CSTO, stressed that the main goal of the defense pact is to
ensure security of member-states “in the Western direction.” Lukashenka, known
as a major US baiter, said “The main task of CSTO is to keep intact our Western
borders.” The largest war games Russia-Belarus after the Soviet breakup ended
to coincide with the CSTO summit in Minsk.
The new CSTO is also reportedly seeking to raise its profile and play a role
outside Central Asia.