India Intelligence Report

   Uzbekistan Rejoins Russian-led Defense Pact



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 anti-Taliban operations.

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.

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