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Moscow News
April 24, 2008
"Our military exercises are a threat for terrorists, but not for the West" - Nikolai Bordyuzha

This year, Russia, Belorussia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Armenia will mark the five-year anniversary since the foundation of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. CSTO General Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha agreed to discuss the group's mission with The Moscow News.

MN: What have been the major accomplishments of the CSTO in the last five years?

B.: Today, the CSTO gives a real guarantee of security to all seven member states. It is a multi-purpose organization. Its goals include the coordination of international activity, military cooperation, emergency situation assistance, the fight against terrorism, extremism, drug traffic and illegal migration.

We have cooperative relationships with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the United Nations, the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the European Union.

Presently, Russia is recovering after the break-up in the 1990s, and CSTO's influence is growing too. It is very pleasant for me. Our organization is very attractive for states in the former Soviet Union. In 2006, Uzbekistan recovered its membership in the CSTO.

MN: Do you plan to add other states?

B.: Presently, we don't talk about the need to add new members. If a country decides to apply for membership, the CSTO Council (which consists of the heads of states) will consider their application. However, there is no need to expedite the addition of new members. For our development, we need strong participants that are able to strengthen collective security not by words, but real deeds.

MN: Could you tell us about the advantages of membership?

B.: First, all member states are equal. It's absolutely wrong when people talk about the CSTO as a pact between Russia and "its satellites." We adopt all of our solutions strictly by consensus. There have been many cases when only one representative - for example, from Tajikistan, Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan - voted against a plan and the initiative was rejected. The presidents of the member states have similar positions concerning the majority of global and regional security problems.

MN: Are there any threats of coup d'etat, like "orange revolutions," now threatening the security of the CSTO member states?

B.: The CSTO was founded to protect against foreign invasions, to defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of its member states. It was not founded as a way to interfere in the internal processes of countries. The CSTO is not a gendarme, and we have never held military operations for the purpose of rescuing a political regime. However, if foreign forces interfere in the affairs of a particular member state, the CSTO - in concordance with this country - is able to stop such attempts.

MN: How should the CSTO react to recent events, like the one in Andizhan? The President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov said that foreign forces were responsible for this uprising...

B.: Uzbekistan solved this problem without our military assistance. Earlier, Kyrgyzstan solved a similar problem without the CSTO. Each state has its own forces to resolve such crisis. There were some attempts at creating disorder in Belarus, and particular foreign groups paid a lot of money to train so-called activists in special camps near the Belarusan borders. But we know the potential of Belarus, and its leadership. The patriotic spirit of the Belarusian people excludes any possibility of a "colored revolution" there.

The CSTO may interfere when a state is not able to defend itself against a foreign invasion. In such a case, and according to a decision from our memberships' leaders, our organization will use their forces for collective defense. Article Four of the Collective Security Treaty says that aggression against one member state is aggression against the rest.

MN: Recently, you declared that some foreign entities want to stop the fusion of former Soviet republics with Russia. What did you mean by that comment?

B.: Some states and organizations want to drive a wedge between our countries. For example, the European Union organized a summit of the Foreign Ministers of the Central Asian countries in Ashkhabad this year [April 9-10]. They invited representatives of NATO and the U.S., but failed to invite representatives from Russia.

MN: The famous American geopolitical guru Samuel Huntington, in his book The Clash of Civilizations, wrote that future wars and conflicts would have ethnic and religious reasons, as opposed to ideological ones. Do you agree with him?

B.: At this time, I do not believe that ideology is the main reason for conflicts. During the Cold War, ideology was the driving factor between the Soviet Union and the U.S., as well as between the Warsaw Pact states and NATO.

At present the majority of conflicts arise due to ethnic and religious contradictions. The attempts of particular states to aggressively expand their economic interests is yet another reason for such conflicts to erupt.

MN: How can the CSTO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization cooperate?

B.: We can successfully cooperate in fighting the drug trade. The special forces of China and another 16 states take part in the CSTO's operation "Kanal" against drug traders. It is obvious we can make great strides against drug trafficking from Afghanistan only through the coordination of international efforts.

Central Asia is not a peaceful region, and we can extend our cooperation to fighting terrorism, organized crime, and the illegal arms and radioactive materials trade.

MN: Is it possible to conduct joint military exercises with the member states of the CSTO and the SCO?

B.: Certainly. I am sure that we have to conduct such exercises under the auspices of these organizations.

MN: But the West will criticize joint military exercises...

B.: Frankly speaking, I am not interested in the reaction of the West. During such exercises, we train for operations against terrorists. We do not train for offensive operations against other states.

Our military exercises are a threat for terrorists and drug traders, but not for the West. These exercises are very useful for our member states. Our main purpose is guaranteeing the stability in the region for social-economic development.

MN: Is the CSTO a new political alternative to NATO?

B.: The CSTO stands for cooperation with NATO. It is not a successor to the Warsaw Pact bloc during the Cold War. It is incorrect to compare the CSTO and NATO. NATO is a military bloc with a global role. That is why, the CSTO is not an alternative to NATO.

It is impossible to guarantee security to any state independently. The events of September 11, 2001 are the best confirmation of that. Therefore, all states must unite in their efforts to fight against terrorism. However, NATO does not want cooperate with us, and considers us an opponent.

MN: Some Russian geopolitical experts, for example Leonid Ivashov, say that the aggravation of relations between Russia and West is inevitable because of Russia's growing power. In the monthly journal, Russia in Global Affairs monthly, Georgy Arbatov declared that we have entered a dangerous period.

B.: I certainly hope that the Cold War, which is a piece of history from the 20th century, is over. It would be better for us to discuss today's problems than to begin a new global confrontation. We have to learn from our experiences.

MN: How do you estimate the situation in Afghanistan?

B.: The situation is very complicated. The present government in Kabul controls approximately 20 percent of the country's territory. The Taliban has regrouped its forces already.

It is a real threat to the world, especially to the Central Asian countries and to northern-western regions of China. The world community has to help the government of Afghanistan. The United Nations, the SCO, the CSTO, NATO, OSCE should be deeply concerned about the future of Afghanistan. Otherwise, there will be no peace in Asia. N

Fact Box:

Nikolai Bordyuzha was appointed as the CSTO's General Secretary in April 2003. He was born on October 20, 1949 in Orel.

He graduated from Perm Nuclear Missile Force College in 1972, and Novosibirsk KGB college in 1976. He has served as Chief of the border troops of Russia, the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, the Chief of the Presidential Administration, the Chairman of the State Customs Committee, and as Russia's Ambassador to Denmark. He has the rank of Colonel-General. He is married and has a son.

By Yuri Plutenko.