Before the meeting of the leaders of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. From left to right: CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas, Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon
“After Russia’s refusal to intervene in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the fall of 2020, Armenia’s confidence in the benefits of participating in the Collective Security Treaty Organization has weakened to the point of threats to leave the CSTO.”
Armenia has long considered ending its membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) due to a perceived lack of support from the organization following numerous clashes with its neighbor Azerbaijan, which is not a CSTO member. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s statement on 22 May that Armenia is considering leaving the organization marked the latest in a series of disputes between Armenia and CSTO leadership that could be a turning point for its role in the organization. The accompanying excerpted article from the independent, Caucasus-focused website Kavkazskiy Uzel provides a look at the issues Armenia has with the CSTO. The article notes “the degree of Armenia’s unfriendly rhetoric towards Russia has been rising” since the CSTO refused to intervene in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War. In the fall of 2021, Pashinyan made a comment that “Armenia was not going to consider the possibility of leaving” the CSTO, but this position has changed since then. The article notes how the organization and Russia responded to recent incidents between Armenia and Azerbaijan. From Armenia’s perspective, clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2022 should have triggered the CSTO’s collective defense clause, but the organization declined to intervene. This damaged Armenia’s already tenuous relations with the CSTO in addition to straining Armenian-Russian relations, as Armenian officials believed Russia has failed to pressure Azerbaijan to stop attacks against their country.[i] The article also notes that Pashinyan refused to sign a CSTO declaration in December 2022, declined to host a previously planned CSTO joint military exercise in Armenia in 2023,[ii] and refused to host CSTO observers. Armenia’s relations with the CSTO have become bad enough that the CSTO Secretary General became concerned that Armenia will withdraw from the organization.
“Главное о критике Арменией ОДКБ и Кремля (The crux of Armenia’s criticism of the CSTO and the Kremlin),” Kavkazskiy Uzel (independent news website), 23 May 2023. https://www.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/386973/
After Russia’s refusal to intervene in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the fall of 2020, Armenia’s confidence in the benefits of participating in the Collective Security Treaty Organization has weakened to the point of threats to leave the CSTO. The “Caucasian Knot” has prepared a report on how the degree of Armenia’s unfriendly rhetoric towards Russia has been rising…
During the aggravation of the Karabakh conflict in 2020, Armenia turned to the CSTO for help. In response, Moscow stated that it could not help, since the borders of Armenia were not violated, the war took place on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. During the 2020 war, the Kremlin limited itself to political support for Yerevan, and then sent peacekeepers to the Karabakh conflict zone…In the fall of 2021, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, commenting on Armenia’s criticism of the CSTO in connection with Russia’s position on the conflict in Karabakh, stated that Armenia was not going to consider the possibility of leaving this organization. However, two years later, Armenia’s rhetoric on this issue changed.
In the spring of 2022, Nikol Pashinyan accused the CSTO of not properly responding to the actions of the Azerbaijani military in the Sotk-Khoznavar sector. “The way the CSTO reacted to what happened was a failure for the organization itself. Contrary to existing procedures, the CSTO has not decided to conduct monitoring at the site at the moment, justifying the long-standing fears of the Armenian public that an organization important for the security of Armenia will not do anything at the right time,” said the Armenian Prime Minister…
According to Pashinyan, during the discussion of security issues in the CSTO, he received clear assurances that the Armenian border was a “red line” for the organization, but “it turned out that red lines exist only in words.” “This is important not only for Armenia, but also for the CSTO, because if you say that there is no border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, then there is no CSTO, because the CSTO has a zone of responsibility, which is defined by borders. If there is no border, then there is no area of responsibility; if there is no area of responsibility, then there is no organization,” Pashinyan said.
On November 23, 2022, Nikol Pashinyan refused to sign the declaration of the Collective Security Council (CSC) of the CSTO and the draft decision on assistance to Yerevan. The reason was the lack of a clear political position of the organization on the issue of Azerbaijan’s actions…
In January 2023, Nikol Pashinyan stated that Yerevan considers it inappropriate to hold CSTO exercises in Armenia. “The Armenian Defense Ministry has already informed the CSTO Joint Headquarters in writing that we consider it inappropriate to conduct exercises in Armenia in the current situation…” he said.
Commenting on the possibility of Armenia’s withdrawal from the CSTO, Nikol Pashinyan replied that the Armenian side would be guided by the state interests in this decision…“When the CSTO Secretary General arrived in Armenia in 2022, he told me that the CSTO was concerned that Armenia would withdraw from the Organization. I said that this concern is out of place, but there is another concern that the CSTO may withdraw from Armenia. My assessment now is this: the CSTO, willingly or not, is leaving Armenia. And this worries us,” Pashinyan repeated…
On May 22, 2022, Nikol Pashinyan confirmed at a press conference that the issue of Armenia’s withdrawal from the bloc remains on the agenda…
He also explained why Armenia refused CSTO observers, being a member of this military bloc. “The CSTO mission does not operate on the territory of Armenia for the simple reason that, in fact, the organization does not indicate its vision of the territory and borders of Armenia. 90 percent of the problems stem from this,” the prime minister said.
[i] For more background on the strained relations between Armenia and Russia, see: Matthew Stein “Armenia Acquires Indian Multiple Rocket Launcher System Amid Delays in Russian Deliveries,” OE Watch, 11-2022. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/p/oe-watch-issues
[ii] For more background on Armenia’s refusal to sign the CSTO declaration, see: Matthew Stein “Armenia Takes Another Step Away From Russia,” OE Watch, 2-2023. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/p/oe-watch-issues
Image: Before the meeting of the leaders of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. From left to right: CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas, Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon
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