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OPINION

Collective security disorganization. On Yerevan CSTO summit failure and its causes

The summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Yerevan, Armenia, ended ingloriously: the host country refused to sign the final declaration, ostensibly because the allies “failed to give a clear political assessment of the Azerbaijani aggression”. Conceived as a collective security treaty, the organization has recently been unable to deliver on its primary objectives, according to some of its participants. But Vladimir Putin does not seem to care much, as he pursued a completely different political agenda at the summit.

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Putin had several reasons for personally attending the CSTO summit convened at the initiative of Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan. The first is that he chooses locations where he feels mentally and physically safe. He decided against going to Bali for fear of intensive obstruction but went to the CSTO, where he may have anticipated a few tense conversations but nothing similar to the antagonism he was facing at the G20. The second reason was political: the CSTO needs saving from disintegration and erosion. This goal is hard to attain in the online format, without eye contact and holding your partner by the button of his jacket.

Following Azerbaijan's military action on September 13-14, Armenia launched a massive global campaign to get the international community to condemn it. In its capacity as the CSTO chair, Armenia appealed to the organization for support, but the only response was the establishment of a monitoring mission, which did nothing but issue a set of recommendations. Essentially, this was the CSTO's only response to Armenia's plea for help. Therefore, executing its right as the Chair, Armenia convened a summit, with the Armenian-Azerbaijani problem dominating heavily on its agenda.

The CSTO's only response to Azerbaijan’s military action was the establishment of a monitoring mission

Other countries’ responses to Armenia’s campaign varied. The main sympathizers of Armenia are France and the United States, home to the most powerful Armenian diasporas, which are the most active ahead of national elections. Politicians want the support of Armenian diasporas because of their influence. The French Senate even passed a resolution recently in support of Nagorno-Karabakh. Admittedly, Azerbaijan, too, has supporters and lobbyists, but the general mood and attitude toward this conflict depend on which side the public sentiment is on.

Azerbaijan is known for its warm relations with Ukraine, and many see this conflict as a projection of the Russian operation in Ukraine. If you support Ukraine, you sympathize with Azerbaijan; if you view Armenia as a Russian ally, your sympathies depend on whether you support Russia. For the most part, the general public perceives this conflict as secondary, focusing on the primary trigger of global tension.

Many see the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a projection of the Russian operation in Ukraine

As for the CSTO summit, it was best characterized by Pashinyan himself, who called it a fiasco. The harsh language is due to the fact that the CSTO never committed to interpreting Azerbaijan's actions as aggression, as an attempt to annex part of the Armenian territory. There is nothing to that effect in the summit documents or even in Putin's rhetoric, which largely defines the outcome documents, so the Armenians feel humiliated and insulted. As a full CSTO member, Armenia had counted on a more loyal and sympathetic attitude.

On the other hand, Armenia can now afford to give the finger to the CSTO, making it responsible for all of its troubles, but there are more important considerations. The CSTO has failed to reach a consensus on the political qualification of Azerbaijan's actions against Armenia because, interpreting them as aggression or an attempted annexation, the organization would have to invoke the treaty and its statutory provisions and intervene to protect Armenia.

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