CIS meeting and the Russian strategy in Eurasia

The map of the Commonwealth of Independent States (Credits: Firdavs Kulolov, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Geopolitical Report 2785-2598 Volume 13 Issue 6
Author: Silvia Boltuc

The recent CIS meeting underlined the Kremlin’s strategy to strengthen its influence in Eurasia through military cooperation and diplomacy. In an era characterised by confrontation with the United States and the rise of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Russia confirms its desire to be the principal player in Eurasia.

On November 10th, 2021, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CSI) member States held a meeting in Moscow. Delegations of the military departments of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as the CIS Executive Committee and the Secretariat of the Council of Defence Ministers of the Commonwealth, took part at the event hosted for the first time at the newly renovated International Military Center. The meeting location on Leningradsky Prospekt was chosen due to its historical relevance, as in Soviet times, it was the headquarters of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation (WTO). The complex of buildings previously hosted events of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

The recent meeting was held on the 30th anniversary of the CIS Council of Defense Ministers. Before the conference, the foreign delegations visited the Museum of Military Cooperation and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden.

CSI and military cooperation

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu opened the conference underlining how the summit’s outcome might contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the member states. Furthermore, he added how over the years of joint work, an atmosphere of trusting relations has improved, contributing to the development of new areas of interaction between the armed forces of the CIS countries. In this regard, the format of the Council of Defense Ministers offers the possibility to expand the range of partnerships and make effective decisions to ensure the military security of the member states.

As a result of the summit, the representatives approved a plan of joint activities for 2022 and determined the prospects for the development of military cooperation.

The foreign delegations discussed the formation of the Joint Humanitarian Demining Unit, the improvement of the Unified Air Defence System of the CIS countries to solve the problems of aerospace defence and the improvement of the construction of the United Communication System of the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth States.

The defence ministers also approved the main directions for developing the cooperation system in military education and training and the unified system for radiation monitoring and evaluation, the chemical and biological situation and the unified geographic information system for military purposes.

Furthermore, Shoigu announced some future cooperation in 2022: military computer command and staff drills on air defence of the CIS countries, under the name of ‘Regional Security – 2022′, the organisation of the third military sports games dedicated to the thirtieth anniversary of the Council of Defense Ministers of the CIS and the deepening of practical cooperation in the field of hydrometeorological and military topographic support.

In addition, defence ministers attributed the Russian Air Force Academy the status of the base organisation of the CIS member states in the field of training of military personnel for the air force and established an award ‘For Contribution to the Strengthening of Peace’.

Conclusion

The CIS meeting underlined the Russian multilevel strategy with the countries of the blizhnee zarubezhe (near abroad). As previously underlined, the event was hosted in the International Military Center, the headquarters of the Warsaw Pact Organisation in the Soviet time. The Warsaw Pact was created as a counterweight to NATO. There was no direct military confrontation between NATO and the Soviet Union, but instead, the conflict was fought on an ideological basis and in proxy wars. The two organisations pursued the expansion of military forces and their integration into the respective blocs.

Nowadays, Russia is once again moving away from the Western world and tightening ranks with its Eurasian allies, given the possibility of a confrontation with the United States and pursuing its economic and strategic interests in the region.

Due to the absence of natural barriers, Russia has tried since the fifteenth century to conquer a strategic space that interposed between its vital territory and its enemies (buffer zone): the military campaigns towards Eastern Europe, the countries Baltics, the Caucasus and Central Asia can be explained in terms of strategic defence.

Today, Moscow attempts to control these strategic areas through influence policies, diplomatic relations, and establishing military and economic entities such as the CIS, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAUE). The Russian military objective is to prevent the entry of CIS countries into NATO and the presence of U.S. military bases within and near the Russian borders. This stance is confirmed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statements on October 27th, 2021, when he called on former Soviet republics in Central Asia not to allow a military presence of U.S. and NATO forces which plan to move there after leaving Afghan territory.

Furthermore, having based its economic development on the extraction and export of energy resources, Russia needs to control the transit countries. Having a leading role in the regional economic and military organisation, using soft power and diplomatic relation to influence key Eurasian strategic players is part of Moscow strategy to ensure its borders and create stability in the region (Tajikistan: the Kremlin’s frontier against the Taliban).