By transforming CSTO international exercises into a propaganda anti-NATO demonstration without informing other Member States, Russia risks to deepen the existing mistrust between the Member States. In addition, formal allies may strengthen their doubts of Russia’s bona fides and negotiability.
The exercises of the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces of the Organization of Collective Security Treaty, ‘Vzaimodeysvtie-2016’ have sparked a controversy. During the exercises, the loudspeakers broadcasted a call for NATO soldiers to surrender with threats of retribution and anger of the people, «who have not suffered defeat in any war» (apparently, Russian people).
The «Vzaimodeysvtie-2016» exercises had a standard scenario: isolating a border armed conflict and eliminating illegal armed groups. Permanent representative of Russia to NATO Aleksandr Grushko observed the exercise for the first time, which was unusual. The link between the presence of the high-ranking Russian official known for his harsh statements against NATO and the calls to alleged NATO soldiers to surrender, seems obvious. That said, of six CSTO Members States, only Russia regards NATO as a potential enemy. Evidently, the CSTO was not involved in the provocation: from 6000 troops involved in the exercise only 1300 were representing the CSTO CRRF, while the rest — the Western Military District of the Russian army. The latter were responsible for the anti-NATO demonstration.
It is unlikely that Russia aimed to put the CSTO as an anti-Western alliance or complicate relations between NATO and other CSTO Member States. The point is that Moscow neglected opinions of its formal allies. Russia regards CSTO as means to monitor military potential of her allies, rather than an international organisation based on the principles of equality and respect for the interests of all members. NATO’s public response to CSTO provocation is unlikely to follow. However, Russia’s arrogance and self-confidence calls into question the viability of the CSTO.