Tall stories about the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and “information slop” from Brussels

11:35 22.03.2024 • Alexander Ananiev , retired Russian Foreign Ministry adviser

When meeting with residents of a village on the border with neighboring Azerbaijan on March 18, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that a war was imminent “by the end of the week” if Armenia did not “adjust the border.” [1] He also warned the villagers that Yerevan would not make any efforts to retain the Azerbaijani exclaves, adding that the country was now ready to speedily renounce control over some border territories and claims to such control during the upcoming delimitation and demarcation of the border with Azerbaijan.

The Prime Minister’s statement contrasts with what he declared during his first news conference this year on March 12, where he made an ultimatum [2] that Armenia would exit the the Collective Security Treaty Organization (C STO) if it did not get a clear answer about the Organization’s area of responsibility in the republic. Moreover, he minced no words warning that if the CSTO’s response falls short of his expectations, Armenia will walk out. In other words, the head of the Armenian government demands that the Organization ensure the security of the republic’s borders, which he proposes to seriously re-carve just a week later.

It seems that Nicol Pashinyan’s démarche regarding the CSTO’s zone of responsibility was a forced move prompted by the need to respond to a question asked by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a few days earlier. After Pashinyan’s several unfounded attacks on the CSTO and declarations about the “freeze” of relations with the Organization, Sergei Lavrov demanded [3] that the Armenian leadership finally decide and officially declare whether it is going to continue working in “integration structures created in our common region” or “decided to rely on extra-regional countries courting Yerevan.”

Pashinyan, as always, did not dare to come up with a clear answer, to step up to the plate, choosing instead to parry Lavrov’s question with one about the CSTO’s zone of responsibility in Armenia. In other words, the Armenian Premier demanded that the Organization determine where his country’s borders actually run – no easy matter, of course, and it is unlikely that the CSTO should answer it.

Historical background

The fact is that Armenia is still not ready to indicate its own borders, since it can’t agree with neighboring Azerbaijan not only on the specific demarcation line, but also on the principles it will be drawn on. In fact, there never was a settled border between the two. Even before the Soviet breakup, the administrative border between Armenia and Azerbaijan was constantly changing in line with economic expediency. With the start of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika, clashes started flaring up along ethnic lines, leading to a 1992 full-scale war between the two republics. It should be noted that at that time it was Russia that prevented Turkey from invading Armenia. [4] It wasn’t until May 1994, that armed hostilities (the First Karabakh War) were stopped and a truce was signed - largely thanks to the efforts of Russia, [5] when not only the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, but also seven other regions of Azerbaijan were under the control of the Armenian army. Since then, for almost thirty years, border delimitation between the republics has been done not according to the administrative division of the Soviet era, but essentially on the territory of Azerbaijan.

Following the Armenian defeat in the Second Karabakh War in 2020, the seven regions were returned to Azerbaijan, but the delimitation of the border between the republics never changed. The demarcation that Yerevan now demands to be viewed as its border is not accepted by Baku.

“We have not been on these territories for 30 years. If these territories were a border, and Armenia recognized it as such, then it would indicate it. But they did not consider it a border themselves, they believed that the Armenian border was in Agdam,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev summed up.

Pashinyan's reasoning

According to Pashinyan, the country’s authorities received clear assurances from the CSTO and Russia: the sovereign territory of Armenia is a “red line” for the Russian Federation and the CSTO member countries. In other words, the Armenian prime minister complains that the members of the Organization have failed to fulfill their promises: in the event of a conflict happening on Armenian territory to use armed force in order to restore territorial integrity within the borders specified by Yerevan. What he did not say, however, was that Yerevan had not agreed these borders with Azerbaijan and had persistently torpedoed negotiations with its neighbor on their delimitation and demarcation. Apparently hoping that the majority of Armenian citizens would be too lazy to check, Pashinyan said during the abovementioned press conference that “when during the May 2021 [and November 2021 - author] invasion by Azerbaijan, Armenia recorded that the red line had been crossed and the CSTO did not take the steps specified in the charter.” [6] There are several untruths in this sentence.

Response measures to aggression against one of the CSTO member states are specified in Article 4 of the Collective Security Treaty dated May 15, 1992, and in more detail in Article 2 of the Agreement “On the procedure for the formation and functioning of forces and means of the CSTO collective security system” dated February 20. 2013. In particular, it states that the Parties to the Agreement must give “preference to political, diplomatic and other non-military means of preventing, localizing and neutralizing military threats in the framework of ensuring collective security at the regional and global levels.” This is exactly what the Russian leadership did: following the escalation along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, a Russian-mediated truce was declared within a matter of hours.

It is also worth mentioning the fact that after the border skirmishes of 2021, cut short by Russian diplomacy, Armenia did not require any assistance from the CSTO. During the first meeting by the chairmen of the committees (commissions) of the CSTO member states’ parliaments in February 2022, Gurgen Arsenian, a member of the standing commission of the National Assembly of Armenia on external relations, and a deputy from the ruling party said: “The situation in Armenia is not such that we are forced to call for help from the CSTO. ...Armenia will not ask the CSTO to send a military contingent to its territory because of border clashes with Azerbaijan... The threat that exists is a systemic one. We are able to eliminate it. The strength of the political leadership of Armenia, led by Pashinyan, is that it prefers to resolve problems through negotiations rather than shooting.” [7]

Attempts to mark the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in 2021-2024

On November 26, 2021, right after the clashes on the border earlier that month, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia issued a trilateral declaration in Sochi, adopted through Moscow’s mediation. According to it, the parties “agreed to take steps to increase the level of stability and security on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border and to work towards the creation of a bilateral Commission for the delimitation of the state border between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia with its subsequent demarcation with the advisory assistance of the Russian Federation at the request of the parties.” [8] However, the Armenian leadership then started to slow down the work of the Commission, prolonging the negotiation process in the hope of achieving some kind of external support from its Western curators.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov thus describes [9] the situation with the delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border: “We offered our services; the parties signed an agreement on the creation of a delimitation commission where the Russian side will participate as a consultant. We were not invited. The Chairman of the European Council, Charles Michel, has already announced that the EU will deal with delimitation.” It was as if the West “somehow obtained the maps of the Soviet General Staff” and that “Russians are not needed.”

However, as Sergei Lavrov stated, “it [the West – author] can’t have any maps.” Taking advantage of the topographical confusion created by the Armenian leadership and its Western mentors, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated that he would determine the border with Armenia not according to maps of a particular year, but “based on either political methodology or chronology.” [10] He believes that at this particular moment, “the Armenian-Azerbaijani border is conditional,” and considers the Armenian territories occupied by Azerbaijani troops in 2021-2022 as part of Azerbaijan.

Disputing Aliyev’s position, one could refer to the Ceasefire Statement of November 9, 2020, which states that the parties “stop at the positions they occupy.” However, while negotiating on Western platforms, Pashinyan does not take into account the trilateral statements made by the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, including the aforementioned document, which ended hostilities and outlined clear prospects for a peaceful settlement.

Small wonder that given Pashinyan’s inconsistency and “forgetfulness” about agreements reached at Russian negotiation platforms, the Azerbaijani president also tries to forget the Prague agreement that the Alma-Ata Declaration should become the basis for the delimitation and demarcation of the two countries’ borders.

At the same time, Russia’s diplomatic efforts made it possible to keep the parties from fighting for almost a year, until Western “specialists” stepped in.

On August 31, 2022, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Brussels for a summit held under the auspices of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. During that meeting, the sides discussed, among other things, issues related to the delimitation and demarcation of borders, unblocking communications in the region, the settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. [11]

Just how fruitful the Brussels parley was is evident by the fact that on the night of September 12-13, less than two weeks later, fighting broke out on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Both sides blamed each other for the escalation.

Thanks to the efforts of Russia, including a telephone exchange between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, and the work done by the Russian Foreign Ministry, [12], by next morning the parties managed to clinch a ceasefire and achieve a truce on the border. Even Pope Francis openly thanked the Russian authorities for their peacekeeping efforts. [13]

However, the Armenian leadership decided to use the situation to their advantage by trying to force Moscow and the CSTO to speak to Baku in the language of force. A statement adopted by the Armenian parliament “pertaining to the attack by Azerbaijan,” (the opposition did not vote),” demanded that the CSTO take immediate measures based on the Collective Security Treaty, and called on the international community to decisively and specifically condemn the aggression. [14]

Legality of the CSTO's actions

Due to the fact that at that moment Armenia did not have internationally recognized borders, the requirement that the CSTO defend uncoordinated borders even if we are talking about a member state of the Organization seemed absurd. However, the CSTO leadership expedited efforts strictly in line with Article 3 of the Agreement “On CSTO Peacekeeping Activities” [15] dated 02/20/2013:

“To analyze the military-political situation in a zone of potential or existing conflict and develop proposals on the feasibility of conducting a peacekeeping operation, its scale, timing and composition of the Collective Peacekeeping Forces (CPF), a Group is created by the decision of the Collective Security Council (CSC).

The composition, tasks and functions of the Group are determined by a separate Regulation approved by the CSC.

Peacekeeping operations do not replace conflict resolution through negotiations and other peaceful means.”

In other words, if the conflict can be resolved through peaceful means, a peacekeeping operation is not required. At the same time, the CSTO worked quickly and effectively. The CSTO Secretary General and the head of the joint headquarters immediately headed to the flashpoint area. The plane carrying the advance group landed in Yerevan a day later. [16] Based on the results of the inspection, recommendations were immediately prepared to send a monitoring mission of CSTO observers to the territory of Armenia on the border with Azerbaijan and issue a draft decision by the Collective Security Council “On joint measures to provide assistance to the Republic of Armenia.” All the CSTO’s then chair country (in 2022 – the Republic of Armenia) needed to do was to convene the Collective Security Council to approve such a decision and take specific measures. However, for now understandable reasons, Armenia did not do this. In Astana on October 13, 2022, immediately after the Prague agreement and not yet knowing its consequences, the Russian Foreign Minister gave a comprehensive answer: “Immediately after Armenia asked to convene an extraordinary CSTO summit, it was held. It was decided to send out the CSTO Secretary General and the head of the joint headquarters. They arrived there, brought recommendations... to dispatch a monitoring mission of CSTO observers to the territory of Armenia on the border with Azerbaijan.” [17] However, Armenia, as the CSTO chair, delayed making such a decision in every possible way, and the reason subsequently became clear. It turns out that Yerevan had already tacitly agreed to accept an EU civilian mission instead of the CSTO observers.

Subsequently, at the initiative of Russia, the CSTO repeatedly received offers of specific assistance to Armenia. The Armenian leadership turned them all down, arguing that any presence, in particular of its ally, Russia, would create security problems for the republic. Thus, looking back, one can easily arrive at an obvious conclusion - in exchange for Western support, Yerevan is gradually downsizing contacts with the CSTO, while simultaneously trying to invent justifications for the country's exit from this organization.

What is the reason for the Armenian Prime Minister’s persistent push back?  Maybe it is based on international experience in resolving similar situations?

International experience: NATO’s and the EU’s approach to the Greek-Turkish conflicts

Let's look at a similar example. Turkey and Greece have been at odds on many issues since the Lausanne Treaty, a 1923 peace accord that formalized the end of de facto war between the two countries, including, most recently, where their continental shelf of energy resources begins and ends. How can you fly over the Aegean Sea? The problem of the ethnically divided Cyprus also remains unresolved.

The last time Greece and Turkey fought each other was in 1974 in Cyprus. Since then, part of the island has remained under Turkish protection. In addition, countries cannot divide maritime economic zones among themselves. Relations between Greece and Turkey have seriously soured due to territorial disputes over the islands and shelf of the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean. Most of the islands of the Aegean archipelago are part of Greece, which wants to expand its territorial waters adjacent to them. Such an option doesn’t sit well with Turkey, which has sovereignty over two islands in the northern part of the sea. At the same time, Turkey has not signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, according to which countries can expand their territorial waters to a distance of up to 12 nautical miles.

To complicate matters even further, Turkey is a member of NATO, but not of the European Union; Cyprus is a member of the EU, but not of NATO. As for Greece, it is a member of both NATO and the European Union, which creates overlapping and contradictory loyalties [for comparison: Armenia and Azerbaijan are members of the CIS, but only Armenia is a member of the CSTO and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) - author]. Turkey and Greece base their claims on fundamentally different legal arguments.

At times, relations between NATO allies heated up so much that they almost came to the brink of war. Suffice it to mention the 1996 conflict resulting from Ankara’s claims to two uninhabited Greek islands.

The situation repeated itself in August 2020, when Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay threatened Greece with war should it extend its territorial waters in the Aegean Sea. Angela Merkel intervened in the process. [18] Acting on behalf of the EU, she initiated mediation between Turkey and Greece, even though Greece is a member of the European Union, and Turkey has long been trying to join it.

Applying Pashinyan’s logic to the situation in the Aegean Sea, Greece should have given the European Union an ultimatum: either you accept the Greek border shape, or the country leaves the EU.

Neither Greece nor Turkey allow themselves to issue ultimatums to NATO, which takes a neutral position in their territorial disputes. And even if one of these countries were not a member of the Alliance, the latter would not immediately and impulsively resort to military force, just as Yerevan demanded from the CSTO. According to Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, [19] if one of the NATO member countries feels a threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity, it can hold consultations with other states within the Alliance. Over the 75-year history of the bloc, “NATO countries have addressed the fourth article of the Treaty seven times. Moreover, Turkey did this five times. In 2014, Article 4 of the NATO Charter was invoked by Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. The reason for this was Crimea’s entry into Russia, and in February 2022, when, after the start of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, several Western countries resorted to this article. [20] It all ended with consultations.

If, in the course of such consultation, NATO countries conclude that an armed attack has occurred on one or more of them, then Article 5 is activated. It does not require immediate sending its soldiers to fight for another country though: according to this article, the organization reserves the right “to individual or collective self-defense ... by immediately taking such individual or joint action as is deemed necessary, including the use of armed force.”

Pro-government propaganda pushes the idea that as soon as Armenia changes allies, they (the allies) will immediately use force in order to restore the country’s territorial integrity along the borders specified by Yerevan and ensure security in the future. As we see, such a promise is just an illusion.

In conclusion, I would like to quote from a recent interview with Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova: “Each country has the right to choose associations that deal with security at its own discretion. ... There is one important nuance, though. This must be done based on... the real needs of the country... Certain politicians of official Yerevan are feeding their voters, their people, the citizens of Armenia, about the allegedly negative role of the CSTO. ... This is something that was prepared somewhere near Brussels ... an information slop that they are now trying to feed generously to the citizens of Armenia, inventing all kinds of fables about the CSTO.” [21] At the same time, commenting on the March 17-19 visit by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the Trans-Caucasus countries, President Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said, “Of course, we are watching this closely, but we intend to focus on our bilateral relations and cooperation instruments that exist between our country and the countries of the region." “NATO’s attempts to somehow expand its influence and presence are unlikely to add stability and predictability to the situation in the Caucasus,” Peskov added. At the same time, according to him, “these contacts are the sovereign right of the Caucasus states.”


The views of the author are his own and may not reflect the position of the Editorial Board.


[1] https://ru.armeniasputnik.am/20240319/inache-v-kontse-nedeli-budet-voyna-pashinyan-o-delimitatsii-v-tavushe-73533347.html

[2] https://www.primeminister.am/ru/interviews-and-press-conferences/item/2024/03/12/Nikol-Pashinyan-Press-Conference/;

[3] https://mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/1936336/#sel=91:1:yBw,102:30:jai

[4] https://vstrokax.net/istoriya/turtsiya-i-karabahskiy-konflikt-konets-xx-i-nachalo-xxi-vekov/?ysclid=ltr6r6hv7y684001424

[5] https://topwar.ru/157621-25-let-nazad-moskva-ostanovila-nagorno-karabahskij-konflikt.html

[6] https://www.rbc.ru/politics/12/03/2024/65f020f89a79474d415f68cf

[7] https://ru.armeniasputnik.am/20220210/armeniya-ne-budet-obraschatsya-k-odkb-za-pomoschyu-v-reshenii-problem-s-azerbaydzhanom--deputat-38556981.html

[8] http://www.kremlin.ru/supplement/5741

[9] https://www.mid.ru/ru/press_service/minister_speeches/1926392/

[10] https://president.az/ru/articles/view/63017

[11] https://ru.armeniasputnik.am/20220831/pashinyan-i-aliev-dogovorilis-prodolzhit-rabotu-po-razrabotke-teksta-mirnogo-soglasheniya-47551256.html

[12] https://ria.ru/20220913/armeniya-1816482067.html

[13] https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/15767689?ysclid=l97l5dbg9411869034

[14] https://s30061898045.mirtesen.ru/blog/43400888080/Parlament-Armenii-potreboval-ot-ODKB-osudit-agressiyu-Azerbaydzh?utm_referrer=mirtesen.ru

[15] https://odkb-csto.org/documents/documents/soglashenie_o_mirotvorcheskoy_deyatelnosti_organizatsii_dogovora_o_kollektivnoy_bezopasnosti/#loaded

[16] https://odkb-csto.org/videogallery/press-konferentsiya-generalnogo-sekretarya-odkb-stanislava-zasya-ob-itogakh-deyatelnosti-organizatsi/#loaded

[17] https://aif.ru/politics/world/pereshli_granicy_lavrov_dal_chetkiy_otvet_na_mnogie_pretenzii_erevana

[18] https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-says-greek-egypt-deal-endorses-turkish-thesis-over-maritime-rights-157250

[19] https://www.nato.int/cps/ru/SID-36F4D09C-731D53FD/natolive/official_texts_17120.htm?selectedLocale=ru

[20] https://ren.tv/longread/1046793-v-chem-sut-4-i-5-statei-ustava-nato-i-kak-polsha-primenila-odnu-iz-nikh?ysclid=ltrwe5jmjh146005502

[21] https://ria.ru/20240316/zakharova-1933418594.html


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