The independent resource on global security

4. Regional security cooperation in the former Soviet area


I. Introduction

II. Background: basic realities of the former Soviet area

III. The Commonwealth of Independent States

IV. The Collective Security Treaty Organization


VI. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization

VII. Conclusions



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The major security organizations of the post-Soviet space are the Russia-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO); the grouping of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova known as GUAM; and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes China as well as Russia and four Central Asian states. Their specific environment is characterized by Russia’s predominance and the reactions to it, other historical antagonisms, diverse security conditions, the rather slow stabilization of new national identities, and an often over-politicized approach to security. Westerners often see the CIS, the CSTO and the SCO as hostile or ineffective groupings, and question marks also remain over GUAM’s effectiveness.


Analytical tools developed by SIPRI for evaluating regional security institutions help to flesh out a picture of these four post-Soviet groupings. The CIS contains all (non-Baltic) post-Soviet states and claims competence for military cooperation (notably air defence), peace operations and anti-terrorism. Its survival is remarkable but its practical achievements are very limited. Russia has increasingly diverted serious military cooperation to the smaller—seven-member—CSTO, which has a structure mirroring that of NATO. The CSTO has established joint rapid-deployment forces, is developing a united air defence, promotes equipment collaboration, and has anti-drug and counterterrorism policies. Its smaller members seem to value Russia’s leadership and the institution is more dynamic than the CIS. The four GUAM nations seek an alternative to Russia’s policies and in particular want to solve their respective internal conflicts on a basis of national integrity. They coordinate their positions at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations, have a counterterrorism programme, and have discussed joint peacekeeping. Practical outputs have been limited by the members’ diversity and the tendency to relapse into bilateralism for any serious purpose. The SCO engages in mutual confidence building and military cooperation against ‘terrorist, extremist and separatist elements’. It rejects what it calls interference in internal affairs, but promotes economic and other functional programmes designed to advance development. The SCO’s membership is subtly balanced in power terms and it has shown dynamism and flexibility, although central resources are few and the impact achieved is hard to judge.


Negative views of the CIS, the CSTO and the SCO reflect the outside world’s problematic security relations with both Russia and China, as well as normative concerns. Yet these groupings are a fact of life in the Eurasian space that will not quickly change. At best they give their members some experience of what modern multilateralism means.



Alyson J. K. Bailes (UK) has been Director of SIPRI since July 2002 and leads the SIPRI Euro-Atlantic, Regional and Global Security Project.


Vladimir Baranovsky (Russia) is Deputy Director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), Moscow.


Dr Pál Dunay (Hungary) is Director of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs, Budapest.