September 22, 2023 | New York Post

Russia failed to weaken NATO — but its own security alliance is now falling apart

September 22, 2023 | New York Post

Russia failed to weaken NATO — but its own security alliance is now falling apart

Vladimir Putin has been candid about his intentions to dismantle NATO and discredit Article 5 of the alliance’s founding treaty, in which members pledge to defend each other from aggression. 

Yet Putin’s war in Ukraine has not only united NATO; it’s further encouraged the organization to expand its membership and reaffirm its commitment to protect all member states.

Meanwhile, it is Russia’s imitation version of NATO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, that is struggling to maintain legitimacy among its members.

Consider: Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, a largely Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, for more than three decades.

This week tensions between the two former Soviet republics escalated, triggering a military operation in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region that allowed Azerbaijan to take full control of the breakaway enclave.

Armenia, a long-time Russian ally, is part of the CSTO — yet when its prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, asked Russia for help, Putin refused to lift a finger.

Not even the death of Russian peacekeepers in Azerbaijani artillery strikes prompted Russia to intervene.

Now NATO members should tell the truth to the world that Putin is shunning its allies and risking losing them, and that Russia can no longer be seen as regional power broker.

Armenia has been increasingly furious with Russia’s lack of assistance.

Last year, it requested CSTO help during a violent dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh territory.

Despite Russia’s ironclad commitment to defend the other member states from aggression, as is specified in Article 4 of the Collective Security Treaty (akin to NATO’s Article 5), Moscow’s support never came.

Pashinyan noted that, thanks to Russia’s absence, Armenia and Azerbaijan have had to seek the help of Western institutions like the EU to come to a peace agreement, as “the security system in the region” — i.e., the CSTO — “is not working.”

Pashinyan threatened to have Armenia withdraw from the alliance completely.

He argued that not only has the CSTO failed to deliver promised military support, Armenia’s affiliation with it has prevented his country from protecting itself, such as by keeping it from purchasing weapons from the West.

Russia’s lack of assistance is not surprising: Putin thinks the CSTO is merely a tool to ensure that he retains control over the post-Soviet space and to advance the Kremlin’s interests, not an institution based on reciprocity.

Indeed, as Moscow has exhausted its resources in Ukraine, it has neglected its duties to CSTO members; this week, Russia’s Federation Council Deputy Speaker Konstantin Kosachev admitted bluntly that “Russian peacekeepers will not take part in the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh on anyone’s side.”

In fact, far from providing assistance to its ally, Russia has blamed it for the conflict, saying its decision to pursue closer relations with the West helped to cause the conflict.

Margarita Simonyan, chief editor of Russia’s state-conrtrolled news outlet RT, posted on Telegram that “Pashinyan is demanding (!) Russian peacekeepers to defend Karabakh. What about NATO?”

With the Russian military busy in Ukraine, Putin knows he can’t help Armenia.

Accordingly, the Kremlin has called for diplomatic solutions.

“The first thing for us, against the background of the military operation carried out by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, is to ensure the safety of the civilian population of Karabakh,” Spokesman Dmitri Peskov blathered. 

Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said steps such as the Azerbaijani blockade of the Lachin Corridor “lead to increased tension and are not conducive to maintaining a normal atmosphere around the ongoing process of normalizing relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia with Russian assistance.”

Russia continues to portray NATO as a nefarious actor, responsible for the war in Ukraine.

After years trying to destabilize the Western alliance, it should now turn the script on its head and expose Russia’s disloyalty.

NATO members should use information operations to reach out to Russia’s allies in places like Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, the Balkans and the Global South and tell them the truth: Russia refuses to help its allies, like Armenia, when they need help the most, and that it’s just a matter of time until Moscow throws them under the bus, too.

Russia is on the verge of losing its allies, and nobody likes a loser.

Let’s make sure all of them know they shouldn’t hitch their wagon to a declining, unreliable star.

Ivana Stradner is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow her on Twitter @ivanastradner. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


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