The presidents of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan met in narrow format and then continued their talks with their delegations present.

The summit’s main focus was on effective response to the biggest current military and political challenges, including an upsurge in activity by terrorist and extremist groups and destabilisation of the situation on the CSTO countries’ borders.

The meeting ended with a package of documents being signed, including a statement by the CSTO Collective Security Council’s member states. In particular, documents were signed concerning cooperation in the transit of military formations and military products; readiness inspections for carrying out the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces’ objectives, their composition and deployment, as well as the CSTO’s budget.

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Speech at CSTO Collective Security Council session

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Thank you, Mr Rahmon!

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for the opportunity to work in Tajikistan today.

I would like to note that Tajikistan is our strategic partner and ally. We see that here in Tajikistan, you also face problems with certain forays and attempts to destabilise the situation. I would like to say straight away that we are assessing these threats adequately and you can always count on our help and support, although we see that your law enforcement agencies and armed forces are handling the problems that come up effectively.

Just now, in the restricted format, we had a detailed discussion on the CSTO’s zone of responsibility, as well as urgent regional and international problems, and outlined steps to further strengthen our organisation. We noted the increase in threats faced by CSTO member states in various areas.

We are concerned by the state of affairs in Afghanistan. International security forces have been in that nation a long time, carrying out certain work, including positive work; however, it still has not brought qualitative, definitive and decisive improvements to the situation. Unfortunately, the situation in that country is deteriorating following the withdrawal of most foreign military forces.

There is an increase in the real danger of terrorist and extremist groups entering nations that neighbour Afghanistan, and the threat is made worse by the fact that in addition to the well-known organisations, the influence of the so-called Islamic State has also spread to Afghanistan. The scope of the organisation’s work has reached far beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria. Terrorists are carrying out mass executions, plunging entire nations into chaos and poverty and destroying cultural monuments and religious shrines.

The outcomes of the fight by international security forces against the production of narcotics is no less dispiriting. We know how this threat is growing from year to year; unfortunately, it is not decreasing.

I mentioned the situation in Syria and Iraq; they are the same as the situation in Afghanistan, in that they worry all of us. Please allow me to say a few words on the situation in this region, the situation around Syria.

The state of affairs there is very serious. The so-called Islamic State controls significant stretches of territory in Iraq and Syria. Terrorists are already publicly stating that they have targets set on Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Their plans include expanding activities to Europe, Russia, Central and Southeast Asia.

We are concerned by this, especially since militants undergoing ideological indoctrinations and military training by ISIS come from many nations around the world – including, unfortunately, European nations, the Russian Federation, and many former Soviet republics. And, of course, we are concerned by their possible return to our territories.

Basic common sense and a sense of responsibility for global and regional security require the international community to join forces against this threat. We need to set aside geopolitical ambitions, leave behind so-called double standards and the policy of direct or indirect use of individual terrorist groups to achieve one’s own opportunistic goals, including changes in undesirable governments and regimes.

As you know, Russia has proposed rapidly forming a broad coalition to counteract the extremists. It must unite everyone who is prepared to make, or is already making, an input into fighting terrorism, just as Iraq and Syria’s armed forces are doing today. We support the Syrian government – I want to say this – in countering terrorist aggression. We provide and will continue to provide the necessary military technology assistance and urge other nations to join in.

Clearly, without active participation by the Syrian authorities and military, without participation by the Syrian army, as the soldiers fighting with the Islamic State say, you cannot expel terrorists from this nation, as well as the region overall, it is impossible to protect the multi-ethnic and multi-faith people of Syria from elimination, enslavement and barbarism.

Of course, it is imperative to think about the political changes in Syria. And we know that President Assad is ready to involve the moderate segment of the opposition, the healthy opposition forces in these processes, in managing the state. But the need to join forces in the fight against terrorism is certainly at the forefront today. Without this, it is impossible to resolve the other urgent and growing problems, including the problem of refugees we are seeing now.

Incidentally, we are seeing something else: we are currently seeing attempts to practically put the blame on Russia for this problem, for its occurrence. As if the refugee problem grew because Russia supports the legitimate government in Syria.

First of all, I would like to note that the people of Syria are, first and foremost, fleeing the fighting, which is mostly due to external factors as a result of supplies of arms and other specialized equipment. People are feeling the atrocities of the terrorists. We know that they are committing atrocities there, that they are sacrificing people, destroying cultural monuments as I already mentioned, and so on. They are fleeing the radicals, first and foremost. And if Russia had not supported Syria, the situation in that nation would have been even worse than in Libya, and the flow of refugees would be even greater.

Second, the support of the legitimate government in Syria is not in any way related to the flow of refugees from nations like Libya, which I already mentioned, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and many others. We were not the ones that destabilised the situation in those nations, in whole regions of the world. We did not destroy government institutions there, creating power vacuums that were immediately filled by terrorists. So nobody can say that we were the cause of this problem.

But right now, as I said, we need to focus on joining forces between the Syrian government, the Kurdish militia, the so-called moderate opposition, and nations in the region to fight the threat against Syria’s very statehood and the fight against terrorism – so that together, with our efforts combined, we can solve this problem.

I already spoke about the other issues that currently concern us, which we discussed today. In this respect, I would like to note that we plan to continue strengthening cooperation between our armed forces. We plan a whole set of activities in this area. I would like to also stress that our cooperation within the CSTO framework is certainly not directed against anybody. We are open to constructive cooperation, and that is precisely the approach that is reinforced in the final statement that will be signed today.

I am certain that we must resume concrete discussions on creating Euro-Atlantic systems for equitable and indivisible security; we need to carry out a full inventory of existing problems and disagreements. This analysis can be used to achieve a discussion of the principles of sustainable political development. The OSCE and other international organisations can be used to agree on legally binding guarantees concerning the indivisibility of security for all nations, achieve observance of important fundamental principles of international law (respecting the sovereignty of states, not meddling in their domestic affairs), and strengthen regulations on the inadmissibility of appeasing anti-state, anti-constitutional coups and the promotion of radical and extremist forces.

I would like to thank Mr Rahmon for his work as chairman of the CSTO, as well as my other colleagues, and to wish our Armenian partners and friends success in chairing the organisation. Thank you very much for your attention.


The Essential Saker: from the trenches of the emerging multipolar world