A meeting of the Moscow-led military alliance of post-Soviet countries “did not go well”, according to one Russia analyst, amid internal squabbles and no public consensus expressing support for President Vladimir Putin ‘s invasion of Ukraine.
The statement issued after the gathering of the six members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) made no mention of Ukraine nor what Russia calls its “special operation.”
The group with Putin as its geopolitical center of gravity is the post-Soviet world’s answer to NATO and was hosted by the Russian leader at the Kremlin, marking the 30th anniversary of its founding.
But only the Russian leader, and his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, spoke about the war in Ukraine.
Russian news agencies reported how Putin repeated unfounded claims that Ukraine was developing biological weapons and revisited his justification for the war he is waging by describing the “rampant neo-Nazism” in his neighbor.
Lukashenko spoke about the “attempt to dismember” Ukraine and condemned how the country had fallen under the influence of the West. However, independent Russian-language news site Meduza reported “other participants in the meeting did not publicly say anything about Ukraine.”
While Putin said the “special military operation” in Ukraine would be discussed behind closed doors on Monday, CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas said “the question of any participation or involvement of the CSTO in this special military operation was not raised or discussed.”
Before and immediately after the start of Russia’s invasion, authorities in Kazakhstan, where there was political unrest in January, have said CSTO troops would not fight in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan criticized CSTO countries for selling weapons to Azerbaijan. The Caucasus neighbors have engaged in hostilities for decades over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh , which reignited at the end of 2020.
“The response of the CSTO member states during and after the 44-day war in 2020 did not leave Armenia and the Armenian people very pleased,” he said.
Putin also appeared to be on the defensive about NATO’s enlargement, telling the summit that Russia “has no problem” with Finland and Sweden’s plans to join the alliance , as announced last week, although he did say, “we will respond accordingly.”
“It was no happy meeting & did not go well,” tweeted Russia expert and economist Anders Åslund. He said that the comments expressed by the leaders of the CSTO’s other countries, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, “were a world apart from Lukashenka & Putin.”
“Putin had a really bad day & whined & lied even worse than Lukashenka,” tweeted Åslund, author of the book “Russia’s Crony Capitalism.”
The former U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan, William Courtney, tweeted: “At the CSTO summit, #Russian and Belarusian whining about a lack of support for Moscow’s invasion of #Ukraine️ is a stark contrast with the unity of Western allies.”
Newsweek has contacted the CSTO for comment.
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