Dmitry Medvedev: The latest summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) has just ended. Naturally enough, perhaps most important of all today was the fact that this summit took place against a backdrop of the far from simple international situation that has emerged following the recent events in the Caucasus region.
I want to say straight away that one of this summit’s most important outcomes is that we have reached a consolidated position on this issue. Our partners in the CSTO have given a clearly negative assessment of Georgia’s action, Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia, voiced their support for Russia’s active role and spoken in favour of solid security guarantees for South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The CSTO member states have called for an assessment of the situation free from double standards.
We had a very productive discussion at our meeting in narrow format, an absolutely honest open and direct discussion, as a result of which we have been able to demonstrate a new level of internal political coordination within the CSTO.
Russia has always supported diplomatic solutions to disputes, but if necessary we will take firm action in defending our interests – this is the main lesson we have learned from these events – in compliance with international law, of course.
I want to make it clear that we did not choose confrontation. This says it all.
Now, on the recognition of South Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s independence, of course our partners in the CSTO will each decide for themselves what line to take, in accordance with the principles and provisions of international law and in consideration of their own national interests too, of course. Russia considers this absolutely correct.
We discussed many other important questions too. We reviewed the results of our work to maintain peace and stability in the CSTO’s zone of responsibility, and we continued work on bolstering the organisation’s military component and building up its functional capabilities. We also set directions for future work, taking into consideration the security threats we face today.
The Declaration adopted today sets out our assessments and approaches regarding the most relevant international issues and confirms our common desire to build cooperation as allies on all issues of mutual interest.
We set out priorities for the organisation’s work over the second half of this year and the first half of next year. These priorities include important new steps to deepen military coalition building. We have, for example, made changes to the CSTO decision of May 25, 2001, on collective rapid reaction forces in the Central Asia collective security region and approved the regulation on procedures for drafting financing and implementing CSTO targeted inter-governmental programmes. These steps aim to give our military-technical cooperation greater substance and introduce modern and promising new working methods, which is something very important today.
We have also signed documents in the areas of counter-terrorism and preventing drugs trafficking. These are the collective action plan on forming a CSTO information security system, and a council decision, only just adopted, on additional measures to bolster anti-narcotics work within the CSTO.
Once again, I would like to say that the summit’s results confirm our common commitment to continue coordinated work to produce concrete results. The CSTO remains a guarantor of our countries’ territorial integrity and sovereignty, and non-intervention in their internal affairs.
I would like to thank separately all of my colleagues for their work together. We have indeed had a very substantial and productive discussion, a serious discussion that has taken into consideration the recent events. And I want to express my sincere wishes of success to Armenia’s representative, Serzh Azatovich [Sargsyan], who has taken over the presidency now.
Question: Please tell me, yesterday at a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the CSTO in Moscow the ministers adopted a joint declaration in which representatives of all CSTO countries unanimously express their specific position on Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In particular, they condemn the aggression committed by Georgia against South Ossetia. What is the position of the heads of state in this regard? Perhaps you also adopted some documents? Thank you.
D. Medvedev: As I just said, the heads of state, have also expressed their common position on this issue. And so as not to make unsubstantiated claims, I will just read out some of the provisions of the Declaration that we just adopted.
What does it say?
” The CSTO member states are deeply concerned over Georgia’s attempt to resolve the conflict in South Ossetia by force, an act that has caused numerous victims among civilians and peacekeepers, as well as severe humanitarian consequences”.
Further. ”CSTO member states are concerned about the growing military capabilities and escalating tensions in the Caucasus region and call on all countries to make a balanced and objective assessment of events in the Caucasus, free of double standard, and not to undertake any action that could provoke an escalation in the situation.
Members of the Organisation have consistently advocated the primacy of the rule of international law in international relations and the maintenance of peace and security, and welcome the peace settlement principles drawn up by the President of Russia and the President of France, as well as call on the parties to observe the rigorous implementation of these principles in order to prevent further attempts to resolve the conflict using force as well as to ensure stability in the region.
Member states support Russia’s active role in facilitating peace and cooperation in the region and are in favour of lasting security for South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
CSTO member states express the need for continued cooperation in re-establishing an effective mechanism for control over the various weapons ”.
For obvious reasons, the Declaration is a long one and not only devoted to developments in the Caucasus: there are many very important and significant points concerning the situation in Europe, the proliferation of medium- and short-range ground-based missiles, strengthening the role of the United Nations, as well as the situation in several conflict zones, the situation in Afghanistan, the situation around Iran, the prospects of establishing relations between the CSTO and NATO in a number of issues, and support for the initiatives of the Russian Federation relating to a treaty on European security.
Thus, on the basis of this Declaration you can judge the real, tangible intentions CSTO member states.
Question: This question is addressed to all the participants of the press conference, if possible.
The CSTO is a relatively young organisation with good potential for development. What do you think you need to do for the organisation to quickly become a truly effective and authoritative international organisation, whose opinion will be listened to by the great powers of this world?
Dmitry Medvedev: May I first say two words? I believe that the Organisation’s members are also great powers and this is why the Organisation has such a responsibility.
Indeed, our organisation is young but very promising. And in order to raise its profile, in addition to concerted actions — especially in times of crisis, like that in the Caucasus — we need to step up cooperation on all fronts. With regards to ensuring regional and interregional security, preventing emergency situations, engaging in disaster management and, last but not least, based on the nature of the organisation, its military component.
If the organisation develops in this direction, it will be a strong organisation, which really helps ensure the national security of all States Parties. Without a certain rigidity in the implementation of decisions, without strengthening its military component, the organisation cannot grow, and we are now talking about this with my colleagues. It is quite obvious. The organisation has rights and responsibilities, including in matters of self-defence, the elimination of the consequences of armed conflicts, attacks on member countries, and we believe that all these items of its founding Treaty should be strictly enforced.
Expanding our potential in these areas would indicate that the organisation is getting stronger and becoming one of the most authoritative organisations in this sphere.
Serzh Sargsyan: I fully agree with Dmitry Anatolyevich that the CSTO is a strong organisation. But how to ensure that our organisation becomes even stronger? Apart from the fact that, of course, we need to strengthen its military component, I think that we imperatively need to coordinate our foreign policy activities, because we are members of one organisation and must not only say this but also be guided by this fact.
And if I were to answer in one sentence: if we had implemented all the decisions we have taken, we would be much stronger than we are today.
Question: We have heard the opinion that, among its functions, the CSTO is also a military organisation. In light of this I would like to hear the views of both presidents on what conclusions and generalisations can be drawn from recent developments in the Caucasus.
Dmitry Medvedev: A few conclusions. First, we need to conduct ourselves decently, to abide by international law, respect the agreements that have been reached, including with respect to peacekeeping. If someone does not do so, they will face harsh consequences. This is probably one of the most significant conclusions that should be drawn on the basis of the crisis in the Caucasus. No one is allowed to kill people, destroy peacekeepers — who are there under international mandate — with impunity. The implications will be very serious.
Another conclusion. Following such conflicts, we all must think about what additional mechanisms must be used to prevent them in the future. What are these mechanisms? Of course they include those derived from our Treaty, the CSTO. There is a need for a coherent foreign policy in this regard. What Serzh Azatovich just said is absolutely accurate. We also need to strengthen the military component so that those who wish to arm themselves still have the appropriate incentives to opt for more reasonable solutions.
We would be extremely reluctant for the incorrect conclusions to be made from this conflict in the Caucasus. We would not like Georgia, which acted as aggressor, to continue to arm and to do so uncontrollably, with unclear objectives and completely unforeseeable consequences. It seems to me that this is a lesson for the entire international community, including for those who take decisions about additional funding and military-technical cooperation with Georgia.
There is another conclusion. After what happened, it is clear that the security architecture that existed prior to 8 August 2008 has proved its weakness. The entire international community must reflect on the creation of new architecture, which would be based on the principles of international cooperation, strict compliance with international law, avoiding arbitrary interpretation of the law and conflict prevention. This order should be based on multipolarity and the avoidance of domination by any state which considers it possible to assume the role of establishing a single world order.
I have already spoken about this. I believe that such a system has absolutely no perspective and is even dangerous. Unfortunately, such a system is not able to ensure security, as was proven by events surrounding South Ossetia.
These are probably the main lessons that we all need to draw from what happened.
Serzh Sargsyan: Another conclusion is that the free will of a people cannot be trumped by a military solution. This is fraught with serious consequences, including military and geopolitical ones. Therefore, we should permanently forget about dealing with such issues by using force.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.