CSTO summit demonstrates Russian dictator's total isolation – media review

17 May, 08:41 PM
Russian dictator Vladimir Putin among CSTO leaders on May 16 (Photo:Alexander Nemenov/Pool via REUTERS)

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin among CSTO leaders on May 16 (Photo:Alexander Nemenov/Pool via REUTERS)

On May 16, Moscow hosted a CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) summit dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty.

More than anything, the summit demonstrated the reluctance of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin's allies to support the war he unleashed against Ukraine.

In his speech, Putin once again repeated the hackneyed propaganda clichés about "rampant neo-Nazism" and "U.S. biological laboratories" in Ukraine. He decided to talk about the course of the war, during which his troops suffered huge losses, behind closed doors.

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However, even the closest allies did not support Putin. No one, except for Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, who is completely dependent on Russia, mentioned the war in Ukraine.

NV reviews international media to see how the world has reacted to Putin’s complete isolation.

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The New York Times reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin faced a series of setbacks on May 16 over the Ukraine invasion, as his faltering military appeared forced to further shrink its goals and an emboldened NATO practiced war games with the alliance's two newest applicants (Finland and Sweden) on his country's doorstep.

"To make matters worse for Mr. Putin, his own allies in Russia's counterpart to NATO failed to rally around him at a summit meeting in Moscow, leading to the optics of an increasingly isolated Kremlin in full display on Russia's state-run television," the NYT said.

"And in what would be a change of position, Mr. Putin seemed to soften his strong objections to NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, which participated in its military exercises in the Baltics on Monday. Only last week, Mr. Putin had warned the two Nordic countries that joining NATO would be a mistake."

"Taken together, the developments on Monday created one of the starkest contrasts yet between the Russia of now versus that of Feb. 24, when columns of Russian tanks and tens of thousands of its soldiers poured into Ukraine from the east, north and south, in what seemed at the time like an unstoppable juggernaut that could end Ukraine's independence as a sovereign country."

It is also noted that the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based group, said in its latest appraisal that Russian forces had likely abandoned their goal of encircling tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers in Donbas and had halted their own attempt to seize Donetsk, focusing instead on capturing Luhansk.

"Western military analysts have repeatedly cautioned that Russia remains by far the bigger force, and that the war could last for months or years. Russia still controls a swath of southern Ukraine seized early in the invasion and has blockaded Black Sea ports, choking Ukraine's economic lifelines," the NYT wrote.

In Moscow, where Mr. Putin convened a meeting of Russia's answer to NATO – the six-member Collective Security Treaty Organization – only one member, Belarus, spoke up to support him on Ukraine.

"It was supposed to be a celebratory meeting to commemorate the group's founding 30 years ago. But it turned into a demonstration of discord among some of Mr. Putin's friendly neighbors,” the NYT noted.

Speaking first in the televised portion of the summit, President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus – who has supported Mr. Putin's war but has not sent troops – criticized other members for having insufficiently backed Russia and Belarus in the face of Western sanctions.

"Are we just as connected by bonds of solidarity and support now?" he asked, after mentioning the alliance's support of the Kazakh government.‘

"Maybe I'm wrong, but as recent events have shown, it seems the answer is no."

Kazakhstan has said it would not help Russia circumvent international sanctions. In a United Nations vote on March 2 condemning the invasion of Ukraine, Belarus was the only post-Soviet country to take Russia's side.

"Look at how monolithically the European Union votes and acts," Mr. Lukashenko said at Monday's summit, sitting at a round table with the other leaders.

"If we are separate, we'll just be crushed and torn apart."

As if to confirm Mr. Lukashenko's point, the leaders of the other members – Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – did not mention Ukraine in their televised remarks.

The NYT also said that the Ukraine invasion has put those countries in a tough spot.

"They all have close economic and military ties to Russia, but Mr. Putin's invasion of a sovereign neighbor sets a foreboding precedent for countries looking to diversify their foreign policy beyond Moscow," the report says.

Mr. Putin, speaking at the summit, again tried to justify his invasion by falsely claiming that "neo-Nazism has long been rampant in Ukraine."

Russia-focused independent outlet Meduza also drew attention to the fact thatno one out of Russia's main military allies except Lukashenko mentioned the war in Ukraine at the CSTO meeting.

In addition to the Russian and Belarusian dictators, the meeting was attended by Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov, and CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas.

Meduza notes that, in addition to the "rampant neo-Nazism," Putin once again spoke about the alleged development of biological weapons in Ukraine, and Lukashenko about the "attempt to dismember" Ukraine and that the country "fell under the West."

In addition, Putin said that the CSTO leaders would discuss a "special military operation" in Ukraine at the closed part of the meeting.

The issue of sending CSTO troops to Ukraine was not discussed, Zas said. He added that Putin "reported very thoroughly" about the course of the "special operation" in Ukraine, but did not provide any details.

Meduza also noted that the authorities of Kazakhstan announced before and immediately after the start of the "special operation" that the CSTO troops would not fight in Ukraine.

Reuters reported that Lukashenko on May 16 urged other members of a Russian-dominated military alliance to stand united, and accused the West of hoping to prolong the conflict in Ukraine to try to weaken Russia as much as possible.

Lukashenko said "hellish sanctions" against his country and Russia could have been avoided if the group had spoken with one voice.

"Without a united front, the collective West will build up pressure on the post-Soviet space," Lukashenko said in his opening remarks, addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Italian media outlet Il Tempo reports that Putin has been isolated among the CSTO allies due to the war in Ukraine, and also emphasizes that only Lukashenko out of the Russian dictator's allies supported the "special military operation in Ukraine.

"Lukashenko said that in January, the CSTO sent armed forces to Kazakhstan to help the government cope with an attempted coup, while now the CSTO countries no longer seem to be bound by "bonds of solidarity and support."

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