August 16th 2011,
According to yesterday’s Russia Profile, leaders of the post-soviet states that make up the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have recently been banging their heads together at a summit in Astana, in an attempt to avoid the revolutionary fates which have befallen some of their colleagues in the middle East.
As such, while CSTO has, since its creation in 1992 been essentially limited to a collective security set-up for Russia and the six states over which it retains some degree of hegemony (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), it is now beginning to take on an additional hue, seeking to collectively prevent the political destabilization of member state regimes.
Discussion has centered on the following suggestions;
Firstly, it looks like the future for Twitter, Facebook and other potentially “destructive” social media is looking somewhat dicey in CSTO countries, as they seek to create an “impregnable wall” to shut out colour revolutions (although whether this means regulation, a total ban, or rather just switching these sites off during periods of unrest remains to be decided).
Secondly, external military intervention by a shared Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) to prevent revolution in CSTO states has also been mooted, principally by embattled, but newly Russia-friendly Belarusian President (and current CSTO chair) Alyaksandr Lukashenka. However, this approach looks less plausible as part of a CSTO-wide strategy, since few of the other leaders trust their colleagues enough to give them a pretext for invasion.
With regard to social media, from Democratist’s perspective, despite the wailings of Russia Today and other propagandists, the revolutions in the middle East have not been the work of outside forces, a “CIA plot,” or other self-serving conspiracy tripe, but rather an inevitable result of the internal economic and social development and contradictions of Middle Eastern states, combined with popular attraction towards an ideal manifested externally (the relative political and economic success of a growing ”core” of democratic countries).
All seven CSTO states are likely to face a growth in similar pressures over the coming years, which may be exacerbated by renewed global downturn. However, regulation of the internet is unlikely to make much difference; it is technically difficult to pull off effectively over lengthy periods, and in any case many alternative sources of information already exist (or can be created) in terms of satellite TV, shortwave radio, and the circulation of books, periodicals and newspapers.
Additionally, such restrictions are likely to act as a yet another reminder to the populations of these countries of the repression to which they are subject. Nor is the internet decisively important as a tool for revolutionary organization (as we are now witnessing in Syria). It is certainly useful, but plenty of revolutions took place before internet age, and will surely continue to do regardless of whether populations have access to the internet, mobile phones or other devices.
However, Lukashenka’s position is more proximately precarious than those of other CSTO leaders, and gives some indication of a possible future scenario in Belarus if things were to go seriously awry. Moscow is keen to maintain control of Belarusian energy transit and oil refineries, and Lukashenka has been forced to the table by internal political and economic developments. In our estimation, the Russians would almost certainly be willing to use military force to ensure control rather than risk the emergence of a less pliable government in the event that Belarus entered into a period of serious internal unrest.