Russian Thinking about CSTO Peacekeeping: Central Asia, China, and the Ukraine War


When Putin defined his vision of a Eurasian regional order on June 17, 2016, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, he called it the Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP), an international organization that would incorporate the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), China, China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), Japan, India, Pakistan, Iran, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, and European countries. Many of the countries and organizations included in the GEP vision were not aware they were in it, and many were uncertain what its purpose was.

The EAEU had been Putin’s economic integration initiative for a customs union among post-Soviet states. He hoped to create a Russian sphere of influence in the territory of the former Soviet Union. Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan joined the EAEU. The EAEU would only have been economically relevant if Ukraine had joined it, which it refused to do, leaving the EAEU struggling to be viable.

The EAEU and BRI had been officially linked during the May 8–9, 2015 visit by Xi Jinping to Moscow. The Chinese referred to this as docking [对接] the two projects, and the new framework created by this docking “一带一盟” [one belt, one union]. From 2015 to the present there has not been a successful docking. The EAEU was meant to block Chinese economic penetration of Central Asia but was unsuccessful as Beijing had treated the EAEU as a corridor for the BRI. The GEP was a much larger strategy to counterbalance China, meant to show Russia as taking the initiative in the post-Soviet space of Central Asia, and to treat this as the center of a much larger Eurasian regional architecture linked to other regional organizations such as the SCO and ASEAN.

Much has been written about the EAEU and the GEP as economic integration mechnisms. There was another organization in the post-Soviet space that has been less studied, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which was meant to function as a post-Soviet security mechanism for peacekeeping, and a mechanism for security cooperation with China. This article examines the CSTO’s relations in the post-Soviet space and with China, taking the Ukraine crisis as a case study of CSTO viability as a peacekeeping organization.

CSTO in the post-Soviet space

Vladimir Putin’s speech at the 2007 Munich Security Conference presented his view of Russia’s security interests and warned the West against NATO’s eastward expansion. Putin was particularly concerned about post-Soviet countries joining NATO.1 It was the same year that Putin began to shape the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) into an organization for peacekeeping, which he has continued to do up to the present. Putin also expected the CSTO to help Moscow create a Russian sphere of influence among post-Soviet states. Additionally, Putin hoped to make the CSTO a basis for resistance to NATO and NATO’s eastward expansion.

The CSTO had begun as a Collective Security Treaty (CST) among post-Soviet countries in 1992 focused on terrorism. In 2002, CST member states agreed to form a military alliance, a collective security arrangement, CSTO. On October 7, 2007, the organization created a legal framework for forming its peacekeeping activities, Agreement on Peacekeeping Activities of the CSTO.2 The Agreement allowed for deployment of PKO within member states’ territory and also outside of CSTO members. Deployment outside of CSTO was important for cooperation with the UN. However, despite the steady institutionalization of the organization, the CSTO did not actually engage in a peacekeeping mission until January 2022 in Kazakhstan.

The CSTO had become under Putin a collective security arrangement to form a Eurasian regional order, an alternative to the Western liberal order. Other CSTO countries were not as negative on NATO. Armenia contributes forces to NATO peacekeeping. Kazakhstan, through NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, established a training center in December 2007, and had annual military exercises with NATO allies called “Steppe Eagle” since 2006.3

The Russian rationale for peacekeeping in the post-Soviet space is that Russia has a duty to protect ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking populations living there. Victims of ethnic conflict in the near abroad expect Russia to rescue them. Moscow claimed it had this responsibility since the international community was not interested in participating in peacekeeping in the post-Soviet space.4

Chinese analysts have noted Moscow’s stress on exerting influence over the post-Soviet space as a means for Russia to regain its status as a great power, and Chinese recognize that the mechanisms used by Moscow to consolidate its leadership in Central Asia are the CSTO and the EAEU. Chinese analysts recognized the tension between Moscow’s ambitions to integrate and lead the post-Soviet states, and those states determination to consolidate their sovereignty and territorial integrity, which led to Russia and post-Soviet states continuously adjusting and negotiating their relationship. Post-Soviet states feel they cannot completely cut off all ties with Moscow lest they provoke the Kremlin, nor can they let Moscow undermine their sovereignty.5 

In December 2021, Xi Jinping discussed with Putin possibilities in China’s relationship with the CSTO. According to TASS, Beijing intended to expand its cooperation with Russia and the CSTO to maintain security and stability.6 Xi implied China might participate in a joint peacekeeping mission with the CSTO. The CSTO welcomed dialogue and cooperation with China to maintain stability in the Eurasian region.7

China’s interest in the CSTO was as a source of security for its BRI in Central Asia. As an economic initiative, BRI lacked a political framework. In May 2018, Xi Jinping tried to incorporate the SCO into the BRI at the SCO’s Tianjin meeting, which would have given BRI a political framework. Xi’s initiative was vetoed by India. Cooperating with CSTO might institutionalize further a political framework for Central Asia. It would have initiated China’s security role in the region in a way that would not threaten Moscow or Central Asian countries. Moscow had frowned on China’s new military facility in Tajikistan and also Chinese bilateral military exercises with Central Asian states.

Peacekeeping entails maintaining functional civil-military relations. An enduring issue for civil-military studies is civilian control of the power of the armed forces, ensuring their accountability to civilian authorities, and their compliance with civil and human rights to not target civilian populations. There is much written on the Russian and Chinese militaries but much less on their civil-military relations because the study of this poses many challenges. One is the assumption that Leninist systems command strong loyalty from their militaries and maintain good civilian control through a system of political commissars and party secretaries. In 2018, Putin created a new directorate responsible for military-patriotic work within the Russian army, resurrecting a Soviet-era practice. Therefore, there is an assumption that there is no problem of losing civilian control.

However, there are many other issues in Leninist systems’ civil-military relations that warrant further examination. One challenge is the merging of civilian and military roles, especially with the Chinese Long March generation which had both military and civilian roles. More recently problematic is China’s military-civilian fusion (MCF). whose purpose is for China to develop the most technologically advanced military in the world by removing barriers between civilian commercial research and China’s defense industrial sectors, thus incorporating civilian researchers into military projects.8

An additional issue is whether there is military dominance of foreign policymaking leading to securitization of policy, or alternatively, the military could have a moderating influence on civilian leaders. Both Russia and China have what might be called the “chicken hawk” problem in Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, where militarized civilians do not represent civilian interests in relations with their military, nor do they represent military interests as they are much more willing to initiate military adventurism than the uniformed services. A chicken hawk is defined as a person who advocates for war yet has themself avoided active military service. The chicken hawk assumes he is a great military strategist but invariably embroils the military in disasters such as wars of choice with ambiguous objectives. During wars and peacekeeping does the military deliberately target civilians? Do peacekeeping operations focus on protecting civilians? What is the military’s treatment of civilian conscripts?

The prospect of Sino-Russian joint peacekeeping leads to questions on Russian concepts of peacekeeping compared to Chinese concepts. Empirical analysis of peacekeeping allows for comparing norms of civil-military relations with their practical application on the ground.

China and the CSTO

Xi Jinping’s interest in the CSTO is surprising given previous Chinese skepticism of the organization. A prominent Chinese analyst, Zhao Huasheng, in March 2021, reflected this doubt on the CSTO as a peacekeeping organization, as it seemed to be a means to create a Russian sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space that would keep other great powers, including China. out. Russia was focused on restoring a special relationship—political, military, economic and cultural—promoting regional integration through the CSTO. Zhao thought Russia’s goal would face challenges from sovereign states’ resistance to political integration with Russia.9

The 2021 Taliban takeover of Afghanistan had led to discussion of China-CSTO relations in the context of setting up a buffer zone around Afghanistan at the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border, patrolled by CSTO, to protect Central Asia and Xinjiang. Some Chinese analysts suggested China could coordinate with, if not participate in, the CSTO patrols of the buffer zone, while other Chinese thought it was not in China’s interest to officially take part in CSTO’s military alliance.10

In September 2021, there was a joint meeting of SCO and CSTO Heads of State to discuss the security situation in Afghanistan. Putin suggested closer contact between the CSTO and the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), and the participation of the CSTO collective rapid reaction forces in SCO counterterrorism exercises.11 Xi Jinping agreed that CSTO-SCO jointly play a stabilizing role in Afghanistan and eradicate terrorist organizations.12

It was at that time that Putin added an amendment to the CSTO peacekeeping agreement that CSTO would be under the leadership of a “coordinating state.” Russia intended itself to be the coordinating state. The Russian Duma ratified Putin’s proposal, but none of the other CSTO members’ parliaments have ratified the amendment, possibly concerned that Putin might use this to drag CSTO into a conflict with Ukraine. 

In January 2022, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed support for cooperation between the CSTO and the SCO in relation to the CSTO intervention in Kazakhstan. Wang’s preference seemed to be working through the SCO rather than China-CSTO relations. However, a Chinese analyst noted that “the SCO lacks the toolbox to directly intervene. Nor does it have any provision allowing it to send troops into member states.”13

Under Russian leadership, CSTO carried out a peacekeeping mission for the first time in January 2022 in Kazakhstan. On January 5, 2022, Kazakh President Tokayev requested assistance from the CSTO to manage protestors. He, in effect, was asking for Kremlin assistance, to overcome what Tokayev called a "foreign terrorist threat.” CSTO would only have come to his assistance if his country was under attack from foreign forces, not domestic protestors, leading him to declare the protests were led by foreign terrorists. CSTO troops were dispatched within days. On January 19, 2022, CSTO announced the peacekeeping operation was over and all troops had left Kazakhstan.

At that time, China was marginalized and sidelined in Kazakhstan. Russian China expert Igor Denisov noted that Beijing had less political leverage in Kazakhstan than Moscow despite Beijing’s economic clout. Denisov suggested China benefited from the Russian and CSTO security role in Central Asia. He was critical of China’s wait-and-see approach, while Russia was the active player in Kazakhstan. He thought it was possible for Beijing to accept a security role in the future, hinting China could be part of such an operation if it so chose.14

The Russian intervention in Kazakhstan’s domestic riots was understood by both Russians and Chinese to have shifted the balance within Kazakhstan toward Moscow. Russian analysts were quick to point out this transformation and to emphasize that Chinese investments in Central Asia required Russian protection.  Alexander Gabuev, noted that China lacks what Russia possesses—airborne troops that speak the local language, which can be dispatched in a matter of hours, and have good intelligence on Kazakh elite politics and decision-making.15

Dmitri Trenin predicted that Kazakhstan would become more pro-Russian and a much more reliable ally, giving up its multi-vector diplomacy that cultivated China, the US, EU and NATO, which had irritated the Kremlin.16 Trenin situated the Kazakh crisis in a larger transformation by Moscow, which was no longer tolerating post-Soviet states’ multivector diplomacy. He warned that Moscow is rebuilding itself as the leading great power in the post-Soviet space, and that “the geopolitical retreat that Russia began three decades ago has ended, and a new policy of selective expansion based on Russia’s national interests has commenced.”17The Russian Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Alexey Borodavkin, claimed that the Steppe Eagle military exercise that Kazakhstan hosted with the U.S. and NATO, would “no longer fly in Kazakhstan” because Kazakhstan was now more firmly a part of CSTO.18

The CSTO followed up on Wang Yi’s suggestion for closer CSTO-SCO cooperation. On February 16, 2022, CSTO, the Commonwealth of Independent States Anti-Terrorism Center (CIS ATC), and the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) signed a joint agreement on common approaches to countering international terrorism and extremism. The agreement supported the UN Security Council resolution 2354 (2017) on countering terrorist ideas, and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The organizations considered themselves to be part of a broad anti-terrorist coalition, which could come under the auspices of the UN.19 The agreement had been signed in Moscow the same day the UN Security Council debated cooperation between the United Nations peacekeeping system and the CSTO.

In 2010, CSTO had signed the Joint Declaration on Cooperation between the United Nations and the CSTO. The UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia had worked in close partnership with the CSTO on issues such as cross-border crime, terrorism, and drug trafficking. More recently from 2020-2022, the CSTO worked especially hard to establish its legitimacy within the United Nations PKO system.20 There was a 2020 CSTO Plan to Start Negotiations with the UN to include CSTO peacekeepers within UN international peacekeeping forces.

Chinese and Russian Peacekeeping

A major difference between China and Russia is that China is much more active in UN PKO. In December 2021, there were 2.235 Chinese peacekeepers and 79 Russian peacekeepers contributing to UN missions.21 Russian peacekeeping operations differ from UN missions in their lack of attention to mediation and constructive dialogue, and other peacebuilding efforts that could support peaceful resolution.

The values of the UN, protection of the individual through development, peace and security, and human rights are reflected in the UN’s core obligation to protect civilians in armed conflict. In the 1990s, responding to atrocities in Rwanda and the Balkans, the UN moved toward principles of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). States committed to these principles at the 2005 UN World Summit.

China and Russia were skeptical of R2P, although in 1956 China had ratified the Fourth Geneva Convention, which protects civilians in areas of armed conflict, Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, signed on August 12,1949. There are 159 articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV). which state that civilians are to be protected from murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, torture, or brutality, and from discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, religion, or political opinion. Civilians are defined as persons not participating in armed conflict or no longer participating. On November 12, 2019, Russia withdrew from the Fourth Geneva Convention.22

Chinese PKO values tend to emphasize a strong state, political order, and social stability.23 Chinese are concerned with protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a state, not getting involved in combat missions, and promoting state capacity-building especially in infrastructure. Given China’s principle of non-interference in domestic affairs, it has been cautiously supportive of R2P under certain conditions—if there are large-scale killings of civilians and mass violence, if the state is failing, and if the UN Security Council approves. China vacillates on a case-by-case basis but is considered to be adapting to the concept of R2P. Russian-style peacekeeping shares with China a state-centric focus and concern with preserving order rather than protecting civilians. Russia’s understanding of R2P has been used to justify military interventions in post-Soviet states to protect the rights of ethnic Russians.

China’s experience with peacekeeping has taken a different trajectory than Russia’s. The United Nations PKO has been a venue for building China’s international image. There have been more than 40,000 Chinese peacekeepers participating in 30 UN missions. China has developed principles for peacekeeping that include UN Security Council control of PKO, host state consent to PKO, the non-use of force except in self-defense, the need to retain impartiality, and adhere to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. All of these principles align with UN principles.

In the Chinese view of peacekeeping, there is minimal space for an independent role for civil society and NGOs. Chinese are opposed to UN PKO promotion of a host country’s domestic political reform, which they fear Western states would use to encourage political liberalization. The Chinese have tried to increase the legitimacy of the one-party state and authoritarian governance, arguing there is no single model for peacebuilding. Xi Jinping is intent on China expanding its influence in global governance and transforming the global governance system. China’s participation within the UN PKO system has allowed it to continually shape from within UN norms, UN procedures, and how the UN organizes PKO.24

Russia has followed two alternative tracks in peacekeeping, one with the UN and NATO, and the other gradually creating a Eurasian peacekeeping force that reflects Russian style peacekeeping at odds with United Nations PKO. Putin has dispatched Russian armed forces for overseas missions in Georgia, Syria, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, which he called peacekeeping missions, but lack the legitimacy of UN PKO and are not internationally recognized as peacekeeping missions.

The ideal Russian civil-military relationship is portrayed in a Russian account of civil-military relations during WWII in Primorsky Krai, which notes that an acute labor shortage led to special forms of civil-military interaction. Responsibility for overseeing development of defense capabilities was delegated to civil authority, the Far Eastern Regional Committee of All-Union Communist Party.  Soviet military personnel were assigned civilian agricultural tasks. The army, the Special Red Banner Far East Army (Osobaya Krasnoznamennaya Delnevostochnaya Armiya, OKVDA), and the Pacific Fleet (TOF) were involved in the collectivization of farms, consolidating individual farms into collective farms. Discharged soldiers were encouraged to settle in the Soviet Far East and farm. During WWII, wartime labor shortages in factories led to placing military personnel into the industrial work force. Fishing boats were used for military transport, soldiers worked as fishermen. This Russian account of civil-military relations in Primorye during WWII upholds the melding of civilian and military roles.25

This WWII experience, and the Cold War afterwards, left a distinctive political culture of a militarized civilian population with minimal political space for an autonomous civil society. When the author arrived in Vladivostok, capital of Primorsky Krai, in 1992, she was stunned to find the civilian population so mobilized and militarized. Primorye was home to the Soviet Pacific Fleet, making this a unique situation and not generalizable to other Russian territories.

Another civil-military dimension is the recruitment of civilians as conscripts in the military. Analysts claim that the problematic nature of Russian mandatory service has been for the past three centuries the basic problem of Russian civil-military relations.26 Conscripts are notoriously brutalized in the army with reports of starvation, hazing, and beatings. Russian civilians promote replacing conscription with a professional military force but are opposed by Russian military elites. The 2008 Russian-Georgian War revealed the problem of inertia and lack of motivation in the conscript-based army.27 In 2001, Putin promised to end military conscription but has not yet implemented this reform.

On the issue of a military’s restraining influence on civilian elites, studies of the Russian use of force and civil-military relations found military elites did not have a restraining influence on political elites’ defense policy, but they were more hesitant to support an interventionist foreign policy compared to civilian political elites.28 Putin views the world through information provided by a small circle—the FSB (Federal Security Service), SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service) and FSO (Federal Protective Service), giving him a distorted view of reality and contributing to securitization of foreign policy.29  

By contrast, NATO, as an alliance of democracies, emphasizes civilian control with a constant exchange of political and military views. In January 2003, the Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) Group North (CIMIC Group North) was created to advise a NATO Commander with a coordinated approach to civil-military expertise, important during NATO operations.30 This exchange of civilian and military views is replicated throughout the organization. When the former Warsaw Pact countries joined the Partnership for Peace program with NATO, they began a process of socialization and transformation that required them to adopt new practices and culture in civil-military relations.31

Russia joined the Partnership for Peace program with NATO in 1994 but experienced much less socialization. According to NATO, it was trying to build a partnership with Russia, developing practical cooperation in areas of common interest, and carrying out a dialogue. Russia joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (1991), and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (1997). The 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act forged the formal basis for bilateral relations and included the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC) as a forum for consultation, which was replaced by the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) in 2002.

According to a NATO brochure, in the 1990s initial stage of the relationship, Russian peacekeepers working with NATO-led peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, Herzegovina and Bosnia exhibited “military professionalism, discipline” and even-handedness. During their service in the Balkans, Russian peacekeepers got to know how NATO works and acts.32 Russia passed a law on June 23, 1995, Federal Law No. 93-FZ On Procedures for Deploying Civil and Military Personnel for Activities Related to the Maintenance or Restoration of the International Peace and Security, providing a legal framework for Russian military and civilian personnel to participate in UN peacekeeping operations.

NATO-Russian relations have had a mixed history. Russia did not seek authorization for military intervention from the United Nations Security Council before the 2008 military intervention in Georgia that Putin called peacekeeping. Putin claimed Russian troops were protecting human rights under the R2P. Russian recognition of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states led to NATO suspending formal meetings of the NRC, which were then resumed in 2009.

The Russian formal training of Russian peacekeeping forces is claimed to be based on the same training UN Blue Helmets receive mixed with experiences from the Afghan War, Transcaucusus, and other conflicts. However, Russian peacekeepers do not maintain neutrality, and end up being a party to the conflict. In contrast to traditional UN peacekeeping, Russian peacekeepers rely on heavy artillery, forcefully separating the opposing sides, and forcefully pressuring combatants to come to an agreement. Russian peacekeepers believe they must have “a powerful strike force of long-range artillery groups, combat helicopters and ground attack aircraft, as well as with a mobile reserve of tactical forces in tanks or APCs.”33

A USIP report found Russian peacekeeping driven by geostrategic interests and global political ambitions with behavioral patterns reflecting Russian strategic culture, all at odds with UN principles.34 The report noted that in the near abroad in Europe and Central Asia, Moscow preferred “weak, corrupt, conflict-ridden, and economically dependent states over which Moscow can exert leverage.”35 The CSTO and EAEU were created for this purpose.

NATO-Russian cooperation was suspended in 2014 due to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, which NATO states it will never recognize, although it still remains open to dialogue with Russia.36 Despite tensions, NATO’s policy continued to be strengthening deterrence while remaining open to dialogue with Russia. The NRC resumed meetings in 2016, holding 11 meetings since then until 2022. In October 2021, NATO had reduced the Russian mission to NATO due to a large number of undeclared intelligence officers in it.

In December 2021, Russia proposed a legally binding treaty to NATO, demanding NATO not enlarge further to the east and prohibiting NATO from deploying military forces or weaponry in member states that joined after 1997 which would be former members of the Soviet bloc. Russia’s proposal was against NATO’s Open Door Policy.37 On January 12, 2022, the NRC met to discuss Russia’s military build-up in and around Ukraine, and Russia’s proposal to block NATO’s eastward expansion. Putin had linked the two issues. The NRC has not met again since then.

In January 2022, CSTO had its first peacekeeping mission in Kazakhstan. The CSTO intervention was considered successful since Russian forces only guarded facilities such as the airport, were reported to never have had contact with Kazakh civilians, and departed Kazakhstan after a few days. It was a careful and well-choreographed performance rather than genuine peacekeeping. This was the first use of CSTO troops in a peacekeeping mission.

The Kazakh PKO experience was touted by Russians as demonstrating Russian political leadership in a Russian sphere of influence in the Central Asian post-Soviet space. The Kazakh PKO was meant to demonstrate to China that Russia had strategic and cultural influence in Central Asia. China had expected Central Asia to go through a process of de-Russification that would reduce Russian cultural influence and allow for larger Chinese economic influence.38

Following the January 2022 CSTO peacekeeping in Kazakhstan, Russia sought to establish greater legitimacy for the CSTO in the UN. On February 16, 2022, Russia, as Security Council president, organized a debate in the UN Security Council on the CSTO’s partnership with the UN. TASS reported that Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin discussed with the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the possibility of expanding participation of the CSTO in United Nations global peacekeeping operations.39 Previously, the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly on April 21, 2021, had adopted by consensus a resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the CSTO.

The February 16, 2022 UN session debated furthering cooperation in peacekeeping under the Action for Peacekeeping initiative and its implementation strategy, the Action for Peacekeeping Plus.40 This was the third time Russia had organized this debate. There were similar debates on October 28, 2016 and September 25, 2019, when Russia was Security Council president. Security Council members were divided. The US and UK were skeptical of CSTO motives.41 This was only four days before Putin’s declaration he would dispatch Russian peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine.

Chinese UN Ambassador Zhang Jun praised the Russian initiative in the Security Council, supported CSTO peacekeeping in Kazakhstan, and supported CSTO participating in UN PKO. He stated that China planned to increase its communication and coordination with the CSTO member states. Zhang noted that “China stands ready to work with the CSTO member states to deepen cooperation in promotion of BRI.”42 The UN Security Council debate did not produce any concrete outcome.

The CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas’s statement in the debate claimed that CSTO regarded the UN as its main international partner with which it sought to expand cooperation in peacekeeping. He referred to the CSTO Collective Peacekeeping Forces’ success in Kazakhstan the previous month which he noted was fully in line with UN legal principles.43 However, the UN does not recognize Russia’s right to a sphere of influence in post-Soviet states, nor a right to dispatch Russian peacekeepers to post-Soviet states. On February 17, 2022, the day after the UN Security Council debated CSTO-UN relations, Zas, from Belarus, had stated that the CSTO could deploy to the Donbass in Eastern Ukraine on a peacekeeping mission.44 Zas at that time indicated that troops would only be sent to the Donbass. and it is not clear he was speaking for all of the CSTO member states.

Ukraine: case study of Russian civil-military relations and peacekeeping

Russia’s militarized peacekeeping invasion in Ukraine demonstrated weaknesses in Russian civil-military relations. Putin’s planning for the invasion contributed to its failures. Putin did not do serious war planning but rather planned a clandestine operation. He kept his plan hidden, involving only a very small group of military planners. Putin did not have strong Ukrainian experts advising him.45 Consequently, Russian soldiers dispatched to Ukraine were in disarray, under-supplied, and uncertain of their mission.

On February 21, 2022, Putin announced in a televised address that he would recognize the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), and that he had ordered the Russian military to conduct "peacekeeping operations" in these Ukrainian territories. Putin claimed his goal was to de-nazify and demilitarize Ukraine. He also stated that Ukraine is not really a separate country from Russia.

Russian style peacekeeping did not gain international legitimacy as the world rejected Russia’s claim to peacekeeping in its Ukraine invasion. On February 26, 2022, the UN Security Council voted on a resolution that demanded Moscow immediately stop its attack on Ukraine and withdraw all troops. Of the Council’s 15 members, 11 voted in favor, while China, India, and the United Arab Emirates abstained, and Russia vetoed it. US UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, stated that calling a military invasion a “peacekeeping operation” was nonsense. UN Secretary-General António Guterres accused Russia of perverting the concept of peacekeeping. Guterres stated that the protection of Ukrainian civilians was the UN’s highest priority.

After the Russian attack on Ukraine, NATO condemned the attack as a violation of international law that threatened Euro-Atlantic security, stating “Russia has breached the values, principles and commitments that underpin the NATO-Russia relationship.”46 NATO increased its presence in member countries bordering Russia and increased the readiness of the NATO Response Force (NRF). NATO is concerned that Putin will not stop with Ukraine but continue to harass and probe other NATO member countries that are former Soviet bloc countries. Individual NATO countries have supplied Ukraine with weapons and welcomed Ukrainian refugees, but NATO as an alliance stated it would not get involved in Ukraine.

Putin tightly controls information within Russia about the Ukrainian “special military operation,” not revealing the number of Russian soldiers killed, or the losses sustained in the operation. Anyone who calls it a war or a military invasion could receive a 15 -ear jail sentence. The information blackout has effectively deprived the people of clearly understanding the nature of Putin’s Ukrainian invasion. Domestic information campaigns strengthen positive views of Russian “peacekeepers.” The Russian Education Ministry held a “Peace Defenders” lesson online to reinforce the Kremlin’s narrative that Russian peacekeepers had entered Ukraine to protect the civilian population of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.47

In addition to Putin’s peacekeeping narrative, there was an additional Russian justification—conflict in Ukraine was similar to the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War, where the International Brigade with 60,000 volunteers fought against fascism. It was a narrative that made Russia’s invasion a noble cause. Foreign volunteers from Syria, Chechnya, and the Wagner Group, private mercenaries with ties to Russia’s GRU, were meant to help solve Russia’s problem of too few troops sent to Ukraine.48

Foreign volunteers have also joined the Ukrainian fight against Russian troops. The Ukrainian defense ministry has claimed there are over 20,000 individuals from 52 nations volunteering to join the Ukrainian armed forces. Russia has stated it will not give them POW status if captured but rather treat them as criminals and execute them. That would be contrary to the Geneva Convention, article 4, which states
Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy: Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.49

Putin had always assured the Russian public that there were no conscripts, only professional military, participating in his military operation in Ukraine. He was concerned it would hurt his popularity if Russian mothers knew where their sons were. The mothers had been searching for their sons on social media. However, Ukrainian forces had captured Russian conscripts, and many conscripts had surrendered, stating they were not told the true nature of what they were doing and they had not received any training for it. Many were teenagers. Ukraine put videos of their statements on the internet and set up a hotline to provide information to their mothers who were calling Ukraine.

With this information on social media, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed, for the first time on March 9, 2022, that in fact there were conscripts in Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The ministry promised to pull them out but have not done so. Putin, feigning shock, claimed he told Russian army commanders to exclude conscripts from his military operation in Ukraine, ordering punishment for those commanders who had sent conscripts.50

In February 2022, at the beginning of Russia’s invasion, the Ukraine government filed a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Russia under the Genocide Convention. Both countries are signatories to the treaty. Ukraine did not have enough time to gather evidence that Russian troops were committing genocide. Instead, it argued that Russia must stop damaging Ukraine’s reputation with claims that Ukraine is committing genocide, claims that had not been verified. And further that Russia must cease its military invasion based on false claims.
Russia argued that the legal grounds for its military invasion were under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter on self-defense and customary international law, not the Genocide Convention. This was an after the fact argument cobbled together to make sense of Putin’s unsubstantiated claims of genocide.

On March 16, 2022, the ICJ vote was 13-2 in Ukraine’s favor. It ordered Russia to stop the military invasion of Ukraine, to revoke its claim that the Ukrainian government was committing genocide, and to retract its charge that this led to Ukrainian civilians requesting Russia’s military support. The ICJ voted on Ukrainian allegations that Russia falsely accused Ukraine of genocide in order to justify waging war against it. The two no votes cast were from China’s appointee to the UN court, Xue Hanqin, and Russia’s appointee Kirill Gevorgian. Xue Hanqin in his declaration stated that the Geneva Convention did not apply to the situation, thus supporting Russia’s position that it did not act under the Geneva Convention.51

Russian war crimes against Ukrainian civilians, too numerous to catalogue here, are all violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention., from which Russia had withdrawn in 2019. There are photos of Russian forces transporting cluster bombs and vacuum bombs, both banned under the Geneva Conventions. Russian forces have deliberately targeted civilians and bombed civilian targets, including residential areas, hospitals, schools, and humanitarian corridors meant to help civilians escape the fighting. The International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan, from the start, began collecting evidence as did the Ukrainian government, international journalists, Ukrainian civilians, and several governments. The collection of evidence will be used to try Russian commanders and soldiers as war criminals. The Ukrainian government has opened more than 8,000 war crimes investigations against Russia. Ukraine’s prosecutor has accused 10 Russian soldiers of atrocities, torture, and mass killings in the town of Bucha, providing numerous photos of victims. These 10 soldiers were part of Russia’s 64th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade. Their’ names and photos are up on the internet.52

To bolster the Ukrainian military invasion as a peacekeeping mission under CSTO auspices, Putin sought diplomatic support and troop contributions from Central Asian states before and after hostilities had begun, especially Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and also Belarus, all members of the CSTO.  The Kazakh Defense Ministry denied receiving a request to send Kazakh troops to Ukraine, and stated Kazakhstan would not do so.53 President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev convened an emergency Kazakhstan Security Council meeting to discuss the Ukraine crisis and how to minimize negative impact on Kazakhstan.54 Tokayev offered to mediate between Kyiv and Moscow but offered nothing else.55 On March 6, 2022, Kazakh protestors marched against the war in Ukraine, demanding that Kazakhstan withdraw from the CSTO and the EAEU.

Putin called the president of Kyrgyzstan, Sadyr Japarov, after the hostilities began. A Kremlin press release claimed Japarov supported the Russian military intervention in Ukraine. However, Kyrgyzstan’s statement of the call did not mention support for it and instead recommended negotiations. Putin spoke with the president of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and reported Mirziyoyev was supportive. Uzbekistan then clarified that it took a neutral position and suggested settling the crisis on the basis of international law.56

Belarus under President Alexander Lukashenko was the only member of CSTO that gave in to Russian pressure to contribute to the invasion. Lukashenko had initially stated that his military would not participate, but then Belarus became a staging ground for Russian troops, tanks, and the Russian air force to invade Ukraine. Belarus civil society opposed the Russian troop presence. Belarus railway workers sabotaged the rail links used by Russian troops entering Ukraine, disrupting Russian supply lines and creating logistical chaos. Rather than join the Russian military, hundreds of Belarusian volunteers joined a paramilitary group, the Kastus Kalinouski Battalion, to fight Russian troops in Ukraine.57 On February 27, missiles were fired from Belarus into Ukraine. Lukashenko claimed it was a forced step but did not say who was forcing it, and he did not know how many missiles were launched. In March, Lukashenko stated that Belarus troops would enter Ukraine, fighting alongside Russian troops, but by the following month he stated that Belarus troops were forced to enter Ukraine to rescue Belarus truck drivers but would not participate in the military conflict.58

On March 2, 2022, in a UN General Assembly vote on a resolution to condemn Russian aggression in Ukraine. CSTO members Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan abstained, indicating their lack of support for Putin’s invasion. Armenia, a member of the CSTO, announced there was no possibility that CSTO would be sent to Ukraine, stating CSTO mechanisms can only be activated when a CSTO member state is attacked, and Russia had not been attacked.59

Two weeks into the faltering invasion, Putin decided to portray himself as being surprised that his invasion of Ukraine was not a quick peacekeeping mission similar to the mission in Kazakhstan. He claimed his FBS policy advisers had told him Ukraine was weak, controlled by neo-Nazi groups, and there would be no resistance from the Ukrainian people, who would be happy to be liberated from their government. Claiming to be furious with his faulty intelligence, Putin put the head of the FSB’s foreign intelligence branch, Sergey Beseda, in jail.60 It is reported that possibly eight generals have been relieved of their command. There have been approximately 10 Russian generals killed in the Ukrainian war.

Domestically, Putin continued the peacekeeping narrative. On March 18, Putin held a rally in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium with thousands of Russians waving flags. It was a celebration of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and an effort to unite Russians behind the war on Ukraine.61
Having failed to get CSTO support from Central Asian states, Putin reportedly turned to China for military equipment and support. Xi denied he had agreed to do so when pressed by Biden, who warned him of the consequences if China provided material support to Russia’s war in Ukraine.62

China weighed its options on how to respond to the Ukraine war. Xi Jinping did not condemn the invasion, repeated Russian disinformation, and tried to take a neutral position, offering to mediate. But Chinese were deeply divided, debating whether the Ukraine invasion was good or bad for China.
In December 2021, Jia Qingguo had argued that China should focus on comprehensive security, which includes economic security, health security, and food security, rather than a narrow focus on military security. He brought up the Soviet Union as an example of overemphasizing military security. In Jia’s criticism of Chinese hawks, he mentioned that the Soviet Union had collapsed because it had put military expansion over long-term comprehensive security.63

A policy paper published by the US-China Perception Monitor circulated on the Chinese internet for two days, was republished on Chinese blogs and social media, and then was taken down by the Chinese government. Written by Hu Wei, vice-chairman of the Public Policy Research Center of the State Council’s Counselor’s Office, it indicated a Chinese debate about what to do. It recommended that: (1) China cannot be tied to Putin, risking isolation with him, and instead should cut away as soon as possible; (2) China should stop playing both sides while claiming neutrality, and instead choose the world’s mainstream position of the West; and (3) China should demonstrate its role as a responsible major power, and take action to prevent Putin’s possible adventures.64

Other Chinese were supportive of Russia and thought sanctions on Russia were unwarranted. Wang Haiyun, former military attaché in Moscow, and researcher at the China-Russia Strategic Cooperation Think Tank (中俄战略协作高端合作智库], under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, has long advocated for closer Sino-Russian military relations.65 During the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations, Wang promoted a Sino-Russian "quasi-alliance relationship" of "side-by-side, back-to-back, hand-in-hand, and heart-to-heart".66

On February 24, the day of the invasion, the China-Russia Strategic Cooperation Think Tank and the Institute of Russian, Eastern Europe & Central Asia organized a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences meeting on Report on International Situation 2022. Each CASS institute presented a report on their area of interest. Issues included armed conflict in hot spots in Eastern Europe, great powers in geopolitical struggles, Russia striving to increase its influence in the Eurasian continent, the military confrontation in Ukraine, and criticism of the U.S. There was Chinese concern over how the Ukraine invasion impacted BRI.67 What is interesting is that the China-Russia Strategic Cooperation Think Tank organized the meeting on the day of the initial Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the question remains as to why this particular institute organized a CASS general meeting.

A Chinese critic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Feng Yujun, noted that Russia was losing politically, economically and diplomatically. Russia had mistakenly believed the global order was fragmenting, giving Moscow an opening to regain its dominance at an accelerated pace in the post-Soviet space. There had appeared to be a rapid rise of Russian influence in Central Asian security following the Russian January 2022 PKO in Kazakhstan. However, its Ukraine invasion demonstrated that Russian comprehensive national strength is deficient, Russian strategic culture’s obsession with territorial expansion is outdated, its rigid, traditional ways of war-fighting are countered by Ukrainian high-tech weapons, and Russian thinking is obsolete, stuck in the 18th and 19th centuries.68

Chinese continued to issue conflicting statements, reflecting different opinion groups. The ineptness of the Russian invasion in Ukraine called into question whether Moscow could successfully maintain security in the post-Soviet space, and whether China should be associated with it in such organizations as the CSTO. Chinese were most concerned with how to avoid being negatively impacted by the economic sanctions placed on Russia by the UN, the EU and the U.S.


The CSTO had steadily institutionalized and expanded its functions from anti-terrorist organization to collective security arrangement with peacekeeping functions. However, the future of the CSTO is uncertain. The Central Asian CSTO members have not accepted Russia as its “coordinating state.” All the post-Soviet CSTO states have taken lessons from the Ukraine invasion, and are distrustful of Russian ambitions to place them in a Russian sphere of influence. The attempt to incorporate CSTO peacekeeping within the UN system of peacekeeping to date has made little progress.

Throughout the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has claimed to adhere to the norms of UN peacekeeping and the Geneva Conventions even while targeting civilians and trying to hide summary executions of civilians with mass graves. Russia failed to convince the world that its military invasion of Ukraine was a peacekeeping mission, and it failed to recruit other CSTO countries into the military invasion as a CSTO peacekeeping mission in a post-Soviet state. The one CSTO member that did participate in the Ukraine invasion, Belarus, did so reluctantly and under pressure. Lukashenko was opposed by Belarus civil society, from which came volunteers to support Ukraine rather than Russia.

Kazakhstan in particular, as the largest Central Asian state, has infuriated Putin by remaining neutral in the Ukraine war. It stated that it respects the territorial integrity of Ukraine, did not recognize Crimea as Russian territory nor the independence of the Russia-backed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, and would comply only with decisions made by the Security Council. Kazakhstan worries that Putin may target it next as Putin follows a similar pattern to the Ukraine invasion, claiming that Kazakhstan was not a real state, that Kazakhstan must remain within the Russian world [Русский мир], and that the Russian minority in Kazakhstan is being mistreated.69

Although Kazakhstan has been careful not to antagonize Putin, its neutrality has resulted in it coming under Russian pressure. The Kazakh Defense Ministry announced it would not hold the traditional May 9 Victory Day parade in 2022. The parade was inherited from the Soviet era and was more important to Russians than Kazakhs. Putin is emotionally attached to May 9, and has demanded Russian troops demonstrate some success in the Ukrainian war by the May 9 parade. In response, a prominent Russian TV personality claimed Kazakhstan was "ungrateful" and "sly," failing to show its support for Russia. He further stated ““Kazakhs, what kind of ingratitude do you call this?… Look carefully at what is happening in Ukraine… If you think that you can get away with trying to be so cunning, and imagine that nothing will happen to you, you are mistaken.”70 The Kazakh Foreign Ministry viewed his threat as having Kremlin backing and said he was banned from Kazakhstan.

Russian style peacekeeping with numerous crimes against Ukrainian civilians called into question Russian concepts of civil-military relations and peacekeeping. Russian PKO in the post-Soviet states using the CSTO had lost its legitimacy. The sanctions placed on Russia following the Ukraine invasion guaranteed that the CSTO would never be part of the UN PKO system.

During the Ukraine invasion, Beijing appeared to have recalibrated as Chinese domestic debates continued. The crisis has hurt Chinese interests by undermining Ukraine’s participation in the BRI as a supplier of grain and a link for China to Europe. Russian disregard for economic consequences has driven a wedge between it and China.

Putin’s multiple and contradictory goals for the CSTO—to act as a peacekeeping organization working with the UN, to help Moscow establish a sphere of influence in post-Soviet states, and to act as a counterweight to NATO—were not compatible. Faced with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to establish a Russian sphere of influence there and to block NATO’s eastward expansion, the Central Asian CSTO states refused to participate. The CSTO appeared less and less likely to be the security mechanism for Putin’s vision of a Greater Eurasian Partnership led by Moscow.

The director of the Russian International Affairs Council, Andrey Kortunov, observed that the Soviet Union did not collapse in 1991, but instead began a long process of gradual imperial disintegration that has continued up to the present. During this time the Kremlin had planned to consolidate the post-Soviet space under its leadership, but it had never been able to construct an attractive model of social and economic development that would draw the post-Soviet states to its leadership. The Ukraine invasion, Kortunov argued, should be remembered as the final act of Russia’s struggle to hold onto its imperial past.71  

Putin’s vision of creating a Greater Eurasian Partnership that stretched from Lisbon to Vladivostok, had been an effort to sustain that imperial past, but now seemed improbable as economic sanctions imposed on Russia constricted its economic and political room to maneuver.

1. Pavel Baev. “Putin’s Journey From the Munich Speech to the Brink of War With Ukraine,” Eurasia Daily Monitor Vol. 19 Issue 18, February 14, 2022,

2. Russian Peacekeepers in Conflict Zones,

3. Igor Davidzon. Regional Security Governance in Post-Soviet Eurasia: The History and Effectiveness of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Palgrave Macmillan, 2022, p. 164-166.

4. Roy Allison, “The Military Background and Context to Russian Peacekeeping,” Jonson, Lena, and Clive Archer, eds. Peacekeeping and the Role of Russia in Eurasia, Taylor & Francis Group, 2019.

5. Liu Dan, 俄罗斯东欧中亚研究, 2021 年第6 期, 81-96.

6. “China ready to work with Russia, CSTO to support peace, stability in region — Xi Jinping,” TASS, December 15, 2021,

7. “CSTO plans to establish contacts with China — press secretary,” TASS, December 16, 2021.

8. “Military-Civil Fusion and the People’s Republic of China,” US State Department Fact Sheet,

9. “Zhao Huasheng: Russia and Its Near Abroad: Challenges and Prospects,” March 11, 2021,

10. Kinling Lo, “Taliban takeover in Afghanistan spurs China and other neighbours to consider their alliances,” South China Morning Post, August 18, 2021,

11. Joint meeting of SCO and CSTO heads of state, Kremlin, September 17, 2021,

12. “Xi Jinping urges eradication of terrorist organizations in Afghanistan,” CGTN, September 17, 2021,

13. Amber Wang, “Russia’s Kazakhstan intervention ‘benefits China’”, South China Morning Post, January 17, 2022, p. A3.

14. Igor Denisov, “After Kazakhstan Crisis, China Will Reassess Its Influence in Central Asia Despite its economic clout in Kazakhstan, Beijing has had far less political leverage than Moscow,” The Diplomat, January 18, 2022,

15. Yaroslav Trofimov, “Kazakhstan Crisis Shows That Russia Still Trumps China’s Power in Central Asia; Beijing’s huge investments in the region increasingly rely on Russian protection,” Wall Street Journal (Online), January 10, 2022.

16. Dmitri Trenin, “Russia Takes a Gamble in Kazkhstan,” Carnegie Moscow Center, January 24, 2022,

17. Dmitri Trenin, “Mapping Russia’s New Approach to the Post-Soviet Space,”
Carnegie Moscow Center February 15, 2022;

18. Catherine Putz, “Russian Ambassador to Kazakhstan Says US-NATO Steppe Eagle Exercise Will ‘No Longer Fly,’” The Diplomat, February 11, 2022

19. “Joint Position of the SCO RATS, the CIS ATC and the CSTO Secretariat on Combating Terrorism and Extremism was signed,” Collective Security Treaty Organization, February 16, 2022,

20. Igor Davidzon. Regional Security Governance in Post-Soviet Eurasia: The History and Effectiveness of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Palgrave Macmillan, 2022, p. 83.

21. United Nations Peacekeeping, Troop and Police Contributors,

22. Federal Law No. 368-FZ dated November 12, 2019, On the withdrawal of the declaration made upon the ratification of the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, concerning the protection of victims of international armed conflicts (Protocol I)

23. Rosemary Foot. China, the UN, and Human Protection: Beliefs, Power, Image. Oxford University Press, 2020, p. 3.

24. Rosemary Foot, “Shaping from within: a UN with Chinese characteristics?” The Strategist, Australia Strategic Policy Institute, August 5, 2020,

25. Kirill Yuryevich Kolesnichenko, “Civil-Military Relations in the Soviet Far East During World War II (1939–1945): By the Example of Primorsky Krai,” The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, Vol. 29, No. 3, 407-422.

26. Alexander Golts, “Conscription: A basic question of civil-military relations in Russia,” In R. N. McDermott, B. Nygren, & C. V. Pallin, eds., The Russian armed forces in transition: Economic, geopolitical and institutional uncertainties. London: Routledge, 2012, 209–221.

27. Nadja Douglas, “Civil–Military Relations in Russia: Conscript vs. Contract Army, or How Ideas Prevail Against Functional Demands,” The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, Vol. 27, No. 4, 511-532.

28. Brandon M. Stewart and Yuri M. Zhukov, Use of force and civil–military relations in Russia: an automated content analysis,” Small Wars & Insurgencies Vol. 20, No. 2, June 2009, 319–343.

29. Pavel Koshkin, “Why the Kremlin neglects strategic thinking,” Russia Direct, September 14, 2015. Interview with Carnegie Moscow Center’s Andrei Kolesnikov;

30. Civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) International Military Staff, January 4, 2011,

31. George Robertson, “Perspectives on Democratic Civil-Military Relations and Reform,” Speech at the Centre for European Security Studies Conference "Taking Stock on Civil-Military Relations," May 9, 2001,

32. NATO and Russia: Partners in Peacekeeping, Office of Information and Press NATO, no date.

33. Roy Allison, “The Military Background and Context to Russian Peacekeeping,” Jonson, Lena, and Clive Archer. Peacekeeping and the Role of Russia in Eurasia, Taylor & Francis Group, 2019, p. 45.

34. Paul M. Carter Jr., “Understanding Russia’s Interest in Conflict Zones,” United States Institute of Peace Special Report, July 2020,

35. Ibid.

36. NATO. Relations with Russia, February 26, 2022,

37. NATO. NATO-Russia relations Factsheet, February 2022,

38. Wu Airong, “乌兹别克斯坦“去俄罗斯化”进程探析,” 俄罗斯东欧中亚研究2017 年第1 , 133-146.

39. Russian diplomat, UN under-secretary discuss boosting Russia, CSTO role in peacekeeping,” TASS, February 17, 2022,

40. Secretary-General’s remarks to the Security Council Open Debate on Cooperation between the United Nations and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, UN Secretary General, February 16, 2022,

41. “Debate on Cooperation Between the UN and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO),” Security Council Report, February 15, 2022,

42. “Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at Security Council Debate on Cooperation Between the United Nations and Regional and Subregional Organizations in Maintaining International Peace and Security (CSTO)”, From Chinese Mission to the United Nations, Asia News Monitor; Bangkok, 21 Feb 2022.

43. “Statement by the CSTO Secretary General S. Zas to the UN Security Council, February 16, 2022,” Collective Security Treaty Organization,

44. Andrew Osborn, “Post-Soviet military bloc says it could send peacekeepers to Donbass if needed,” Reuters, February 19, 2022,

45. Jonathan Tepperman, “Putin in His Labyrinth: Alexander Gabuev on the View from Moscow,” The Octavian Report, March 14, 2022,

46. NATO. Relations with Russia, February 26, 2022,

47. Russia Holds ‘Peace Defenders’ Open Lesson on Ukraine Invasion, Moscow Times, March 3, 2022.

48. Nathaniel Reynolds, “Putin’s Not-So-Secret Mercenaries: Patronage, Geopolitics, and the Wagner Group,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 2019.

49. Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Adopted 12 August 1949.

50. “Russia Admits Conscripts ‘Take Part’ in Ukraine Operation,” Moscow Times, March 9, 2022,

51. International Court of Justice, Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Ukraine v. Russian Federation), March 16, 2022,

52. The soldiers’ names are: Vasily Knyazev, Semyon Maltsev, Andrei Biyazev, Sergei Peskarev, Grigory Naryshkin, Dmitry Sergienko, Vyacheslav Lavrentyev, Albert Radnaev, Mikhail Kashin, Nikita Akimov.

53. “Kazakhstan not considering sending its military contingent to Ukraine – Kazakh Defense Ministry,” Interfax: Kazakhstan General Newswire; Almaty, February 28, 2022.

54. “Kazakhstan to minimize risks over Ukraine situation – Tokayev,” Interfax: Russia & CIS Presidential Bulletin; Moscow, February 22, 2022.

55. “Tokayev calls on Ukraine and Russia for talks, offers Kazakhstan’s mediation (Part 2),” Interfax: Kazakhstan General Newswire; Almaty. March 1, 2022. 

56. Russia attempts to contrive appearance of support from Central Asian allies, Eurasianet, feb 27 2022,

57. Max Bearak, “Belarusian battalion fights in Ukraine ‘for both countries’ freedom’” Washington Post, April 1, 2022,

58. Teresa Gottein Martinez,” Belarus troops HAVE entered Ukraine – Lukashenko says soldiers sent to ‘free drivers’”, Express (Online); London April 7, 2022.

59. Naira Nalbandian, “Armenian Officials Rule Out CSTO Deployment to Ukraine,” The Armenian Mirror-Spectator, March 8, 2022,

60. Tom Ball and Larisa Brown, “Kremlin arrests FSB chiefs in fallout from Ukraine chaos,” The Times, March 12, 2022,

61. Robyn Dixon, “Putin’s speech at staged patriotic rally is abruptly cut off. The Kremlin claims it was a glitch,” Washington Post, March 18, 2022,

62. 习近平同美国总统拜登视频通话,, March 18, 2022,

63. Jia Qingguo, “对国家安全的特点和治理原则之思考”, 爱思想, 29 December 2021,; Jun Mai, “Remember the Soviet Union, top Chinese policy adviser says in warning against blind pursuit of absolute security,” South China Morning Post, January 22, 2022,

64. Hu Wei, “Possible Outcomes of the Russo-Ukrainian War and China’s Choice,” US-China Perception Monitor, March 5, 2022,

65. Wang Haiyun, “Military ties linchpin of China-Russia relations,” Global Times, June 4, 2019.

66. Wang Haiyun, 中俄军事关系七十年:回顾与思考, August 7, 2019,

67. Xie Fuzhan, “积极应对更趋复杂严峻的国际环境,” 中国社会科学网, February 28, 2022,

68. Feng Yujun, “Causes, Prospects and Consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian War,” China-US Focus, April 7, 2022,

69. Nikola Mikovic, “Kazakhstan slowly backing away from its Russian ally,” Asia Times, April 19 2022,

70. Olzhas Auyezov, “Kazakhstan may punish Russian TV host over ‘look at Ukraine’ threat ,” Reuters, ALMATY, April 27, 2022,; Catherine Putz, “‘Look at Ukraine’: Russian Commentator Threatens Kazakhstan,” The Diplomat; Tokyo (Apr 27, 2022); Almaz Kumenov, “Kazakhstan pushes back at threats of prominent Russian propagandist Tigran Keosayan warned Kazakhstan might meet Ukraine’s fate for cancelling Victory Day parades,” Eurasianet, Apr 28, 2022,

71. Andrey Kortunov, “Moscow’s Painful Adjustment to the Post-Soviet Space,” Russian International Affairs Council April 1, 2022,

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