On October 9 Kyrgyzstan announced the cancellation of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) command staff exercises that were scheduled to begin on October 10. No reason was initially given for the cancellation, but heightened tensions between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan after last month’s escalation of violence on their undemarcated border was presumably a major factor.
Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic Edil Baisalov confirmed as much in comments to RIA Novosti. He said that Kyrgyzstan’s membership in the CSTO was “absolutely inviolable.” Baisalov added that Bishkek had no problems with the organization itself, but said that “the blood has not cooled down” with regard to the recent violence on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.
“The situation has developed in such a way that public opinion in Kyrgyzstan will not welcome the same elements of the armed units of our Tajik neighbors to be present at these exercises,” Baisalov said, noting that it would not be feasible to just dis-invite Tajik forces.
The cancellation also came two days after Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov decided to skip an informal gathering of the leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, which also happened to coincide with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s birthday. At the celebration, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon reportedly presented Putin with pyramids of melons. A few days earlier, marking Rahmon’s own 70th birthday, Putin had awarded the Tajik president the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 3rd class, for strengthening the Russia-Tajikistan strategic partnership and “ensuring regional stability and security.” The award sparked outrage in Kyrgyzstan.
Scheduled to run from October 10-14 at the Edelweiss training center in Balykchy, the Indestructible Brotherhood 2022 exercises were supposed to include personnel from the six CSTO members (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan) in addition to representatives from five other states, including Uzbekistan.
The exercises in Kyrgyzstan were planned to follow CSTO military exercises in neighboring Kazakhstan, which did progress mostly as planned. Armenia, however, reportedly decided to skip the exercises, with the Armenian Defense Ministry issuing a statement saying, “Given the current situation on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border, Armenia’s Ministry of Defense decided to refrain from participating in the CSTO military drills in Kazakhstan.”
The exercises in Kazakhstan — Interaction 2022, Search 2022, and Echelon 2022 — took place at the Matybulak training facility in Zhambyl Region from September 26 to October 8. During the “active” phase of the drills, 6,500 soldiers and 850 mobile units participated in drills on mountain and dessert terrains.
On October 11, Kyrgyzstan’s Defense Ministry confirmed that it had canceled its participation in the CSTO’s Frontier 2022 exercises, scheduled to run in Tajikistan from October 10-21 focusing on the CSTO’s Collective Rapid Deployment Forces.