Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a meeting of the Russian-led military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), on Monday on the 30th anniversary of its founding—but the meeting was anything but celebratory.
Instead, the heads of state from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, which make up the collective defense organization, akin to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, went to the Kremlin Monday in Moscow to lament the world’s response to Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, sitting in a massive room with sweeping high ceilings and ornate, gold-covered walls, whined about “hellish” sanctions from the West and efforts to isolate Russia and Belarus—which has been supporting Putin’s military moves in Ukraine—from the rest of the world.
“Belarus and Russia… are being defamed and excluded from international organizations at the whim of the West,” Lukashenko said.
In a joint statement, the CSTO also stated that it is concerned about “external borders of the CSTO,” noting that they maintain “readiness to ensure the security of the borders.”
But Lukashenko complained that the members of the alliance haven’t been banding behind Russia as much as they should, especially as Russia works to address NATO’s expansion, a common argument Russian officials and allies have been using to justify the war in Ukraine. In a likely reference to Finland and Sweden expressing interest in joining NATO, Lukashenko called for more support as NATO’s threats continue, from “NATO saber-rattling near our western borders to a full-scale hybrid war unleashed against us,” according to Interfax.
“Russia should not fight alone against the expansion of NATO,” he said.
Putin himself complained about a “surge in frenzied Russophobia in the so-called civilized and politically correct Western countries,” and promised the expansion of NATO would “certainly evoke a response on our part. We will see what it will be like based on the threats that are created for us.”
Putin also demanded that his counterparts do more for Russia in the future, citing what he claimed was “documentary evidence” found during the invasion in Ukraine that he said allegedly shows that “components of biological weapons were developed in close proximity to our borders.”
— Liveuamap (@Liveuamap) May 16, 2022
To respond to those alleged biological weapons threats—threats Putin has said Russia has faced for some time—Putin rallied CSTO members during the meeting to agree to demonstrate their combined military might by running joint CSTO exercises this fall in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
“Efforts to maintain biological security also require the most serious attention,” he said.
Putin also seemed to be pushing his counterparts to prop up his bogus justification for conducting the “special” military operation in Ukraine—to denazify the country.
“I would like to highlight our priority task of jointly defending the memory of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, the feat of our peoples who saved the world from Nazism at the cost of enormous and irreparable sacrifices, and to counteract any attempts to whitewash the Nazis, their accomplices and modern followers,” Putin said, noting that he thinks Ukrainians are glorifying Nazis at the state level.
After the summit, the group noted in a statement that other countries have been critical of Russia’s false claim that it invaded Ukraine to try to denazify the country, insisting that it is indeed the aim of the war, rather than a false pretense to invade.
This photo of Putin meeting with his "partners" in the CSTO today is certainly illustrative.
Normally, we use round tables in diplomacy to give everyone equal prominence - there's no head of the table. But Putin found a way; there is no doubt who's in charge in this picture. pic.twitter.com/bTUrfZO9RG
— Corey Hogan (@coreyhogan) May 16, 2022
We “strongly condemn any attempts to falsify historical events related to our common contribution to countering Nazi aggression,” the CSTO said in a statement. “We express serious concern in connection with attempts to ban symbols associated with the Victory over Nazism.”
The Putin-centric pity party comes as Russia’s war in Ukraine enters its 82nd day, with no end in sight—the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency assessed last week the war, which has shifted to the east of Ukraine, has nearly reached a “stalemate.”
Putin’s military continues to flounder in Ukraine. As of Monday, Russian forces have lost 27,700 troops, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in an analysis Monday.
But even though the fighting is reaching a protracted state, the Biden administration is still focused on providing security assistance to Ukraine to help thwart Russian attacks. The administration has already provided $300 million in security assistance to Ukraine just this fiscal year, with more expected soon.
Putin’s CSTO pity party bemoaned the west’s military assistance to Ukraine, which the U.S. Defense Department has assessed has helped the Ukrainians’ resistance to Russian advances in the war.
“So far, in the West, including in Washington, we see only a desire to prolong the conflict as much as possible,” Lukashenko said, referring to military aid. “The goals are clear: to weaken Russia as much as possible.”
Nonetheless, the aid is set to keep flowing. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed other weapons and security assistance during a meeting this weekend in Berlin with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. And later this week, the Senate is expected to vote on $40 billion of aid to Ukraine, Senate Republican Leader Mitch MicConnell said Saturday.