October 11, 2017 - 12:32 AMT
Armenia could send a small detachment to Syria: EurasiaNet

Eurasianet.org has published about the series of exercises that the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Russia-led military bloc, is carrying out around Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. According to the publication, the nature of the exercises have raised speculation that Moscow is angling to get some of its allies to deploy alongside Russian troops for a peacekeeping mission in Syria.

Currently, about 2,500 soldiers from CSTO member countries -- Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan -- are in Armenia's Baghramyan training facility. Before that, they were in Russia, and next will move to Kazakhstan and then Tajikistan.

In the current phase of the exercise, the scenario involves an armed group penetrating the borders of a CSTO member state. But the next phase, in Kazakhstan, the scenario will entail sending a group of CSTO peacekeepers to a non-member country as part of a UN peacekeeping operations. This is the second year that the CSTO has drilled on such a scenario.

Russia has long talked of sending peacekeepers to Syria under the aegis of the CSTO, but those discussions appear to have become serious over the last year or so. And the UN is reportedly interested.

In June, Russian officials said that they were in negotiations with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan for those countries to send peacekeepers to Syria. Both Central Asian countries pushed back against that a bit but Kyrgyzstan, in particular, seems interested in sending its soldiers to Syria to get some real-life deployment experience.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said fairly categorically last year that he would not send the country's military abroad.

There seems to be some possibility that Armenia could send a small detachment to Syria, as well. In August, a Russian general said that Armenia could send a unit of sappers to clear mines. Armenia said that was in fact possible.

A lot would have to happen for the CSTO to actually deploy to Syria, not least a UN authorization for some sort of mission there. But at least from the perspective of the CSTO member states, it's looking a lot more likely than it ever has that they could be convinced to go.