The majority of the Russian oligarchs in power are still in disbelief that the Soviet Union collapsed. Even though a decent amount of time has passed by, they still feel that Russia as a nation was better off as a superpower. In addition, these individuals want to reestablish a system so that the Russian-speaking population of former Soviet states could feel secure and become financially stable.
As the expansion of NATO continues to threaten Russia's interests, the Russian government will put more pressure on these former Soviet states. So, is there really a modern version of the Soviet system in place? Yes indeed. As NATO expanded the Russian government established a counter-measure called The Collective Security Treaty (CST). The treaty officially was signed on May 15, 1992. Nations including Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan all signed the treaty.
The creation of the CST was a step taken by the Russian government to reassure these former Soviet states that the Russian government backed them under any circumstances. Moreover, if any nation was attacked within the CST, the Russian government assured them that immediate retaliation would occur (chiefly an attack by NATO).
Over the next several years the CST expanded and welcomed nations such as Belarus, Georgia and Azerbaijan. In 2002, the CST officially became known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
Since its existence, the CSTO has faced a series of challenges, particularly in convincing member nations to stay in the military alliance. The CSTO was confronted with a massive problem in 1999; both Azerbaijan and Georgia decided to withdraw from the CSTO. Russian leaders encountered a serious dilemma which not just humiliated them, but increased the chances of NATO absorbing the nations that exited the CSTO. The CSTO dealt with the same issue once again in 2012. This time the government of Uzbekistan decided to withdraw from the alliance because it was not seen as a beneficial security deal to the people of Uzbekistan.
When certain former Soviet states decided to exit the CSTO, Russian leaders believed they could employ a risky strategy, but only if all other means failed in attempting to keep these nations as part of the alliance. This strategy consisted of using brute Russian military force to regain back these territories. In recent years, Russia has mobilized its military on several occasions and attempted to take back several of these territories (this triggered many wars which lasted for years). In many cases the results varied and ended up causing high casualties and massive collateral damage on both sides.
Another theory regarding Russian influence and the need for the CSTO deals directly with Russia's demographics. Some demographers believe that Russian leaders are deeply concerned about Russia's overall population and birth rate. During the height of the Soviet Union, the population of the nation reached almost 300 million people in July of 1991. What is Russia's population today? The answer is 142 million people. Russia is facing immense problems, including an HIV/AIDS epidemic, a high substance and alcohol abuse rate, a high emigration rate, and below average health care.
To put this into a better perspective, experts estimate by the year 2030, Russia's population will decline by around 5%. In contrast, the U.S.'s population will increase by about 17%. This will put Russia into a complicated predicament where it faces potential shortages in workers, which can further damage its economy. Russia may have to establish new immigration policies to allow non-Russians to live and work in Russia in order to maintain a stable workforce. Another grave concern is if the 5% decline in population continues over an extended period of time.
According to many military experts, Russian President Vladimir Putin had another option available in order to increase Russia's population quickly. This was seen in February of 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea. Since Crimea has a Russian-speaking population this strategy was seen by Putin as a win-win scenario. Furthermore, Ukraine is one of the former-Soviet states that is a non-aligned nation (not a member of NATO or The CSTO). Putin's invasion of Crimea makes Ukraine a chess board where its citizens are now divided.
Many military analysts see the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a last resort for Russian survival. Especially with the expansion of NATO and the willingness of the U.S. government to arm Eastern European nations with state-of-the-art military technology (including an advanced missile defense system in Poland). Some military experts believe that the Bush Administration purposely ramped up this program to counter any potential gains that the Russians can make in Eastern Europe.
It is clear that Putin's long-term goals would be to have Ukraine submit to Russian demands and join the CSTO. At the same time, there have been talks about Ukraine joining NATO, but they never fully complied with the alliance's standards in the past.
Some defense experts support the arming of Western Ukraine by other Western nations (including the United States). In regards to American involvement of sending small arms, communication equipment and other logistical support, this strategy may actually backfire on the United States. Many intelligent experts believe that Russian separatists and intelligence personnel have already infiltrated western Ukrainian military posts as well as their intelligence community.
Although some have criticized the American government's stance on the issue for not sending arms or sharing intelligence, many defense experts agree with him. In the end, this strategy could derail the overall American plan to modernize Eastern Europe's military, especially if the technology is given to non-NATO nations.
The future of Ukraine and the CSTO will continue to remain unknown, but there is no doubt that the CSTO is another version of the Soviet Union. Today, the alliance system has several nations with observer status inducing Serbia and Afghanistan. This is the last status a nation will have before becoming a permanent member. There has been speculation that Iran could potentially join the alliance as well, but this may be more of a liability to Russia than an asset (mainly do to potentially damaging Israeli-Russian relations). There is no doubt that the CSTO will still play a major role in future international affairs, and that NATO will continue to attempt to counter its expansion.