YEREVAN, Armenia, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- The post-Soviet Collective Security Treaty Organization this week is conducting military exercises in Armenia at a time when Russia is advocating its recognition by NATO.
The CSTO military alliance includes former Soviet Union members Armenia, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and has been established to bolster international security in the volatile regions of the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The exercises, dubbed Cooperation-2012, are meant help hone the CSTO's rapid reaction commando force, which has been set up to be sent in should one of the alliance's members be attacked by outside forces.
The exercises began Saturday at the Marshal Baghramyan training grounds of the Armenian armed forces with welcoming remarks from Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan and are scheduled to run through Wednesday, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.
Some 2,000 soldiers and commando squad members were expected to be involved in the military exercises this year, which are focused on carrying out swift and effective defensive maneuvers with small forces.
That fits the threats Armenia sees to its own security, Russian military editor Viktor Baranets told the Voice of Russia.
"It is not a secret that the relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan remain unsettled, and the reason for this is the Nagorno-Karabakh problem," he said. "Azerbaijan insists that it is necessary to resolve the Karabakh problem once and for all. In view of the above-mentioned, Armenia would strategically benefit from the CSTO military exercises with the participation of many countries."
He told the broadcaster the training would include work with infantry fighting vehicles, armored vehicles, tanks, warplanes, MiG-29 jet fighters and air defense missile.
CSTO military security department adviser Anatoly Timoshenkov told the Armenian News Agency the exercises will help to strengthen bonds within the 20-year-old alliance.
"This is a peculiarity and importance of our military brotherhood," he said. "The military exercises help to develop organizational skills."
CSTO Press Secretary Vladimir Zainetdinov told the Belarusian Telegraph Agency the International Committee of the Red Cross will take part in the exercises, as will international observers from the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The Armenian exercises came one day after another CSTO special forces training operation held outside Moscow -- this one concentrating on stemming the flow of drugs from Afghanistan, where NATO is battling Taliban insurgents who are profiting from the drug trade. Those efforts were headed by the CSTO and the Russian Federal Drug Control Service.
The government-run Voice of Russia pointed out last month anti-drug operations are one of several areas of common interest between the Russian-lead alliance and the United States-led NATO, which has announced a 2015 pull-out date from Afghanistan.
But NATO has so far refused to cooperate with the CSTO as an organization.
"We don't think we need new institutional frameworks, but ... NATO very often meets with individual members of CSTO and we cooperate with individual members of CSTO also when it comes to counter-narcotics, which I think is a very important project," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Moscow this year.
"So we cooperate with individual nations. We don't think it's necessary to build new institutional structures between NATO and CSTO as an organization."