“Russia only has two allies; its army and its navy,” Emperor Alexander III used to say. This 19th-century quote remains very popular when people emphasize that in the international arena, especially during hard times, Russia can rely only on itself. But does this mean Russia has no countries to call friends?
Even President Vladimir Putin cited Alexander III when answering the question about Russia’s allies in 2015, though quickly clarified that he was joking and Russia definitely has foreign allies. But who are they?
Belarusian soldiers during the rehearsal of the joint military parade on the Red Square dedicated to the Victory Day commemoration.Vladimir Pesnya/Sputnik
Speaking of countries that Russia has legally binding agreements of mutual defense with, first and foremost these are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an intergovernmental alliance created in 1992 that now unites six post-Soviet states: Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
According to the CSTO Charter, among its aims is “providing collective protection in case of menace to safety, stability, territorial integrity, and sovereignty” of the member states. The document emphasizes that the members prefer political means to achieve the group’s goals yet the CSTO still boasts a combined military force numbering around 25,000 troops.
Leaders of the CSTO countries posing for a picture during a summit.Mikhail Klimentyev/TASS
Two other countries who have legally binding agreements with Russia are Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both self-proclaimed republics recognized by only five UN members, including Russia. Moscow guarantees the protection of these republics and they, in turn, are obliged to help Russia in case of an attack – even though their military capabilities are far more modest.
Vladimir Putin and Syria's Bashar al-Assad.Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik
Another example is China: the Asian economic giant is a member of the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), economic alliances in which Russia also participates. Plus, the Russian military regularly conducts joint military drills with its Chinese colleagues. Commenting on one of such drill in 2018 Peskov called China an ally
Russian and Chinese marines shaking hands during a joint military drill, 2017.Vitaliy Ankov/Sputnik
India can be called another potential ally, in many
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