THE CIS: SUMMING UP THE PAST DECADE AND FUTURE PROSPECTS

Mariam ARUNOVA


Mariam Arunova, D.Sc. (Political Science), chief researcher, Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Oriental Studies (Russian Federation)


The recent anniversary of the Commonwealth of Independent States provides a good reason to reflect on the destiny of this interstate formation, which is unique in so many ways. The journal Central Asia and the Caucasus is a very appropriate forum for discussing this topic, since all the states of the macro region are CIS members, which naturally leaves its imprint on the political and economic factors that have developed here.

The author of this article will attempt to present a brief review of the main aspects of the Commonwealth’s ten-year experience and give her opinion of the prospects for its further development. In so doing, it seems appropriate to keep in mind yet one more aspect, that is, the perception politicians, political scientists, and society have of the CIS.

What Has Been Achieved?

So what did the Commonwealth bring with it to its anniversary? When answering this question, it is important to avoid a widespread and very tenacious anomaly, the origin of which is not difficult to explain. What is more, it cannot be eliminated during the lifetime of the current generation.

Since the birth of the CIS is associated historically and logically with the collapse in the Soviet Union, the tendency has arisen to view the Commonwealth as a kind of substitute for the former integrated state and evaluate its achievements and failures from this standpoint.1

With this approach, certain realities of the present-day CIS, for example, the unwillingness of some of the member states to draw up a coordinated policy on several issues and follow it, the diverging attitude toward the principles of multilateral interaction, the lack of correlation in international orientation, and even perhaps simply superfluous demonstrative steps to assert their sovereignty are perceived as nothing more than a sign that the Commonwealth is about to collapse. It should be noted that not only is mass consciousness guilty of this, but more frequently political scientists and journalists specializing in international affairs. This is giving rise to a vast number of “authoritative” forecasts of the imminent downfall of the CIS, which have been heard from almost the first days of its existence.2

It is understandable that by using standards distorted from the beginning, it is very difficult to present a well-balanced and objective evaluation of the true state of affairs. In this way, the root of the widespread or, to be more precise, negative attitude toward the Commonwealth should be sought in the collision between overly high expectations about the CIS (which are psychologically understandable, but objectively entirely unjustified) and the real practice of multilateral interaction.

There is another aspect. While statements about the disagreements among the CIS states are usually heard loud and clear and are grounds for presenting so-called authentic information, the real achievements of the Commonwealth are frequently disregarded, precisely because they have become an integral part of the everyday life of our country’s citizens. It is just as natural not to notice them as it is not to think about the air we breathe.

Nevertheless, it was precisely within the CIS as early as the initial period of its existence that many agreements were reached and rapidly registered (in most cases they are still in effect today) on a non-visa system for citizens traveling between states, on registration of labor service, on social benefit payments, on mutual recognition of diplomas and professional qualifications, on legal assistance in civil, family and criminal cases, on the mail service and remittances, on rail and air travel, on sharing radio frequencies, and on the coordinated operation of electricity systems. An extensive international legal base was gradually created with respect to such problems as labor migration, the protection of the rights of migrants, pension provision, including for servicemen, compensation of damage inflicted by injuries, professional diseases, and accidents while performing professional duties, recognition of benefits for invalids and victims of radiation disasters and accidents, and international vehicle conveyance of passengers and baggage, including insurance.

All of this has not only made it possible to significantly alleviate the social consequences of the truly epochal geopolitical upheavals, but has also remained an important factor in the normal everyday life of millions of people.

In general, much of what has happened over the past ten years is taken for granted. For example, the fact that events in the post-Soviet space have essentially developed peacefully and relatively calmly. But this particular scenario was in no way predetermined. Let us recall that by December 1991, ethnic conflicts had already erupted on the territory of the Soviet Union, and social tension was clearly felt in society. Under these conditions, the collapse of a vast state, which is an extremely conflict-prone event in itself, could, by giving rise to a mass of additional extremely acute problems, well have led to a rapid undermining of political and social stability with a subsequent shift to the “Yugoslavian scenario,” for example. Such consequences would have doubtlessly been catastrophic for the whole world—the mention of nuclear arms alone is enough.

The creation of the CIS gave some structure to political and economic relations in the post-Soviet space, directed them into a specific institutional and organized channel, thus preventing chaos, and became a system-forming factor of the new international relations. It largely retains this role today.

Of course, the Commonwealth has not replaced and could not replace the Soviet Union (this task was objectively never raised). But it was of key significance in ensuring a more or less tempered and civilized breakdown in the former Soviet republics, and in preventing geopolitical cataclysms of literally unpredictable proportions. And this in itself is a historical achievement.

In addition, within the CIS, important steps were taken to establish diverse interstate cooperation, which we will talk about a little later.

The Special Features of Multilateral Interaction

The nature of relations within the Commonwealth is of key importance to understanding the essence of this organization and its role in the system of political and economic relations in the post-Soviet space.

It is defined in particular by the states’ free choice of the forms and scope of their participation in multilateral interaction. In this way, cooperation in each specific area is carried out in the format of the interested states.

This gives rise to a specific decision-making mechanism.

Pursuant to the charter (Art 23) and procedural rules of the CIS Presidents’ Council and Prime Ministers’ Council (rule 20. Council Rulings. Consensus), resolutions on all questions, apart from procedural (a majority of votes is sufficient for them), are adopted by consensus, which is defined as the absence of any official objection by even one member state put forward as an obstacle to adopting a decision on the question under review. A decision adopted in this way is mandatory for all the states participating in its approval. Moreover, any state may announce that it is not interested in a particular question, but this is not considered an obstacle for adopting the decision. These principles are also used in other CIS structures.

The intricate implementation procedure for adopted decisions is also worth noting. It is enforced in a document entitled “The Mechanism for Implementing Decisions of the Commonwealth of Independent States’ Presidents’ Council and Prime Ministers’ Council,” which was approved by the Presidents’ Council on 8 October, 1999.3

This document sets forth the “voluntary and conscientious implementation by the member states of the obligations they have assumed with respect to decisions, keeping in mind the national mechanisms of control and non-interference in a state’s internal affairs.” It is clear that this formulation in no way guarantees that members will actually observe their obligations.

Based on “The Mechanism,” “after decisions are adopted by the CIS Presidents’ Council and Prime Ministers’ Council, the governments of the member states must ensure that interstate procedures are conducted, normative legal acts are adopted on the implementation of each document indicating the specific measures and execution time-limits, and executives are appointed, pursuant to national legislation and if such is envisaged by the corresponding decisions, of which the CIS Executive Committee shall be informed within two months.”

The functions of the Executive Committee are defined here as being of a purely monitoring and informational nature. This structure has to rely on the goodwill of the member states, which are supposed to regularly present the relevant information.

It is characteristic that several states (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine) had some criticism and stipulations to make even regarding this “harmless” decision about “The Mechanism,” which leave it even less room for maneuver.

Summing up, it can be said, that the Commonwealth has developed as an organization with free and non-mandatory relations, where cooperation has diverse formats, and there is no system of state responsibility for carrying out the obligations the states have assumed.

It is not surprising that the gap between declarations and reality has become a kind of “trade mark” of the CIS. For example, as of 15 September, 2001, of the 187 documents adopted by the Presidents’ Council and Prime Ministers’ Council, which envisage ratification or execution of interstate procedures, only eight have come into force for all the signatory states. Thirty-one documents have not come into force for any one of the states because the depository does not have the set number of ratification certificates (notifications). In so doing, it should be kept in mind that even conventional-legal validity of CIS documents in no way means that they will actually be executed.

Unsuccessful Attempts at Optimization

At the end of the 1990s, an attempt was made to change the amorphous nature of the organization and reform its system of activity.

At a meeting in Kishinev (October 1997), the Presidents’ Council adopted a decision to review the system for controlling integration processes and introducing corresponding changes into the basic documents. The task was assigned to more precisely define the strategy and prospects for developing the Commonwealth which would unite all its participants and promote strengthening of their interrelations, as well as to increase the role of each CIS member in drawing up, adopting and, most important, executing coordinated legal acts. A Special Interstate Forum on Improving the Activity of the CIS and Its Reform was convened in July 1998 to carry out this task.

The participants in the forum recognized that a vital element in developing integration processes in the Commonwealth is drawing up a mutually acceptable joint economic trade policy, and primarily forming a free trade zone as the first step on the way toward creating a common economic space. A Protocol was drawn up on introducing amendments and addenda into the Agreement on Creating a Free Trade Zone adopted on 15 April, 1994. The forum’s conclusions also formed the basis of measures for reorganizing the structure of the CIS agencies. Let us take a closer look at this topic.

On 2 April, 1999, the Presidents’ Council approved a decision prepared by the forum on improving and restructuring the CIS agencies. Pursuant to this document, the Executive Secretariat and Interstate Economic Committee were reorganized into the CIS Executive Committee, which became the Commonwealth’s only permanent executive, administrative, and coordinating agency. At the same time, the working apparatuses of nine branch divisions financed from the states’ budgets were eliminated, and their functions were transferred to the Executive Committee. The total number of employees in the integration structures was cut back by 40%, from 1,190 to 710 people (356 of them were Executive Committee employees and 354 worked in other CIS agencies). As a result, after creation of the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center, the staff of the Executive Committee was cut back by 46 people.

The delimitation of powers between the Presidents’ Council and Prime Ministers’ Council has been approved, a new Resolution on the Foreign Ministers’ Council adopted, and a CIS Economic Council created, which became the main executive agencies ensuring cooperation in the foreign political and economic activity of the member states. What is more, a resolution on appointing chairmen by rotation to the Commonwealth agencies has been enforced. The Council of Permanent Plenipotentiary Representatives under the founding and other CIS agencies became the new forum for organizing activity. The Commission on Economic Problems began operating on a permanent basis under the Economic Council, which the plenipotentiary representatives of the member states joined. As a result of the inventory conducted, the Commonwealth’s contractual-legal base, the volume of which exceeded 1,000 documents, was reduced by one third.

As we can see, a significant amount of work has been done which makes it possible to optimize the Commonwealth’s activity to a certain extent. Nevertheless, the attempt to reform it was in general cosmetic and did not affect the paradigm of multilateral interaction. For example, the above-mentioned document on the mechanism for implementing decisions was adopted within the framework of this reform, which essentially only legalized the existing practice, with all its weaknesses. The 1997-1999 reform did not make any serious impact on the essence of interaction within the CIS.

This result appears legitimate. Conceptually, optimization of CIS activity was based on the more or less articulate idea that as soon as precise and efficient structures and mechanisms of control and execution were created, dynamic integration processes would begin.4 But this posing of the question clearly confuses what comes first, the cause or the effect. In actual fact, the CIS’s institutional weakness derives from the weakness of integration relations in general, and not the other way around.

Against the background of centrifugal trends in the economy and politics, which clearly predominated in the post-Soviet space at the initial stage of the CIS’s existence, the member states manifested an obvious lack of political will to create strict mechanisms of multilateral interaction.

“The Menace of Supranationality” and the Russian Factor

The most important factor in this lack of political will is the initially negative attitude of the member states to endowing the CIS agencies with supranational functions. The republican elites (including, of course, Russia’s leadership) did not escape from the clutches of the union center to immediately let supreme power slip out of their hands. It is worth noting that the Commonwealth’s founding documents stipulated in particular that the organization “is neither a state, nor a supranational formation.”5 Then the hypertrophied accent on this indisputable postulate was imbued with the logic of reinforcing sovereignty with all the “excesses” inevitable at the initial stage.

The “allergy to supranationality” proved to be so strong that even mechanisms for executing adopted decisions have still not been created, which are utterly permissible on an ordinary interstate basis and do not have to be taken to a higher level.

The other accent which defines the restrained attitude of many member states to the organization’s institutional reinforcement was associated with the fact that, from the very beginning, the CIS was widely perceived as a primarily “Russian project,” an instrument of Moscow’s influence on the near abroad. We will note that various opponents to consolidating the post-Soviet countries, both within the Commonwealth and beyond it, exerted much effort to “cultivate” and strengthen this stereotype.

But the problem is much deeper than Russia’s mythical “imperial ambitions,” which are frequently a topic of political-propagandistic speculation.

For objective reasons, the post-Soviet space, metaphorically speaking, is Russian-centric (Russia accounts for more than two thirds of the total economic potential of the CIS countries, it is the strongest military power, has incomparably greater international clout, and so on). As paradoxical as it may seem, this is capable of hindering centripetal and integration trends. Russian scientists R.S. Grinberg and L.B. Vardomskiy justly (although perhaps too categorically) state: “Due to Russia’s specific position, a potential integration group would have to resolve a problem akin to making a circle square: Russia’s institutional-organizational domination in the CIS is unacceptable to the rest of its members, and ‘coordination on equal basis’ would entirely contradict Russia’s interests.”6

If we apply this formula to the first decade of the CIS’s existence, we can say that for most of this period, Russia has tried to develop relations with its partners even under “non-equal conditions,” i.e. essentially to the detriment of its own interests.

The thing is that retaining the Commonwealth—without essentially supplementing it with real content—was perceived in Russia as some absolute value which justifies almost any amount of loss or concession.7 The impression is created that at some stage, Russian policy regarding the CIS acquired a directly irrational nature.

Russia’s neighbors took advantage of this situation and, in exchange for participating in the CIS’s activity (which is largely conventional and declarative), demanded very real political and economic preferences from it. In this way, the Russian approach to the CIS as a kind of “sacred cow” in practice meant turning Russia into a “milch cow” for its partners. We will note that all of this did not stop some of them from almost routinely accusing Moscow of hegemony.

New Trends in Russian Policy

The situation did not start to change until the beginning of 2000 when a serious adjustment in Russia’s policy in the CIS was designated, the gist of which can be summarized as a turn toward pragmatism.

Moscow came to the principal conclusion that the Commonwealth could not evolve into a full-fledged integrated organization in the foreseeable future. This assertion naturally entailed a serious shift in emphasis. The focus was placed on developing bilateral relations with a differentiated approach to the partners depending on their reciprocal willingness to establish cooperation. A renewed conception of this policy was approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2000.

The new approach does not mean that Moscow has rejected multilateral cooperation. But it is no longer a goal in itself. At a meeting with the leaders of the Russian diplomatic service (on 26 February, 2001), Vladimir Putin emphasized that Russia does not need “integration as such ... as a slogan or as a banner to hold up. It should bring real benefit to our country and to our citizens.”8

The country’s president clearly expressed the gist of the Russian approach using a specific example in its relations with Georgia. Answering a question by Russian journalists on 12 October, 2001 regarding statements about the possible withdrawal of this state from the Commonwealth, he said: “The CIS is not a Russian, but an international organization. And Russia is not dragging anyone into it by the ears.”9

In accordance with the conception of its foreign policy and presidential directives, the Russian Federation began pursuing a policy to develop multilateral cooperation without any rush, to the degree and in those areas in which the real needs and interests of the partners coincided and where it was possible to expect a perceptible practical return.

This approach makes it possible for Russia to transfer relations with its CIS partners onto a genuinely equal basis. But this also means a serious change in the essence of the Commonwealth, which, in this way, is no longer a multilateral instrument for pumping subsidies from Russia, but, on the other hand, obtains the possibility of realizing the CIS’s potential as a mechanism of joint resolution of the member states’ specific common problems.

In our opinion, this turn has still not been fully completed, which is also reflected by the specifics of everyday multilateral interaction. But clearly positive dynamics are being manifested here.

The Main Areas of Cooperation

As of today, the CIS countries are cooperating in several branches of industry (transportation, communication, power engineering, and so on), are expediently creating a free trade zone, are maintaining military contacts (for example, within the Integrated Air-Defense System), and are consistently developing anti-terrorist and anti-criminal interaction, the significance of which has dramatically grown recently. A generally accepted example of beneficial peacekeeping activity within the CIS is the political settlement in Tajikistan. An intensive system of consultations at different levels has developed, a vital element of which is regular meetings among the heads of state.

Let us take a look at the state of affairs in the main areas of multilateral cooperation. We will begin with economic interaction, which composes a natural foundation for the entire complex of relations within the CIS.

It should be noted that the general background against which it is evolving is rather complicated. On the whole, during the past decade, the GDP in the Commonwealth states has decreased by 33%, industrial production by 40%, and agriculture by 28%. Electricity production has decreased by almost one third, mainly due to the decrease in demand for it. Coal production has decreased from 703 million tons in 1990 to 413 million tons in 2000.

Due to the urgent need for freely convertible currency, commercial transactions with the far abroad are still preferable, and their percentage in the total export volume of the CIS countries amounts to 80%. In terms of import, this index is equal to 55%. There is still a stable trend toward reorientation of foreign trade flows to the markets of third countries. According to experts, at present, the economic potential of the CIS in terms of reciprocal deliveries of goods and services is only being used at a level of 35-40%.

What is more, the positive dynamics of macroeconomic indices in most of the Commonwealth states observed recently is instilling a certain amount of optimism. The GDP growth rates for all the countries in 2001 amounted to an average of 6%. Industrial production increased to 7%, agriculture to 8%, investments in basic capital rose by 10%, and the volume of freight shipments by transportation enterprises by 7%. Between January and November 2001, the total volume of foreign trade increased by 3.9% and amounted to $204 billion. In so doing, mutual trade turnover reached $57 billion (an increase of 5%).

Talking about economic cooperation in the CIS, we cannot forget the objective prerequisites for mutual support and interstate coordination in this field. A thorough analytical report prepared at the request of the heads of state for the anniversary summit (held in Moscow on 30 November, 2001) includes the following among these prerequisites: the CIS’s potentially extensive market, the technical and consumer standards established during the decade, the technical infrastructure (uniform width of railroad tracks, types of transportation means, integrated power transmission line parameters, and so on), as well as the similarity in reform tasks. “All of this essentially makes it possible not only to retain traditional economically justified production relations, but also productively develop them on a qualitatively new basis.”10

The prospects for reinforcing cooperation in the economic sphere should presumably be viewed primarily in conjunction with the evolving globalization of the world economy, making maximum use of its positive aspects and keeping to a minimum its negative elements.

In this context, the matter primarily concerns consistent activation of the integration cooperation which already exists. This concerns production-technological and cooperative ties, and creating financial and industrial groups and joint financial and insurance structures. There are good examples of this interaction, although these trends are not yet dominant.

As for commercial cooperation, there is a very important area of interaction here—to complete the process of giving due legal form to the free trade zone. In correspondence with the pragmatic precepts of its foreign policy, which we mentioned above, Moscow is in favor of gradual progress taking thorough account of the interests of all partners.

The challenges of the times are dictating the need for interaction in the fuel and energy sphere. The CIS accounts for 7-10% of the confirmed world supplies of oil and 40% of natural gas. The largest network of main pipelines in the world has been created here with a total length of more than 300,000 km, and approximately 10% of the world volume of electricity is produced in this region. It has at its disposal a once integrated electricity infrastructure, the rational use of which is capable of bringing real benefit to all countries of the Commonwealth.

It is clear that such cooperation should take painstaking account of the interests of all participants. It is not easy to find the appropriate balance, particularly keeping in mind that some CIS states are major producers of hydrocarbons, and others are consumers or transit countries. This problem is caught up in big world politics and affects the states’ vital interests. Nevertheless, mutually beneficial partnership in the mentioned areas can be established with no problem if the countries steer clear of rivalry and antagonistic competition which will ultimately be of inevitable detriment to all the countries of the organization.

During the unofficial summit held on 1 March, 2002 in Almaty, particular attention was paid to the prospects for multilateral cooperation in the fuel and energy sphere. It was noted that this is a decisive condition of the optimal use of the resource and transit potential at the disposal of the Commonwealth countries and the reliable provision of their energy security.

Upon completion of the general discussion, the presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan held a quadrilateral meeting at which they signed a joint statement which expressed their political will to establish “intensive large-scale cooperation in the production and transportation of natural gas.”11 It is presumed that the governments of these countries will adopt measures for creating the necessary conditions for the interaction of gas companies, will enter corresponding agreements both bilaterally and multilaterally, and will ensure their implementation.

Despite the fact that the statement declares such a task as “protecting the interests of the natural gas-producing countries,” at a press conference on the outcome of this meeting, Vladimir Putin especially emphasized: “This interaction will be directed, without any doubt, at ensuring the energy requirements of all the Commonwealth countries, our European partners and partners on the world markets, including the Asian. We will of course continue this topic with other colleagues, and will definitely discuss it bilaterally with the President of Ukraine.”12

Anti-terrorist cooperation within the CIS began to develop long before the tragic events of 11 September, 2001. This is understandable, since approximately 30 major terrorist acts have been committed during the past ten years in the CIS states, which resulted in 2,500 people being injured or killed. At the end of the 1990s, these countries encountered a large-scale onslaught of international terrorism and extremism on the Commonwealth’s southern borders.

On 25 November, 1998, an Agreement on Cooperation in the Fight Against Crime was signed, which contains a provision on fighting terrorism, and on 4 June, 1999, the Treaty on Cooperation in the Fight Against Terrorism was signed. In June 2000, the Presidents’ Council approved the Program for Fighting International Terrorism and Other Forms of Extremism until 2003.

According to a decision of the Presidents’ Council, at the end of 2000, a CIS Anti-Terrorist Center (ATC) was created in Moscow with a staff of 60 people. At this stage, the Center is operating primarily as an information-analytical structure. But in accordance with the provision on the ATC, its functions also include coordinating interaction among competent agencies of the CIS countries, participating in the preparation and conducting of anti-terrorist staff and operative and tactical training organized by a decision of the Presidents’ Council, assisting interested Commonwealth states to prepare and conduct operative-investigative measures and integrated operations in the fight against international terrorism and other forms of extremism, helping to organize the training of specialists and instructors of the units participating in this fight, developing models of coordinated anti-terrorist operation, and helping to conduct them.13

Last April, in Osh (Kyrgyzstan), a joint staff maneuver called “South Anti-Terror-2001” was conducted with support of the ATC and participation of the division heads in the fight against terrorism of nine CIS countries. Since July of the same year, the ATC Regional Operative Group (Bishkek) has been working in the Central Asian area, which is the most threatened.

A vital tool for implementing the designated plans for fighting crime and terrorism is the law-enforcement and special service councils of the CIS countries. For example, since 1997, the Council of Security Agency and Special Service Heads created on the initiative of the Russian FSS has been in permanent operation, within the framework of which targeted work is being carried out to create an anti-criminal security system in the Commonwealth states.

On Russia’s initiative, a multilateral document is being prepared which will regulate joint anti-terrorist operations in the CIS countries. The draft, which is currently being worked on by experts from the member states, envisages that such measures may be carried out for freeing hostages, “highly hazardous technological and environmental” facilities, and diplomatic mission buildings seized by terrorists, as well as for disposing of high-power and complex detonators. Joint operations are planned for intercepting terrorist activity by the citizens of one country in another state, arresting individual terrorists, and eliminating their groups which come in from abroad. In addition, it is envisaged that joint measures may also be conducted in other instances when the activity of terrorists cannot be intercepted by the forces of one Commonwealth state on its own. The document sets forth the procedure for organizing, conducting, and completing joint anti-terrorist operations, and the status and degree of social protection of their participants. The draft may be presented for review at the next CIS summit.

After the events of 11 September, 2001, intensive bilateral and multilateral consultations were held within the Commonwealth at different levels. Their aim was to agree upon and coordinate their action in the current situation. A series of telephone calls among the presidents took place, on 26 September, an expanded meeting of the CIS Chiefs-of-Staff Committee was held, and on 8-9 October there was a special meeting of the Security Council Secretaries’ Committee of the parties to the Collective Security Treaty (CST), which was attended by the Security Council secretaries of Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, as well as the directors of the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center.

The solidarity among the countries regarding formation of a global security system capable of opposing the new threats and challenges and the openness of these states to broad international anti-terrorist cooperation was set forth in a Statement adopted by the Presidents’ Council (Moscow, 28 September, 2001), as well as in a statement on Afghanistan made by the CIS heads of state at the summit in Moscow at the end of the fall. The unanimous opinion of our countries that the fight against terrorism must be conducted on the basis of international law with coordination by the U.N. is of principal importance, and this fight should not escalate into opposition on a civilizational or confessional basis.

As for the specific forms of participation in the anti-terrorist efforts of the world community, each CIS country shall determine them independently as a sovereign state. This participation, as we know, is taking various forms: information provision, granting air space for the transit of humanitarian and military cargo, providing territory for military bases, as well as rendering humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.

It is particularly worth noting the examples of joint participation by the CIS countries in rendering economic aid to Afghanistan. For example, in order to deliver shipments to its northern provinces under the auspices of the U.N., an international humanitarian coalition has been created consisting of the emergency ministries of Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. Between November 2001 and January 2002, 9,000 tons of humanitarian aid was delivered to Afghanistan by their joint efforts.

During the informal meeting of the CIS heads of state in Almaty, Vladimir Putin noted that the solidarity in joining the international anti-terrorist coalition expressed by the CIS states last September was the only thing their conscience would allow them, not to mention the fact they all have many years of experience in joint opposition to this evil. But now it is clear that it has justified itself in the pragmatic respect. As a result of the show of strength in Afghanistan, the infrastructure of international terrorism at one time created in this country has largely been eliminated. The security of the Central Asian, and other countries of the Commonwealth has been strengthened. But the threat of terrorism and extremism is still real. This requires stepping up the joint efforts of the CIS countries to oppose them.

As far as we can judge, the political elites of the Central Asian states are becoming increasingly aware that (despite the West’s current active role) in the long run external forces do not have either the intention, or the possibility to assume responsibility for the security and stability of the region. It seems to us that interaction within the CIS (primarily within the Anti-Terrorist Center), the Collective Security Treaty, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is still significant as a vitally important factor of long-term and comprehensive strengthening of regional stability.

The central element of the developed and organized infrastructure of multilateral military cooperation among the CIS countries is the Defense Ministers’ Council (DMC) created in 1992. The representatives of all the Commonwealth states, apart from Moldova, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine, participate in its activity. The working agency of this structure—the Headquarters for Coordinating Military Cooperation (HCMC)—is engaged in the theoretical aspects of peacekeeping, as well as in the settlement of conflicts in the hot spots of the CIS. Particular mention should be made of the fact that in June 2000, the Headquarters’ functions were expanded with respect to conflict prevention and settlement. For example, according to a decision by the Defense Ministers’ Council, it is responsible for operative supervision of peacekeeping operations and control over implementing tasks assigned to the CIS Collective Peacekeeping Forces. In cooperation with the defense ministries of the states of the Central Asian region and the Russian Federation, the HCMC prepared and conducted the following joint staff maneuvers, “Southern Shield of the Commonwealth-99” (in Kyrgyzstan), “Southern Shield of the Commonwealth-2000” (in Tajikistan) and “South Anti-Terror-2001” (in the south of Kyrgyzstan) within the framework of opposing international terrorism. What is more, the efforts of the DMC to harmonize a normative-legal base in military development and provision of social protection for servicemen is of immense practical significance.

Such working groups as the Secretariat, the Armed Forces Chiefs-of-Staff Committee of the CST member states, the Coordinating Committee on Air-Defense Issues, the Military-Technical Committee, the Committee of Agency Heads for Work with Personnel (in educational work) of the Defense Ministries, and the Interstate Coordination Center for Eternalizing the Memory of Defenders of the Homeland are under the jurisdiction of the Defense Ministers’ Council.

In order to ensure the protection of air borders, an Integrated Air-Defense System was created in 1995, which was perhaps the most significant area in military interaction. The Air-Defense troops (Air-Defense and Air Force) of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Uzbekistan14 are carrying out joint combat watch. Since 1998, joint tactical maneuvers of Air-Defense troops (Air-Defense and Air Force) called “Combative Commonwealth” have been conducted annually with the corresponding units and divisions of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine.15

Whereas all the CIS countries (with the exception of Turkmenistan) participate to one extent or another in multilateral anti-terrorist and anti-criminal cooperation, activity of the military sphere, as can be seen from the above, is extremely diverse.

The advanced form of multilateral military-political relations—the Collective Security Treaty of 1992—currently encompasses only half of the Commonwealth countries (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan), which prompts some experts to view this structure as an interstate organization (in the same category as the Eurasian Economic Community, GUUAM, and so on), which are developing in the CIS, but (technically) not within the framework of the Commonwealth.

The main obstacle barring the way to closer military partnership is the differences in general international and political orientation and in the views on integration prospects. It seems that the feeling of restraint some states have regarding multilateral cooperation in the CIS is the main element restricting their joint work in the defense sphere.

Anti-criminal interaction has been successfully developing within the CIS for quite a long time now. In May 1996, an Interstate Program of Joint Measures for Fighting Organized Crime and Other Dangerous Crimes in the CIS countries was adopted for the period up to 2000, and in January 2000, a new Interstate Program of Joint Measures for Fighting Crime until 2003 went into force.

During implementation of these programs, specialized data banks (more than 16,500 registration entities) were formed, information exchange has been organized, and interaction in exposing crimes and detaining criminals has been improved. For example, whereas in 1995, 177 highly dangerous criminals on the interstate wanted list were arrested, in 2000 this number increased to 2,600.

During the past five years, 23 comprehensive operative-preventive measures and 118 special operations have been conducted. One hundred and twenty six thousand crimes have been exposed, 14,000 criminals, 50,000 units of firearms, and 150 tons of explosives arrested, and more than ten million USD confiscated. Several terrorist groups have been identified and their active participants arrested.

Although in recent years, the total number of registered crimes in the CIS states has decreased slightly, the activity of transnational crime groups in illegal migration and in drug, arms, and ammunition smuggling has increased, and other forms of dangerous crimes are intensifying.

A particular threat is posed by the illicit circulation of drugs. Research shows that with the absence of efficient measures, by 2010, the number of drug addicts in the CIS countries will reach 20-25 million, and the number of HIV-infected people will approach 10 million.

Since most drugs come from Afghanistan, their transit has encompassed essentially the entire Commonwealth. Experts believe that the annual drug traffic through the Central Asian region could be as much as 100 tons of heroin. In so doing, according to the available estimates, no more than 10% of the transited and consumable volume of drugs is detained. It should be noted that despite the military operation, the Afghan infrastructure of drug manufacture and export essentially did not suffer. For example, according to the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, in January 2002, compared with January of the previous year, the flow of opium from Afghanistan increased by 9%, and heroin by 130%.

The key element in the contractual-legal basis of joint opposition to the drug threat is the intergovernmental Agreement on Cooperation among the CIS Countries in the Fight Against the Illicit Circulation of Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Precursors of 30 November, 2000. In addition, there is a special anti-drug section in the Interstate Program of Joint Measures for Fighting Organized Crime and Other Dangerous Crimes in the CIS states until 2003.

Comprehensive operative-preventive measures called “Kanal” are conducted regularly to intercept drug smuggling. In 2001, 3,600 crimes related to the illicit circulation of this destructive poison were exposed by the joint efforts of the CIS law enforcement agencies, and approximately 1.5 tons of drugs were confiscated.

But the level of cooperation in this field is clearly not equivalent to the urgency of the transnational threat. This question was discussed in general terms at the informal meeting of CIS heads of state in Sochi on 1-3 August, 2001. At their joint meeting held in Minsk this January, the law enforcement agencies and power departments of these countries adopted a decision to draw up a conception on opposing illicit drug circulation.

The question of foreign policy coordination is acquiring a special resonance today. For the more consolidated the CIS members are in their action with respect to third countries, the more graphic and in some way symbolic the indicator of their level of cooperation is, on the one hand, and it has very practical implications, by defining the organization’s possibilities of efficiently defending the interests of the member states on the international arena, both in general, and of each state individually, on the other.

It should be noted that the Commonwealth’s achievements in this area are ambiguous. On the one hand, a saturated program of multilevel inter-foreign ministry consultations is being implemented. The statement on maintaining strategic stability adopted by the CIS heads of state on 21 June, 2000 in Moscow is in favor of retaining the 1972 ABM Treaty and against attempts to undermine it. During their informal meetings (Yalta, 18 August, 2000), the presidents came forward with a statement which established an integrated approach toward the problems of the Millennium Summit and Assembly, as well as toward globalization questions.

On the other hand, several countries (Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) are declaring their essential lack of interest in foreign policy interaction. But this does not stop them from participating in certain inter-foreign ministry consultations, depending on their interest in the specific question being discussed. In so doing, the countries mentioned do not recognize the Commonwealth as an international organization authorized to act in the name of its members on the world arena, or with the right to maintain contacts with other international structures.

This brief review of some of the main areas of practical interaction in the CIS shows that the Commonwealth has undoubtedly proved its worth as a beneficial and largely indispensable tool of diverse cooperation among the post-Soviet states. But it is obvious that it has still not managed to become a sufficiently efficient mechanism of interstate interaction.

The Virtues of the Commonwealth as an Extension of Its Vices. Prospects for the CIS

The amorphousness of the CIS, which is the main reason for its low level of efficiency, also has its pluses. These include, for example, the flexibility of this organization, which provides a platform and outlines the framework of cooperation among states which at times uphold entirely different views on the optimal parameters, areas, and forms of multilateral interaction. In the form in which it has developed today, the Commonwealth incorporates and takes account of the interests of all its members, of those in favor of cultivating integration, and of those in favor of a more restrained approach. It does not prevent the development of advanced forms of cooperation between interested states, be it on their own organized bases (the principle of diversity) or within narrower interstate associations in the post-Soviet space (the practice of multilevel integration). On the other hand, even those countries which did not sign the CIS Charter and are not officially members of the organization (Turkmenistan, Ukraine) participate on an equal basis in the activity of the Commonwealth.

By manifesting tenacity, the CIS has on the whole come favorably through the ten-year period of its formation, even when advancing broad comprehensive interaction was complicated by an entire series of objective and subjective factors. Those “post-Soviet complexes” in the policy of the member states mentioned above occupied a significant place among these obstacles. At present, it appears they are being successfully overcome.

From this point of view, the statement contained in the comprehensive analytical report prepared at the request of the heads of state for the anniversary summit on 30 November, 2001 in Moscow is symbolic: “The main lesson [of the decade] is that the development of multilateral cooperation in the CIS is not preventing the member states from strengthening their sovereignty.”16

The following thought from the Statement of the CIS heads of state, with respect to the organization’s ten-year formation, is also of principal importance: “The common desire of our countries for stable and consistent socioeconomic development and dignified integration into the world community is forming a firm foundation of interaction in the CIS. We see the gist of the Commonwealth’s existence in assisting the achievement of these goals through coordinating and joining the efforts of its member states. The main criterion for evaluating the CIS’s activity is the practical return achieved in raising the prosperity of the citizens of our states and providing them with the guarantee of broad rights in education, health care, social security, cultural development, and mutual communication—in short, bringing about a real improvement in people’s lives.”17

We can see that this understanding equally excludes both “fetishism” of the Commonwealth and a primitive-dependent approach to it. In this way, interaction within the CIS is acquiring a healthy and real basis for further development.

It is thought that against this background, the objective factors which bring the member states together stand out even more: the historical communality of their people, the complementarity and interdependence of their national economies, the diverse ties in their social, humanitarian, and information spheres, as well as the principal similarity of their chosen paths of development (in spite of all the specific national characteristics, the states are striving on the whole to build a market economy and political democracy, to break away from the totalitarian past, and to achieve a dignified entry into the world community).

In light of the indicated trends, it appears a new approach is being found to the problems of efficient cooperation. The need to change the state of affairs in this area was emphasized very definitely by experts from the member countries—the authors of the Analytical Report prepared for the anniversary summit. It is of major importance that the heads of state not only agreed with this conclusion, but also reinforced it, noting in the statement mentioned above: “We will achieve the creation of an efficient mechanism for implementing decisions and agreements within the CIS, keeping in mind the increased responsibility of the member states for carrying out the obligations they have assumed.”18

Of course, there is no need to expect miracles, in the foreseeable future, the CIS will not become a full-fledged integration organization. As of the present, the interests of the member states have fully crystallized, and in many areas are aimed in different directions. All the same, the need for this organization as a practical tool for resolving the vital problems of the member states will undoubtedly increase. As the leaders of the CIS states emphasized: “The Commonwealth has significant positive potential which can and must work for the good of our peoples.”19


1 By the way, it appears that the subjective motivation of the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, who announced the creation of the CIS at a meeting in Viskuli in December 1991, consisted precisely of creating the impression of this substitute with the aim of “helping the medicine go down” for domestic public opinion and lessening the shock caused by the “abolishment” of the Soviet Union.

2 Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, when speaking to journalists after one of the previous CIS summits, which was preceded by particularly gloomy “prophesies,” said, paraphrasing the well-known saying by Mark Twain: “The rumors about the death of the CIS have been greatly exaggerated.”

3 Sodruzhestvo. Informatsionniy vestnik Soveta glav gosudarstv i Soveta glav pravitel’stv SNG (The Commonwealth. Information Bulletin of the CIS Presidents’ Council and Prime Ministers’ Council), No. 3 (33), 1999, pp. 20-24.

4 Of course, the bureaucracy of the CIS agencies is the main generator of this idea.

5 The Alma Ata Declaration of 21 December, 1991, Diplomaticheskiy vestnik, No. 1, 1991.

6 R.S. Grinberg, L.B. Vardomskiy, “10 let posle raspada SSSR: nekotorye rezultaty i perspektivy evoliutsii prostranstva SNG” (Report at a round table meeting of the Gorbachev Foundation, 1 November, 2001), Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economics and Political Research.

7 It is thought that the initial logic of this lies in the fact that the indisputable significance for the radical interests of Russia’s national security of relations with the CIS member states (the vital need to have a belt of good-neighborly relations and cooperation around its perimeter, and approximately 25 million fellow countrymen living in the near abroad) was projected onto the CIS as an organization.

8 Diplomaticheskiy vestnik, No. 2, 2001.

9 Informatsionniy biulleten Departamenta informatsii i pechati MID Rossii (Information Bulletin of the Russian Foreign Ministry Department of Information and Press), 15 October, 2001.

10 Analytical report “Itogi deiatel’nosti SNG za 10 let i zadachi na perspektivu,” Informatsionniy biulleten Departamenta informatsii i pechati MID Rossii (Special Issue), 3 December, 2001.

11 Joint statement of the presidents of Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Adopted on 1 March, 2002, Informatsionniy biulleten Departamenta informatsii i pechati MID Rossii, 4 March, 2002.

12 Informatsionniy biulleten Departamenta informatsii i pechati MID Rossii, 4 March, 2002.

13 See: Sodruzhestvo. Informatsionniy vestnik Soveta glav gosudarstv i Soveta glav pravitel’stv SNG, No. 3 (36), pp. 162-171.

14 Uzbekistan is participating on the basis of bilateral agreements with Russia.

15 Ukraine is participating on the basis of bilateral agreements with Russia.

16 Informatsionniy biulleten Departamenta informatsii i pechati MID Rossii (Special Issue), 3 December, 2001.

17 Ibidem.

18 Ibidem.

19 Ibidem.


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