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Kazan’ CIS Summit

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Igor Botan / August 30, 2005
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Yet another attempt to revive CIS?

Forecasts on the death of the CIS, or on the contrary, the need for its revival have traditionally accompanied any forthcoming CIS Summit. The recent Summit held in Kazan’ on August 26, 2005 was not an exception to that. As usual, pessimists claim that “CIS is more dead than alive”, while the optimists claim the opposite. The truth is somewhere in the middle, i.e. CIS is in a coma. This explains the numerous initiatives to revive CIS, or to eliminate the “necrosis” by promoting differentiated, gradual, or even “various speed” integration of certain micro-communities within CIS, such as Russia-Belarus Union (RBU); Eurasia Union (EU), Common Economic Space (CES), which despite their potential are still quite ephemeral.

And this largely due to the fact that right from the beginning CIS lacked a clear strategy. Currently, there is much talk that the greatest merit of CIS was to bring “civilized divorce” of the former soviet republics, fact also confirmed recently by President Putin. At the beginning things were quite different; however the low economic integration potential (despite the dozens of summits and hundreds of adopted documents) has brought the general acceptance of this point. In its early stages, the most liberal Russian Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev was claiming that CIS main purpose was to serve the exclusive interests of Russia, while Russian Presidents’ Councilor Andranic Migranean went further saying Russia was to promote in CIS a strategy similar to Monroe doctrine. Later on, Russian high rank moguls and pundits issued a string of statements on the CIS role in preserving Russia’s influence in the region by means of liberal economic imperialism. A special role in this respect was given to the “security belt” made up of secessionist enclaves that were to prevent some CIS states from leaving Russia’s sphere of influence. In response, CIS countries focused on “consolidating their own sovereignty”, refrained from any supranational structures within CIS, rather accepting only coordination structures in various fields.

The turning point for CIS was the Yalta Summit held in September 2003, when Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan announced the creation of Common Economic Space (CES). After the Summit, Russia’s strategy as regards CIS became quite clear, especially in the three key areas: economy and trade; military and security; humanitarian and informational. There is quite clear distinction. Albeit practically all CIS countries opt for a close economic cooperation, after the Yalta Summit not all of them are eligible for such cooperation. For instance, the first signs of a cool-down between Moldova and Russia showed immediately after the Yalta Summit when Moldova was not invited into the CES. Only the countries endowed with huge economic potential and whose GDP accounted for at least 90% of the CIS’ GDP, got invited. Among the four founding countries, Russia and Kazakhstan seem to be self-sufficient economically, largely due to their vast oil and gas reserves. As for Belarus and Ukraine, albeit they are the greatest importers of oil and gas, still they have a huge economic potential and are economically quite attractive for Russia. Lukashenko’s regime remains afloat mainly due to Russia’s support, which explains his oratorical ardor on Russia-Belarus unification. Ukraine, on the other hand, is attractive due to its economic and geopolitical position as well as historic ties with Russia.

Russia seems to view economic cooperation and integration without a military component, as quite risky for consolidating its influence in CIS. That is why membership in the CIS’ Agreement on Joint Security (AJS) seems to be one of the main criteria when deciding economic policy towards certain CIS countries. This is the generally-accepted logic. For instance, former Communist Central European countries first joined NATO and only afterwards EU. Out of the CIS countries invited to the CES only Ukraine is not a member of AJS, however, as it was mentioned, its strategic importance for Russia qualifies it for CES.

The other CIS states having weaker economies and caring about their “sovereignty” that are not AJS members could not even aspire to get into CES club. The mere thing that keeps them in the CIS is the secessionism “security belt” (Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Osetia, Nagornokarabah). Thus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova neither could fully exploit CIS economically, nor could leave it without getting into bigger troubles. What some of them could really do is to get into even more ephemeral structures than CIS, like GUAM.

Evidence to the new Russia’s strategy towards CIS is the statement made by Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Federal Assembly, Mikhail Margelov “The change in Russia’s foreign policy, its pragmatism, has started five years ago”, i.e. once Putin acceded to power. Yet another illustration is the initial agenda of the Kazani Summit, as well as the fact that Ukraine’s propositions were neglected. Economic issues were only discussed by the heads of the four CES countries. Military cooperation issues have been on the agenda of AJS countries, while the leftovers — festivities, commemorations, and other general stuff of interest for Russia — where put forward on the agenda for discussions by all the heads of state. Those included among others: Agreement on Humanitarian Cooperation within CIS; preparations for the 60th anniversary of the UN; address to the international community on the 20th anniversary of Cernobyl tragedy; fighting terrorism, extremism, trafficking in human beings and illegal migration.

Great many pundits were quite critical of the Summit given that only one issue saw unanimous support — 20th anniversary of the Cernobyl tragedy. On top of that, Turkmenistan announced its withdrawal from CIS, rather opting for the status of associated member. Still, one should not exaggerate its implications, for instance Ukraine never ratified its adherence to CIS, and is also considered an associated-member. However, the leaders of Ukraine and Georgia, the main revolutionaries within CIS, did praise the summit.

To somehow disguise the CIS deadlock, Russia proposed “reforming and increasing the efficiency of the governing bodies” by establishing “an advisory council” to include well known public figures. The latter is yet another confirmation to the fact that at least for now, CIS is nothing but a discussion club. It also points to the transitional character of the Summit in Kazan’, which paves the way to really spectacular events impinged by the new political realities within the CIS and internationally.

Context of the CIS Summit

Kazan’ Summit happened in a special political context boosting Russia’s position in the CIS:

  1. The problems EU is facing after its 2004 enlargement diminish even further the hipotetical accession prospects of the CIS’ countries that declared EU integration as their top goal. Ukrainian Prime-Minister Yulia Timoshenko stated recently that it was not the right moment to knock at EU’s doors when it was troubled with its own problems. At the same time Kiev administration had to refute the statement made by its Minister of Economy, Sergey Terehin on Ukraine’s withdrawal from CIS. On the contrary, Kiev insists on establishing a free-trade zone within SES, of course, without creating any supra-national structures. The latter goes counter to Russia and Kazakhstan’s intentions to be limited only to joint customs and tariff systems.

  2. efforts to avoid any potential “colorful revolutions” push leaders of authoritarian CIS states in Russia’s arms, including military. Despite certain tensions between Russia and Kazakhstan when the latter decided two yeas ago to equip its airports with American radar systems and its pressure to dissolve AJS headquarters, the military and political integration in the Central Asia is taking place, among others via Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The mere fact that Russian authorities endorsed Nursultan Nazarbaiev’s December re-election indicate that the differences are much smaller than the danger of a “colored revolution”. The latest developments in Uzbekistan are also illustrative for understanding the regional trends.

  3. despite many problems, Russia’s role as EU and US strategic partner is gaining grounds, partly due to its vast oil and gas resources, a major factor given the instability in the oil exporting regions. Oil has become a crucial factor in negotiating not only with CIS, but also with EU. Signing of the Agreement on building a natural gas pipeline across the Baltic Sea by President Putin and Schroder scheduled for September 8 (ten days prior to general elections in Germany) might have a significant impact on election outcomes. Moreover, this project raises many problems for Ukraine and Poland’s energetic security, as it neglects the extension of Odessa — Brody pipeline taking oil from Caspian Sea to Poland and further on. In response to Russian-German project, Ukrainian authorities intend to rely on coal and uranium. This apparent ultimatum comes after Russia announced its intention to raise 2–3 time the price on gas, while US was dissatisfied with Ukraine’s intention to build a gas pipeline from Iran to Ukraine and Europe.

  4. profits from the skyrocketed prices on oil open new opportunities for Russia to revive its military and to conduct humanitarian operations in the so-called joint informational CIS space. Curiously enough, in some cases Russia weights more economic rather than humanitarian benefits. The conflict between Russia and Turkmenistan arisen two years ago, when the latter decided to cancel the double citizenship for Turkmen citizens. The conflict was settled immediately the two countries reached an agreement on the export of Turkmen gas through Russian pipelines. Apparently, the interests of Russians residing in Turkmenistan were simply forgotten. Accordingly, as long as Turkmenistan exports its gas via Russian pipelines, its withdrawal from CIS does not threaten Russia’s interests. In return, CIS states importing oil have to cope with the consequences of humanitarian programs in the joint informational space, i.e. involvement in elections, as was the recent cases of Ukraine and Moldova.

  5. “turning into monetary terms” the relations with CIS depending on their loyalty to Russia — might prove to be the most powerful lever in Russia’s hands to wield heavy influence on those countries. Russian officials claim that the move is a clear evidence that Russia gave up on its “imperial ambitions”. Sure, this is a false argument. Pretensions that CIS countries in conflict with Russia “should not be sponsored” and have to pay world prices on imported gas, do not take into account the damages incurred by the secessionism supported by Russia and its troops stationed on the soil of those countries. Anyway, the economic and military power remains to be crucial in such kind of disputes.

Possible consequences for Moldova

President Voronin’s participation in the Kazani Summit is in line with his statement “Moldova would not become a burier of CIS”, meaning that Moldova would not leave the structure. The attitude towards the documents put forward for debates resumed to “Moldova signs only the documents that do not run counter to the provisions of the EU-RM Action Plan”. This is a respectable position, however given Ukraine’s indecisiveness as regards its further integration in CIS, and more importantly, regarding securing the border on Transdnistrian portion, Moldova remains somehow marginalized. Furthermore, RM incurs huge loses given Russia’s ban on fruit and vegetable imports from Moldova. An eventual price hike on gas would be yet another blow for Moldova. In the long run, those factors might shape the political landscape in Moldova, especially revive the pro-CIS opposition.

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