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CIS summit — a pretext for a propagandistic campaign?

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Igor Botan / November 15, 2008
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During November 13–14, 2008, Chisinau hosted the summit of CIS heads of government. Much was written about this regional organisation, though it deserved only some ascertainments. The CIS may claim the title of the most secret regional international organisation. It is almost impossible to find texts of most of documents adopted within the CIS. Draft documents to be discussed at summits are unavailable. In this respect, the Chisinau Summit was like other previous meetings. Talks about adopting some epochal strategies and documents, of course for the sake of citizens, relating to the CIS budget, etc., without publishing the texts of those drafts feature this organisation. In addition, the context in which the Chisinau Summit took place adds new definitive features to the CIS image: Georgia has quitted this organization after the Russian-Georgian war; Russia has organised an informational war against Ukraine over the last years and some Russian officials have permanently threatened the territorial integrity of this country; Uzbekistan has quitted the Euro-Atlantic Economic Community, in which Moldova is an observer, an organisation providing an allegedly more advanced economic, tariff and customs cooperation with some CIS member states, etc.

In such conditions, the true role and the necessity to keep the CIS alive may be reasoned by starting from previous statements delivered by Russian Premier Vladimir Putin when he was the president of Russia. He said that “the CIS was instituted for the civilised divorce of former Soviet republics.” Mr. Putin stated in 2005 that “the collapse of the USSR was the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” These statements explain the essence of developments in the CIS. An international organisation cannot be consolidated when its subjects describe its origins in an antagonistic manner. Thus, all CIS members regard the collapse of the USSR as a freedom, while Russia regards it as a catastrophe. Playing with zero is dangerous. In order not to feel itself desolated, Russia is recalled that the process of disintegration of the USSR was initiated by Russia, which was the first Soviet republic to declare its sovereignty and open the “parade of sovereignties”. But this does not help, as the “civilised divorce” is “frozen” together with separatist conflicts supported by Russia in territories of some CIS member states, while Russia has decisively combated them in its territory. It seems that separatist regimes and Russian military bases in territories of partners have become “anchors” aimed to link the CIS borders. But CIS member states which undergo the long “divorce process” could have decided to withdraw from this semi-secret structure in order to establish reciprocally advantageous bilateral relations, but they are afraid of being punished for undermining the illusion that Russia could remedy at least some consequences of “the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”

Although tens of CIS summits have been held at level of heads of state or government, problems which do poison good relations such as issues related to “frozen conflicts” which “Russia has frozen by using own schemes and it will not allow anybody to thaw them after other schemes,”[1] are not discussed. Nor the problem of the CIS-2 made by the separatist regions supported by Russia is discussed. Instead, the same problems which do not have a positive effect on member states have been discussed over years. On the contrary, member states are punished if they try to express own interests. It seems that none of CIS members should dare to follow own interests without coordinating them with Russia. A country or group of countries daring to announce own interests is declared anti-Russia.

Indeed, all CIS summits seemed to be at random, except for the one held in 2004 when an action against the OSCE, and the 2005 summit in Kazani, when Russia has announced its decision to monetise the relations with CIS partners. Same discussions about the common information area ensured via the TV Company “MIR”, about the free economic zone, humanitarian problems, etc., migrate from an agenda to another. But the plot thickens between meetings. For example, the common information area in the CIS is becoming a non-sense after Georgia, the country which had a special contribution to the common cultural treasury of former Soviet republics, has quitted the CIS. So, what will happen with the alleged common area if holders of the worthiest cultural contributions are eliminated? Perhaps, only the propaganda and statements revealing good intentions will survive.

Speaking about humanitarian problems which are often discussed within the CIS, a dimension of major importance would be the problem of guest workers, millions of citizens from CIS members who work in Russia illegally. It is well-known that their status pushes many of them to commit offences, including very grave crimes and they are also victims of very grave crimes. But researches on this matter, if there are any, statistics and topics of official talks are inaccessible. How could CIS members protect their citizens and prevent conditions which produce problems?

The recent Chisinau summit has reached a new dimension of the humanitarian problem — the youth — which will be developed in future. How credible is this initiative, when two CIS states, for example, Russia and the Republic of Moldova, ignore sounding cases related to rights of citizens, particularly of youths? For example, the case of a young family will be probably signalled to the ECHR, as it cannot reunite for unexplained reasons. This is the case of journalist Natalia Morari, a citizen of Moldova who has recently married a Russian. The situation faced by the young family is nothing but a state revenge. How dangerous is a journalist for the security of a regional superpower, as no judicial decision is available to assess the eventual damage produced by the subversive work of this reporter against Russia’s security? Optimists may keep hoping that the problem will be resolved next year, within the initiative to declare 2009 “The Year of the CIS Youth”, but the case of Natalia Morari is more serious, as it proves that the pivot country of the CIS, Russia, is practicing arbitrary punishments both at level of interstate relations such as commercial embargoes against Moldova, and at level of individuals. As regards the embargoes against Moldova, consequences were expectable after the Russian State Duma adopted three menacing resolutions in February 2005, but nobody is capable to forecast anything concerning individuals. This is called resolving humanitarian problems in the CIS.

Despite all facts above, the CIS Summit in Chisinau was useful. He provided a pretext to open a new propagandistic wave. On its background, during the visit of Vladimir Putin, some Moldovan media outlets resumed and spread the slogan about “the pro-Russia European integration of the Republic of Moldova”. This brain wave is very important when citizens make efforts to register the organisation “Russia’s Friends in Moldova” with the Ministry of Justice. What “Russia’s Friends in Moldova” are needed for when the strategic goal of authorities — the European integration — is a pro-Russia process? If recalling that Russia and Belarus are geographically part of Europe, nobody may contest that the European integration and the integration into the Russia-Belarus Union do not coincide.

In fact, propagandistic actions taken over the CIS Summit prove the hot battle for the support of the Russian-speaking electorate in Moldova, as this segment counts for approximately 25–30 percent or even more, depending on the electoral turnout. Finally, there are some words to be said about the results of the summit; “the 34 approved documents include the economic development strategy of the Commonwealth until 2020, key cooperation directions to develop transports, ensure food security, coordinate migration policies, currency regulation, concerning agriculture, humanitarian matters, especially relating to youth, etc.” The summit has also discussed some delicate issues, but no information is available in this respect.

  1. Глеб Павловский, “Судороги рождения нации”, Русский журнал, 04.09.2004.
Stakes in the 2009 parliamentary elections Political year 2008