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CIS by Moscow Time

04 December, 00:00
The CIS jubilee summit is over. President Vladimir Putin of Russia, addressing the final press conference, called upon his counterparts to raise the true effectiveness of the CIS, to establish trouble-free coordination within it. He also said it was necessary to conduct a real, not declarative, policy, and to give the green light to economic cooperation, RIA-Novosti reports. Mr. Putin at last explained the reason why the CIS was needed: because it maintains stability and promotes economic growth. He was perhaps even more precise at the summit opening, when he called the CIS an indispensable mechanism of integration. That the organization must bear real fruit has been dwelt upon with each passing year. Nor was there anything new in his calls to deepen economic cooperation, set up a free trade zone, as well as to save the CIS: there were no clear indications about the goal and the existing alternatives. The CIS presidents called for concerted efforts in fighting terrorism (Ukrainian Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh also noted that Ukraine would actively participate in all CIS Antiterrorist Center activities), and announced that the CIS had significant positive potential. The results were more interesting for Ukraine. The summit was held in anticipation of the approaching Year of Ukraine in Russia. Thus it is no wonder that the speeches of President Kuchma and Premier Kinakh were first of all devoted to Ukrainian-Russian relations. These speeches were a source of much new information. For example, it is better for Ukraine to participate in the Eurasian Economic Community as an observer than not to participate at all. Ukraine and Russia should also intensify their economic integration. Ukraine also finds it equally important to maintain relationships with both Russia and Europe. According to Mr. Kinakh, this is the first time that Russia is able to partially pay for gas transit in hard currency. In addition, Pres. Kuchma, addressing an extended session of CIS heads of state, invited a group of CIS observers to attend the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Ukraine, Andriy Chyrva, deputy director of the public relations department of Ukraine’s Presidential Administration, announced in a press interview. According to him, Mr. Kuchma’s proposal was approved unanimously. The general impression was that the processes now underway in the CIS should be measured by Moscow time.

The CIS jubilee is being observed against the background of considerable transformation of post-Soviet elites, when economic depression is giving way to economic growth, basic changes are taking place in international relations and global policies, Russia is implementing a new foreign policy doctrine, and President Putin is demonstrating a new style.

Speaking about the CIS history of formation and technical particularities, we must note that it in fact arose as an instrument for conducting reactive policies, such as settlement of economic and energy-related problems, resolution of low-intensity regional conflicts, and neutralization of the potential seats of armed conflicts like Transnistria and Nagorno- Karabakh.

If viewed in its geopolitical context, the ten-year-old CIS has been a playing board for games of position between the three main players. The first player, which had been observing CIS developments even earlier, is the Euro-Atlantic Community (the USA, NATO, and Western Europe). What the latter has seen as the main goal of its policy in the past decade was keeping Russia as Europe’s new outback and thwarting the risk of any revival of the former Soviet Union within its former borders. Another player is Russia itself which has striven to overcome its domestic cataclysms and crises and thus offset the risks of a territorial, economic, and cultural isolation in order not drop to the fringes of high global politics. The third group of players consists of the other CIS states, which have considered it important to preserve a basis for bilateral relations and their own domestic political stability. The cornerstone of these states’ policy was to forestall both any Soviet-type integration and an abrupt disintegration of the post- Soviet space, which threatened post-Soviet elites with the loss of political control and disruption of social stability.

Although its internal relations has lacked any defined structures, and the CIS was something of a debating club, it still managed to achieve the main goal, to avert the danger of a Yugoslav scenario, disintegration, and Balkanization in the post-Soviet theater.

Prospects for the CIS should be considered within the context of Russia’s new role in the current geopolitical situation and in new antiterrorist context international relations. Obviously, the dominant geopolitical trend of this new structure of international relations is to establish elements that can provide stability, accomplish the containment of terrorism, and suppress the virus of religious fundamentalism in areas of vital importance for the US-led coalition. This is the main context, in which the CIS will evolve.

What is important today for the US and its European partners is suppressing the main hotbeds of terror, threats, and global risk. This makes the US interested in building the new axes of security led by its principal partners. This might well be the post- Soviet region, the Near and Middle East, etc., that is, the strategic areas and points that could spawn new terrorist and fundamentalist challenges. In my opinion, the CIS is now the target of efforts to restore under loose US-Russian control a unitary strategic region in the post-Soviet theater, where Russia could exercise leadership, with other CIS countries keeping their national sovereignty intact.

As the CIS acquires new functions in connection with terrorist threats, its members, including Russia, will inevitably undergo what might be called a new Bonn scenario, when West Germany and Japan were admitted to the Euro-Atlantic community.

Should Russian policy continue to demonstrate its trend toward Europe, this could lead to the formation of a European security system with the US, Europe, and Russia as its main factors, as well as of other security axes, for example, a Eurasian axis ranging from the Balkans to Indonesia, where Russia, China, and the US would play the dominant role. At present the CIS should also be regarded as the most important institution of the collective security of the former Soviet states, with Russia, no matter how painful it might be, playing the lead. Among lower-level tasks is establishing a Eurasian economic market and mapping out a joint strategy for CIS countries to enter the WTO.

The final thing I would mention is what I would call the wear and tear of Ukrainian romantic geopolitics, which has adhered for the past ten years to the now obsolete doctrine of a Euro-Atlantic containment of Russia. This point is going to force the Ukrainian Right and the whole body politic to basically revise their role and goals.

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