CIS second breath: the Russian presidency in 2017

« Back

CIS second breath: the Russian presidency in 2017 26.12.2016 11:31

In December, the Commonwealth of Independent States turns 25 years old. Already for a long time, one predicts the organization total oblivion and a way to the historical past. However, CIS continues to exist and, perhaps it has even more strengthened its position in the near future, given Russia's chairmanship in the Commonwealth in 2017.



On the principle of equality, on a parity basis

Summing up the results of activity of the CIS, it can be seen that it is the most representative organization in the post-Soviet space. Its structure still consists of 11 of the 15 former republics of the Soviet Union. The Baltic states immediately refused to join the Commonwealth, they later became part of the European Union and NATO.

Georgia in December 1993, was adopted in the CIS, but in August 2008, came out for political reasons. It should be noted that, in accordance with the Vienna Convention of 1969, Georgia is a member state of 75 multilateral international agreements signed within the Commonwealth. In particular, the agreement on a free trade zone, judicial cooperation in criminal matters, and other still continue to be applied. Tbilisi is still willing to develop friendly and mutually beneficial relations bilaterally with other CIS member states "in compliance with the principles of the territorial integrity of States and taking into account bilateral interests".

One reason for the longevity of the CIS is the fact that, according to the Alma-Ata Declaration, signed on 21 December 1991 in the then capital of Kazakhstan. The activity of the Commonwealth of Independent States is based on "the principle of equality, through coordinating institutions formed on a parity basis". Commonwealth "is neither a state, nor a supranational entity". This not only contributed to the so-called "civilized divorce" of the former republics of the Soviet Union, but also created the conditions for further mutually beneficial cooperation.

The flip side of this process was that the foreign policy and economic relations with the countries - participants of the Commonwealth began to be built more on a bilateral basis or within the framework of major international organizations: UN, OSCE, NATO, the IMF, the WTO and others. And the dominant direction of the foreign policy strategy of most former Soviet republics became a so-called multi-vector policy.

In addition, the Alma-Ata Declaration marked a respect for the states of the Commonwealth, which will aim to achieve a nuclear-free and neutral status, as well as "commitment to cooperate in the formation and development of a common economic space, European and Eurasian markets". This has contributed to, firstly, the elimination of nuclear weapons on the territory of Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus.

Secondly, it helped Turkmenistan obtain the status of a neutral state. Third, it initiated the process of multi-level integration of the former Soviet Union, and not only in the economic sphere.


Defence and security

In May 1992, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan signed in Tashkent Collective Security Treaty (CST). In September of the following year Azerbaijan and Georgia joined the treaty, in December - Belarus. That is, nine of the eleven CIS states signed the CST.

However, the signing of the Collective Security Treaty did not rule out military-political cooperation within the Commonwealth. Especially in view of the failure in 1999 of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan to renew its participation in the Collective Security Treaty. One of the reasons of the CIS demand was the need to resolve regional security issues. In particular, the CIS Council of Defense Ministers was forced to intervene in the civil war in Tajikistan. This led to the creation there of the CIS Collective Peacekeeping Force, which played a role in the settlement of the armed conflict in that country.

In August 1994, by the decision of of the CIS Heads of State Council the CIS in the area of Georgian-Abkhaz conflict collective forces were deployed for a period of six months for peacekeeping mission (up to 3 thousand people). In reality, the duration of their stay in the conflict zone has exceeded the period of 14 years that prevented a full-scale military confrontation between Georgia and Abkhazia.

At the Commonwealth summit in 2004, it was decided to establish the CIS Security Council to combat terrorism in Astana. In addition, based on an agreement of ten CIS countries (except Azerbaijan and Moldova), signed in 1995 in Alma-Ata, integrated system of air defense (PVO) of the CIS countries is operating. In 1997, Georgia and Turkmenistan actually came out of it, and Uzbekistan cooperates with Russia in the field of defense solely on a bilateral basis. But this does not prevent the holding of regular joint exercises in the field of air defense.

If one talks about the prospects of the CIS, it should be noted that currently the military structures of the CIS and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) partially overlap. Given the ongoing orientation of Georgia, Moldova (in the policy of the republic may be some adjustments, if its parliament in the near future qualitative changes) and Ukraine to the West, as well as the preservation of Turkmenistan's neutral status, apparently, one should expect weakening of the military structures of the Commonwealth. Instead, similar to the CSTO framework will act.


Mobile integration geometry

The concept of economic integration of the Commonwealth of Independent States (adopted in 1997) was based on the principle of "the moving geometry" of multi-level and multi-cooperation. This allowed to create a common economic space, including a free trade zone, payments union, customs union and a common scientific and technological space. However, in practice, within the CIS it failed to be implemented because of the amorphous and the ineffectiveness of cooperation in certain areas.

As a way out of this situation, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed on the basis of the Commonwealth to create a Eurasian Union, with specific common goals. The effectiveness of the EAEC activity is significantly higher than that of the CIS. But it brings together at least half of the states - members of the Commonwealth. Consequently, there remains a need in the conservation area to resolve economic problems. From this point of view, the replacement of the CIS is still not in sight.

A major challenge was the Ukrainian crisis for the CIS, which is accompanied by a significant deterioration of the economic relations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. But only the Western vector in the form of association with the EU has brought economic prosperity both to Kiev (and Tbilisi and Kishinev). In such circumstances, the CIS holds Ukraine in the orbit of the former Soviet Union, so one can expect the revitalization of Kiev in the organization (on the background of the coming to power of a new US Administration).

Given the above, the Russian Federation's chairmanship concept in the Commonwealth of Independent States in 2017 has been developed and the Action Plan for its implementation.

Within the framework of the Russian Chairmanship it is planned to direct its efforts on the development of the Commonwealth as a regional intergovernmental organization, increasing its credibility on the world stage, in the further coordination of foreign policy activity of the states - participants of the CIS.

In addition, within the framework of the Commonwealth coordinated actions will be carried out to improve the efficiency of the executive bodies, the adaptation of cooperation in the CIS mechanisms to modern realities of integration development, to ensure political support for different levels of integration processes, the development of cooperation in the fight against terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and other threats States - members of the Commonwealth, as well as the expansion of cultural and humanitarian cooperation.

Achieving these goals will enable the Commonwealth to upgrade quality to match the current for both regional and global realities. But this requires serious support from all states - participants of the CIS.

CIS has not yet exhausted its potential, and the forthcoming Russian chairmanship in the organization will create good opportunities for the strengthening of the Commonwealth, and for the gaining in this space multi-level integration processes (primarily in the framework of the CSTO and EAEC).


Vladimir Evseev, Deputy Director of the Institute of CIS countries