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Russia: Influential Article Warns Of CIS Laxity

Prague, 1 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - Meeting in Moscow last week, the top leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) decided to postpone until their next summit the consideration of an agreement further to integrate their economies. The move demonstrated persisting unwillingness of the former Soviet republics to close ranks behind Russia.

The Russian media have reported that several CIS presidents, including Ukraine's Leonid Kuchma as well as Georgia's Eduard Shevardnadze and Kazakhstan's Nursulan Nazarbeyev, considered Russia's domination over the CIS "unacceptable" and supported a "soft" approach to integration "in a modern form, using international models." This presumably meant the way used by the European Union.

Russia must have been rather disappointed. Only two days before the summit a Moscow newspaper, "The Nezavisimaya gazeta," published an article advocating the reversal of what it perceived as a drift of the former republics away from Russia and the concomitant precipitous decline of Russia's economic influence throughout the former Soviet Union.

The Russian media have claimed that the article was authored by policy analysts Andranik Migranyan and Konstantin Zatulin. Both are said to be close to the government.

Warning that the CIS risks become becoming "a fiction," the authors advocate radical measures, including the deliberate destabilization of the domestic political situation in some CIS member states to prevent them from moving away from Moscow's control.

The authors voice alarm at any form of cooperative moves within the CIS that are not directly inspired or controlled by Moscow. They complain that the Baltic countries may seek economic rapprochement with Ukraine. They are concerned that Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine may develop mutually beneficial ties. And they warn that Central Asian states may expand economic and military cooperation.

To combat those trends, the article advocated expediting Russia's Union with Belarus in order to preclude the creation of a "cordon sanitaire from the Baltic to the Black Sea" exacerbating ethnic conflicts in Georgia and Azerbaijan, making recognition of Ukraine's present frontiers contingent on the conclusion of a federal treaty between Ukraine and Crimea and withdrawing the CIS peacekeeping force from Tajikistan and fomenting claims by the Central Asian states on each other's territory.

Addressing the issue of relations between the CIS member states, the article argued that the Russian leadership committed a fundamental error by adopting as its model that of integration within the EU. Instead, it argued that the unification of the two Germanies is infinitely more appropriate.

"The Nezavisimaya gazeta" article was promptly denounced by the Georgian Presidential press service as "an insult to the CIS member states and to Russia in the first instance."

The article was also criticized by Russia's Foreign Ministry. Terming the article "tendentious and provocative," Russian Foreign Minister Yvgeny Primakov distanced himself from its publication. But CIS diplomatic sources in Washington told RFE/RL that they believed he had personally endorsed it. President Boris Yeltsin has made no comment on the document.