YELTSIN APPROVES NEW AGREEMENT WITH BELARUS.
The Council of the Russian State Duma will discuss today an agreement on Belarusian-Ukrainian union approved by President Boris Yeltsin and his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, RFE/RL reported. Yeltsin and Lukashenka are expected to sign the accord soon. The agreement provides for common citizenship and calls for coordinating security and economic policies, eventually creating a single currency. The treaty signed by Russia and Belarus on 2 April 1996 declared similar goals, but most of its provisions have not been implemented. Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov stressed that a new state would not be created overnight, and CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev described the agreement as a step toward "confederation" that would not allow Belarus to impose its will on Russia. Under the new treaty, a Supreme Council that included the presidents, prime ministers, and parliamentary speakers of both countries would have to unanimously adopt decisions on Russian-Belarusian integration.
REACTION TO RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN AGREEMENT.
The terms of the new agreement have disappointed Russian supporters of Russian-Belarusian unification. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov described the agreement as a "very modest step" toward union with Belarus. Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin, one of the most outspoken Russian proponents of integration, told ITAR-TASS on 31 March that he was "amazed at the extent to which the document has been emasculated." Skeptics on unification, including Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar, warned against rushing integration, noting the restrictions imposed on opposition groups and the media in Belarus. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov told RFE/RL that integration should be pursued with caution so as not to damage the Russian economy. In the past, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais also expressed reservations about the economic consequences of union with Belarus.
HEADS OF STATE ENDORSE CIS, EXTEND PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE.
.. The CIS summit originally scheduled for December 1996 to mark the fifth anniversary of the organization's founding finally took place in Moscow on 28 March. Yeltsin reported on his talks in Helsinki one week earlier with U.S. President Bill Clinton. He was re-elected chairman of the CIS heads of state council. Yeltsin later told journalists that the participants unanimously agreed that "the CIS is necessary" but that it has not yet evolved into its definitive form. Yeltsin conceded that each member state has "its own national interests, priorities, and its own vision of future integration," AFP and Interfax reported. Agreement was reached on the CIS Foreign Ministers' proposal to extend the mandates of the CIS peacekeeping forces in Tajikistan until 30 June and in Abkhazia until 31 July. The participants also agreed on creating a CIS commission to mediate the conflicts in Transdniester, Tajikistan, Abkhazia, and Nagorno- Karabakh, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 March.
...BUT DISAGREE OVER ECONOMIC INTEGRATION.
The divergent priorities referred to by Yeltsin were reflected in the reluctance of some summit participants to sign the Concept for Integrated Economic Development of the CIS, which was approved by eight of the 12 CIS premiers at their January 1997 meeting. The concept envisages creating a single CIS economic space, expanding the Customs Union, and integrating transport and energy systems. It was signed only by Yeltsin. Although the majority of other heads of state approved it, the document is to be submitted to governments for further modification and will be discussed at the next CIS summit in June. Georgian Minister of State Niko Lekishvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 30 March that Georgia cannot accept the current version because it is "at variance with Georgia's national laws, interests, and commitments", Interfax reported.
SUMMIT PARTICIPANTS' COMMENTS.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma characterized the summit as "a breakthrough that opened a new phase in the life of the CIS." Kazakstan's Nursultan Nazarbaev said it had "removed all the sore points" in relations between member states, according to Interfax and ITAR-TASS. Others were less enthusiastic. Belarusian President Lukashenka said the CIS had become "a club for meetings between heads of state" and that "the overwhelming majority of agreements signed remain on paper...the present [level of] cooperation within the CIS represents an imitation of integration." Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov warned against "forcing processes that are still premature," because this "risks devaluing the entire concept of integration."
PRIMAKOV SAYS CHARTER COULD "NEUTRALIZE" EFFECTS OF NATO ENLARGEMENT.
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov says a charter between NATO and Russia could largely "neutralize" the consequences of NATO expansion on Russia's relations with the West, RFE/RL reported. But he made clear that Russia remains opposed to enlargement, which, he said, would be "the biggest mistake" since the end of the Cold War. Among other things, Moscow wants a charter to bind NATO not to deploy nuclear weapons in new member countries. Primakov suggested a charter could be signed before the NATO summit in Madrid in July, when NATO leaders are expected to announce which former East European countries will be invited first to join the alliance. Primakov was speaking on 29 March in Bonn, where he briefed his German counterpart Klaus Kinkel on the Helsinki summit between Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton.
RYBKIN HOLDS TALKS WITH CHECHENS.
Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin met with Chechen First Deputy Premier Movladi Udugov in the Ingush capital of Nazran on 29 March in an attempt to dispel disagreement over the nature of Chechnya's future economic and political relations with Moscow, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. During the last round of talks in Grozny in early March, the two sides reached agreement on most provisions of the two documents. But Moscow later submitted to the Chechen leadership substantially amended drafts, which the Chechens termed unacceptable. Chechen Security Council chief Akhmed Zakayev told ITAR-TASS on 29 March that the Chechen side has prepared its own alternative draft agreements. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov said last week he favors signing a formal peace agreement with Yeltsin, to be followed by a bilateral inter-governmental agreement on economic relations.
IMF CHIEF IN MOSCOW.
IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 31 March to discuss whether the fund will resume monthly disbursements of a three-year $10 billion loan to Russia, AFP and RFE/RL reported. The IMF has delayed monthly installments of the loan several times, most recently in February, primarily because of ineffective tax collection in Russia. Camdessus will hold talks with Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov on 1 April.
NEMTSOV CALLS FOR REDUCING PRIVILEGES FOR STATE EMPLOYEES.
First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov has called for cutting privileges that allow civil servants to ride public transport for free and pay less for housing. In a 29 March interview with ITAR-TASS, Nemtsov asked why state employees such as tax inspectors should be considered "better than other Russians," arguing that such privileges should be reserved for the very ill and those distinguished by meritorious service. On Nemtsov's initiative, Yeltsin recently ordered all state officials to drive Russian- made cars. Nemtsov also said the budget of the Russian Pension Fund should be made more "realistic" by reducing employers' contributions from 28% to 25% of the wage fund and raising employees' contributions from 1% to 2% of income.
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES FORM NEW ALLIANCE.
.. Seven Armenian opposition parties on 29 March formed a National Alliance to campaign for pre-term presidential and parliamentary elections and the adoption of a new constitution. The alliance aims to build "a democratic, law- governed, and socially oriented society." It unites four of the five parties that supported defeated presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan in last year's disputed presidential elections: the National Democratic Union, the Democratic Party of Armenia, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-- Dashnaktsyutyun (ARFD). and the Union for National Self- Determination. Other members are the Union for Constitutional Right, the National Progress Party, and the Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union.
...AS DO GAMSAKHURDIA SUPPORTERS IN GEORGIA.
Nine Georgian opposition parties representing supporters of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia have overcome internal dissent to create a coalition called the Front for the Reinstatement of Legitimate Power in Georgia, Interfax reported on 27 March. On 31 March, Gamsakhurdia's birthday, his supporters staged demonstrations in several districts of Tbilisi to demand the resignation of the Shevardnadze leadership and the withdrawal from Georgia of all Russian troops, Russian TV reported.
ARMENIA, RUSSIA TO INTENSIFY COOPERATION.
At a post-summit meeting in Moscow on 29 March, Yeltsin and Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan reached agreement on signing a new treaty on Friendship and Strategic Partnership to supersede the December 1991 accord, presidential spokesman Levon Zurabian told journalists in Yerevan on 31 March. Zurabian denied, however, that Armenia is contemplating joining the Russian-Belarusian union. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, who met with Ter-Petrossyan in Moscow on 27 March, told journalists that the new bilateral treaty will have "a military component," Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 28 March.
NEW ROUND OF KARABAKH TALKS OPENS IN MOSCOW.
Yeltsin met with his counterparts from Armenia and Azerbaijan, Levon Ter-Petrossyan and Heidar Aliev, in Moscow on 29 March to discuss prospects for resolving the Karabakh conflict. In Paris last week, the U.S., Russian, and French co- chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group has "outlined a common approach" to the round of talks that opens on 1 April in Moscow, Armenpress reported. Last week, the Foreign Ministry of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh issued a statement calling for a peaceful solution to the conflict based on the right of nations to self-determination.
REACTION TO DECISION ON ABKHAZ PEACEKEEPERS.
The Abkhaz leadership last week rejected the decision by the CIS heads of state to expand the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia, Russian Public TV reported. Abkhaz parliamentary speaker Sokrat Djindjolia told Interfax on 31 March that if the CIS unilaterally amends the peacekeepers' mandate, Abkhazia will insist that they leave Abkhazia. The Abkhaz parliament has already voted to suspend further talks on future political relations between Abkhazia and the central Georgian government until Moscow lifts economic sanctions against Abkhazia. Meanwhile, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili has said if there is no swift breakthrough in resolving the Abkhaz crisis, Georgia will invite the UN and the OSCE to take over the mediation process, Russian Independent Television reported.
ANOTHER UNSANCTIONED DEMONSTRATION IN KAZAKSTAN.
A second demonstration against worsening living conditions took place in Almaty on the weekend. Some 300 people--mostly from the Communist party and social movement Pokaleniya, which consists largely of elderly people- -attended the rally in front of the government building. The demonstration was not sanctioned by the authorities and was the second such gathering within a week. On 27 March, pensioners rallied in Kokshetau, in northern Kazakstan, to protest unpaid pensions. On both occasions, demonstrators ignored a warning by Kazakstan's Procurator-General not to hold the rallies.
HUNT FOR TAJIK REBEL ENDS. Presidential spokesman
Zafar Saidov has said an operation to capture the outlawed group headed by the Sadirov brothers has ended. The operation involved both Tajik government forces and opposition fighters. One of the brothers, Rizvon Sadirov, remains at large. Authorities say he and his remaining supporters have gone into hiding in a remote area of central Tajikistan. During the operation, 12 members of the Sadirov gang were killed and 20 captured. Bahrom Sadirov was among those captured. The group is responsible for two hostage- taking incidents since December, both of which involved foreign workers in Tajikistan.
TURKMEN GAS SUPPLIES TO UKRAINE CUT OFF?
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov says his country has cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine because of debts totaling $700 million. Niyazov added that it is not solely Kyiv's fault but a problem with "intermediary firms" transporting Turkmen gas to Ukraine. But Vladimir Rijov, an assistant to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, said Niyazov's statement was intended for Gazprom, which transports the gas from Turkmenistan to Ukraine and also to western Europe. He said Gazprom has yet to pay for 10,000 million cubic meters of gas received from Turkmenistan. Rijov also said gas has not been cut off to Ukraine.
UKRAINIAN PREMIER TO ADDRESS PARLIAMENT.
Pavlo Lazarenko is to address the parliament to explain the government's position on the budget, RFE/RL reported. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has asked Lazarenko to give the speech. Kuchma has sharply criticized the prime minister and his government for failing to deal with the country's severe economic crisis. He has also warned he will dismiss the government if the situation is not fixed. Lazarenko has returned from an official visit to Egypt, where he met on 29 March with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. In other news, Gen. George Joulwan, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in Europe, is scheduled today to begin a two-day visit to Ukraine.
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CRITICAL OF RUSSIAN- BELARUSIAN UNION.
Kuchma has told journalists in Kyiv that the planned union between Russia and Belarus is "nonsense." According to Kuchma, the union is a way to destroy the CIS. Kuchma also said he does not support some of Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's recent actions, such as the crackdown on the media in Belarus.
ESTONIAN FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER GOES ON TRIAL.
Heiki Arike on 31 March went on trial on charges of participating in illegal weapons trading and illegally signing weapons trade documents. Arike, a former deputy secretary of the Internal Affairs Ministry and internal affairs minister under Prime Minister Mart Laar, denied the charges. He admitted to having signed last-user certificates beginning in spring 1993 but only for companies previously approved by the police for such deals. The charges against Arike carry a maximum sentence of three years. The trial continues today.
ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO ENLARGEMENT.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves says that during talks last week in the U.S. capital, U.S. officials expressed support for a second wave of NATO enlargement to follow the first and for a special charter on relations with the Baltic States. The charter would be an explicit statement of U.S. relations to the Baltic states. It would contain neither security guarantees nor commitments by the U.S. Ilves was speaking at a press conference on 30 March in Washington. He said Estonia has proposed a Washington summit in 1999 at which another batch of European countries would be admitted to NATO. "The Madrid summit [in June 1997] must be the formal beginning of a process rather than the climactic end," Ilves commented.
STRONG WINDS KILL 10 IN POLAND.
Hurricane-strength winds killed at least 10 people in Poland, PAP reported. Most of the victims were killed by uprooted trees or falling debris. Dozens of others were injured. Some 13,000 firefighters took part in rescue actions across Poland. Many villages in the southern and western parts of the country were left without electricity or phone links.
SLOVAK PREMIER ON NATO.
Vladimir Meciar claims that U.S. State Secretary Madeleine Albright told him in July 1996 that Slovakia will not be admitted to NATO. Albright, who at the time was U.S. ambassador to the UN, was accompanying Hillary Clinton, wife of the U.S. President, on a visit to Slovakia. Meciar made the claim in an interview with Markiza TV on 28 March. Sme reported the next day that the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava does not want to comment on Meciar's statements "at this point." Meanwhile, retired Gen. Jan Husak is quoted by Slovensko as saying his Slovak Anti-Fascist Fighters Union has sent a letter to the Russian War Veterans Committee defending Slovakia's possible entry into NATO and stressing NATO membership is one of the Slovak government's priorities. His letter comes in response to the veterans' request that the union join them in opposing NATO's eastward expansion.
SLOVAK POLITICIAN CALLS FOR CONGRESS OF "NATIONALLY-ORIENTED" PARTIES.
Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota wants to hold a conference in Slovakia of "European nationally-oriented parties," the Austrian news agency APA reports today. Slota said he will discuss such a conference with leaders of 15 parties who attended the party congress of the French National Front in Strasbourg over the weekend. Slota is to meet with front chairman Jean-Marie Le Pen today.
HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT ORDERS INVESTIGATION INTO INTELLIGENCE SERVICE.
The government last week ordered an investigation into the Information Office, Hungarian media reported. Several office members are reported to have gathered information on a number of parliamentary deputies, including Environment Minister Ferenc Baja and parliamentary speaker Zoltan Gal, without seeking prior authorization. Minister without portfolio Istvan Nikolits, who is in charge of the civilian secret services, is to lead the investigation and will brief the government within two weeks. The cabinet agreed that those deputies targeted in so- called Operation Birch should be given the opportunity to study the data gathered on them.
DEADLY COLLISION IN ADRIATIC.
President Sali Berisha declared 31 March a day of mourning following a collision between an Albanian ship carrying refugees and an Italian naval vessel three days earlier. Some 34 Albanians survived the incident, while four are reported dead and 87 missing, mainly women and children who were below deck. This is the most serious incident to date in the exodus that has seen 13,000 Albanians flee to neighboring countries. Each side blames the other for the sinking. The Italians have arrested the Albanian captain and called for a joint investigation. The Albanian authorities say the Italians deliberately rammed the Albanian boat.
INTERNATIONAL MISSION APPROVED FOR ALBANIA.
The UN Security Council on 29 March voted in favor of an OSCE proposal to ensure aid deliveries and help the Albanian government restore order before the June elections. The Albanian parliament gave its consent the following day. Deployment is expected to begin as early as this week. The force is expected to consist of some 2,500 troops, with a similar number held in reserve. Countries mentioned as definite or possible participants include Italy, France, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, and Slovenia. The Italians have been ready since mid-March for such an operation, but their role may have to be reviewed in the aftermath of the incident on the Adriatic. Rebels in the southern port of Vlora have threatened to kill any Italian soldiers who arrive there with the mission.
UPDATE ON FORMER YUGOSLAVIA.
The UN Security Council has voted to send 186 additional police and 11 civilian personnel to the disputed northeastern Bosnian town of Brcko. In Vukovar, several hundred local Serbs pelted stones at visiting politicians from the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), RFE/RL reported. The HDZ commented that it will nonetheless go ahead with its campaign for the upcoming elections, which are a key element in the reintegration of eastern Slavonia into Croatia. Meanwhile, a Rijeka court has found four Bosnian Muslims guilty of "an act of international terrorism" in allegedly planning to kill renegade Muslim kingpin Fikret Abdic in April 1996.
IMMINENT CHANGES IN GERMAN DEPORTATION OF BOSNIAN REFUGEES?
U.S. spokesmen have said Washington plans to take 18,000 people from Germany and elsewhere in Europe who might be in special danger if sent back to Bosnia. These include people from mixed marriages, traumatized individuals, and former concentration camp inmates. Elsewhere, UN spokesmen on 29 March blasted Bavaria deporting refugees in the middle of the night and sending them back into unsafe circumstances. In Germany itself, former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and many other public figures have signed a declaration against the deportations. It noted that "among those deported were pregnant women, patients receiving treatment for heart illness, and other people whose deportation is incomprehensible," including survivors of Srebrenica. Current Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel admitted there are problems and said he will visit Bosnia to discuss the policy, RFE/RL reported on 29 March.
KOSOVO ALBANIAN LEADER REJECTS SERBIAN OPPOSITION'S OFFER.
Fehmi Agani, vice president of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), called the Zajedno coalition's latest offer inadequate. The LDK is the main ethnic Albanian group in the country. The Serbian opposition suggested making Kosovo a "region," RFE/RL reported on 30 March. Agani added that the Albanians "have been proven correct" in their assessment that one should not be too eager to embrace Zajedno and that the coalition is really no alternative to the present Serbian regime. In other news, the shadowy Kosovo Liberation Army has taken responsibility for a recent series of killings, RFE/RL said on 29 March.
IMBROGLIO OVER COLLAPSED PYRAMID SCHEME IN MACEDONIA.
Political fallout continues over the demise just over a month ago of TAT, a Bitola-based pyramid scheme. Its collapse led to the loss of $60 million for 30,000 people and the arrest of the firm's owner and the deputy governor of the National Bank. Construction Minister Jorgo Sundovski denied reports he had resigned in connection with the affair. On the weekend, Bitola's Mayor Siljan Bicevski and his wife were detained for helping funnel money from public and other sources into TAT to keep it afloat. Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski has meanwhile promised a war against crime and corruption, AFP reported.
NO PROGRESS IN ROMANIAN-UKRAINIAN TALKS ON BILATERAL TREATY.
.. Talks between Romania and Ukraine on a basic treaty appear to have stalled, RFE/RL reported on the weekend. A press release issued in Bucharest said Romania wants to review once again issues discussed in earlier rounds of talks, while Ukraine has advanced "new formulations" for the accompanying document. According to Segodnya, Bucharest demands that Ukraine agree to the demilitarization of Serpent Island and its declaration as a zone unfit for human habitation. The Russian daily says this would exclude the island from disputes over border areas, preventing Ukraine from laying claim to the rich oil deposits believed to be located in the islands continental platform. The island was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1946.
...OR IN ROMANIAN-RUSSIAN PARLEYS.
Following talks in Moscow, a Romanian Foreign Ministry official said Russia wants the basic treaty with Romania to be based on a text agreed upon in April 1996. That text makes no mention of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. But Romania want the text to be supplemented by "ideas reflecting the contemporary situation in Europe...and provisions included in similar treaties" concluded by Bucharest. This is apparently a reference to Security Council Recommendation 1201, which the treaty with Hungary mentions. Romania also wants to discuss the issue of the state treasures deposited in Moscow during the First World War, Radio Bucharest reported on the weekend.
GREATER ROMANIA PARTY INVITES LE PEN.
Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the xenophobic Greater Romania Party (PRM), told the French National Front congress in Strasbourg that the PRM "adheres without hesitation" to the front's program and ideas, RFE/RL reported on 31 March. He called for a "brotherhood alliance" between the two parties. The service cited French sources, according to whom Le Pen is to visit Romania in 1997. On 28 March, thousands of farmers demonstrated in Bucharest and Brasov last week to protest the governments decision to close down state-owned farms and reduce subsidies. They also chanted PRM slogans. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the extra-parliamentary Socialist Labor Party announced that his formation is close to forging an alliance with the PRM.
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON TREATY WITH ROMANIA.
Petru Lucinschi on 31 March told journalists in Chisinau that Moldova wants to conclude the basic treaty with Romania "in the nearest future." He said the treaty should dispel "some existing suspicions" and do away with the argument that "the past was different," revealing his opposition to reunification. With regard to the withdrawal of Russian forces from the breakaway Transdniester region, Lucinschi said Russian President Boris Yeltsin sees "no problems" but wants Moldova to offer assurances that it will not turn into a "dangerous state" for Russia in military terms, Radio Bucharest reported on 31 March. Meanwhile, Lucinschi and Premier Victor Ciubuc, attending the CIS summit in Moscow, met with Gazprom President Rem Vyakhirev. They signed a document on settling Moldovas 1994-1996 debts to the company, Infotag reported on 28 March.
NEW PARTY FOUNDED IN MOLDOVA.
The United Social Democratic Party--composed of the former Moldovan Social Democratic Party, the Party of Social Progress, the Republican Party, the Party of Socialist Action, and the Party of Economic Rebirth--was founded in Chisinau on 29 March, BASA-press reported. The new party says it is "center-left oriented" and rejects "shock-therapy in economic reforms... and the concentration of property and capital in the hands of a small social group." It also supports Moldovas neutrality and opposes the countrys federalization. The leaders of the five united parties were elected co-chairmen of the new formation.
BULGARIA REDUCES GASOLINE PRICES.
In a surprise move, Bulgarias interim cabinet on 31 March reduced the price of gasoline by nearly 9%, according to an RFE/RL correspondent. It ordered a report within two weeks on the effects of the full liberalization of fuel prices. Bulgaria has experienced a fuel shortage for months. The government also announced a 35% increase in the price of electricity for households, a 30% hike in coal prices, and a 70% rise in the cost of heating. Interim Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski said last week that all wages will be go up 70% starting on 1 April and that a new social security system will be implemented. Meanwhile, a court has declared the state-owned Mineralbank bankrupt, saying it was unable to meet payments to foreign creditors exceeding $240 million, BTA reported. The banks total debt was not revealed.
New Geo-Political Alliances On Russia's Southern Rim
by Liz Fuller
It is a measure of how far Mikhail Gorbachev's famous concept of glasnost has been eclipsed that it is still not known for certain whether the discussion between CIS heads of state at their 28 March summit included one of the most ominous threats currently facing the CIS, namely the blueprint published two days earlier in Nezavisimaya gazeta for sabotaging alternative alliances emerging within the CIS in order to preserve and strengthen Russia's influence throughout the former USSR.
The Nezavisimaya gazeta article, which policy analysts Andranik Migranyan and Konstantin Zatulin today admitted authoring, is machiavellian in its cynicism and breathtaking in its audacity. 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 reverse the perceived drift of the former republics away from Russia and the concomitant precipitous decline of Russia's economic influence throughout the former Soviet Union. They fear this decline may trigger the breakup of the Russian Federation.
Specifically, the authors advocate expediting Russia's union with Belarus in order to preclude the creation of a cordon sanitaire from the Baltic to the Black Sea. They are in favor of exacerbating ethnic conflicts in Georgia and Azerbaijan in order to sabotage the emerging pro-Western alliance between Baku, Tbilisi, and Kyiv. They want to make recognition of Ukraine's present frontiers contingent on the conclusion of a federal treaty between Ukraine and Crimea. And they also advocate withdrawing the CIS peacekeeping force from Tajikistan and fomenting claims by the Central Asian states on one another's territory in order to thwart burgeoning economic and military cooperation among them.
In addition, they propose that the primary criterion in international relations be the right of nations to self- determination, which, they argue, would enable Russia to revise the existing frontiers between the former union republics. They admit, however, that the international community is unlikely to endorse this approach. They wilfully ignore the fact that such an approach contravenes the principle of territorial integrity, held sacrosanct by the OSCE.
Addressing the issue of relations between the CIS member states, Migranyan and Zatulin argue that the Russian leadership committed a fundamental error at the outset by adopting integration within the EU as its model. Instead, they argue that the unification of the two Germanies is far 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." Terming the article "tendentious and provocative," Russian Foreign Minister Evgenii Primakov likewise distanced himself from its publication--although CIS diplomatic sources in Washington told RFE/RL that they believed he had personally endorsed it. Yeltsin, whose spokesman Sergei Yastrembsky said in February that it was the West that opposed "any form of political integration within the CIS," has made no comment on the document.
Whether or not the blueprint is an accurate reflection of the Russian leadership's intentions toward the other CIS states, it seems to have served as a catalyst for consensus at the summit in support of the "soft" approach to integration "in a modern form, using international models." Although several CIS presidents, including Ukraine's Leonid Kuchma, have made no secret of the fact that they consider the CIS in its present form "unacceptable," the current CIS may still appear preferable to the alternative advanced by Migranyan and Zatulin.
But it is unclear how this "soft" approach to integration can be reconciled with the demands by some CIS presidentsin particular, Georgia's Eduard Shevardnadze and Kazakstan's Nursultan Nazarbaevto shift the emphasis to bilateral agreements between CIS member states. The draft Concept for Integrated Economic Development within the CIS has been returned to governments for further amendments. By postponing its adoption until the CIS summit in June, the presidents of those states targeted by Migranyan and Zatulin for outright subversion have won a breathing space in which to coordinate their response and to lobby the West to put pressure on the Russian leadership to distance itself from plans to redraw the entire Eurasian map.