Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 47

Presidents Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia and Haidar Aliev of Azerbaijan took the opportunity to defend the rule of law in intra-CIS relations. Shevardnadze is, in all probability, the only head of a CIS state to have established a friendly personal rapport with Berezovsky, hoping that the latter could offset Primakov’s and the Russian Foreign Ministry’s pro-Abkhaz tilt. The Georgian president indignantly protested Yeltsin’s failure to coordinate his action with him and the other CIS country presidents. He was also taken aback by the unpredictability of the Kremlin decision: “Berezovsky was in Tbilisi only three days ago and discussed the future of the CIS with me. If his removal was necessary, I would not have wasted my time. This [procedure] underscores the need for reforms in the CIS,” Shevardnadze concluded. His adviser on international law, Levan Aleksidze, remarked that the Kremlin’s procedure “dealt a setback to reforms in the CIS,” and signified “a concession by Yeltsin to left-wing forces” (Kavkazia press, Prime-News, March 5, 6).

Aliev interpreted the event as a throwback to Soviet practices, but demonstrated unshakable self-confidence even as he expressed his concern to local journalists. He poured sarcasm on Yeltsin and Primakov: “Somebody fired the CIS Executive Secretary, Moscow TV says. Somebody is warming over in his head the idea of restoring the USSR. They are again letting themselves be seduced by the ambition to give orders and control us from a center. But the bricks have scattered and there is no gluing them back together again. The CIS can not be turned into an appendage of any country. No sovereign state would agree to this. The time of imperial ambitions is gone. There is no way back for Azerbaijan. The sooner the aspirants to a new USSR understand this reality, the better for them” (Turan, Assa-Irada, March 5, 6).

Armenian President Robert Kocharian, by contrast, announced that he supports the Kremlin’s decision and advised aloud to the other presidents that “it would be wrong to fail to support the Russian president” (Itar-Tass, Noyan-Tapan, March 5, 6).