Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 220

The prime ministers of CIS countries, meeting on November 25 in Moscow, turned down CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovsky’s plan to centralize the organization with himself at its head. Since his appointment by the Kremlin to the CIS post last April, Berezovsky has waged a losing campaign to seize control of CIS structures from the Russian government and the existing CIS bureaucracy.

Berezovsky had personally presented his plan to almost all the CIS countries’ presidents in their respective capitals in advance of the Moscow meeting. He seemed to modify some of the details or shift some emphases along the way in testing the presidents’ reactions. The scheme envisaged:

–Establishing a CIS-wide “free-trade area” (or several regional “free-trade areas”) with low or no customs tariffs and preferential transport arrangements for member countries, to the detriment of non-CIS countries. Berezovsky argued that Russia’s financial crisis and the shrinkage of its foreign trade can be turned into an opportunity to expand intra-CIS trade. According to him, the CIS countries’ interest in regaining access to the Russian market converges at this stage with Russia’s need to switch from Western imports to cheaper CIS imports payable through barter.

–Instituting a “single coordinating center” of the CIS in Berezovsky’s Executive Secretariat, to be turned from a staff organ into a powerful policy-making and supervisory body renamed Executive Committee (EC), with Berezovsky as chairman. The EC chairman would communicate directly and regularly with the presidents of CIS countries on policy matters. He (“or she,” Berezovsky added as a self-denying afterthought) would be confirmed by the presidents for three-year renewable terms in that post.

–Eliminating a number of redundant CIS agencies and merging others into Berezovsky’s EC, so as to “unite the economic, political, and other sectors under a single roof.” Slated for subordination to the EC were the Interstate Economic Committee (MEK, the stillborn executive authority of the never-born CIS Economic Union), the Coordinating Staff for Military Cooperation, the Staff of the Border Troops’ Commanders’ Council, the Collective Security Council (supposed to oversee implementation of the dead-letter CIS Collective Security Treaty), a host of other more ore less idle agencies, and a proposed CIS Committee on Conflict Situations. Berezovsky’s plan sought to breathe life into those agencies for the sake of recreating a “viable CIS.” In the process he aimed to cut 40 percent of the 2,500-strong CIS staff and to recruit “smart professionals familiar with market economics” in place of “incompetent” old-timers (Russian agencies, ORT, November 18-24; Berezovsky’s article and interview in Nezavisimaya gazeta, November 13, 25.