Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 209

Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov and CIS executive secretary Ivan Korotchenya yesterday conferred on "strengthening the role of the CIS Council of Heads of Government…delegating to it not only economic functions but also larger political functions in interstate affairs." Only two days earlier, however, Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin’s spokesman, Igor Shabdurasulov, had stated that the Russian government intends "to emphasize economic, rather than political integration" in CIS bodies. (Russian agencies, November 4, 6) Chernomyrdin chairs the Council of Heads of Government pending a hypothetical rotation, while Korotchenya is due to be rotated out of his current post but is openly resisting the change. (See Monitor, November 5)

Primakov and Korotchenya also discussed "ways to improve the work methods and style of CIS economic, military, and border and customs structures." Regarding the latter, Russia’s State Customs Committee chairman Anatoly Kruglov predicted yesterday that the benefits of the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan Customs Union will eventually attract other CIS countries into the Union. (Russian agencies, November 6) However, Ukraine and Georgia last week, and Armenia and Uzbekistan at the October 23-24 CIS summit, ruled out membership in the Customs Union, calling instead for unrestricted trade among individual CIS countries. Even within the Customs Union, Kruglov himself — along with Russia’s Finance Ministry and the Moscow-based Customs Union Executive Committee — has resisted Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s recent initiative to shift value-added taxes that obstruct the exports of union members to Russia. (See Monitor, October 22-23)

The contentious CIS summit in Chisinau (see Monitor, October 23-24) prompted Russia’s leaders to conclude that an urgent reorganization of the CIS is needed. Thus far, however, the reorganization is being planned in the old centralist spirit in Moscow, by Russian agencies and officials, with minimal or no involvement by the member countries’ governments.

Ukrainian Parliament’s Anti-Privatization Measure Invalid; Program Not Affected.