Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 93

Russian President Vladimir Putin and the presidents of nine other CIS member countries attended an informal CIS summit on May 8 in Moscow, as part of Russia’s anniversary celebrations of victory in the Second World War. Presidents Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia and Ilham Aliev of Azerbaijan stayed away from the summit: Saakashvili did so because of Russian stonewalling on an agreement (or presidential joint declaration) on the withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia. Aliev stayed away because the CIS summit’s date coincided with that of the 1993 capture of the Azeri-inhabited town of Shusha in Karabakh by Armenian forces.

In an inauspicious curtain-raiser for the summit, Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov publicly described the recent political changes in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan as “coups” (perevoroty), whereby power changed hands in “unconstitutional” ways, with “violations of basic democratic principles” (Strategiya Rossii, May 2005, cited by Interfax, May 5). Belarusan president Alexander Lukashenka, who is on record as sharing that assessment, remarked sarcastically that this CIS summit, “the first since those notorious events, will acquaint us with somebody or other ” — i.e., the new presidents of Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. As regards the absent Georgian president, Lukashenka termed him “too immature to understand the essence” of the Moscow anniversary (Interfax, May 8).

Responding to Ivanov, a statement by Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out that Ukraine’s Constitutional Court and Parliament had invalidated the fraudulent returns of the presidential election runoff and ordered a repeat runoff, the conduct and result of which was validated by democratic countries and international organizations (Interfax-Ukraine, May 7). Kyiv’s statement stopped short of mentioning that the Russian-led CIS election monitoring mission had blessed the fraudulent returns and disputed the internationally-validated ones.

Commenting on this CIS summit — the first he attended as president of Ukraine — Viktor Yushchenko pointed out that the organization was “of little use” to anyone (AP, May 9) and that the “CIS is history.” The organization, he observed, lacked a project that could become the basis for economic cooperation. Summing up Ukraine’s familiar position, Yushchenko noted that only a Free Trade Zone, devoid of political connotations, can begin to lay the foundation for cooperation within the CIS (Ukrainian TV Channel Five, May 8).

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin termed the CIS in its present form a mere “discussion club.” Moldova, he told Russian state radio, has irreversibly chosen the European orientation as its top priority. The country values its “historically constituted” relations with Russia, but the relations are adversely affected by Russia’s support for the Tiraspol secessionist regime, Voronin remarked. He referred to the GUAM summit, recently held in Chisinau, as an indicator of the European orientation of that group’s participant countries (Radio Mayak, May 8, cited by Moldpres, May 9).

Armenia’s Ambassador to Russia, Armen Smbatian, described the CIS in the run-up to the summit as “a transitional organization, gradually descending into history, making room for direct bilateral relations among member states” (PanArmenian News, April 30). His statement reflects Armenia’s traditional policy (predating the CIS’ eclipse) of shunning multilateral CIS undertakings and emphasizing instead its purely bilateral ties with Russia.

Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov, who very rarely attends CIS summits, made an exception in this case to honor the memory of his father, who was killed in combat in the Second World War. While in Moscow, Niyazov joined Yushchenko to finalize a Ukrainian-Turkmen proposal regarding a tripartite consortium with Russia on the transport of Turkmen natural gas. Putin took delivery of the document during the summit for early consideration (Interfax, May 8).

Kyrgyz Acting President Kurmanbek Bakyiev used the occasion to solicit Russian assistance in overhauling Soviet-era industrial enterprises, idle for more than a decade in Kyrgyzstan. Bakyiev proposed transferring such enterprises to Russian ownership in lieu of repayment of Kyrgyz debts to Russia. Putin seemed open to the proposal, citing the 2002 Russia-Armenia agreements on debt-for-property swaps as a model for to be followed in Kyrgyzstan’s case (Interfax, May 8).

It was Uzbek President Islam Karimov who publicly offered the most scathing assessment, both retrospective and current, of the CIS: “cooperation in name only,” “shallow ideas,” “all sorts of cooperation organizations that have been set up during more than 10 years, these ill-thought games that have today brought a major crisis to the CIS. … This time, too, the [Moscow] meeting is likely to fail to resolve any serious issues” (Uzbek Television Channel One, May 8).

Indeed the only result of this summit turned out to be a declaration of intent to “consider the possibility” of adopting an agreement on humanitarian cooperation at a follow-up CIS summit (Interfax, May 8).