Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 225

The presidents of eleven CIS member countries–all but Turkmenistan–held a summit meeting on December 1 in Minsk. The unprecedently sparse agenda included an “inventarizatsiya”–stock-taking, in the time-honored Soviet/Russian bureaucratic idiom–of unimplemented decisions and lapsed agreements of past CIS summits. The Minsk summit officially buried no fewer than 164 multilateral decisions and agreements. Of those, 124 were found to have expired before being put into effect. Another forty were found to have been superseded by more recent documents. Some of these almost certainly await their own inventarizatsiya at follow-up CIS summits.

Even the agreement on establishing an Antiterrorism Center–the centerpiece of this Minsk summit–seems destined to exist mainly on paper at least for the time being. Initially proposed by Vladimir Putin at the January 2000 CIS summit–his first as president of Russia–and approved with reservations at the June 2000 summit, the CIS Antiterrorism Center officially came into being at the December 1 summit in Minsk and should become operational early in 2001, a full year after the Kremlin had launched the initiative. A number of countries used the year-long discussions to place limits on the center’s size, resources and mandate, denying it the authority to conduct covert operations on the territories of CIS countries or to control these countries’ own intelligence services.

Even Kazakhstan, as one of the few vocal supporters of creating the center, seemed mainly interested in the “prestige” role of hosting it in Astana. President Nursultan Nazarbaev therefore reacted with pique to the Minsk summit’s decision to site the center in Moscow. He has not given up hope that the center might open at least a branch office in Astana. Such a branch would likely be symbolic, considering the center’s meager budget.

That budget was an object of wrangling throughout the year, with all countries, including Moscow’s most loyal allies, pleading poverty. Belarus and Tajikistan sought full exemption from funding the center, and Armenia offered to pay 3 percent of the expenses while expecting Russia to pay 50 percent. Just what formula the Minsk summit ultimately adopted is not yet clear. The summit approved only sixty staff positions for the center under its commander, General Boris Mylnikov of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). The Minsk summit authorized a budget of only 3.77 million rubles for December 2000, and pledged exactly 12.699 million rubles for calendar year 2001. Even if eventually disbursed, that kind of budget should turn the center into a dud–unless its budget and staff are later supplemented unilaterally by Russia. Such a course would, however, make clear the center’s destination as a Russian national policy instrument, depriving it of the CIS veneer.

The center’s mandate seems confined essentially to creating a databank on “international terrorist organizations, their structures, their leaders, and the groups and individuals which assist them.” But this databank seems unlikely to be fed information on, for example, the training of Shamil Basaev and hundreds of Chechen fighters by Russia’s military intelligence service GRU, which unleashed those Chechens against Georgia during the Abkhaz war of secession; or about Moscow’s protection of the suspects in two assassination attempts against Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze; or about the overt cooperation of the Russian and Tajik troops with the terrorist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan; or about the dispatch of KGB and OMON officers by Russia’s FSB to fight against Moldova in Transdniester, where those officers under Vladimir Antyufeyev are to this day in control; or about the Russian National Bolsheviks militants who tried to wreak havoc last week in Latvia, in which country Antyufeyev and his men are wanted for crimes committed in 1991. It also seems unlikely to contain data which would document the KGB successor agencies’ role in manipulating terrorism and instability.

The mandate approved in Minsk contains at least two safeguards which the independent-minded countries placed on the center’s operations: first, that the center can provide training to “interested countries,” and, second, that joint “drills” can be authorized by CIS summits. These twin precautions ensure that the countries’ involvement in joint activities is voluntary (the “interested-party principle”) rather than obligatory, and that Moscow cannot spring surprise demands on the member countries during the intervals between CIS summits.

Even so, the GUUAM countries of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan entered special reservations to the effect that their participation in the center’s activities is subject to their national legislations and national interests. While vitally interested in antiterrorism actions, these countries have watched or directly experienced the effects of Moscow’s misuse of antiterrorism slogans. These countries prefer to rely on the assistance of Western countries and international organizations against terrorism.

The Minsk summit looked like a paupers’ summit in other ways as well. The eleven prime ministers’ conclave approved a total of 237 million rubles as the CIS budget for 2001. To meet that target, the prime ministers decided to cut the CIS Executive Committee’s staff by forty-six positions and its funding by 24 million rubles. It also postponed a decision on the legal status and entitlements of CIS officials, which means–as a Ukrainian commentator remarked–that those officials are still outside the law, nine years into the CIS’ existence.

The long-planned, though elusive, CIS Free-Trade Zone had been supposed to figure prominently on this summit’s agenda. In the event, it was scarcely mentioned owing to the perennial opposition from Russia’s protectionist interests and fuel lobby. The five GUUAM countries for their part agreed during this CIS summit to set a date on the GUUAM summit in the first week of March in Kyiv and focus on a GUUAM free trade zone (Izvestia, November 29; RIA, Itar-Tass, November 30, December 1-2; Belapan, UNIAN, Turan, Habar (Astana), December 1-2; see the Monitor, January 26, 28, May 26, June 22-23, July 3, October 10-11, December 1; Fortnight in Review, February 4, July 7, December 1).

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