Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 60

Attendance at the CIS Defense Ministers’ Council (DMC) keeps thinning out, as became obvious earlier this year (see the Monitor, February 22) and was dramatized by yesterday’s meeting in Moscow. Only four member countries sent their ministers to Moscow; four other countries stayed away; three others were represented by “officers” of a rank, apparently, too low to mention in Moscow’s communique on the meeting. While sending deputy ministers to such meetings is a traditional half-snub, the sending of representatives below that rank amounts to a full snub, reflecting a government’s intent to do no more than listen in for information.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has a track record of composing DMC communiques which reflect Moscow’s views then crediting them to the DMC as a group. Yesterday’s communique, billed as a “joint statement of the defense ministers of the CIS countries,” vehemently condemned NATO’s actions in Yugoslavia. Russia’s Defense Minister Igor Sergeev disclosed that his Belarusan counterpart Aleksandr Chumakov had proposed issuing a document along those lines. Judging from the more nuanced positions taken individually by most governments of CIS countries, only Tajikistan could truly have adhered to the Russian-Belarusan position expressed in that document.

As regards military cooperation among CIS countries, the meeting is reported to have reached agreement on only two issues, involving Russia and four other countries: the annual air defense exercise, to be held later this year, and an assessment of the situation on the Tajik-Afghan border. There was no public word about prolonging the CIS Collective Security Treaty–a document likely to lose several signatory countries when it expires this coming May (Itar-Tass and other Russian agencies, March 25).

DMC meetings are always held just before CIS summits in order to forward documents and proposals to the Presidents for decisions. Judging from yesterday’s DMC meeting, the summit scheduled for April 2–in the shadow of Russia-NATO confrontation–should frustrate more than ever Moscow’s goal to lend the CIS a military dimension.