The Kremlin announced yesterday that the extraordinary meeting of the presidents of CIS countries, scheduled to be held in Moscow on January 23, is being postponed. Without stating reasons, the announcement claimed that Russian president Boris Yeltsin, in his capacity as chairman of the CIS Council of Heads of State, had "consented" to a request from Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma to reschedule the summit for March. However, the CIS Executive Secretariat announced, also yesterday, that the regular biannual CIS summit is now being tentatively scheduled for March 16. (Russian agencies, January 6)
This implies that the extraordinary summit is being canceled through a tacit merger with the ordinary one. The Kremlin has occasionally inspired "requests" from leaders of CIS countries to reschedule a summit or some other meeting, as a device to spare Yeltsin the embarrassment of himself requesting a postponement for medical reasons. Yesterday’s statement from the Kremlin, however, announced that summits of the Russia-Belarus Union and of the quadripartite CIS Customs Union (Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan) will be held on schedule in the last ten days of January. (Russian agencies, January 6) This suggests that Yeltsin is medically fit to participate, and that political reasons are probably responsible for the scrapping of the extraordinary CIS summit.
The extraordinary summit had been mandated by consensus of the heads of state at their regular meeting last October 23 in Chisinau. That meeting, the most agitated in CIS history, witnessed concentric recriminations against Moscow’s attempts to dominate the CIS and individual member countries. (See Monitor, October 23 and 26, 1997) Seemingly stunned, Yeltsin agreed that day to convene an extraordinary summit on January 23 and to instruct his government to draft and submit remedial measures by that date for consideration at the conclave.
However, the Russian government’s proposals since the Chisinau summit have continued to seek expansion of the prerogatives of CIS multilateral bodies at the expense of the countries’ sovereignty. Bilaterally, Moscow has failed to fulfill, or has even breached outright, its commitments to Georgia concerning Abkhazia, pledges to Azerbaijan to investigate massive clandestine arms transfers to Armenia and Karabakh, and promises to several countries to lift trade barriers to the Russian market. Most CIS member countries for their part have continued criticizing Moscow’s policies on both the multilateral and the bilateral level. Last month’s sixth anniversary of the CIS produced another spate of Russian "integrationist" proposals and of statements from member countries defending their national interests. The Central Asian presidents have just done so at their January 5-6 meeting. (See Central Asia section below) The overall situation suggests that Moscow continues striving for domination although, in most cases, it no longer has the power to impose its will.
Brzezinski Calls Attention to Regional Counterweights to Russia.