Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 84

The Russian Duma’s CIS Affairs Committee chairman Boris Pastukhov has been vested with a concurrent role as head of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly’s (IPA) Commission on Peacekeeping. The IPA is composed of parliamentary deputies delegated by the legislatures of CIS member countries, and those delegates recruited predominantly from the ranks of Russian-oriented legislators in the respective countries. IPA’s Russian chairman, Yegor Stroev, was instrumental in securing Pastukhov’s appointment. Pastukhov has a vast experience in the executive branch of Russia’s government (see below). His new, dual role illustrates Moscow’s aim to turn CIS institutions into virtual extensions of Russian policy implementation agencies. The recently created commission constitutes the latest Russian attempt to create ostensibly multilateral CIS peacekeeping mechanisms as a cover for Russian management of local conflicts in CIS member countries. When first heard from in March, the commission only included members from Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Apparently, the most independent-minded among CIS countries were not in a hurry to join the commission.

Pastukhov’s commission made its debut on April 25-26 in Moldova, where Russia acts in the triple role of military “peacekeeper,” diplomatic mediator and occupying power in Transdniester. As the commission’s visit confirmed, Moscow now seeks an additional role as guarantor of the settlement, including Moldova’s internal constitutional arrangements which will form the core of that settlement when in place. Flanking Pastukhov on this mission were a representative of Ukraine and one of Kazakhstan, both of whom happened to be left-leaning Russians from those two countries.

Speaking mainly in his Russian–rather than CIS–capacity, Pastukhov cast doubt on Russia’s ability and willingness to comply with the troop withdrawal schedule mandated by the November 1999 summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. In Chisinau, Pastukhov stated that the military evacuation faces daunting logistical and financial hurdles; in Tiraspol, he declared that the evacuation would simply be unfeasible by the OSCE-stipulated, Russian-accepted deadline of December 2002.

After conferring with Lieutenant-General Valery Yevnevich, the commander of Russian troops in Moldova, Pastukhov cited military arguments and figures to support the unfeasibility thesis. He asserted that Russian military rail convoys [“echelons”] are limited to ten cars per convoy, and that the Russian garrison, lacking mechanical loading equipment, can only load the rail cars manually. The withdrawal schedule will therefore “inevitably” stretch beyond 2002 and will also require international financing, Pastukhov insisted in Tiraspol. The essence and context of these remarks suggested that the Russian military command intends, just as the political leadership does, to seek pretexts for delaying the withdrawal of the troops.

Contrary to the OSCE summit’s stipulation of an “unconditional” withdrawal of the troops, Pastukhov reverted to the familiar tactic of making the Russian military withdrawal dependent on the political settlement of the Transdniester problem. Known as “synchronization,” that linkage has enabled Moscow to keep its troops in Transdniester ever since 1991 by encouraging Transdniester’s intransigence in the negotiations with Chisinau, then citing the resulting impasse as a rationale for keeping the Russian troops in place.

In an apparent trial run of Moscow’s future role as constitutional arbiter in Moldova, Pastukhov made suggestions on the structure of the country’s postconflict parliament. He proposed that the lower chamber be comprised of right-bank and left-bank (Transdniester) deputies in equal numbers, notwithstanding the fact that Transdniester holds less than 20 percent of Moldova’s total population and that some of those–including the entire leadership–are citizens of Russia. The IPA commission, furthermore, reproached Chisinau for failing to include the Transdniester leaders in the Moldovan delegations at the negotiations with Russia on matters of Moldovan foreign policy.

At the same time, however, Pastukhov paid verbal obeisance to the OSCE summit’s decisions and offered assurances that Moscow would undertake every effort to comply. Those OSCE decisions carry Russia’s signature as well, as does the 1997 document on Russia’s admission to the Council of Europe, in which Russia had obligated herself to withdraw the troops from Moldova. The head of the OSCE’s Mission in Chisinau, U.S. diplomat William Hill, singled out the obeisance parts from Pastukhov’s statements, in effect pinning Russia’s representative down on those words. As Hill’s statement suggests, the OSCE and particularly the Western chancelleries will need constantly to monitor Russia’s performance in complying with the summit decisions (Flux, Basapress, Infotag, Monitor interviews, April 25-27).

Elected in February to the chairmanship of the Duma’s CIS Affairs Committee, Pastukhov belongs to the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) organization, co-founded by the former Foreign Affairs Minister and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Pastukhov was deputy minister and first deputy foreign affairs minister during most of the 1990s; his authority peaked during Primakov’s ministerial tenure. Pastukhov is a veteran of Soviet diplomacy and also a practitioner of conflict perpetuation, rather than conflict resolution in the post-Soviet space. While in government, Pastukhov was primarily responsible for coordinating Russia’s policy with respect to conflicts on the territories of CIS member countries. Holding an array of diplomatic, economic and military instruments of that policy in his hands, Pastukhov was a prime exponent of Moscow’s exploitation of those conflicts and misuse of “peacekeeping” operations. As supervisor of the Russian mediators in the Moldova-Transdniester, Georgia-Abkhazia and Azerbaijani-Armenian conflicts, Pastukhov can claim much of the credit for the deadlock in those negotiations.

Pastukhov is–along with Primakov–a co-author of the concept of “common state” as a basis for settling those conflicts. The concept is designed to effect a de facto partition of the existing, internationally recognized states under an outward appearance of maintaining their “territorial integrity” and “outer borders,” and to reserve for Russia the role of political and military arbiter of the resulting settlements. Although clearly favoring the secessionist regions, the “common state” solution would not fully satisfy them either. Unprecedented in international experience, and fraught with ambiguities, that solution would create ample opportunity for Russian arbitration of the inevitable constitutional disputes within the “common state,” rendering both parties to such a state dependent on Russian mediation. Azerbaijan and Georgia have rejected the “common state” proposals, a fact particularly noteworthy in the case of Azerbaijan after Moscow had blindsided the OSCE’s mediators into adopting that concept. Moldova, however, bowed and now regrets it (see Fortnight in Review, February 18; the Monitor, January 14, February 8, 10, March 7, April 5).

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