Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 3

According to the CIS Executive Secretariat, the share of intra-CIS trade in the total foreign trade of CIS countries dropped from 69 percent in 1992 to 33 percent in 1997 (full data for 1998 are not yet available). The shrinkage continued even after the 1994 signing of the agreement to create a CIS-wide “free trade zone.” Commenting on this trend yesterday, the First Deputy Executive Secretary of the CIS, Ivan Karatchenya, blamed it primarily on Russian protectionist barriers to intra-CIS trade and transit.

But Karatchenya also decried the “lack of political will” of most CIS countries and their presidents, which prevents “full-blooded integration” of the CIS. To illustrate this point, he cited the withholding of funds from the CIS Executive Secretariat itself. In 1998, member countries disbursed only 55 percent of the operating funds budgeted for the Executive Secretariat, with Russia responsible for the lion’s share of the disbursements. By contrast, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova are contributing “not a penny,” Karatchenya complained to the press at CIS headquarters in Minsk (Russian agencies, January 5).

Karatchenya–a Belarusan, sycophant to both the Kremlin and President Alyaksandr Lukashenka–served as CIS Executive Secretary from 1992 to 1998. Last April he yielded that post to Boris Berezovsky and became the latter’s first deputy. Unlike Berezovsky, who seeks to de-politicize intra-CIS trade, Karatchenya sides with those Russian officials who regard such trade as an instrument for political centralization of the CIS around Russia.