Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 48

Presidents Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan and Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia, meeting yesterday in Tashkent, confirmed their intention to quit the CIS Collective Security Treaty when it comes up for renewal next month (see the Monitor, February 5, 23, March 1). The presidents also indicated at a joint news conference that they face pressure to revise that decision. Both presidents seemed concerned about defusing accusations from Moscow that abandoning the treaty would be tantamount to abandoning the CIS itself. Karimov insisted that participation in the treaty must not be equated with CIS membership; Shevardnadze added that equating the two “testifies to a primitive political thinking.” Citing the voluntary character of participation in the treaty, the presidents concluded that “abandoning it should not be construed by anyone as a tragedy.”

Shevardnadze went out of his way not only to place on Moscow the onus for Tbilisi’s decision, but to suggest that it may yet be revised if Russia becomes more responsive to Georgia’s interests: “If the treaty is adapted to the country’s national interests with regard to conflict situations and other important issues, we would sign such a document. If not, then Georgia will not sign the treaty. No such treaty can ever work in the absence of mutual confidence and equality of status among the parties.” In a similar vein, Karimov reaffirmed his Foreign Ministry’s announcement about quitting the treaty, but reserved Tashkent’s final position pending the treaty’s official expiration next month.

Giving vent to a concern Azerbaijan had expressed, Shevardnadze and Karimov complained about Moscow’s recent focus on military issues in intra-CIS relations and its attempts to build a “military bloc.” “Those attempts are counterproductive,” Karimov remarked, insisting that CIS cooperation must develop in “economics and only economics” (Itar-Tass and other Russian agencies, March 9).

A new note of caution and a self-justificatory nuance seems to have crept into these two presidents’ public stance on the collective security treaty. The reproach–apparently leveled by Moscow against them–for deserting the CIS amounts to a warning. Given that Shevardnadze and Karimov have been the target of assassination attempts, they are likely to display caution during the decisive weeks until the security treaty expires. Karimov’s and Shevardnadze’s display of solidarity on this vital issue may also be intended–in part–as a precautionary measure, raising the political costs of a hypothetical retaliatory action against either of them.