Publication: Prism Volume: 1 Issue: 10

Kozyrev calls for tighter, Russian-dominated CIS

by Vladimir Socor

On July 6, Russian foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev set out Moscow’slatest policy line on the post-Soviet space in two separate butsimilar speeches to the Russian parliament´s Council of theFederation, and to a conference of the Russian ambassadors toCIS countries. That Kozyrev spoke twice in one day and at suchlength on this subject reflects its place in Moscow´s scaleof priorities, and perhaps also a new sense of urgency about reclaimingMoscow´s primacy across the region. And to underline theimportance of his remarks, Kozyrev pointedly noted that he hadcleared his remarks with President Boris Yeltsin, who wanted theaudiences to know that "no task is more important to Russiandiplomacy than strengthening the CIS."

Meant to define the main directions of Russia´s current policy,the speeches were a mixture of vintage Kozyrev and several newaccents. On the familiar side, the foreign minister bowed to theexpediency of a "variable speed, multi-option development"of the CIS (implying a gradualist rather than forced pursuit ofsupranational integration) as being "necessitated by lifeitself;" targeted "separatism and agressive nationalism;"and invoked the specter of "a merciless Yugoslav-type freefor all" on a Eurasian scale as the alternative to Russian-dominatedsecurity arrangements. Further along this line, Kozyrev identified"protection of the Russian and the CIS external borders"(using the terms interchangeably) and of the "Russian-speakingpopulation" in other CIS countries (not Russian citizensor even Russian minorities) among the main "factors addingup to a Russian sphere of interest;" accused the West andinternational organizations of "double-dealing" forwithholding support to Russian "peacemaking" in CISmember countries, and portrayed those Russian operations as meantto prevent "destabilization along our borders and refugeeflows." He dismissed as "utterly groundless the speculationsabout alleged imperial ambitions in the CIS."

Those resilient defensive formulae could not, however, obscurethe new and more bluntly restorationist accents in Kozyrev´saddresses. Yeltsin´s instruction about CIS integration beingsecond to no other goal of Russian foreign policy appeared designedto introduce a shift of emphasis and convey a certain sense ofurgency to the policy agenda which Kozyrev went on to outline.Casting aside earlier–and by now, historical–minimalist definitionsof the CIS´ role, the minister redefined it as intended "notjust to ensure a civilized divorce, but as a successful starttoward gathering together most countries of the former SovietUnion."

Kozyrev also took a step further in advocating the subordinationof economic relations–and implicitly of reforms–to that politicalgoal. Conceding that some of the "unjustified aid and unrecoverableloans (from Moscow to ex-Soviet republics) had to be terminated,"Kozyrev spoke up against abandoning this tool of political influence."Not everything must be reduced to mathematics. Of coursewe should count our loans and aid, but we should also rememberour long-term plans…The figures must not make us forget aboutlong-range interests. Sooner or later this will pay off."Taking Belarus as an example, Kozyrev warned that the "unparalleled"Russia-Belarus political relations would be placed at risk ifMoscow were to withhold indirect subsidies: "It is importantthat the relationship not be brought down through certain economictramnsactions. If that happens, Belarus will set its eyes on theWest." Such remarks align Kozyrev with those Russian policymakers who are prepared to deficit-finance economic transactionswith CIS member countries as a means to regain a measure of controlover their economies, and as an incentive to their elites forclose political relations with Moscow. By the same token, Kozyrev´sposition deepens his political separation from reformist groupswhich oppose this course of action as conducive to planned budgetarydeficits, etatism and protectionism in Russia itself.

Implicitly casting Russia as guardian of the CIS countries´external security, and defining their security interests on theirbehalf, is no longer unusual in Moscow´s statements on CISissues. Kozyrev´s statements were, however, more explicitthan has previously been the case. Claiming in a general way that"it would be too early to say that the external threat tothe sovereignty and territorial integrity of CIS countries hasdisappeared," he went on to offer an equally generalizedsolution: "Russia must create its military bases in the CIScountry and develop other forms of military-technical cooperationwith them." Kozyrev´s premise recalls in its languagethe traditional warnings by Moscow generals about NATO, and maywell have been aimed in the same direction. His conclusion isin tune with Boris Yeltsin´s call at a military graduationceremony in the Kremlin earlier this week for expanding and completingthe CIS collective security system. It also reflects the currentpolicy of reestablishing a strong Russian military presence inGeorgia and Armenia, of clinging to the naval presence in theCrimea, and of pressuring Moldova and Azerbaijan into militarybasing and security arrangements with Moscow.

"Peacemaking" as an instrument of Russian national policyalso figured in Kozyrev´s agenda for the CIS. Although faultingthe international community for failing to play a supportive rolein the Russian operations, Kozyrev appeared to signal a new andovertly unilateralist approach in stating that "the CIS countrieswould not invite third parties to settle conflicts on their territory."He also condemned Western countries as well as the U.N. and OSCEby name for failing to treat the CIS officially as an internationalorganization, particularly in the realm of security, on a parwith NATO and WEU.

The course charted by Kozyrev in these addresses, one that bearsYeltsin´s imprimatur, may presage an increasingly overt effortby Moscow to reconstitute the unity of as much as possible ofthe former USSR territory under Russian control, beginning withthe security sphere. Despite an already noticeable tendency topresent this effort at least partly as a defensive response toNATO´s enlargement program, Moscow´s restorationistagenda had emerged and developed before NATO´s program did.Kozyrev´s latest remarks are but the latest step in an incrementalprocess, at whose cutting edge the Foreign Minister himself hasrepeatedly been found. And even if Moscow lacks the ability tocarry through on this program in all details, Kozyrev’s statements,and the fact that they are unlikely to be publicly disputed byanyone in the West, guarantees that they will have an impact–bothintimidating and enraging–in every one of Russia’s neighbors.

Vladimir Socor is a Senior Analyst at the Jamestown Foundation.