Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 148

Russia must obtain "priority rights," ahead of "third parties," to develop Caspian mineral deposits in the offshore zones of the former Soviet republics, said an official of Russia’s Ministry for Cooperation with CIS countries (Minsotrudnichestvo). The official, who wished to remain anonymous, recommended that Russia seek "most-favored-nation" status in Caspian oil and gas projects by concluding a bilateral agreement with the individual Caspian countries. "At a time of uncontrollable division of the sea into zones, "the proposed agreements would exempt Russian companies from taxes or royalties, and would give Russia priority in choosing export routes for Caspian oil and gas. As part of Russia’s special position, the Caspian states would form joint ventures with Russian companies, which could then invite Western companies to participate in the projects. (5)

In contrast to the Foreign Ministry’s rigid and ultimately sterile resistance to sectoral division of the Caspian Sea, these recommendations implicitly concede that the division into national sectors may be inevitable. But Minsotrudnichestvo seems to urge a more aggressive approach than either the Foreign or the Fuel and Power ministries. While those two have de facto accepted massive Western penetration of the Caspian basin and seek a piece of the action for Russian companies, Minsotrudnichestvo would apparently pursue preemptive mineral rights for Russia and would interpose Russia between Caspian countries and Western partners. The deputy prime minister responsible for CIS affairs and who supervises Minsotrudnichestvo, Aleksei Bolshakov, took a particularly hard stand on this issue together with Iran on his visit there last month with the Duma’s CIS Affairs Commitee chairman Konstantin Zatulin. Thus Moscow’s top officials responsible for CIS relations spearhead the effort to undermine the interests of the organization’s Caspian member countries.

Resistance in Kiev to Joining CIS Interparliamentary Assembly.