Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 204

The Kremlin’s foreign policy coordinator, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, deputy prime minister Valery Serov, and CIS executive secretary Ivan Korotchenya (a Belarusan) held a special meeting to discuss "reorganization of CIS bodies with a view to facilitating implementation of political decisions and enhancing integration processes." According to Korotchenya yesterday, the three men considered the introduction of rotation arrangements for the chairmanships of the CIS Council of Heads of State, the Executive Secretariat, and other CIS bodies. Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin’s chief spokesman, Igor Shabdurasulov, also argued that "to resolve contentious matters we must strengthen the structure of the CIS Council of Heads of Government. And this will be done," he anticipated.

Serov for his part predicted that "the need to integrate and strengthen the CIS will grow with every passing year," on the grounds that "the far abroad does not open its markets to CIS countries and is in no hurry to invest in high-tech industries, but rather in ‘dirty’ extractive industries in these countries." Serov, who is responsible for CIS affairs in the Russian government, conceded that the CIS as an organization faces "a mass of unresolved issues;" but he blamed the situation on inadequate circulation of information among leaders, unconstructive reporting by mass media, and "in the first place" on member countries’ internal problems arising from their "sovereignization."

Yastrzhembsky similarly argued that the presidents’ criticism of the CIS stemmed from "their discontent with the situation in their own countries." Moreover, he insisted that the quadripartite Customs Union "functions effectively and brings substantial advantages" to the member countries directly and to the CIS indirectly. (Russian agencies, October 28-30)

Members and nonmembers of the CIS Customs Union had vehemently argued the opposite at last week’s Customs Union and CIS summits (see Monitor, October 22-24, October 27). Yastrzhembsky failed to mention that fact, and Korotchenya omitted any explanation as to why Russia has for six years monopolized the chairmanships of CIS bodies despite the statutory principle of rotation. Serov unwittingly illustrated his point about inadequate information by underestimating the implications of CIS countries’ growing economic ties with non-CIS partners. These senior Russian officials’ insistence on more, rather than less "integration" is out of step with the majority sentiment as expressed at last week’s CIS summit. The fact that measures concerning the CIS as a whole were planned by Russian officials (with one Belarusan) in Moscow represents in itself a continuation of bureaucratic centralism, as does the panacea of reshuffling some chairs at the top of the organization.

Elchibey Returns to Baku.