Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 18

In another unusual procedure, a “narrow conclave,” made up of the twelve presidents only, preceded the “official” summit by a few hours and predetermined its outcome. Although held in secrecy, that conclave was officially credited with making, or deferring, the main decisions at this summit. It was this narrow forum which settled the chairmanship issue. Otherwise, deferral seemed to be on the order of the day.

Moscow’s wish for an “antiterrorism” summit was not borne out, not because member countries take exception to that goal, but most likely because the wording of Russian draft documents elicited objections. The presidents decided to task their respective security agencies to consider the creation of a CIS Antiterrorism Center, draft a programmatic antiterrorism document and pool the national drafts into a common product. Presidents Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia, Haidar Aliev of Azerbaijan and Petru Lucinschi of Moldova pressed for broadening the “antiterrorism” formula by adding “separatism” and “aggressive nationalism.” Their countries, affected by Russian-backed secession movements, are interested in international censure of “separatism.” Official strictures against “aggressive nationalism” may also stand the CIS countries in good stead as they brace for a Putin presidency in Russia.

All member countries had hoped that this summit would at last produce Russian agreement on the creation of a CIS-wide free trade area. The Russian government is divided on the matter, with the opponents usually prevailing. This summit again deferred a decision. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev probably spoke for most presidents when he declared, at the end of the summit, that “the crisis in the CIS recognized at the [1997] Chisinau summit persists. Unfortunately, [however,] no significant steps have been taken since that time. [T]he CIS may remain a discussion club unless remedial measures are taken.” Putin may have his own remedial recipes in mind, which are unlikely to coincide with the interests and aspirations of most member countries (Itar-Tass, Russian Public Television, January 24-25).