Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 64

During a summit-eve press interview in Almaty and again in Moscow, Kazakstani president Nursultan Nazarbaev defended subregional cooperation outside the CIS among Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan as more effective and more closely attuned to local needs than CIS cooperation. Denying that the tripartite Central Asian Union was directed against any countries or organizations, Nazarbaev praised two levels of "integration" — the global and regional — implicitly counterpoising them to the CIS. At the summit, Nazarbaev cautioned Moscow that "integration can not be artificially speeded up, but must develop through trust… We can no longer consider today the integration goals that we envisaged five years ago. Any effort at forcing integration would lead to disintegration of the CIS. Kazakstan has closer relations with Russia than any country, but is not prepared to jeopardize its own independence." Nazarbaev was the only president to publicly, if implicitly, object to the planned merger of Belarus with Russia. Cautioning that "it must not damage common interests," Nazarbaev rhetorically begged forgiveness for failing to understand how Belarusan sovereignty can continue after the creation of a common Russia-Belarus budget and currency and consequent creation of a "unitary state." (Xinhua, March 26; RTR, Interfax, March 28, 30)

Uzbek President Champions Independence.