Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 123

The June 19-21 summit of the CIS brought to light some changes and innovations in the Kremlin’s approach to this organization (see yesterday’s Monitor). An emphasis on bilateral relations and Russian-led subregional groups, as opposed to multilateralism, had been introduced at the January summit, Vladimir Putin’s first as president of Russia (see the Monitor, January 26, 26; Fortnight in Review, February 4). This new approach colored the June summit even more markedly. Putin turned the multilateral summit into an opportunity for holding bilateral meetings with the member countries’ presidents, in order to advance Russia’s own goals with respect to those countries in matters bearing little or no relation to the CIS.

While the multilateral sessions enjoyed the usual publicity, the substance of bilateral discussions remains virtually secret, creating an impression that Putin moved the real business to the summit’s sidelines and backstage. That also holds true of the subgroup meeting the “Caucasus Four” countries’ presidents. As part of the same trend, Russia’s “peacekeeping” operations are dropping the CIS cover (see the Monitor, June 22).

The shift from multilateralism to bilateralism notwithstanding, Putin continues to seek recognition of key CIS bodies as multilateral organizations under international law. That goal is part of the Yeltsin era’s legacy to Putin. At the Moscow summit, Russia proposed seeking international recognition of the CIS Executive Committee (EC) as a legal entity. This would enable the Russian-controlled EC in Moscow to deal with international organizations and the non-CIS world on the collective behalf of CIS countries. Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan rejected the proposal at this summit. Other member countries are equally aghast at the idea. The Ukrainian delegation went so far as to introduce amendments to the CIS EC’s bylaws in order to rule out the possibility of the EC’s acquiring international legal status. Azerbaijan’s First Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Abbasov was also outspoken in rejecting that idea in Moscow (UNIAN, ANS, June 21). Last month at the CIS Customs Union’s summit, Russia had called for international recognition of that union as an entity under international law (see the Monitor, May 25).

The quest for international recognition of the EC might in any case constitute a case of bureaucratic inertia. Since taking over the presidency, Putin has entrusted the operational management of the CIS and its bodies to Russia’s Security Secretary, Sergei Ivanov, a KGB-bred intelligence general. At the same time, Putin has confirmed the death sentence on the CIS Affairs Ministry while depriving the CIS Executive Committee and its head, Yuri Yarov, of any real power. Yarov was almost invisible during the preparations for and holding of this CIS summit. It was Sergei Ivanov who stepped into Yarov’s former roles. This substitution reflects three trends: first, the Kremlin’s increasingly narrow view of the CIS as an arena to pursue Russia’s own national goals; second, the emphasis on military and security issues within the CIS, so much in evidence at this summit; and, third, the growing militarization not only of Russia’s policy but also of the senior policymaking officialdom (Itar-Tass, RIA, June 20-22; see the Monitor, May 1, 16, 26).