Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 177

On September 25 Russian President Boris Yeltsin appointed Boris Pastukhov to head the Ministry for Cooperation with CIS Countries (Itar-Tass, September 25). Pastukhov, 65, had hitherto been first deputy foreign minister under Yevgeny Primakov. In that post, Pastukhov was responsible for overall relations with CIS countries, personally focusing on regional conflicts. He has been a key player in Moscow’s successful manipulation of the Transdniester and Abkhaz conflicts to advance Russian geopolitical goals. Pastukhov had first achieved prominence under Brezhnev as a leader of the USSR Komsomol.

The Kremlin had seemed only a few months ago on the verge of dissolving the CIS Cooperation Ministry, whose functions were primarily economic, and whose rapidly changing incumbents exercised little influence on the Russian government’s policies. Berezovsky’s appointment as CIS Executive Secretary last April (see the Monitor, April 29-30, May 1) was followed by a presidential decree which actually eliminated the CIS Cooperation Ministry. The move apparently stemmed from Berezovsky’s effort to concentrate Moscow’s CIS policy in his Executive Secretariat. Even more significantly, Berezovsky–with the support of the Kremlin’s foreign policy coordinator and rival to Primakov, Sergey Yastrzhembsky–launched an effort to take over the Foreign Ministry’s conflict-“mediating” role in the CIS. Berezovsky provoked a series of turf fights with Primakov and Pastukhov, who came out the losers and vented their frustration publicly.

Primakov’s promotion to the post of prime minister sealed Yastrzhembsky’s fate, depriving Berezovsky of an ally. It also rescued the CIS Cooperation Ministry from official death. Primakov is known to favor subsidizing Russia’s trade with selected CIS countries as a reward, or inducement, for compliant political behavior. The Ministry had been supposed all along to function as a central conduit for this type of economic relations between Russia and its former dependencies. Pastukhov is well placed to raise the Ministry’s political profile both within the Russian government and in Russia’s relations with CIS countries. As a Primakov loyalist, Pastukhov can also be expected to act as a check on Berezovsky’s ambitions.

Meanwhile Berezovsky’s ally, Ivan Rybkin, remains–for how long?–the fifth wheel to the cart as Presidential Plenipotentiary for Relations with CIS Countries. Rybkin’s transfer to CIS responsibilities accompanied Berezovsky’s, and appeared designed to provide the new CIS Executive Secretary with a trusted acolyte who could safely deputize for him. Rybkin has been virtually inactive in that post since his appointment. Yeltsin awarded Rybkin the highest rank in the Russian state service–“authentic (deystvitelny) state counselor first class”–on the same day when the president appointed Pastukhov as CIS Cooperation Minister. The accolade to Rybkin looks like a consolation for his sidelining in the CIS post, either that or a prelude to an honorable transfer to another position.