Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 221

At the November 25 meeting of CIS prime ministers in Moscow, the Russian government–specifically, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and CIS Cooperation Minister Boris Pastukhov–opposed Berezovsky’s scheme to siphon power from the CIS internal structure and the Russian government itself (see the Monitor, November 30). They aimed to preserve their own agencies’ powers and to deny Berezovsky a power base usable in Russia’s internal political struggle.

The prime ministers’ meeting proceeded in secrecy and did not produce a communique. Primakov afterward announced that he and the other heads of government were generally in agreement on the need to reduce the CIS bureaucracy and to streamline the organization. Berezovsky’s plan, however, was returned to him for reworking “in coordination with the CIS Interstate Forum.” The joint product is to be submitted to the prime ministers for review and possible referral to the presidents. This arrangements deprives Berezovsky of the chance to discuss his projects directly with the presidents and to pose as an international statesman. Significantly, the forum had earlier turned down Berezovsky’s scheme. It is currently preparing a rival plan, termed “cosmetic” by Berezovsky but supported by the Russian government. Just as significantly, some member countries have already refused the forum’s draft proposals, mostly on the grounds that they infringe on national sovereignty (see the Monitor, September 16 and November 4).

According to Primakov, the prime ministers conceded that the CIS Executive Secretariat might be renamed Executive Committee, but would in any case be limited to “coordination of administrative work” and to “drafting the strategy and tactics of CIS development.” This would keep it to the level of a staff organ with some conceptual planning functions, a far cry from the policymaking and supervisory body envisioned in Berezovsky’s plan. The MEK and other existing CIS bodies are being retained, unaffected by the secretariat.

Primakov and the prime ministers (or at least a majority of them) came out against creating a CIS Committee on Conflict Situations “because it would duplicate the functions of Russia’s Foreign Ministry and of the CIS countries’ foreign ministries and governments.” However, Primakov “would not oppose the creation of such a CIS committee if some countries want it.” This ambiguity might enable Moscow to have its cake and eat it. It can sit back and watch the committee’s performance, ignore it if unsuccessful and claim credit for any success on behalf of the CIS as such. The committee’s efforts might in turn assist Moscow’s quest for international recognition of the CIS as a “regional organization” and of Russia’s self-appointed role as “peacemaker” in that sphere. Moscow had originally proposed the creation of a CIS Committee on Conflict Situations in 1996 and nominated then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to chair it. Most member countries resisted that initiative (Itar-Tass and other Russian agencies, ORT, November 25, 26; Nezavisimaya gazeta, November 27).