Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 99

A rump Council of Defense Ministers (CDM) of CIS Countries convened yesterday in Yerevan. Only five countries were represented by their defense ministers; three countries sent deputy ministers; and four other countries stayed away. Russia’s Defense Minister Marshal Igor Sergeev complimented Armenia as a country which “was, is and will be Russia’s reliable ally.” Substantive discussions involved only Russia and the five other countries that continue adhering to the CIS Collective Security Treaty.

Sergeev submitted a plan, worked out by Russia’s Defense Ministry, for CIS countries to join Russia in an international peacekeeping operation in the Balkans. He urged the CIS countries to consider the plan as a matter of urgency and to contribute troops “to the extent of their possibilities.” The remarks suggest that Russia hopes to negotiate its way into an international peacekeeping operation not just in its own right, but as the head of a group of countries, so as to gain implicit acceptance of Russia as a “bloc leader” and of the CIS as a regional security organization. Sergeev’s concluding qualification implies that Russia does not promise to bear the costs of other CIS countries’ participation in such an operation.

On the sidelines of the session, Defense Ministers Aleksandr Chumakov of Belarus and Vazgen Sarkisian of Armenia signed an agreement on military and military-industrial cooperation between their countries. Without disclosing specifics, the two ministers termed the document “historic” and stressed that it is intergovernmental, not just among the defense ministries. This seems to suggest a complex cooperation program involving various ministries and agencies on either side and carrying political and economic as well as military implications. It is the first bilateral agreement of this type among CIS countries militarily allied with Russia (Itar-Tass, Noyan-Tapan, May 20).

The signing of this agreement and the pattern of attendance at recent CDM meetings illustrate the tendency toward splintering of the CIS into three groups of countries: Russia with its military allies Belarus, Armenia and Tajikistan; the five independent-minded countries with Western-oriented governments in the GUUAM grouping–Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova–plus the permanently neutral Turkmenistan; and Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan occupying an intermediate position between those two larger groups. Seen in this light, Moscow’s attempts to organize some kind of alliance amount to a demonstration of persistence.