Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 13

Security Council secretaries of those countries signatory to the CIS collective security treaty conferred in Moscow yesterday. Eight countries–Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan–were represented, the absentees being Ukraine, Moldova and Turkmenistan (which are not parties to the treaty) and Uzbekistan (which apparently boycotted the meeting). Among the participants, four countries supported and three opposed Russia’s proposal to prolong the treaty–which was the main issue on the agenda. Moscow also proposed creating CIS joint rapid-deployment peacekeeping forces, to be used under the CIS banner for UN peacekeeping operations.

The resistance–led by Georgia and, apparently, Azerbaijan–took the form of a demand that the treaty be “adapted to current conditions” first and considered for prolongation only afterward. Russia and its supporters called for prolonging first and “adapting” later. Owing to these disagreements there was no joint communique. Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha, who chaired the meeting, called afterward for developing a joint position and submitting it to the next meeting of CIS member country presidents for a decision (Itar-Tass, January 19).

Russia and five other countries signed the original treaty in May 1992 in Tashkent for a five-year term liable to extensions. Three more countries signed in 1993. Confusion reigns about which countries completed the ratification procedures and which did not, about the legal situation since the May 1997 expiry of the five-year term, and about the legal situation to arise in May 1999. Russia seems in any case anxious to have the treaty extended by the May 1999 deadline. It faces the dilemma of going ahead with a “tight” treaty and few participants–Belarus, Armenia and Tajikistan being the most reliable–or a “loose” treaty which could find a few more takers.

The security treaty had been intended to form the basis of a “CIS collective security system.” Both treaty and system have always been confined to paper. Moscow’s current effort to breathe life into the stillborn arrangements suggests an attempt to cast itself once again as the leader of a “bloc” and seek international acceptance of its predominance in all or most of the “post-Soviet space.” Moscow might present this effort as a response to NATO’s planned enlargement, but this thesis is only partially true and applies mainly to Russia’s bilateral relationship with Belarus. Russia’s attempts to create a CIS security system clearly predate NATO’s enlargement decisions; and Moscow’s far-reaching definition of its “interests” in various ex-Soviet territories is unrelated to NATO’s enlargement in Central Europe.