Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 143

Contrary to widespread expectations, the theme of Russians in the "near abroad" and of Russia’s relations with the CIS countries has thus far been marginal in Russia’s current electoral campaign. Exponents of the leading parties seem for the most part to discuss this subject vaguely and almost perfunctorily. Among these exponents, Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) leader Gennady Zyuganov predicted yesterday that the reintegration of ex-Soviet republics is inevitable in the future, as world development, in his view, favors large autarkic state formations. In operational terms, however, Zyuganov said that the KPRF only calls for "restoring full contacts with Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, but without encroaching on their sovereignty;" and that any decision to accept a CIS state into a new Union would depend on the advantages or disadvantages to Russia. Congress of Russian Communities (KRO) candidate and Duma CIS Affairs Committee chairman Konstantin Zatulin says that the post-December, post-Kozyrev Foreign Ministry will have the mission to "regroup the forces in former Soviet republics" and focus on the same group of three, aiming for a Union of Four: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. KRO’s original founder Dmitri Rogozin calls for Russian special legislation to define the status and rights of "Russian compatriots in the near abroad" and provide a legal basis for their defense, "including armed defense," by Russia. But KRO leaders Yuri Skokov and Aleksandr Lebed are far more reticent on this score than Zatulin and Rogozin. Duma chairman Ivan Rybkin, head of the identically named, pro-government electoral bloc, holds that Russia and former Soviet republics "should voluntarily and on the basis of mutual respect return to an economic union, and then we’ll see." At a minimum, CIS countries are "the zone of Russia’s interests…where Russia must say: Gentlemen, keep out of here, it will be bad if you don’t," Rybkin warns. Federation Council member and vice-chairman of its International Affairs Committee, Aleksei Manannikov, a supporter of "Russia is Our Home," calls for using "pressure instruments" to influence the ex-Soviet republics’ behavior, particularly toward their Russians. He recommends selective and discriminating pressures, using mainly economic instruments and targeting specifically the Baltic states, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, "the republics with which Russia has the most difficulties and where most of the Russian population [of the ‘near abroad’] lives." Yabloko co-founder and Duma International Affairs Committee chairman Vladimir Lukin considers that "Russia’s geopolitical priorities" at present are control of Tajikistan and of Abkhazia; although in the latter case Moscow must be careful "not to harm the good relations with Georgia." (10)

Economic and Political Cooperation Discussed.