THE CIS HOLDS A PAUPERS’ SUMMIT

Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 24

The presidents of eleven CIS member countries–all but Turkmenistan–held a summit conference on December 1 in Minsk. The unprecedently sparse agenda included an “inventarizatsiya”–stock-taking, in Soviet/Russian bureaucratic idiom–of unimplemented decisions and lapsed agreements from past CIS summits. The Minsk summit officially buried no fewer than 164 multilateral decisions and agreements. Of that number, 124 were found to have expired before ever being put into effect. Another forty were found to have been superseded by more recent multilateral documents. Some in that latter category almost certainly await their turn for inventarizatsiya at follow-up CIS summits.

An agreement to establish an Antiterrorism Center–the centerpiece of this latest summit–seems destined to exist mainly on paper at least for the time being. Initially proposed by Vladimir Putin at the January 2000 CIS summit–his first as president of Russia–and approved with reservations at the June 2000 summit, the CIS Antiterrorism Center officially came into being at the December 1 summit and should become operational early in 2001, a full year after the Kremlin had launched this initiative. A number of countries used the year-long discussions to place limits on the center’s size, resources and mandate, so as to deny it the authority to conduct covert operations on the territories of CIS countries or to control these countries’ own intelligence services.

Even Kazakhstan, as one of the few real supporters of creating the Center, seemed mainly interested in the “prestige” role of hosting it in Astana. President Nursultan Nazarbaev therefore reacted with pique to the Minsk summit’s decision to site the Center in Moscow. He has not given up hope that the center might open at least a branch office in Astana. Such a branch would likely be symbolic, however, considering the center’s meager budget.

That budget was an object of wrangling throughout the year, with all countries including Moscow’s most loyal allies pleading poverty. Belarus and Tajikistan for example sought full exemption from funding the center, and Armenia offered to pay 3 percent of the expenses while expecting Russia to pay 50 percent. Just what formula the Minsk summit ultimately adopted is not yet clear. The summit approved only sixty staff positions for the center under its commander, Lieutenant General Boris Mylnikov of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). The Minsk summit authorized a budget of only 3.77 million rubles for December 2000, and it pledged to the center exactly 12.699 million rubles for the calendar year 2001. Even if eventually disbursed, that kind of budget should turn the center into little more than a dud.

Moscow might try to strengthen the center if it supplements its budget and staff unilaterally from Russia’s national budget and if it involves one or several CIS countries in “joint” operations beyond the center’s formal mandate. Such a course would, however, make clear the center’s destination as a Russian national policy instrument, depriving it of the CIS veneer and causing the more independent-minded countries to put even greater distance between themselves and the center.

The center’s mandate seems confined essentially to creating a data bank on “international terrorist organizations, their structures, their leaders and the groups and individuals which assist them.” Information of this sort in the data bank is likely to be highly selective, not only because of Moscow’s traditional unwillingness to share intelligence with CIS countries, but also for purely political reasons. The bank will hardly be fed information about the training of Shamil Basaev and hundreds of Chechen fighters by the Russian military intelligence service (GRU), which unleashed those Chechens against Georgia in the 1993 Abkhaz war of secession; or about Moscow’s protection of the suspects in the 1995 and 1998 assassination attempts against Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze; or about the cooperation of Russian and Tajik troops with the terrorist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in 1999 and this year; or about the dispatch of KGB and OMON officers by Russia’s intelligence services to fight against Moldova in Transdniester, where those officers under Vladimir Antyufeyev are to this day in control; or about the Russian National Bolshevik militants who unsuccessfully tried to wreak havoc last month in Latvia, in which country Antyufeyev and his men are wanted for crimes committed in 1991. In sum, the center seems unlikely to uncover the KGB successor agencies’ role in manipulating terrorism and instability as instruments of Moscow’s foreign policy.

The mandate approved in Minsk contains at least two safeguards which the independent-minded countries placed on the center’s operations: first, that the center can provide training to “interested countries;” and, second, that joint “drills” can be authorized by CIS summits. These twin precautions ensure that the countries’ involvement in joint activities is voluntary (under the “interested-party principle”) rather than obligatory, and that Moscow can not spring surprise demands on the member countries during the intervals between CIS summits.

Even so, the GUUAM countries of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan entered special reservations to the effect that their participation in the Center’s activities is subject to their respective national legislations and national interests. While vitally interested themselves in the prevention of terrorism, these countries have watched or directly experienced the effects of Moscow’s misuse of anti-terrorism slogans. These countries therefore prefer to rely on the assistance of advanced Western countries and legitimate international organizations against terrorism.

The Minsk summit looked like a paupers’ summit in other ways as well. A conference of the eleven prime ministers approved a total of 237 million rubles as the CIS budget for 2001. To meet that target, the prime ministers decided to cut the CIS Executive Committee’s staff by forty-six positions and its funding by 24 million rubles. And they postponed a decision on the legal status and entitlements of CIS officials. That means–as a Ukrainian commentator pointed out–that those officials are still outside the law, nine years into the existence of the CIS.

The perennial goal of a CIS Free Trade Zone was supposed to have figured prominently on this summit’s agenda. In the event, the issue was almost ignored owing to the usual opposition from Russia’s protectionist interests and the fuel lobby. The five GUUAM countries, for their part, agreed during this CIS summit to set a date on that group’s own summit in the first week of March in Kyiv and to discuss plans for a GUUAM Free Trade Zone separate from the CIS.

“The Fortnight in Review” is prepared by senior analysts Jonas Bernstein (Russia), Stephen Foye (Security and Foreign Policy), and Vladimir Socor (Non-Russian republics). Editor, Stephen Foye. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at [email protected], by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4526 43rd Street NW, Washington, DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of “The Fortnight in Review” is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation