Russia’s new minister for cooperation with CIS countries, Aman Tuleyev, outlined yesterday at a briefing his action program to promote "integration processes" in the CIS. Tuleyev called for: merging the member-countries’ energy systems into a single CIS energy system through co-ownership arrangements between Russia and the individual countries; Russia sharing in the oil and gas resources of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan; dealing with the three Caspian countries "one by one" in that order; and massive Russian acquisition of industrial equity in CIS countries to offset debts owed to Russia by those countries. Tuleyev estimated the current aggregate debts of CIS countries to Russia at $5.8 billion. He held Belarus president Aleksandr Lukashenko up as an example to the other presidents for having signed the Russia-Belarus Community treaty with Boris Yeltsin. Tuleyev, who is a Communist (see August 23 Monitor’s CIS section for his profile) stated that he would continue serving as a co-chairman of the Communist-led Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia since "there were no differences between its electoral program and that of Boris Yeltsin on the subject of CIS integration." (Interfax, September 9)
The objectives listed by Tuleyev are not new in themselves, but listing them as high priorities represents a shift of emphasis. Most countries except the most impoverished and vulnerable ones are likely to continue resisting this agenda. Collection of the debts–mostly stemming from past Russian fuel deliveries, primarily gas — has been hampered both by the countries’ insolvency and by Russian protectionist measures which often limit the access of CIS countries’ exports to the Russian market despite existing bilateral and multilateral trade agreements.
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