Friday, August 21, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Urged to Promote ‘Passive Euthanasia’ of the CIS

Paul Goble

Vienna, August 21 – Instead of seeking to “cure” the problems that beset the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), difficulties that have been highlighted and exacerbated by Georgia’s exit, one Russian analyst says, Moscow should acknowledge the need for and promote “the passive euthanasia” of that organization of post-Soviet states
In a comment in today’s “Nezavisimaya Gazeta,” Stanislav Minin says that Russians are now “observing the crisis and slow destruction of two post-Soviet structures,” physical ones like hydro-electric dams which must be rebuilt and political-economic ones like the CIS that should be allowed to pass away (
Unfortunately, he continues, the Russian government and Russian society to a certain extent misunderstand what the CIS is about. “They conceive the Commonwealth as a format which strengthens Moscow’s position” in the region, whereas “in fact, the CIS is a format which has been called upon to soften the gradual rupture of these ties.”
And because many in Moscow do not recognize this, Russia often takes actions which needlessly offend the countries around its borders whenever the former imperial center sees “even the slightest manifestation of independence by Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan.
In some respects, Minin suggests, Moscow’s position with regard to these countries resembles that of a mother who wants to continue to play the role she had when her son was young but who is now “20, 30 or 40 years old” rather than encouraging, as “a wise parent” does, precisely the independence of her offspring.
Russia has been able to continue to play “the role of mother thanks to the post-Soviet economic arrangements,” and “by analogy, precisely the customary social-economic arrangements in part become a psychological obstacle for a young person who is leading his father’s house. However,” Minin says, “taking that step is all the same necessary.”
Consequently, the “Nezavisimaya gazeta” writer suggests, there are only two possible outcomes: “either [the CIS] will break apart or the member countries will remain” in the position of dependent children.” The first of these, Minin insists, is “better,” especially for Russia “which needs to acquire a new post-Soviet and even post-imperial identity.”
The reasons the CIS was created “in the form in which it was arranged at the start of the 1990s is completely understandable,” he continues. But what is “not understandable is why 20 or 30 years after the disintegration of the USSR should be preserved a structure-relict, created in order to gradually reduce to zero the very common interest which called it into existence.”
“The CIS can continue to exist,” Minin admits, “as a largely formal organization, like the British Commonwealth and thereby serve as balm for the soul of nostalgic citizens.” But he notes these people “are becoming ever fewer,” an irreversible trend that, along with Georgia’s decision, may force Moscow to face up to the need to dismantle this organization.
When Georgia, the last country to join the CIS, became the first to leave it finally and completely this week, many in Moscow sought to put the best face on this, arguing that the Commonwealth is going to be better off without Tbilisi whose participation in the grouping of states had been pro forma for some time (
But because of the way Georgia left, carefully following the rules laid down in that organization’s charter, and because Tbilisi has made clear that its departure does not mean a complete break with all the accords it has with the CIS or with CIS members, other governments concluded that leaving it was not a radical step, even if they do not plan to take that step soon.
In the wake of the Georgian move, President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine announced that he will not take part in CIS meetings in the future, thus reducing the importance of a structure which in recent years has often been described as “a club of presidents” rather than an effective regional grouping (
Meanwhile, the new anti-communist majority in the Moldovan parliament announced that it would hold a referendum on the possibility of Moldova seeking membership in NATO, a step that would likely presage Chisinau’s exit from the CIS and increase the importance of GUAM (
But perhaps the clearest indication that the CIS may soon dissolve or at least be reduced to the kind of formality Minin said might allow it to continue came from the comments of analysts in Armenia, a country that because of its geopolitical position has remained closer to Moscow and the CIS than perhaps any other (
These experts suggested, in the words of, that “the departure of Georgia from the CIS is a strong shock to that structure, and the August 2008 war increased the possibility for the formal legal withdrawal of several countries from the Commonwealth of Independent States.”
Stepan Grigoryan, the head of Yerevan’s Analytic Center on Globalization and Regional Cooperation, said that the war increased concerns among many CIS government heads who
saw what methods Russia might use” and who thus became even more concerned about making arrangements to defend the sovereignty of their countries
David Petrosyan, a commentator for the Noyan Tapan news agency, added that the CIS “is a relatively ineffective structure,” although he pointed out that Armenia, as “a small country,” needs to be cautious in taking any radical steps including leaving the Moscow-led grouping of states.
Ruben Megrabyan of the Armenian Center of Political and International Research suggested that Armenia “today” is “not in a position to follow the example of Georgia and leave the CIS.” But he pointed out that the Commonwealth, intended to provide for “a civilized divorce” of the former Soviet republics, no longer is a “working structure.”
Instead, he said, the CIS “operates today by inertia, without giving anything to anyone.” As a result, he said, it is “a structure without content and without meaning,” hardly an endorsement of an organization so many have invested so much in, especially since he like the other Armenian experts said that Tbilisi’s exit would not change Georgian-Armenian relations.

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