Last week, March 1-2, a meeting of the CIS presidents took place at a ski resort Chimbulak, in Kazakhstan. It was an informal meeting, however, political and economic problems of the CIS relations have been touched upon. The situation in the commonwealth requires discussion of these problems.
A wide range of problems was discussed at the summit: the situation in Afghanistan, the neighbor of almost all former Soviet republics; a political crisis in Moldavia caused by the disputes on the status of the Russian language; problems of illegal drug traffic and so on. The main attention was paid to three key problems: the situation in Georgia, creation of a gas alliance and development of a new CIS development program. As soon as the USA expanded its presence in Georgia, the relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have changed for the worse. Russian politicians and the media are alarmed by the US presence in Georgia. It is quite natural: the US troops have strengthened their positions in Central Asia and are reluctant to quit the area. In the words of Georgia’s President Eduard Shevardnadze, the US presence will cause no damage to Georgia. This statement calmed down the Georgia-related debates. As for the meeting of Eduard Shevardnadze with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the former characterized it as “a fundamental one”. On the meeting’s results, the RF parliament decided to consider Abkhazia’s possible associate membership in the Russian Federation at a session on the level of committees for international affairs and CIS problems scheduled for March 5. However, the session is not expected to drastically change Russia’s line as for the Abkhazian problem. Will anyone profit from one more hot spot? I think, Chechnya is quite enough.
Another significant event of the meeting was a proposition of Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Vladimir Putin. Nursultan Nazarbayev wants Russian experts to develop a CIS development program. It does not mean that the CIS is to face great integration political procedures, like in Europe. Authorities in most CIS countries are not so much interested in such processes so far. First of all, they want to retain the whole of the power they’ve got. Second, they are afraid of Russia’s domination, that seems to be very probable due to some natural reasons. Expansion of commercial and economic relations is expected to be especially stressed.
The summit considered the possibility of establishment of an organization similar to OPEC, but in the gas sphere. The idea had been initiated by President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the talks with Turkmenistan’s President Saparmurat Niyazov in January, 2002. Till the very meeting in Chimbulak most experts doubted that a Eurasian gas alliance would be a success. Nevertheless, the idea turned out to be really feasible. In any case, the presidents of four CIS countries – Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmentistan – agreed on creation of such an organization. The organization is to be oriented at development of a single policy in gas production and transportation. The president of Russia said: “To be seriously taken into consideration, we are to join.” The only defect of the agreement is just lack of obligatory legal basis. The first steps towards creation of an alliance have been already made, the time will tell how great its vitality is.
Now relations inside the CIS will be based on commercial and economic contacts. They are to be the main link between the CIS countries. Will the contacts stimulate further development of closer political relations? The time will tell.
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/03/05/37842.html
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