Staunton, September 18 – When the CIS was created at the end of December 1991, analysts were divided as to whether it would be a short-term divorce court that would ease the split among the 12 Soviet republics or be a long-term matrix around which they could be reassembled into some larger and more integrated political unit.
Now, in the wake of the CIS summit in Bishkek, it is clear those who viewed it as a divorce court were justified, as only seven of the 11 remaining members were represented by their chiefs of state and as even Vladimir Putin acknowledged that the CIS was about the promotion of the “soft and gradual sovereignization” of its members (politobzor.net/show-106550-putin-strany-sng-hotyat-sohranit-sodruzhestvo-kak-polnocennuyu-mezhdunarodnuyu.html
Alena Sivkova, of Moscow’s Life News, entitled her report on the Bishkek summit “The Commonwealth of Independent States: Is the Patient Alive or Dead?” (life.ru/t/политика/904442/sodruzhiestvo_niezavisimykh_ghosudarstv_patsiient_zhiv_ili_miertv).
She points out that the CIS will mark its 25th anniversary this December but that it has not lived up to the expectations of those who expected it to be the basis for a new and more prosperous union in place of the USSR. Instead, it has become a talk shop for the leaders of these countries, who increasingly ignore its decisions as they pursue their national interests.
Moscow values the CIS, she says, but it does so because it has a larger membership than any of the other entities the Russian state has been able to create on the territory of what was once the Soviet Union, including the Union State, the Customs Union, the Eurasian Economic Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
“One must recognize,” Sivkova says, “that the CIS at present is not a state or a more or less systematized supra-state formation of the EU type” and that “for the younger generation, the present Commonwealth of Independent States is an organization they don’t know much about and that smells of the past.”
Nonetheless, as a club of the presidents of former Soviet republics, it survives, and may last a long time into the future, ever less important for its members and with ever fewer members as well. Indeed, Bishkek seems to underscore that conclusion: it decided not to index spending on CIS institutions so that they are likely to become smaller and even less active.
Russia currently provides 70 percent of the funds for the organization which now spends and will spend next year “about 800 million rubles” (13 million US dollars). That may be enough to keep the CIS on life support; it is far too little to transform it in the ways its early advocates and current believers would like.