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"Russia and European Security"
Document A/1722, Assembly of WEU Report
Rapporteur: Mr Blaauw
Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

XI. Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

84. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was created in 1991 immediately after the
dissolution of the Soviet Union. It comprises all the former Soviet republics with the exception of the
Baltic states and Georgia. The CIS was intended to be a coordinating body which would assist its
members with mutual economic development, defence relations, ecological protection, democratic
reform and foreign affairs.
85. Over the past decade, the newly independent former Soviet republics have wanted to take
advantage of their recently acquired status, while at the same time their political leaders have been
consolidating their power. Initiatives from Moscow have been viewed with suspicion but not
automatically rejected. Some cooperation agreements have been signed but, in practice, there have been
few tangible results. Recent changes in Russia’s political leadership may be the start of a new era in
which the government will take initiatives to exploit opportunities so as to confirm and reinforce
existing links or establish new patterns of cooperation which, needless to say, may provide it with
advantages in different fields of interest.
86. Russia’s policy towards the CIS was clearly expressed in its June 2000 Foreign Policy Concept,
as follows:
   “A priority area in Russia’s foreign policy is ensuring conformity of multilateral and bilateral
cooperation with the member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to national
security tasks of the country.
   The emphasis will be on the development of good neighbourly relations and strategic partnership
with all CIS member states. Practical relations with each of them should be structured with due
regard for reciprocal openness to cooperation and readiness to take into account in a due manner
the interests of the Russian Federation, including in terms of guarantees of rights of Russian
   Proceeding from the concept of different speed and different level integration within the CIS
framework, Russia will determine the parameters and character of its interaction with CIS
members states both in the CIS as a whole and in narrower associations, primarily the Customs
Union and the Collective Security Treaty. A priority task is to strengthen the Union of Belarus
and Russia as the highest, at this stage, form of integration of two sovereign states.
   We attach a priority importance to joint efforts toward settling conflicts in CIS member states,
and to the development of cooperation in the military-political area and in the sphere of security,
particularly in combating international terrorism and extremism.
   Serious emphasis will be placed on the development of economic cooperation, including the
creation of a free trade zone and implementation of programmes of joint rational use of natural
resources. Specifically, Russia will work for the elaboration of such a status of the Caspian Sea
as would enable the littoral states to launch mutually advantageous cooperation in using the
region’s resources on a fair basis and taking into account the legitimate interests of each other.
   The Russian Federation will make efforts to ensure fulfilment of mutual obligations on the
preservation and augmentation of the joint cultural heritage in the CIS member states.”
87. This chapter highlights economic and security developments in the CIS. Relations between Russia
and Belarus, which is also a CIS member, are of a different nature and will be reviewed in a specific
section of this report.
   (a) Security agreements
88. In 1992, Russia concluded the Collective Security Treaty of the Commonwealth of Independent
States (CIS) with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kirghizstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. This treaty
calls on its signatories to provide military aid to each other in the event of aggression. In 1999,
Azerbaijan denounced the treaty because of Armenia’s continuing occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and
as a protest against recent armaments contracts concluded between Russia and Armenia.
89. Uzbekistan, which has the most effective armed forces among the former Soviet and now
independent Central Asian Republics, announced in early 1999 that it would revoke its participation in
the treaty but drew back from this intention after a series of terrorist bomb attacks by Islamic radicals in
Tashkent in February of that year. In December 1999, the Uzbek President, Islam Karimov, and
President Putin signed a bilateral cooperation treaty which included the acquisition of Russian-made
defence equipment for Uzbekistan’s armed forces, which need spare parts, ammunition and equipment
to modernise their hardware. The Uzbek armed forces are often involved in fights against units of
Islamic radicals who try to penetrate its border with Tajikistan. Kirghizstan and Tajikistan also have to
cope frequently with armed fundamentalist invaders who, in particular, are the scourge of the armed
forces of Kirghizstan.
90. On 11 October 2000, the members states of the Collective Security Treaty of the CIS, meeting in
Bishkek, Kirghizstan, decided to set up a joint rapid intervention force in order to cope with what they
defined as the Islamic fundamentalism advancing from Afghanistan. The rapid intervention force will
have a central command but its location is still to be determined. This is the first tangible action of the
Collective Security Council after many years of declaratory policy 40. The Council called Afghanistan 
“one of the centres of international terrorism and drugs trafficking in the world” and considered the situation 
there “a threat for each country in the region”. The Russian Government accuses the Taliban movement in 
Afghanistan of actively helping the fundamentalists to destabilise the region.
91. Indeed, a compelling reason for Central Asian leaders to have close links with Russia lies in their
concern over radical Islamic fundamentalist movements which are threatening their borders and internal
stability. They want military support against what they call terrorist campaigns by Islamic extremists.
Russia itself regards these states as a buffer, protecting its own territory against militant Islamic
92. It should be noted that, in each of the five former Soviet Central Asian republics, an authoritarian
if not despotic regime has firmly established itself and is decidedly doing all it can to prevent the
emergence of a healthy and modern economic and political pattern of life. Corruption is worsening the
situation, with all the economic resources in the hands of the political leaders and their cronies,
protected by their security and military forces. While Kazakhstan may be excessively well off in energy
reserves, all the others are sliding towards poverty, instability and international isolation. In Tajikistan,
for example, 85% of the population of six million is living below the poverty line. The rate in
Kirghizstan is 88% and between 60 and 66% of the populations of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan are
also living in poverty41. All these republics rank among the world’s most corrupt places to do business.
Some sources estimate that the graft factor on major transactions throughout the region is often higher
than 20%.
93. A society with corrupt, repressive leaders and a poor population is obviously a fertile breeding
ground for militant revolutionary or terrorist movements which, in this region of the world,
automatically tend to be supported by Islamists.
94. Many analysts take the view that the Islamic guerrilla movement is the consequence of political
repression rather than religious considerations. They also point out that the Islamic movement is now
uniting a wide range of government opponents who, in a proper democracy, would remain divided in
different factions. Obviously, this phenomenon is being exploited by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan,
which is providing support, funding, training and encouragement.
95. The former Soviet Central Asian republics are not considered to be a natural breeding ground for
religious fanatism because society has been strongly secularised over a period of several generations. At
present, the most active group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), led by Tahir Juldashev and
Juma Namangani, has the open support of the Taliban in Afghanistan but there are suggestions that it is
also being, or has been, assisted by Iran and Russia. Iran sees the IMU as a means of putting pressure
on President Karimov of Uzbekistan, who is a declared enemy of the government of Iran and who, by
keeping the Uzbek borders closed to commercial goods from Iran, is denying the Iranians access to the
largest market in this part of Central Asia.
96. Russia is said to have supported the IMU in order to make President Karimov renounce his
Western alliances. It is also said that it allowed the IMU to assemble in Tajikistan in 1998 and 1999,
when President Karimov threatened to leave the CIS Collective Defence Pact. After devastating IMU
terrorist attacks in Tashkent in early 1999, Uzbekistan decided not to leave the Pact.
97. At present, however, not one of these supporters is able to control the IMU. Apart from trying to
undermine President Karimov’s regime, Juma Namangani, the IMU chief, is also thought to be seeking
to control drug trafficking transit routes leading from Afghanistan through Tajikistan. This provides
both himself and his movement with a major source of income. It should be noted in passing that all the
local chiefs – as well as the Russian military who are supposed to control the Tajik border with
Afghanistan – are also involved in this business.
98. The IMU is active in Kirghizstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. According to some sources, the
IMU has between 1 000 and 1 500 guerillas, but the US State Department puts their number at several
thousands. It is thought that about 20% of IMU members are genuinely religious, while 50% are
Uzbeks forced out of the country by persecution and 30% are criminals on the run.
99. Through its support for the IMU, the Taliban regime is also taking revenge on Uzbekistan and
Tajikistan which, during the civil war in Afghanistan, supported the Northern Alliance of Ahmad Sham
Masud in its fight against the Taliban. The IMU is trying to establish bases in remote mountainous
areas inside Uzbekistan or just across the border in Kirghizstan or Tajikistan.100. It is unlikely that the 
IMU will gain a significant military victory against the Uzbek armed forces,
which are the strongest and best armed forces in the region, or threaten the existence of the state, but it
may prove to be a thorn in the side of the Uzbek Government. It could exploit the social discontent in
the country, where the standard of living has sharply declined since the collapse of the Soviet Union in
1991. Wages are extremely low, many workers have not been paid for months and 50% of the
population is unemployed. IMU actions may also increase pressure on Russia to deploy troops and
establish military bases in Uzbekistan42.
101. In April 1999, the Defence Ministers of Russia and Tajikistan signed a treaty formally allowing
Russia to set up military bases in Tajikistan on sites where its units were already stationed. This treaty
is the first of its kind between Russia and a CIS member in that region. Currently, Russia has some
25 000 troops in Tajikistan to help patrol its southern border with Afghanistan.
102. In April 2000, the Presidents of Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan signed a tenyear
treaty on joint efforts to combat terrorism, political and religious extremism and any other threats
to security and stability in the region. The Shanghai Five, a loose pact between Russia, China,
Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kirghizstan, have also offered help in fighting Islamist guerrillas, but these
offers have never been translated into practical measures.
103. As part of its policy to achieve comprehensive security throughout the area for which it is
responsible, the OSCE recently stepped up cooperation with the five participating states in Central Asia.
Well aware of one of the basic reasons for unrest in the area, the OSCE has repeatedly emphasised that
progress in political and economic reforms, democratisation and respect for human rights help to create
conditions in which terrorism and extremism no longer win support. It calls such reforms essential parts
of comprehensive security and key elements to ensure long-term stability43.
   (b) Economic agreements
104. One of the objectives behind Russia’s policy of forging closer relations with the Central Asian
republics is to gain control of the region’s oil and gas trade, and the countries concerned have responded
to this approach. In May 2000, Kazakhstan agreed on establishing a joint venture for the production and
exploitation of gas with the Russian Gazprom company. Gazprom also hopes that Turkmenistan will
sell it an extra 30 billion cubic metres of gas annually, to be transited through existing pipelines. These
and other projects will affect plans for a Trans-Caspian (Baku-Ceyhan) gas pipeline, intended to carry
gas under the Caspian Sea and across Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey. Gazprom, together with the
Italian company Eni Spa, has a project to build a competing pipeline, the Blue Stream.
105. The CIS Customs Union (CU) and the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC) provide further
opportunities for a closer economic relationship but there is no guarantee that these institutions will
produce the expected results. For instance, the 23 May meeting of the CU in Minsk, Belarus, failed to
produce Russian agreement on the creation of a free trade zone for its member states. The Free Trade
Zone Treaty was signed in 1994 and was supposed to apply CIS-wide, but it continues to be a bone of
contention at CIS summits. Russia has never agreed to it because of its own protectionist interests.
106. The Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC) was the outcome of an agreement signed on 11
October 2000, by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan and Tajikistan. It is to be created on the
basis of the abovementioned Customs Union, which was founded in 1994 by the same five countries and
revamped in 1996 although in actual fact it exists only on paper. The EAEC’s goal is to “bring the
Customs Union to fruition by establishing, on the same basis, a single economic space, a functioning
common market and by coordinating economic policies”. The EAEC’s founding documents give the
impression that it is designed to provide Russia with a means of political control over the member
countries’ economic policies and external relations.
107. Member countries are expected to delegate voluntarily certain economic policy-making functions
of their governments to the Integration Committee, the standing executive body of the EAEC. The
Integration Committee’s decisions are to be submitted to sessions of the countries’ presidents for
approval, based on the consensus principle. The EAEC calls itself an international organisation with the
power to represent its member countries in international economic relations – specifically in negotiations
with “other” international economic unions and organisations such as the World Trade Organisation
(WTO) and the European Union. The founding documents also include an agreement to negotiate
common terms regarding the access of goods from “other” countries to the markets of the EAEC
countries.108. At present, Kirghizstan is the only EAEC member state which also belongs to the WTO, while
Kazakhstan is a candidate for WTO membership. At the last two Customs Union summits, however, Mr
Putin stated that Kirghizstan, and by implication, Kazakhstan, risk countermeasures if they do not adopt
a “common stance” toward the WTO.
   (c) Conclusion
109. All this leads to the conclusion that in the CIS framework, Russia is concentrating its cooperation
efforts on Belarus, with which it has a special relationship, and on the Central Asian republics.
110. Although these republics do not wish to be dominated by Russia, they realise that in future they
may need to nurture good relations with it in the interest of being well protected against revolutionary
movements in the south and having a counterweight to any future ambitions China may have in the
111. Even US officials recognise that Russian influence in the Central Asian region is a foregone
conclusion and is even desirable in order to bolster stability in a volatile situation, but they deplore the
fact that Russia is also making progress in gaining control of Central Asia’s energy exports to Western
112. As regards the CIS in general, it should be noted that from the outset it has never been a
functional organisation. Its dysfunction stems from both organisational incoherence and contradictory
economic and other interests, even among its nominal allies. A number of non-Russian former Soviet
republics feared that they would once again be dominated by Russia via the CIS. The existence of the
six-member Collective Security Treaty, the joint rapid reaction force created recently and the
establishment of the EAEC, consisting of only 5 of the 12 CIS members – since the others have
preferred not to participate in the Treaty and have formed a group called GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine,
Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova) – are clear signs of major differences within the CIS which may
ultimately lead to a split.