06MOSCOW12711, CIS SUMMITS: GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS?

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW12711 2006-11-30 13:55 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO2677
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #2711/01 3341355
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301355Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5552
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 012711 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/30/2016 
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON PINR BY RS
SUBJECT: CIS SUMMITS:  GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS? 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 12695 
     B. MOSCOW 8841 
     C. MOSCOW 12264 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reasons: 1.4 (b, d). 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  After a series of low-impact/low-turnout 
meetings, CIS Heads of State gathered again in Minsk on 
November 28.  The meeting -- billed as a "working" summit -- 
will be followed by another, more formal gathering in Astana 
in December to commemorate the CIS's fifteenth anniversary. 
From Moscow's perspective, the Minsk meeting was more notable 
for bilaterals between President Putin and Presidents Voronin 
and Lukashenko than for any attempt to revive the faltering 
organization.  Growing differences among CIS members and a 
persistent failure to implement CIS decisions have called 
into question the group's continuing relevance.  Although 
members have agreed on the need for reform, there is a lack 
of consensus about the group's direction.  No drastic changes 
in either the format or membership are expected until at 
least 2008.  End Summary. 
. 
Low Expectations Summit 
----------------------- 
 
2.  (C) While President Putin called the CIS summit 
"productive and businesslike," the most useful work was done 
on the summit margins or at separate bilateral meetings.  In 
a press briefing following the summit, Putin stressed that he 
had spoken at the summit table with Georgian President 
Saakashvili, and had had extended discussions with Lukashenko 
about outstanding energy issues, including the valuation of 
gas firm Beltransgaz.  Talks with Voronin led to the lifting 
of the ban on Moldovan wine and meat products (ref A) and a 
pledge to step up Transnistrian talks.  The Moscow Carnegie 
Center's Nikolay Petrov told us that these were real 
accomplishments, given the low expectations before the 
summit.  However, on the critical question of CIS reform, the 
leaders agreed to put off any decision until the foreign 
ministers provide consensus recommendations by a July 
deadline.  Petrov said that Moscow was pleased with this 
outcome because it wanted to avoid contentious discussions on 
the organization's future. 
. 
CIS:  Broken Tea Cup or Graveyard for Soviet Dreams? 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
3.  (C) Russia's caution in dealing with changes to the CIS 
status quo was reflected in pre-summit comments by the 
Director of the MFA's Third CIS Department (Central Asia) 
Maksim Peshkov.  He likened the CIS to a cracked tea cup.  It 
does not produce a clear resonating sound when tapped, he 
told us, but one can use it forever if it is held gently.  If 
handled roughly, it will break.  Others in Moscow compare the 
CIS to a divorce agreement, a simile first used by 
then-President of Ukraine Kravchuk and repeated by Putin last 
year.  In this view, the CIS was an artificially created 
arrangement designed to ease the dissolution of the Soviet 
Union.  With that divorce finalized, the CIS had no useful 
purpose.  For Director of the CIS Institute Vladimir 
Pomanenko, the CIS is where Soviet legacies are interred.  He 
lamented the "unnecessary" break up of the Union and insisted 
that the desire to unite had not disappeared completely. 
Peshkov agreed: "For over seventy years, we were together; we 
cannot dispense with those ties." 
. 
The CIS Atrophies 
----------------- 
 
4.  (C) Experts we spoke to argued that the CIS's ill-defined 
raison d'etre had led to organizational atrophy.  Also 
contributing to organizational weakness were the growing 
differences among member states.  Carnegie's Petrov told us 
that some of the CIS countries tended to be isolationist, 
while others were much more outward-looking.  The same 
organization encompasses Georgia and Ukraine as well as 
Turkmenistan (albeit as an "associate" member).   Leonid 
Vardomskiy, head of the Center of the CIS and the Baltic 
States at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of 
Economy, claimed that CIS members had already drifted too far 
apart to be shoehorned into a coherent organization.  Russia, 
despite its "primitively defined" political ambitions, did 
not really consider the CIS a viable organization, Vardomskiy 
claimed.  The outmoded technologies and economies of many CIS 
countries reduced economic relations to barter trade in raw 
materials.  The economic disparity among the countries -- 
Russia and Kazakhstan at the top; Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 
bringing up the rear -- made the development of a common 
economic agenda a virtual impossibility.  Russia's main 
economic interests lay outside the CIS, Vardomskiy said.  The 
disconnect between Russia's interests and those of other CIS 
states acted as an impediment to Russia's ambitions to lead 
 
MOSCOW 00012711  002 OF 003 
 
 
the CIS. 
 
5.  (C) Flaws in the organization itself have also crippled 
its effectiveness.  Most CIS observers point to the members' 
persistent failure to implement the hundreds of CIS 
a
greements as evidence of the group's uselessness.  Aleksey 
Vlasov of Moscow State University (MGU) noted that the CIS's 
organizational structure remained skeletal and would likely 
stay that way because of the lack of a credible "integration" 
philosophy.  Andrey Ryabov of the Institute for World Economy 
and International Relations (IMEMO) suggested that some of 
the fault for the CIS's dysfunctional nature can be laid at 
the feet of Russia, which was "ill-equipped to deal with 
multilateral organizations."  "Russia made efforts but always 
failed," he said. 
. 
Russia Tries to Show Leadership 
------------------------------- 
 
6.  (C) Given such clear-cut failures, why then does Russia 
remain invested in the CIS?  FM Lavrov was quick last year to 
try to explain away Putin's comment that the CIS was merely a 
divorce decree, arguing that a commonality of interests still 
tied the former republics together.  Aleksey Bogaturov of 
Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) 
suggested that the CIS remained relevant -- at least from the 
Russian point of view -- because it continued to provide a 
stage for Moscow's ambitions.  Aleksandr Fadeyev of the CIS 
Institute echoed Bogaturov, arguing that Russia's continued 
struggle for regional leadership was the only reason why the 
CIS had been spared "liquidation." 
. 
One Summit to Many? 
------------------- 
 
7.  (C) With many former Soviet republics celebrating their 
15th year of independence this fall, the 15th "jubilee" CIS 
summit was scheduled for October 16-17 in Minsk.  However, 
Putin and Nazarbayev intervened at the last minute to 
substitute a CIS Council of Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting 
(CFM) for the summit, which was postponed to November.  In 
the end, only a few ministers attended the CFM (Belarus, 
Russia, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan).  The November 28 Summit 
in Minsk will be followed by yet another summit -- in Astana 
-- to mark the 15th anniversary of the creation of the CIS. 
The experts we spoke to before the Minsk summit unanimously 
agreed that not much would be decided at either gathering. 
Events in Minsk seemed to bear them out.  Other than putting 
off any decision on CIS reform until next year, the members 
could only agree on the appointment of the head of the CIS 
Anti-Terrorist Center and on a joint statement on fighting 
illegal immigration.  The group was unable to come to a 
consensus on demarcating borders between CIS states. 
. 
Putin, Nazarbayev and Lukashenko 
-------------------------------- 
 
8.  (C) The "dueling" summits in Minsk and Astana are only 
one reflection of the tensions within the organization.  Many 
Moscow experts believed that Putin will need to play a 
balancing role between Nazarbayev and Lukashenko.  According 
to Fadeyev of the CIS Institute, Lukashenko had no patience 
for Kazakh reform proposals (that "Asian stuff") that sought 
to reduce the areas the CIS acted in while increasing the 
possibilities that decisions would be implemented.  In 
Fadeyev's view, Belarus did not believe that Kazakhstan 
should exert influence over CIS processes.  MGU's Vlasov told 
us after the Minsk summit that the Kazakh President's 
proposals were meant to burnish his credentials as a 
statesman and had little chance of success because of the 
growing differences in interests among members. 
. 
Beyond the CIS, So Many Groups: SES, EURASEC, BSEC and SCO 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
 
9.  (C) Several of our interlocutors agreed that, as with the 
EU, Russia worked better bilaterally than through the CIS. 
Reviewing the alphabet soup of regional economic 
organizations Moscow sought to lead, experts questioned their 
effectiveness or relevance in spurring economic cooperation, 
much less integration.  The Separate Economic Space (SES: 
Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan) existed only on paper.  Experts 
dismissed it as "non-functional" without Ukraine's 
participation.  Varying levels of economic development 
impeded efforts by the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEc: 
Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and 
Tajikistan) to cooperate effectively, while persistent 
economic disputes between Russia and Belarus, and Russia and 
Kazakhstan also got in the way (reftel A).  Russia and 
several CIS countries also belong to the Black Sea Economic 
Cooperation organization (BSEC: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, 
Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, 
 
MOSCOW 00012711  003 OF 003 
 
 
Ukraine and Serbia).  Despite efforts by Russia to invigorate 
this organization, observers also questioned its relevance 
(reftel B). 
 
10.  (C) In the view of Moscow experts, including Mikhail 
Titarenko, Director of the Far Eastern Institute  the one 
organization that Russia did not lead alone -- the Shanghai 
Cooperation Organization (SCO: Russia, China, Kazakhstan, 
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) -- had the greatest 
potential in both the economic and security fields.  He 
claimed that a Chinese-led SCO had much more capacity to 
further economic integration than did the CIS.  IMEMO's 
Andrey Ryabov argued that the SCO, although at a rudimentary 
stage, could develop into a "NATO 2" given China's political 
ambitions and economic power.  China will continue to 
strengthen the SCO's influence in the region as it reached 
for regional political and economic hegemony, Ryabov warned. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
11.  (C) The CIS is suffering from chronic malaise -- lack of 
strong direction and of a well-defined agenda -- and 
corrosive discontent among its member countries.  However, 
even if members like Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova left the 
organization, it is clear to most observers that without 
substantial reforms, the CIS will become even less relevant. 
We expect the CIS will limp along -- at least until the 2008 
leadership change in Russia -- because Moscow continues to 
view the organization as an emblem of Russian leadership in 
the post-Soviet space. 
BURNS

Wikileaks

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