CIS As A Geopolitical Ghost

By Viktor Denisenko

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which today is more formal than actually operating organization, was established after the fall of the Soviet Union. The initiator of this political alliance was Moscow. Its initial idea was actively supported by Ukraine and Belarus, several former soviet republics joined CIS later. Russia did not want to release its former „sisters“ from the sphere of influence, whereas the size of CIS should have solved the disagreements which emerged after the collapse of USSR.

For many of soviet republics the fall of USSR was unexpected. During the referendum in March 1991 (Baltic Sates, Georgia, Armenia and Moldova did not participate in the referendum) the majority of citizens were for the retention of the Soviet Union. It seemed that efforts worked well: finally 12 out of 15 former soviet republics joined CIS, and only the Baltic States did not support the CIS idea.

It was expected that CIS will become an analogue of the EU in the Eastern Europe, however, because of Russia’s domination in the Commonwealth the alliance of equal states is impossible.  This domination was not accidental, because it seems that the Kremlin had illusions to restore a huge confederate state in the post-soviet space. Establishment of the Russian and Belorussian state should have become the first stage of this restoration. Later other CIS countries would have been suggested to join this structure.  But Russian-Belorussian state was not established, and nearly twenty years after the fall of USSR it became clear that a state within the framework of the Soviet Union (with a clear domination of Russia) will not be established as well.

The Russian and Georgian war in August 2008 destroyed the idea of CIS; moreover, Moscow recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. None of CIS countries supported this, and Georgia seceded from CIS.

One of the factors which could have strengthened CIS (but this did not happen) was the establishment of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).  If CIS was supposed to become an analogue of the EU, CSTO should have reminded NATO, but hardly this collective security structure will have positive influence to the survival of CIS. Only seven (out of former 12) countries joined CSTO. Moreover, CSTO had a perfect opportunity to demonstrate its effectiveness during the recent events in Kirghizia, however in reality it demonstrated its absolute disability.

It seems that Russia has lost the interest in CIS and understood that Commonwealth will not help to realize its ideas. Therefore Russia started „playing games“ with other post-soviet space projects: the EurAzEU and the Customs Union. By doing this it tries to fulfill the ambitions in smaller „state clubs“ which were initiated by Russia itself.

In the context of international politics CIS is heard seldom. It looks like the idea of this organization has died unconsciously. Formally CIS can exist many years, but today it reminds a geopolitical ghost, and with years this feeling will only become stronger. There is another factor: reorientation of Moscow to the „pragmatic economic policy“ decreases possibilities of other post-soviet republics to use CIS as a possibility to benefit from Russia, especially from energy stocks „under discount“.

By the way, today CIS is often referred to as not an organization connecting the states, but as a club of their leaders. It is not a bad thing, however, the club of presidents and a geopolitical ally are matters of different political level.