Three summits at CIS gathering bring surprises

The CIS, the EurAsEC and the CSTO, three summits in a row is an unprecedented event. Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have agreed on the legal framework for a customs union at the Eurasian Economic Community summit in Dushanbe. The biggest sensations, altho

The day before, the head of the Russian Intelligence Service was appointed Executive Secretary of the CIS. The question for the Russian media was – who will take his place back home?

At the summit press conference, President Putin announced that this will be Russia’s former Prime Minister, Mikhail Fradkov. Mr Fradkov resigned as the head of the government in early September. He was replaced by Viktor Zubkov.

It was not a surprise that General Secretary of the EurAsEC Grigory Rapota was giving his final speech at the summit in this post. However, it seemed that his nomination as the President’s representative in the Southern Federal District made even him speechless – he only said he ‘had to think it over’.

The EurAsEC and the CSTO summits have born fruit. Fewer flags, fewer leaders – and fewer disagreements.

First of all, the leaders have finally closed the long-drawn-out topic of the customs union initially between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and agreed on the legal base. It is intended to ease tariffs and customs procedures to boost trade.

“Our discussions in a narrow format were meaningful and constructive. Sometimes they were emotional, but they were always marked by our desire to find a solution. Despite our differences, we reached a consensus on almost all the questions we have raised in the interests of our countries. These issues include economic integration and the possible construction of the customs union,” Vladimir Putin noted.

The decision took a long time mostly due to disagreements between Russia and Belarus. When the time to vote came, it seemed these disputes had not yet been resolved as one leader did not raise his arm – it was Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko. But he then said he had no disagreements and the decision was taken unanimously.

The summit of the CSTO also ended with breakthrough agreements. One of them was the creation of peacekeeping units that might in effect replace the CIS peacekeepers stationed, for instance, in the zones of frozen conflicts.

“The peacekeeping forces act according to the verbal agreements of the UN and are used according to the decision of the Collective Security Council and can be used on the territory of the states that are members of the CSTO and brought on UN mandate. If the situation requires the use of the peacekeeping forces, they will be used. These are not military forces, but forces to keep peace,” Nikolay Bordyuzha, CSTO Secretary General, commented.

Among other things they signed an agreement on co-operation with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and on sales of military equipment from Russia.

“We have drawn up the final list of the documents, according to which the CSTO members will be receiving Russian arms and special equipment not only for the armed forces but also for other special forces in fact at Russia’s internal prices,” Vladimir Putin said.

In the end all three summits produced results. Even the CIS leaders that are often struggling through disagreements found common ground, although not in everything. Nevertheless, some officials have already labelled all three events the most productive in the history of the groups.

All three organisations have different agendas: the CIS wants a commonwealth with benefits for all, but it is still looking to find its identity; EurAsEC focuses on economic integration, and is slowly moving forward; the CSTO offers assistance and security and can boast of concrete results. Some are more successful than the others, but in fact all three have a common goal – a strong safe and prosperous neighbourhood in the post-Soviet space.