MOSCOW, 18 Oct 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.
The meeting of the CIS Council of heads of states on October 15 showed how new global and regional threats raise the issue of closer integration of post-Soviet countries, going far beyond trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian ties.
The summit responded to all the most pressing challenges the Commonwealth is facing today. These are the destabilisation of the situation in Afghanistan, the coronavirus pandemic, the interference of external forces in the internal affairs of CIS members, interstate conflicts, as well as economic imbalances that require new approaches in the field of migration. Not all problems have been solved, but it is already obvious that it is impossible to cope with any of these threats without Russia’s efforts.
Let’s take Afghanistan. The chaos in this country caused by the coming to power of the Taliban after the flight of the US army threatens the entire post-Soviet space. The terrorist groups entrenched in Afghanistan are ready to invade our underbelly — all participants of the meeting understand this. But it is also clear that Central Asian countries are unable to contain these terrorists without Russia’s military support.
Afghan drug trafficking is still a threat — it has not decreased at all after the change of power in the country. Today, the CIS summit proposed to fight it through countering the legalisation of criminal proceeds and the financing of terrorism. This is the right decision, but it is possible to finally cope with this evil only through changing the entire economy of Afghanistan. But only world powers can do this. Perhaps this will be the subject of discussion within the framework of the expanded troika with the participation of Russia, the United States and China.
The summit participants pointed out that the flows of Afghans fleeing from the Taliban threaten the entire Central Asia with a humanitarian crisis. However, the Council of CIS heads of state has yet to find a solution to this problem. The proposal made today on food aid to refugees runs into the question: who will distribute it, if not the Taliban? One way or another, the main hassle of organising such assistance obviously falls to Russia.
Another common problem for the Commonwealth is COVID-19: the majority of the meeting participants spoke about the pandemic. They adopted a statement on cooperation in the field of biosafety. And here, too, it is impossible to overestimate the key role of Russia, which has established the supply of its vaccines to the CIS countries.
It should be noted that Moscow’s close attention is focused on American biological centres located in Ukraine and Georgia. The example of these republics of the former USSR clearly shows how the rejection of integration within the CIS leads not only to the loss of sovereignty, but also to exorbitant risks for neighbours.
Western sanctions pose a separate threat to our countries — Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned them today. It is important to emphasise here that the day before the summit, all participants of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers expressed serious concern about “unlimited and illegal” sanctions pressure from the outside. This may indicate a change in the mindset of the ruling elites of the post-Soviet republics, who realised the need for closer political ties within the Commonwealth.
Another topical issue is the interference of Western players in the internal affairs of countries in the post-Soviet space, including in electoral processes. We agree that in this matter, the CIS members could learn from Russia how to effectively protect the electoral rights of citizens.
It is very significant that Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan, despite the sharp quarrel over the Karabakh crisis, unanimously recognised the fundamental role of Russia as a mediator country. Indeed, it’s our country that stopped the war back then. And today it is Moscow that does not allow a new round of confrontation between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The conclusion is simple: our country remains, in fact, an uncontested “justice of peace” in the post-Soviet space.
The most important integral role in the entire territory of the CIS belongs to the Russian language. At the summit today, Putin called it a unifying force that holds our civilisational space together, and demanded that migrant workers arriving to our place know Russian.
The President’s words can be evaluated purely positively: such a requirement leads to an increase in the status of the Russian language and the popularisation of Russian culture in the CIS. The announced opening of Russian schools, first in Tajikistan, and then in Uzbekistan and Armenia, will help in this.
We see that life itself brings the post-Soviet space to new political and civilisational levels of interaction. It is not enough to develop production chains or increase trade turnover: the ongoing threats require a resolute and consolidated response from the CIS countries. The harmonious integrator here is Russia, which has the necessary resources, tools and experience to protect its sovereignty and independence of all members of the Commonwealth.