CIS as an Alternative Platform for Post-Conflict Negotiation - Expert of World Association of International Studies at Stanford

Politics Materials 15 August 2008 15:42 (UTC +04:00)

Leading expert Tomoyuki Hashimoto, who is affiliated with World Association of International Studies at Stanford, especially for Trend

Due to the recent military conflict between Russia and Georgia, Georgia declared the withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). What is the political and economic impact of this move on the whole CIS structure?

First of all, the CIS is more than just a successor body of the Soviet Union. Of course, the CIS was operated as the platform of "civilian divorce" among the Soviet Republics. Yet, the CIS in the recent years has provided a wide range of intergovernmental cooperation from trade to security reform. On the other hand, as Ukraine, Moldova, and Turkmenistan are associated members (not permanent members), some argue that the real impact of the CIS has diminished due to the rapid de-Russification of the former Soviet societies. Ukraine and Georgia, particularly, seek the European Union and NATO as the alternatives of future political cooperation platforms.

Recent declaration of the Georgian withdrawal from the CIS, therefore, means the final "cut-off" from the Georgian dependency on Russia. Yet, as security cooperation between Russia and Georgia is self-evidently non-existent, the Georgian withdrawal has little or no political impact on the CIS structure. Also, as Georgian economy is now devastated by war, there would be little economic interactions for Georgia with the CIS countries anyway. Observing these points, President Saakashvili's move was more likely a political gesture towards Europe and the US, showing an official "divorce" of Georgia with Russia.

That said, the Russo-Georgian conflict spotted the light on the "incapability" of international structure to mediate conflicts involving Russia. As Russia being a key member of the international security framework, the United Nations nor even NATO could have little to do for arbitration. In this situation, I suggest the CIS as an alternative platform of post-conflict negotiation. Other CIS countries, such as Azerbaijan and Belarus, can take political and structural initiatives of the CIS and open the negotiation platform for Georgia and Russia. Russia would certainly appreciate such movement as she prefers relatively "friendly" environment of the CIA than the harsh accusation or even "judgment" by NATO.

President Saakashvili's announcement and his pro-European, pro-American stance are understandable. Nonetheless, the Georgian withdrawal from the CIS closed the door of an alternative negotiation platform. Now, Georgia has either bi-lateral negotiation with Russia or the involvement of the third party potentially the UN or the EU. As neither the choice is attractive in terms of near-future rapprochement with Russia, I must say that Saakashvili's politics became highly emotional rather than practical. Therefore, I suggest Georgia to remain as an associated member of the CIS, so that neighboring CIS members, namely Azerbaijan, can participate the normalization process alongside with Georgia and Russia.