Integration gains momentum in very close partnership
By Kirill Dovlatov
Since mid-March, when the Grand Kremlin Palace hosted the EurAsEC Summit, it hasn’t changed: first, the CSTO Summit and then the CIS Summit are imminent, as is traditional. In the Red Reception Room, the President of Russia meets his colleagues in turn. Previously, Dmitry Medvedev had the honour; now, Vladimir Putin has returned to the role.
Journalists and political analysts are keenly speculating on which country will receive the first visit by Vladimir Putin after his inauguration. In the language of diplomacy, this will show the major priority of the state’s foreign policy, regarding bilateral relations. The current Moscow forums demonstrate a generalised course although its major interest is focused on the post-Soviet space. Of course, Russia is keen to support and stimulate the integration processes currently gaining momentum. The vector is being revealed especially vividly against a difficult background of preparations for the EU-Russia Summit. Surprisingly, Mr. Putin has decided not to attend the G8 Summit at Camp David.
The first official forum — of the CSTO Collective Security Council — is a jubilee event, as the Collective Security Treaty was signed on May 15th, 1992. A decade ago, on May 14th, 2002, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation was founded. Accordingly, Mr. Putin congratulated his colleagues on this jubilee, saying, “I believe that our organisation has shown its worth over recent years and has matured. The CSTO’s international authority has strengthened, making it one of the most efficient instruments of maintaining collective security within the zone of its responsibility. However, it’s vital not to rest on our laurels.”
Meanwhile, Belarus has long insisted on the necessity of increasing the CSTO’s international authority, since its internal significance is limited. The CSTO now has the opportunity to partner other inter-state associations and blocs on equal terms.
Alexander Lukashenko emphasises, “We’re interested in productive dialogue with international organisations such as the UN, the OSCE and NATO, to gain peaceful resolution of conflict situations.”
Minsk’s views on the CSTO are recorded as follows:
“Belarus has always been in favour of enhancing supranational institutions for the security and stability of all countries in equal measure. Our country supports practical co-operation with all countries regarding the battle against drug trafficking, illegal migration and cyber-crime. Our goal is co-operation for the sake of concrete and tangible results,” notes the Belarusian leader.
Mr. Lukashenko doesn’t exclude the possibility of the CSTO expanding in future, as he explains, “Other states’ interest in establishing close collaboration, alongside interest from international and regional organisations (including the UN) testifies that we’ve selected the right direction for developing the CSTO. During Belarus’ presidency, in 2006, the organisation enlarged, with Uzbekistan joining. I believe this won’t be the last such instance of expansion.”
The Belarusian President is convinced that, over a short historical period, the CSTO has spread far beyond the limits of a classical defence bloc, being able to react promptly to any threat. He told his colleagues, “The international weight of the CSTO has grown not only due to the active stance of member states but thanks to better teamwork within the organisation. Co-operation is expanding across all fields. Primarily at the suggestion of Belarus, CSTO member states have begun widely using the mechanism of foreign political co-ordination within other international organisations.”
Mr. Lukashenko proposed definite measures to improve and develop the CSTO, saying, “Firstly, we need to enhance the security and efficiency of protection for CSTO member states: from terrorism, drug trafficking, illegal migration and challenges in the information sphere. Secondly, we need to reinforce the military component of the organisation, focusing on developing high mobility contemporary special detachments: collective rapid response and deployment forces, as well as peacemaking troops. Thirdly, we should set up close and mutually beneficial co-operation with other states and international associations, not restricting ourselves to security alone. Co-ordination should be performed by economic and political structures, especially those functioning within the former USSR. Fourthly, we have to harmoniously join the contemporary architecture of global and regional security. For the sake of successfully accomplishing our goals, the CSTO shouldn’t be isolated. Dialogue, equal partner relations, joint projects and programmes with other organisations and countries will secure success in confronting transnational threats.”
The President of Belarus firmly announced, “The Republic of Belarus, as before, will continue doing its best for the sake of developing the CSTO, aiding its improvement, universalisation and harmonious adaptation to the modern world.”
A joint declaration by the heads of state was the final document of the summit, assessing the activity of the organisation over its past decade of existence and all issues relating to the security of its member states. Moreover, a range of principal moments have been specified. In particular, the presidents spoke for exclusively peaceful settlement of existing conflicts, strengthening multi-faceted disarmament mechanisms and non-proliferation and control over weapons. They view as inadmissible attempts to use political and economic pressure — including between CSTO member states. The declaration also states that only equal and respectful dialogue can promote the settlement of disagreements.
The next CSTO Summit is to be held later this year, focusing on how to improve and activate military interaction.
An informal session of the CIS Council of Heads of State began in the evening and, after the CSTO format, presidents had their own agendas to follow. Mr. Lukashenko met the Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, enjoying a warm conversation. He noted Russia’s great role in promoting integration during Mr. Medvedev’s presidency. “Thanks to the Russian Federation, for the past four years, we’ve achieved the highest results regarding integration. Your determination and willingness to take risks has resolved issues, leading to today’s post-Soviet space. We have advanced in our integration regarding the CSTO, EurAsEC, the Customs Union and the SES. Even our enemies take this into account, which is worth a lot. It’s to your great merit that Russia has been able to take these steps. Others besides myself speak of it,” asserted Mr. Lukashenko.
The President of Belarus congratulated Mr. Medvedev on his appointment as Head of the Government, wishing him success on behalf of the Belarusian nation. “I hope that we’ll always constructively co-operate and that our meetings will be fruitful,” he added.
Mr. Medvedev responded, “I’m confident in this. I’m sure we’ll have many good reasons to continue our communication — at a personal level and to strengthen relations between Belarus and Russia, to the benefit of our two peoples, seeing the integration in which we’ve been involved in recent years yield benefits for our countries and peoples.”
During the CIS Summit, the conversation continued regarding integration in a multi-faceted format. The CIS Summit has continued as a forum for heads of most of the former Soviet republics to meet, supported by the persistent and purposeful position of Belarus. It allows heads of state to discuss topics in a freer format than is usual.
Within the CIS, joint work is seen in a range of industries, proving the value of integration. Several Belarusian initiatives are among them, including the CIS Economic Development Strategy, Joint Measures Aiming to Enhance Food Security, the Convention on Trans-border Co-operation and Joint Measures to Overcome the Consequences of the World Financial and Economic Crisis. These substantial documents form a fully-fledged road map to solve the above-mentioned problems.
Joint work continues and, in recent times, integration has gained momentum; we all await the results eagerly.