Sovereignty and the “Near Abroad”

During the three-plus years since the collapse of the USSR and the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), “the competition to see which [of the ex-Soviet states] could become the most independent of all”’ has noticeably slowed. Centripetal forces have begun to assert themselves, and a general sentiment prevails in the post-Soviet expanse that some sort of reintegration, especially in the economies of the various new republics, is not only necessary but desirable. (The Baltic states are the exception; no one in the CIS expects they will voluntarily rejoin any sort of post-Soviet configuration.)

How such a reintegration might be achieved remains a question, for integrative efforts to date have been ineffective. The CIS has never been granted the powers necessary to enforce the many decisions and policies that various committees of the Commonwealth have adopted. As Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbaev noted in March 1994, the CIS had by that date adopted 270 documents, of which one member had ratified only 40, another 140, and yet another 150.’ By early 1995 the number of unratified documents had come to about four hundred. Efforts to overhaul or replace the CIS, such as the proposal by Nazarbaev to create a Euro-Asian Union, have found little support, especially among the larger countries, which would bear the cost of assisting the smaller and more enthusiastic states, Even the one supranational body that Russia has supported with some energy, the Interstate Economic Committee (IEC), has been slow to gel since the announcement of its inception.

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