On October 11, 2019, a meeting of the CIS Heads of State Council was held in Ashgabat (Turkmenistan). Russian President Vladimir Putin was among the leaders of the CIS countries in attendance, who summed up the results of economic, social, and trade-related interaction within the Commonwealth, and discussed foreign policy and security. Control over the situation in the post-Soviet space is of particular importance for Russia, writes Stanislav Chernyavsky, director of the Centre for Post-Soviet Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
The role of the CIS in the Eurasian integration processes
The modern world has entered an era of tensions and uncertainty; the architecture of international relations has been shaken due to a crisis of confidence, and the turbulence of the world economy has led to the outflow of capital from developing countries. Against this background, approaches to regional integration are changing, which has tested the strength of many supranational groups, including the CIS. Given the amorphous nature of the CIS and the shortcomings of its institutional development, it is necessary to optimise its activities and adapt to new realities by concentrating its efforts on problem-solving; doing so will strengthen centripetal trends.
The development of the post-Soviet space in recent years has been influenced by conflicting factors. On the one hand, Russia’s competition with external forces is growing, and on the other hand, a “window of opportunity and interaction” with China, India, Iran and other countries is opening up, which is especially important in the context of US and Western-imposed multi-lateral sanctions. Control over the situation in the post-Soviet space is of particular importance for Russia. Given the fact that “nature abhors a vacuum”, Russia needs to strengthen its role as a leading player, which will contribute to the consolidation of as many states as possible around Moscow. For this purpose, the Commonwealth should be utilised more actively as an influential regional organisation, a forum for multilateral political dialogue, as well as a mechanism for multifaceted cooperation in the field of economics, humanitarian interaction, and addressing common threats, both traditional and new.
In the field of economic cooperation, it is important to maintain the CIS as an intermediate zone of multilateral economic interactions between the core of EAEU and its external contour, primarily the European Union. Moreover, Russia still acts as a natural reference point for the development of trade and economic ties and production chains, as well as the capacity increase of the production and consumer markets.
Declaration on strategic economic cooperation among the CIS countries
The issue of the feasibility of adopting such a document was discussed at the initiative of Turkmenistan at the CIS Council of Heads of Government in Ashgabat on May 31, 2019. The proposed document provided for the creation of effective partnership mechanisms to improve the development of economic ties both within the CIS and in cooperation with other states and international organisations.
On October 11, the CIS Heads of State Council ratified and adopted the Declaration on Strategic Economic Cooperation of the CIS Countries.
The document defines the strategic objectives of the development of economic cooperation among the CIS countries. In particular, it deals with ensuring and strengthening financial stability within the Commonwealth, combating corruption, achieving maximum effectiveness in solving the problems posed by globalisation, and ensuring a platform for effective dialogue at all levels. In addition, special attention is paid to enhancing the participation of the Commonwealth in world economic processes, creating effective mechanisms and favourable conditions for partnerships, and increasing the competitiveness of the CIS member states. The necessity of integration into the world transport system, combining geographical and infrastructural capabilities as well as the technical, technological and transit potential of the CIS countries is also emphasised.
According to the signatories of the Declaration, the achievement of the goals set therein will make it possible to realise more fully the socio-economic potential of the Commonwealth countries, increase their competitiveness, and contribute to the improvement of the well-being of the citizens of member countries.
Russia-Turkmenistan: Promising areas of cooperation
Mutual “gas-related interests” inevitably come first on the agenda of bilateral negotiations, since Russia cannot but pay attention to Turkmenistan’s role as an important producer of hydrocarbons.
Russia and Turkmenistan are also interested in ensuring national security, especially given the continuing tension in Afghanistan and the anticipated return of Islamic militants from Syria. Obviously, more active bilateral cooperation between the countries’ respective security agencies will be required, including the training and arming of personnel, as well as the expansion of the practice of pro-actively exchanging information on possible challenges and threats. One major focus of the negotiations was the issue of ensuring the security of information at the international level.
A key factor in ensuring sustainable growth and strengthening cooperation between Russia and Turkmenistan is transport interconnectedness, especially after the signing of the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea on August 12, 2018 by the leaders of Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, which significantly expands the possibilities of commercial and industrial activity in this region. Russia is ready to assist in the comprehensive modernisation of Caspian maritime communications, as well as rail and road infrastructure.
Finally, equally promising themes included cooperation in the digital economy, the introduction of information and communication technology and electronic commerce, as well as the digitalisation of foreign trade operations, cargo transportation and logistics.