Russia won’t yield its position in the CIS to anyone

Agency WPS
What the Papers Say. Part B (Russia)
March 17, 2004, Wednesday


SOURCE: Vremya Novostei, March 17, 2004, p. 5

by Katerina Labetskaya

The United States, NATO, and the EU are expanding their activities in
the CIS, which is more often called post-Soviet territory. Is this
contrary to Russia’s interests? We discussed this issue with Senior
Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov, presidential envoy to
the CIS with the status of federal minister.

Vyacheslav Trubnikov: The CIS is the natural and traditional area of
Russia’s interests. Russia itself is an area of interest for its CIS
partners. The course aimed at development of neighborly relations
with the CIS is the priority in our foreign policy. However, under
conditions of the quickly developing globalization process no state
or a regional union can stay isolated. We have no intention to
indicate to our CIS partners how and with what states they should
build their relations. However, we are based on the fact that our
partners, for instance in the CIS Common Security Treaty Organization
(CSTO), won’t break the allied commitments (the CSTO was founded on
September 18, 2003. It consists of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. – ed. note).

Question: Aren’t you concerned about NATO penetration into the CIS?

Vyacheslav Trubnikov: Together with our CIS partners, we are ready to
deepen our cooperation with NATO, primarily in adjusting its
cooperation with the CSTO. This is an urgent issue, especially since
NATO is involved in Afghanistan operations. The combination of
abilities of these two military-political alliances will profit to
both its members and the entire world community. Resistance would
mean reviving the Cold War. We are not seeking that and expect NATO
to act likewise. However, we don’t welcome expansion of the Alliance
and its proximity to Russia’s borders, for one reason: NATO ought to
be transformed from a military bloc into a political organization.
Contradictory processes are now developing inside NATO: it still has
forces which think in the categories of the Cold War.

We have a policy of constructive relations with the United States and
NATO. At times, our partners deviate from this line, saying that
ratification of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty
is impossible unless Russian military bases are withdrawn from
Georgia. We assess any attempts of reproaching us with “a failure to
execute Istanbul commitments” as strained plea for protraction of
ratifying the agreement on adaptation of the CFE Treaty. Russia has
fully fulfilled all commitments on withdrawal of arms and military
equipment, which are restricted by the treaty, from Georgia and
Moldova ahead of time. We have made a considerable advancement in the
settlement of problems which have nothing to do with the CFE Treaty –
liquidation of Russian military bases in Georgia and withdrawal of
military property from Transnistria. There are no juridical obstacles
hampering the process of ratifying the agreement on adaptation of the
CFE Treaty. We urge our partners to join it without artificial

Question: Does it mean that our bases in Georgia are a subject for
discussion between Moscow and Tbilisi alone?

Vyacheslav Trubnikov: We need to determine the timeframe and the
format of our presence there. So far, we don’t nee a third party in
this issue. We assume that the constructive approach announced by the
new Georgian leaders will help us resume the bilateral negotiation
process. We haven’t met to discuss the problem of withdrawal of our
bases for a long.

Question: Will withdrawal of our bases from Georgia actually take 11

Vyacheslav Trubnikov: We started dancing from this in the talks.
However, as our economic and financial positions strengthen we may
reduce this timing at the expense of our efforts. Our military men
are to determine the limit.

Question: NATO hopes to enhance cooperation with Russia in
Afghanistan. Will Russia return there after a 15-year break?

Vyacheslav Trubnikov: We don’t have any such plans. Assistance is
possible in critical situations, but not a military presence.

Question: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is described as
another conflict of interests between the West and Russia.

Vyacheslav Trubnikov: We don’t have a clash here. The organization’s
targets are aimed at stability in the region and security of its six
member states (Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and
Uzbekistan. – ed. note). There are broad prospects for the SCO’s
cooperation with the US in combating terrorism and drug-trafficking.
The SCO has no intention to fence itself off from NATO. We hope this
vision of the SCO’s essence will prevail around the world and end the
false rumors.

Question: Does the West’s heightened attention towards conflicts
inside the CIS evidence its contradictions with Russia?

Vyacheslav Trubnikov: Conflicts occur worldwide. Settlement of
conflicts inside the CIS cannot imply any improper cooperation with
the US or the EU. Russia has never declined the widest international
cooperation, assigning the peacekeeping forces stationed in zones of
conflicts inside the CIS the international and regional status, with
involvement of the CIS, the UN, the OSCE. However, attempts of
settlement through “constraining to peace” make a serious delusion.
They are forcing the conflicts inside. We object to the thoughtless,
hasty breaking of the formats of settlement which have been formed.

Question: Do you agree with political consultants who propose that
Russia, as a regional power, should re-orient itself exclusively
towards the post-Soviet area?

Vyacheslav Trubnikov: I disagree. Due to its historical and
geopolitical significance Russia cannot be confined within the
regional framework, although it is as vast as the CIS. I’m certain
our country will take a proper position by becoming a pole in the
multi-polar world order. We already have formal signs for that:
affiliation with the nuclear club, permanent membership in the UN
Security Council. Undoubtedly, Russia’s economic mightiness will
determine its role of a great power. Slowly but surely we are
increasing our economic potential. This is the Euro-Asian Economic
Community within the framework of the CIS, the common economic area.
Russia has been the driving force for integration processes across
post-Soviet territory, which is a very difficult and responsible
occupation. Those who are afraid of this burden like the thesis that
our CIS partners demand much from Russia, but give little in return –
therefore, we must supposedly part company. If we did that, our niche
would be filled immediately – this is reality. It would be a rash

Translated by Andrei Ryabochkin