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07 June 2023, 14:00

What does Lukashenko warn CIS about?

Aleksandr Lukashenko during a meeting with the participants of the 52nd meeting of the CIS Council of Heads of Security Agencies and Special Services in Minsk, June 2023
Aleksandr Lukashenko during a meeting with the participants of the 52nd meeting of the CIS Council of Heads of Security Agencies and Special Services in Minsk, June 2023

For more than three decades, the Commonwealth of Independent States has gone through a difficult path of evolution and today it is the largest association of former Soviet Union republics. But what's going on around it? Don't you have a feeling that the more united our countries are becoming, the more zealously the West is trying to disrupt any integration processes and pull us from each other? Though... Was it ever otherwise?

In previous years, our opponents skillfully used any contradictions arising in the CIS, creating points of tensions and thereby sowing discord in the CIS. In this episode, we will discuss who is still trying to destroy the CIS? What does the Belarusian president warn the CIS countries about? What threats are our countries going to face, or rather, are already facing? Is there an alternative to the CIS? Aleksandr Lukashenko gave a clear answer to this question.

When was the CIS set up

Let's rewind back to the 1990s. On 8 December 1991, the leaders of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement to set up the Commonwealth of Independent States. This document is better known as the Belovezha Accords, in which the founding countries of the Soviet Union declared that the USSR "as a subject of international law and geopolitical reality ceases to exist". This historical event still causes a lot of controversy and interpretations. But the fact remains: 8 December 1991 was the date of the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Two weeks later, in Almaty, the heads of the former Soviet Union republics, with the exception of the Baltic states and Georgia, signed a protocol to this agreement and thus became full members of the CIS. Later, in December 1993, Georgia joined the CIS. It is noteworthy that Ukraine did not sign the CIS Charter then and thus did not become its member. Nevertheless, it was a member of the CIS, being its founder.

“There are different opinions about the disintegration of the Soviet Union or, to be more specific, its forced collapse. All of you are aware of my negative attitude to those events. However, the decision to establish such an integration ‘dome' sheltering former Soviet republics from chaos and economic collapse was probably the right one. Over three decades the CIS has gone through a difficult path of evolution and has become a universally respected regional organization,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said at one of the CIS summitsю

Why did Georgia and Ukraine withdraw from the CIS

Gradually, the role of the CIS in the region increased. Apparently, that was noticed by the West. Simultaneously, contradictions began to arise between Russia, Georgia and Ukraine. The West, on its part, did not want to remain just an outside observer. It had a chance to drive a wedge in the integration processes in the post-Soviet space. After all, the almost simultaneous decision of Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO could hardly be called a coincidence. In early 2008, the two countries approached the Alliance with an accession request.

This could not lead to anything good. After the war in South Ossetia, Georgia severed diplomatic ties with Russia and withdrew from the CIS. It is interesting how NATO commented on the conflict back then: “The North Atlantic Alliance does not have a mandate to be directly involved in developments in the Caucasus”. Such a statement came as no surprise. NATO was not a direct participant in the conflict, but someone successfully pulled the strings and skillfully exploited vulnerabilities.

You also remember how the developments in Ukraine unfolded. In 2018 the country completed its withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Independent States. Although it remains a member of the CIS Free Trade Area.

“One should keep in mind that it is the United States that has a long-standing expertise in geopolitics, and not Kiev. In this regard, we view the Ukrainian, Moldovan and Georgian political circles as puppets. The collective West, led by Washington, sets the tone, first of all, for Ukraine and now Moldova,” political scientist Aleksandr Shpakovsky saidю

Aleksandr Shpakovsky
Aleksandr Shpakovsky

Therefore, all processes associated with the fragmentation of the CIS space have both internal causes and man-made external ones, he stressed.

Speaking about the ongoing developments in Ukraine at the meeting with heads of security services of the CIS states, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that this war was not started by Russia. “I absolutely agree with President Putin who says that we didn't start this war. It didn't start in 2014. It started long before 2014. It started with that Nazi-like coup. We saw where they were taking Ukraine. We saw who was in the forefront. The leadership of Ukraine had many options to maintain peace throughout Ukraine. But neither former presidents Yanukovich, Poroshenko, nor the incumbent president Zelensky used these options. Why didn't they? Did they really want a war? They didn't. They were just pushed to it by those who exploited their vulnerabilities,” the president said.

What is happening around the CIS

Belarus believes that the goals of Western ‘strategists' are ambitious - to divide the Eurasian space into sectors of influence and use the countries as raw materials and industrial appendages. Therefore, Aleksandr Lukashenko calls to be ready for all kinds of provocations along the entire perimeter of the CIS, everyone will put to the test. Unfortunately, there are many inter-ethnic and territorial disputes in the post-Soviet space that the Soviet Union could not or did not have time to resolve. Today external players are pulling out all the stops to turn every, even the most insignificant dispute into a heated confrontation. The events in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan are a case in point.

“The military and political situation around the CIS is aggravating and will continue to escalate. We need to understand that the big players are trying to pull us, Russia, Belarus, the Central Asian states, apart, using carrots and sticks. We must not allow this. This is my firm belief. I feel it in my gut.

After all, I have been working as president for some time now,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko during a meeting with the participants of the 52nd meeting of the CIS Council of Heads of Security Agencies and Special Services in Minsk, June 2023
Aleksandr Lukashenko during a meeting with the participants of the 52nd meeting of the CIS Council of Heads of Security Agencies and Special Services in Minsk, June 2023

According to political scientist Aleksandr Shpakovsky, the uneasy situation in Central Asia was brought about not only by drug trafficking and terrorism threats. The situation in Afghanistan remains unstable. “We see that global actors are harboring plans to drag Central Asia into geopolitical confrontation. The West is trying to force them to embrace its ideas and concepts in order to fight Russia and China, the two superpowers that are viewed by the West as its geopolitical competitors. The actions of the West often threaten to unleash a civil war in the region,” he said.

And what is happening around the CIS?NATO is building up its military presence at the CIS borders at an accelerated pace. Large military contingents, heavy equipment and combat aircraft are being transferred to Poland, the Baltic countries and Romania.

“We are working closely in all areas. The situation remains very, very difficult. We believe that it will take a turn for the worse in the future. Therefore, intelligence services of friendly nations need to develop additional joint measures to prevent emerging threats. We see them reformatting. We see military and political activities on various sections of our borders. These are terrorism, drug trafficking and other threats,” - KGB chief Ivan Tertel told reporters the other day.

What about Moldova

Moldova, which is still a CIS member, is also being pulled into the orbit of the West. The West is pushing it to start cleansing Transnistria and Gagauzia. A meeting of the European Political Community was held near Chisinau in June. The European Political Community is envisaged as an intergovernmental forum to have political and strategic discussions about the future of Europe.

Apparently, it was an all-important summit as about 50 heads of state, prime ministers and senior EU officials and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky graced it with their presence. Or maybe they were attracted by the venue of the summit - the famous winery in Mimi Castle. In general, Moldova hosted a meeting of such a scale for the first time. Before that Chisinau had only hosted the CIS summits in 2002 and 2009. However, as Moldovan President Maia Sandu said, there will be no more CIS forums in the country.

“The United States and the UK are actively working to disunite the CIS countries. The intelligence community and diplomatic missions are working with the political and economic elites of the CIS states. Such is the situation today. We see everything. Under the threat of additional sanctions or the promise of preferences, they are trying to drive a wedge between our countries and impose favorable formats of cooperation in defense and security to the players outside the region. More frequent visits of top officials of defense and security agencies of the NATO bloc to the CIS states prove this point. The United States and the UK are doing their best to influence the political leadership [of the CIS states], to affect the situation in our ranks,” Director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia Alexander Bortnikov said.

Is there an alternative to the CIS?

Is there an alternative to the CIS? Of course, there is. Every state has the right to make its own sovereign choice.

But take a look at Georgia and Ukraine. Are they better off without the CIS? What about Moldova? Due to the short-sighted decisions of its politicians, the country's economy is declining. In 2022, the inflation rate in the country exceeded 30%. Gas tariffs rose almost seven times, and electricity became three times as expensive. The question is who is better off now?

“No pragmatic national interests can explain the position of official Chisinau. Economically, Moldova is closely connected to the CIS. The same is true about the security line. The coordination of special services was beneficial for all the CIS members. There are a lot of agreements on the social sector, pension provision and so on. We understand that the decisions of Chisinau are largely dictated by the will of the collective West, which continues to take measures to disunite certain states from Russia in the first place. The aggressive expansion of NATO and the collective West continues. This can be used to characterize the situation in the CIS,” Aleksandr Shpakovsky said.

Uzbekistan can be cited as an opposite example. With Shavkat Mirziyoyev coming to power, Tashkent began to pay special attention to its CIS partners. This has had its effect: its export to the CIS has soared by several billion US dollars over the years.

Aleksandr Lukashenko during a meeting with the participants of the 52nd meeting of the CIS Council of Heads of Security Agencies and Special Services in Minsk, June 2023
Aleksandr Lukashenko during a meeting with the participants of the 52nd meeting of the CIS Council of Heads of Security Agencies and Special Services in Minsk, June 2023

“No one needs us, except for other countries that emerged on the post-Soviet space after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, we speak the same language, we have a common economy, we have common markets, we cooperate in the manufacturing industry, and so on. It took generations to achieve it. So why destroy it? Why ruin this common market? No one is welcome on other markets. Why ruin it today? At least, do not take hasty decisions. I have always told Poroshenko, Yanukovich, Saakashvili not to rush out of the CIS. It will be more difficult to return, though they will have to. Economy will be one of the reasons,” the Belarusian president said.

What conclusions can we draw? Belarus has always been a staunch advocate of the CIS as a full-fledged international organization aimed at developing regional integration. Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced that by joint efforts the CIS countries will be able to resist aggressive attacks and cope with all threats. “Today we are able to do this, and we need to keep it up,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

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