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Over the decade and a half of its existence regular summits have been convened at which the leaders of the CIS member states have sought to overcome numerous disagreements between the former Soviet republics. Presidents and premiers of the CIS member states have signed hundreds of agreements and treaties on deepening the integration.

President Putin holding talks with the leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenka. Photo: kremlin.ru

The CISs main problem, however, is that the adopted decisions are rarely implemented. Less than half of the multilateral agreements have been ratified by all of the member states. Even when the agreements are signed, the states do not always act on jointly adopted decisions. It appears that the difficulties of the post-Communist transition compel most member states to focus their attention on pressing domestic concerns.

After a decade and a half of its existence, the attitude of the leaders of the former Soviet republics to the CIS remains ambivalent. On the one hand, they are aware of the need to settle vital issues of political, economic, and military cooperation. On the other hand, they are reluctant to make serious political commitments to the CIS, regarding them as a diminution of national sovereignty. They are afraid that their CIS obligations may be construed as turning over power to the huge Russian state and thus furthering Russias imperial policy. A postimperial syndrome seems to paralyze the CIS collaboration.

This is one of the reasons why over the recent decade the CIS has developed into a multilayered collaborative structure. Bilateral relations and agreements between its member-states appear to be more effective and workable than multilateral treaties. For example, Russia and Belarus have been making steady progress toward reestablishing a close union of the two nations with common citizenship, coordinated security and economic policies, and a single currency. By contrast, multilateral accords, such as the accord between Georgia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova (GUAM), appear to be less effective.

The CIS member states seem to favor a system whereby the integration of the former Soviet republics can proceed at different speeds. In practice, however, this combination of bilateral and multilateral agreements creates confusion and has not proved successful in harmonizing the interests of the once brotherly peoples.

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