Recently, the Speaker of Moldova’s Parliament Igor Grosu, answering the question of the moderator in a national TV program, made a resonant statement, saying that when the war in Ukraine ends, the Moldovan authorities will need to consider whether the Republic of Moldova should remain part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) or not. As it was expected, the statement of the high-ranking politician caused an equivocal reaction in Moldovan society, contributing again to a profound split of Moldovan society as regards the choice of the country’s civilizational development model. The well-known Moldovan secret consists in the existence of distinct dualism in our society as to the value orientation of the Moldovan citizens in determining their personal future and the future of their children and that in a simplified form amounts to the answer of the question: shall we form part of the Western civilization, which is together with Romania, or shall we be alongside Russia, which is in Eurasia?
CIS created under “inebriation” and initially baptized differently?
The CIS was founded by the heads of the Soviet republics of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine by signing on December 7-8, 1991, at the Soviet state residency in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, the Agreement on the creation of the Union of States of Slavs, which was later renamed the Agreement on the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (known as the Belovezhskaya Agreement). The incipient confusion about the name of the interstate organization at the constitution stage, which claimed to be replacing the USSR that fell suddenly, revealed the absence in the founding fathers, who consumed an appreciable quantity of alcohol when signing the treaty, of a well-thought-out concept for organizing the post-Soviet space. Later, President Putin disclosed the mystery about the appearance of the CIS, saying the Commonwealth was created for the “civilized divorce” of the post-Soviet states and is “a political fib and prattle”.
Initially, the main reason that laid at the basis of the creation of the CIS was a banal struggle for power of the leaders of the three Slavic Soviet republics who, for personal political reasons, buried the Soviet Union without hesitation. Concomitantly, the appearance of the CIS was justified by the necessity of attenuating the feeling of frustration of the Soviet philistine who was astounded by the collapse of the colossal USSR. For the reason to be more justified, it was necessary to gather together more former Soviet republics into an organization that was intended to be a substitute. The new leaders of the young post-Soviet states, most of who came from the nomenclature of republican parties, swiftly realized that the CIS, as an interstate organization that brought together the old knowledge of the Communist nomenclature, could significantly strengthen their personal power in the republics. Consequently, in December 1991 already, the heads of 11 former Soviet republics: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Georgia were absent) on December 21, 1991 signed the Alma-Ata Declaration that marked the creation of the CIS. In a period, Georgia joined the CIS, but later withdrew from this together with Ukraine.
Principle 2.5 on attitude to CIS
This way, after the collapse of the USSR, the post-Soviet space was organized according to Principle 2.5. The first group of new independent states consisted mostly of former Soviet republics that became part of the CIS, recognizing this way the main role of Russia in this organization and, implicitly, all over the post-Soviet space. The second group comprised the Baltic republics that categorically refused to have any close political ties with the former metropolis, going towards the creation of a European national state. Georgia and Ukraine chose half of the road and in time switched over from flirtation with the CIS to the abandonment of this organization and to exposed opposition to Russia’s open dictatorship in the post-Soviet space.
It is too early to venture to draw final conclusions about the influence of the CIS on the post-Soviet space, but some of the lessons can be already learned. The CIS space is generally a refuge for the countries with depressed economies, which lag behind technologically, with political regimes that are mostly authoritarian and oligarchic, with military-political security systems that are extremely vulnerable in front of the military threats of Moscow. In the CIS, the free trade agreements signed by the common accord of all the members, including Russia, are not respected. This makes this international organization less functional from economic viewpoint. At the same time, the affiliation to the CIS amidst the categorical political and military domination of Russia in this organization directly associates the CIS with the so-called Russian world and, consequently, offers pretexts for the Russian military aggression in this area for the invented demagogical reason of protecting the rights of Russian speakers.
Inconsistence played a trick on them?
As regards the Baltic states’ decisive refusal to take part in the CIS, this policy contributed to their radical separation from the colonial past, significantly stimulated efficient multilateral reforms in these societies and, in the last instance, influenced their entry into the EU and a considerable improvement of the level and quality of life of their citizens. At the same time, the NATO membership of these former Soviet republics made them invulnerable to the danger of a military aggression on the part of revanchist Russia, ending the century-old curse of a Russian invasion in these countries.
Ukraine’s and Georgia’s half-hearted policy towards the affiliation to the CIS that was inconsistent in time objectively gave Moscow the illusion that these countries are not lost for good for being incorporated into the Russian world and that Russia can try and maintain them by military force in its sphere of geopolitical influence. For the purpose, Russia resorted to military aggression against Georgia in 2008 and against Ukraine in 2022.
About affiliation to CIS, after war
For the Republic of Moldova, the affiliation to the CIS in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian war for now has no critical urgency value. By the refusal to borrow the example of the Baltic states, we missed the chance to decisively and irrevocably distance ourselves from the Russian world in the most favorable time, immediately after the fall of the USSR. At the moment, the absolute objective of the Moldovan political class is to avoid the extension of the war in Ukraine into the Republic of Moldova. As regards the Republic of Moldova’s affiliation to the CIS, the intention of the republic’s administration to start a broad discussion in society on the reasons for our presence in this organization is fully justified. The arguments against the Republic of Moldova’s presence in the CIS are so convincing and striking that their broad discussing in society will become a strong catalyst for public opinion about the uselessness and even noxiousness of the affiliation to this organization for our country.
It is highly probable that the end of the war in Ukraine will mark the start of the practical withdrawal of the Republic of Moldova from the CIS. This will be an important step towards the symbolical and de facto separation from the Russian world. The war in Ukraine showed to the whole world the hideous face of the Russian imperialism. The number of those who accept to travel in history by the Russian ship, whose command team fatally steers this towards the final point of destination – the trash heap of history - has decreased dramatically. The Republic of Moldova has nothing to do with this prospect as its natural place is back home into the Romanian world, which is implicitly in the European world.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.