The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit wrapped up on Friday, where heads of state from former Soviet republics met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan to discuss ways to expand economic and security ties throughout the region.
Most of the CIS member countries were represented by either their head of state or government, with the exception of Turkmenistan. President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedow could not join due to his schedule in New York City for the 73rd meeting of the UN General Assembly.
The one-day summit resulted in the signing of a five-year plan, the Interstate Program of Joint Measures to Combat Crime, which will cover 2019-2023.
Yerzhan Saltybayev, who heads the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Foundation of the First Kazakhstani President, says there are many reasons for holding the summit, mentioning geopolitical and military issues as well as how sanctions will affect the CIS countries’ economies.
“Sure, the presidents can also talk on the phone, but still, at such meetings, the heads of states can focus meet all questions tête-à-tête,” Saltybayev said, according to reports by Kazinform.
The organization was founded by Belarus, Russia and Ukraine in 1991 upon the dissolution of the USSR, and today has nine members and an associate member (Turkmenistan). With a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of about $1.58 trillion, the CIS countries, as an economic bloc, are on par with the economies of the Eastern Europe, whose GDP amounts to $1.2 trillion.
CIS unites almost all former Soviet Republics with the exception of the Baltic states, as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have opted to not join the bloc. Georgia and Ukraine withdrew from CIS in 2008 and 2018, respectively.
Although some say the organization is a civilized way of separating the post-Soviet countries, others believe the grouping is still relevant.
"Since the creation of the CIS, 27 years have passed, and this format is still working. So, it is in demand, and if it is in demand, it means that the participating states benefit from it," Saltybayev said.
Throughout its nearly three decades of existence, CIS has launched initiatives relating to economics as well as regional security, in the format known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
In 2008, CIS heads approved an economic development strategy for the following 12 years, which led to a Free Trade Area Treaty being signed in order to revive economic ties between countries that had once been part of the same union, the USSR.
CSTO currently includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia and Belarus. The military bloc operates under a similar premise to that of NATO: An attack on one member state is considered an attack on all others, and each is obliged to support their fellow members. Member states conduct joint exercises and operations, including anti-terrorist and operational strategic exercises.
The next CIS summit will be held on October 11, 2019 in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.