The flags of the CIS (left), Ukraine (right), 'CIS associate member' Turkmenistan (third from the right), and nine CIS member countries. Photo: sputniknews.kz
Last week, the current president of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky signed a decree ending Kyiv’s participation in two CIS humanitarian cooperation efforts, a useful occasion for surveying how Ukraine has treated its ties with the Russian-led grouping earlier and how it is exiting them now.
In his critical commentary, Russian observer Fyodor Koloskov says that most people think Ukraine began to leave the grouping of post-Soviet states only after 2014, but that is not in fact the case.
Although it was nominally one of the creators of the CIS, Ukraine maintained a cautious approach to it from the beginning, as it was the only member state which signed the constituent documents but never ratified them. As a result, Kyiv participated when it suited it and didn’t when it didn’t from the very beginning.
That conflict led to the Maidan in 2013-2014 and to the turmoil which resulted in Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its involvement in the Donbas. After those events, Kyiv suspended its cooperation with the CIS although did not formally indicate it would withdraw until four years later and even now hasn’t denounced all agreements.
Instead, it has pursued a cafeteria approach, getting rid of or ignoring what it doesn’t like but still making use of what it finds convenient, Kolosov says. In part, that is because Ukrainian diplomats have been able to convince the Ukrainian leadership and parliament that Kyiv benefits from some cooperation even if it suspends other parts of it [unfortunately, the Russian commenter didn’t provide any examples of the cooperation he believes exists, – Ed.].
But there is no doubt, the Russian analyst says, that this slow-motion divorce will continue, although he does not acknowledge what that means for Moscow.
The Commonwealth of Independent States – a Russia-dominated regional intergovernmental organization – has nine member states. Besides the Russian Federation, the alliance includes eight more post-Soviet countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova. Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Georgia withdrew from the CIS amid the Russian invasion in August 2008.
One of the CIS “founding states,” Ukraine has never been its member since the country never ratified the signed CIS membership documents. With the beginning of the Russian aggression in Ukraine in 2014, Kyiv ceased to participate in CIS, and in 2018 withdrew representatives from all CIS statutory bodies. Following the victory of TV comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the 2019 Ukrainian presidential elections, the CIS Executive Committee invited him and then foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko to the upcoming CIS summit, yet in vain.
Another “CIS founding state” that has never been a member is Turkmenistan which became an “associate state” in 2005.
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