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Cablegate: Russia in Denial Over Georgia's Cis Exit

VZCZCXRO5169
RR RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #2106 2301209
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181209Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4552
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MOSCOW 002106

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV GG RS

SUBJECT: RUSSIA IN DENIAL OVER GEORGIA'S CIS EXIT

REF: MOSCOW 2070

1. (SBU) Summary: While Moscow officials speculate that Georgia
under a new leadership might choose to reapply for CIS membership,
analysts take Georgia's departure from that organization as an
indication that the CIS only has "symbolic" importance, as former
Soviet Union countries increasingly determine their individual
"vectors" of development. End Summary.

-----------------------------------------
GOR hopes Georgia will return to the fold
-----------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Despite the one-year lead time Moscow had to digest
Georgia's departure from the Commonwealth of Independent States
(CIS), effective today, authorities are still in denial that
Georgia's exit is final. While Deputy Director of the Information
and Press Department of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Igor
Lyakin-Frolov told Vedomosti newspaper that Georgia as a sovereign
country had the right to make decisions about joining or leaving the
organization, another unnamed MFA official noted that Georgia
remained a signatory of over 70 multilateral treaties with the
countries of the CIS. Another MFA official even suggested to
Kommersant that a new administration in Georgia would be free to
reapply for CIS membership, and promised that such an application
"would be considered."

---------------------------------------
Experts skeptical about the CIS' future
---------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Despite the GOR's sanguinity, experts see Georgia's
withdrawal from the CIS as a sign of that organization's failure.
Carnegie Center's Alexei Malashenko said that the CIS was an
"incapable office," and that its leaders were well aware that the
CIS only had symbolic value. Analyst Chelpanova Milan stated that
the CIS was losing relevance with each passing day, while Kommersant
speculated that Ukraine will be the next country to depart the CIS.

4. (SBU) Malashenko went on to say that since Russia's war with
Georgia last year, CIS countries were intensifying their search for
other partners than Russia. Moscow State University's Alexei Vlasov
said the CIS was now undergoing a "divorce," as Soviet-era ties
loosened and countries sought to determine their own "vectors" of
development. The CIS was now just a "virtual space," possibly to be
replaced within 5-7 years by several regional "modules," variously
under Russian, Western, and possibly others' control. Vlasov could
only imagine a reintegration of the CIS if there were some uniting
economic cause; however, he saw none.

5. (SBU) Deputy Chairman of Duma Committee on CIS Affairs and
Director of the Institute of CIS countries Konstantin Zatulin turned
the tables on Georgia, arguing it had joined the CIS as a "Trojan
horse," and together with Ukraine prevented the CIS from developing
effectively. Therefore, not only was Georgia's withdrawal from the
CIS not a tragedy, but the withdrawal forestalled any discussion of
Georgia's expulsion. Zatulin added he was convinced that Ukraine
would not leave the CIS.

-------
Comment
-------

6. (SBU) Georgia's departure from the CIS and rumors that Ukraine
might soon follow suit reinforce the impression that Russia's
influence in its neighborhood is waning, as Moscow-backed regional
organizations such as the CSTO (reftel) or CIS lose members and/or
meaning.

RUBIN

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