For the past three days, representatives from the Commonwealth of Independent States have been holding discussions in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The first two days focused on tri-lateral agreements between Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia, in which Foreign Minister Lavrov brokered fruitful discussions in following the 2020 peace agreements. The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh has become untenable as soldiers from both sides have been killed in escalating border skirmishes in the Russian-administered zone.
The Armenian Foreign Minister invited President Putin to visit the war-torn region from October to December. The Armenian-Azerbaijani Commission also announced a border delimitation meeting on 16 May, to hopefully answer critical security questions on the region. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov told press: “We talked about the situation in the South Caucasus. Our colleagues from Azerbaijan and Armenia noted Russia’s important proactive role in reaching the relevant accords in November 2020 and subsequent agreements by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan in 2021. These agreements determined trilateral cooperation to unblock economic and transport connections, prepare for the delimitation and demarcation of the borders and normalize relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov then went on to say:
“As for other decisions, we reviewed the course of foreign policy coordination. We have a three-year partnership program for our foreign ministries and annual consultation programmes. We confirmed the implementation of all planned events, enhancing our coordination at the UN, the OSCE and other international platforms.
We decided to further detail two important areas of our cooperation: notarial activities and tourism, and determined the CIS base institutions in these areas: the former will be established in the Republic of Belarus and the latter in Uzbekistan.”
However, the most interesting comments made by the Russian Foreign Minister concerned Ukraine: “We could not avoid talking about the negative consequences of the patently unacceptable actions by the West as regards Ukraine in connection with our special military operation. We described the situation in detail. In cooperation with our Belarusian, Kazakhstani and other colleagues, we condemned the unilateral actions aimed at destroying existing economic, trade, logistics and transport connections. We unanimously emphasised that it is unacceptable to adopt unilateral sanctions in circumvention of the UN Security Council.”
The Commonwealth of Independent States is Russia’s closest resemblance of a NATO-esque alliance. The CIS includes a Council of Foreign Ministers which governs military cooperation between the 9 member states since 1993. The countries commit to a meager military alliance and resource-sharing agreements compared to NATO, but they do share a common air picture through the CIS Joint Air Defense System which employs Soviet-era command and control assets throughout the former Soviet SSRs to provide indications and warnings for Russia. The Russian Federation provides more than 50% of CIS funding. The meeting of the Council of Ministers, during the imminent expansion of NATO to Sweden and Finland, is notable. The expansion of military agreements with CIS states is something to watch for as NATO expands.