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The Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS – formerly the weak successor to the defunct Soviet Union – is beginning to assert itself as “an authoritative international organization and an important factor in global stability,” according to official Russian sources.

All republics of the former Soviet Union – except for the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – are members of the CIS, with Russia as the dominant partner.

The CIS’s declaration of power in world affairs follows a newfound unity among the organization’s leaders.

“Today we all realize we just can’t live apart from each other, neither economically, nor politically and socially,” Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma proclaimed.

The statements were reported by the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.

The CIS has already affected the lives of American citizens directly. With Moscow’s permission, CIS member states in Central Asia, including Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, are providing logistical assistance to U.S. troops operating in Afghanistan.

Also, Moscow’s decisions regarding oil impact U.S. oil pumps. On Dec. 2, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko stated to a business delegation in Tokyo that Russia might cooperate with OPEC and reduce oil production. If Russia does decrease its oil exports, American consumers would feel the result in higher gas prices.

A unified, coordinated CIS would combine the vast manufacturing and natural resources of the old Soviet Union with the technological and economic advances made in the CIS since the collapse of the USSR.

The material and human resources available to a unified CIS are staggering, making the CIS an extremely powerful partner – or formidable adversary.

Kuchma described the sudden advent of political unity in terms reminiscent of a religious epiphany. Recalling that “it took the Commonwealth leaders a whole decade to finally realize this simple truth,” Kuchma declared that “either we … [suddenly] all saw the light, or maybe we’ve been given some help from the Lord.”

Some observers view Kuchma’s recognition of possible divine assistance in CIS affairs as ironic, noting that the organization’s leaders have been accused of political crimes ranging from election fraud to murder.

Kuchma himself has been implicated in corruption scandals and murder, as has the president of Belarus – and admirer of Josef Stalin – Alexander Lukashenko.

Lukashenko is also the head of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, a combination formed in December 1999.

Each of the CIS rulers governs their nations with an iron hand and effectively dominates opposition forces – even in the face of international criticism.

In December 2000, CIS leaders meeting in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, declared their support of elections in Kirgizia, Azerbaijan and Belarus, despite Western criticism of the voting process in those nations.

According to a British Broadcasting Corporation report, the CIS leaders stated that “we confirm the democratic character” of the elections in Kirgizia, Azerbaijan and Belarus, which the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as other Western observers, found to be “unfair” and “deeply flawed.”

The OSCE described Lukashenko’s September presidential re-election victory as “arbitrary,” with numerous instances of “intimidation” directed at his opponents.

Disregarding Western protests over the conduct of the election, Voice of Russia referred to Lukashenko’s “sky high” level of support and labeled him a “sure-fire winner.”

Lukashenko described his 75 percent margin of victory as “elegant and beautiful,” according to the BBC.

The Union of Russia and Belarus, which Lukashenko heads, is also likely to expand.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that the Russian government is preparing to allow other states into the Russia-Belarus Union, even if these states do not have “common borders with the Russian Federation.” The new law would allow four to five new states into the Union, with the most likely candidates being Moldova, Armenia and Kazakhstan, according to the report.

Ironically, Russia, which boasts, in the words of Russian President Vladimir Putin, of having made an “historical choice once and for all” for democracy and a free market, finds itself uniting with communist governments.

Belarus continues to follow Lukashenko’s Stalinist designs, and Moldova elected a communist government in February.

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