Some 400 kilometres south east of the NATO summit in Riga, the Commonwealth of Independent States has been holding its own meeting in Minsk. Set up in 1991, the CIS is made up of 12 former Soviet states. Behind the handshakes, observers were predicting a frosty meeting as leaders looked to set out their stalls on several problem issues.
As well as having trade disputes with Russia, Moldova and Ukraine have expressed an interest in joining NATO; so has Georgia, which nearly did not attend the summit after a recent spying row with Moscow. Even some of the pro-Russian states have raised doubts over the group’s cooperation. Hosts Belarus have concerns over the price it pays for Russian natural gas.
Energy is a highly contentious issue after Russian gas monopoly Gazprom’s request that Belarus gives Russia control of its pipeline network or face higher prices. Gazprom has even made it clear it could shut off supplies to Belarus if no deal is made. When it cut off gas to Ukraine earlier this year, supplies to Western Europe were disrupted.