UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER OPPOSES 'POLITICIZING' CIS... Borys Tarasyuk told a news conference in Kyiv on 13 May that Ukraine opposes "the transformation of the CIS into a suprastate structure," ITAR-TASS reported. "If the process of reorganizing the CIS takes on a politicized character..., the commonwealth will be doomed," the minister commented. He also stressed that Russia "has been, is, and will remain a priority in Ukraine's foreign policy." In Tarasyuk's opinion, Ukraine has managed to create a "belt of goodneighborliness and stability" with its neighbors and is now going to take a "more pragmatic course" toward seeking new markets. JM
...STRESSES CLOSE COOPERATION WITH NATO, EU. The foreign minister also announced that Ukraine will seek close cooperation with NATO. In his opinion, the Ukrainian Constitution does not rule out joining the alliance but "certain conditions should emerge" toward this step. The foreign minister expressed the hope that Ukraine will be able to sign an agreement on associated membership in the EU this year. According to Tarasyuk, Ukraine's relations with the EU are "constructive." JM
CHORNOBYL REACTOR TO BE OPERATIONAL SOON. Operators at the Chornobyl nuclear plant have begun restarting the plant's only functioning reactor, Reuters reported on 13 May. The reactor was switched off last year for nine months to repair more than 300 cracks in its cooling system pipes. The plant's chief engineer told the news agency that the reactor currently has no defects and will be brought to its full operational capacity by 18 May. JM
Many post-Soviet states are now confronting a problem that some of their leaders thought they could put off dealing with or even avoid: how to transfer power from one generation to another in a way that does not compromise stability, independence, and national aspirations.
Both the problem and the different ways national leaders are addressing it have been thrown into relief by two recent events: Russian President Boris Yeltsin's renewal of his government last month and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's 75th birthday celebrations on 10 May.
In the Russian Federation, Yeltsin sacked his longtime prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, a man of his own generation and hence of longtime Soviet experience. In his place, Yeltsin installed Sergei Kirienko, someone a generation younger who came of age in the post-Soviet world. And the Russian president has advanced the careers of a number of other young reformers.
Many in Russia and abroad have greeted this move. Not only does it suggest that Yeltsin is prepared to push further and faster on reform than Chernomyrdin was doing, but it also allows a new group of officials to gain the kinds of experience that will make them credible as candidates for more senior positions, including eventually the one that Yeltsin now occupies.
But others in both places have been more skeptical. On the one hand, Yeltsin is likely to have far more influence over Kirienko than he sometimes had over Chernomyrdin. And because Yeltsin has proved so changeable over time, his influence may push Kirienko's government in very different directions than some now hope and others fear.
And on the other, the sacking of Chernomyrdin may have cleared the way for Yeltsin to run for yet another term as president if his health holds up. While in office, Chernomyrdin had gained the kind of experience that made him plausible as a successor to Yeltsin. Kirienko does not yet have that experience and consequently does not appear a likely candidate.
There thus appear to be two possibilities: either Yeltsin runs again, despite an apparent constitutional prohibition against a third term, or the candidates for that office will likely have little or no experience in the postSoviet Russian central government, a situation that could adversely affect future developments there.
In Azerbaijan, by contrast, Aliev has not yet begun this process of renewing elites, even though it is quite obvious that the issue of transferring power to a younger group of leaders while maintaining the stability and independence of his country is now very much on his mind.
But because of his age, Aliev's failure to push this process further could call into question the very achievements he is most interested in guaranteeing: removing Russian troops from his country, attracting sizable Western investment, and helping build the economic and political bridge between Central Asia, Georgia, Ukraine, and the West.
Indeed, even as leaders from around the region and the world greeted him on his 75th birthday, Aliev appeared particularly unwilling to explore ways in which he could renew his own regime and guarantee that his achievements will survive their creator.
Last month, Aliev proposed new legislation to regulate the October presidential elections. Because of its restrictive provisions which appear to give the incumbent unfair advantages, five leading members of the opposition issued a joint declaration that they would refuse to run if the law were adopted.
Even more problematic than this declaration of the five, Azerbaijani police dispersed a demonstration of some 400 people protesting the legislation in Baku late last week and arrested more than 100. Among those taking part and possibly among the arrested were former government officials and opposition activists.
The lack of any bridge between Aliev and these people or of a means of including at least some of the social forces they represent in the government suggests that the transition after Aliev could be a very rocky one.
Despite the steps he has taken, Yeltsin has not yet solved this problem. Indeed, if he uses Kirienko's lack of experience to keep himself in office, Yeltsin may make matters worse. But Aliev's approach until now is a reminder that failing to address the problem head on is not a solution but rather a guarantee that the problem itself will become even more pressing.