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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Four-Nation Treaty Integrates Economic Bloc

The presidents of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan signed a treaty on deepened economic and cultural integration Friday, opening the way for what could become a single, reunified state.

"We must strive for maximum integration," President Boris Yeltsin told Interfax after a signing ceremony in the Kremlin. "Today the level of integration of our countries is not high enough to speak of a single state. A series of laws is still needed, the legislature must work more actively. A unified base of documents must be created, and only then could one speak of the creation of a single state," he said.

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko went further, telling Interfax, "If there is maximum integration, this is a single state, and for our peoples it would be a great boon if we reached this stage."

Lukashenko said in an interview broadcast on RTR Russian Television on Friday evening that he had discussed forming a single state in talks with Yeltsin on a separate, bilateral treaty the two will sign Tuesday. He said they had a agreed to wait two years to allow the processes of integration to "ripen" before putting the idea to the voters.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev limited themselves to saying that their nations must work toward a more integrated commonwealth.

The four-nation treaty has been criticized by Yeltsin's opponents in the presidential race as a crude, populist appeal to the widespread nostalgia for the Soviet Union that Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov has drawn on with great success.

Zyuganov himself tried to steal some of Yeltsin's thunder Friday. While he hailed the treaty, he suggested it had resulted at least partially from the State Duma's March 15 resolution condemning the dissolution of the Soviet Union, proposed by his party.

"It is very gratifying that only two weeks after the State Duma adopted its decisions on the Belovezhskaya Pushcha agreements and restored the will of the people that was expressed five years ago at the referendum, Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin] is signing important documents," Zyuganov told reporters. He promised to see the treaty to a speedy ratification in the Duma.

In the economic sphere, the treaty joins the four countries in a customs union, creates "propitious conditions" for the functioning of a common market for goods, services, investment and labor, and provides for equal rights to buy, own and use property, Nazarbayev wrote in Nezavisimaya Gazeta on Friday. It also lays the groundwork for coordinating their efforts at economic reform.

The treaty also calls for work to begin on forming transport, energy and payments unions between the four states. In the social and humanitarian spheres, Nazarbayev wrote, the signatories considered most important the provision of a simplified procedure for citizens of these countries to obtain citizenship.

The treaty did not create a military bloc, however, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said Friday. He underscored that while NATO's plans to expand into Eastern Europe cause alarm in Russia, they do not require the formation of military alliances within the CIS. It does, however, provide for enhancing collective security, normalizing military policy and including the employment of the armed services in peacekeeping operations.

Experts said Friday that hopes of a single state were unlikely to be realized. "The treaty must be viewed primarily in the context of the Russian presidential campaign, and as a political declaration important for President Yeltsin," said Nikolai Petrov, a political analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace.

"It is quite an important event, but as a real pre-condition for the reunification even of this 'quartet' of countries strikes me as very unlikely," Petrov said.