The Commonwealth of Independent States, dismissed as no more than a post-Soviet fantasy six months ago, will display real vigor on Friday when at least nine of the 15 former Soviet republics are expected to meet in the Russian capital to sign a far-reaching economic accord.
The agreement calls for the establishment of inter-republic free trade; a unified customs policy; a common market for goods, services, capital and labor, and monetary union.
The new Azerbaijani leader, Geidar Aliyev, who urgently wants his war-torn nation to join the CIS, is expected to attend. Ukraine and Turkmenistan are still discussing whether the proposed economic union goes too far toward reducing their sovereignty. Count the fiercely independent Baltic states out. They hope for eventual economic integration with Europe.