Equipped with an extremely reduced structure with a secretariat based in Minsk, the CIS was configured, more than as a real international organization, rather as a forum for cooperation through periodic conferences between heads of state or government, with the aim to coordinate the activities of the Member States in matters of foreign policy, economic and trade integration, environmental protection, etc. Not even formally could the Community be called heir and continuator of the USSR.
Only with great difficulty, moreover, the republics that had joined it found partial solutions to some of the most serious problems born from the ‘collapse’ of the Soviet system: the fate of the Red Army and the Black Sea fleet, partly claimed by the ‘ Ukraine; the partitioning of nuclear forces scattered across Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan; the subdivision among the new states of the assets of the former USSR as well as of the shares of the foreign debt; the regulation of economic, commercial and financial relations; the solution of the many inter-ethnic and national conflicts that had been dragging on for some time, as well as of the territorial disputes that had opened in the meantime, first of all for the assignment of the Crimea claimed by Russia.
Given the non-existence of the CIS as an internationally recognized entity, it was up to Russia to occupy the seat of the USSR in the UN Security Council, just as it always fell to Russia, after having obtained, but not without difficulty and only in part, the consent of the other republics in possession of nuclear warheads, the task of guaranteeing the maintenance of the commitments undertaken by the USSR in terms of disarmament.
In terms of the internal policies of the individual states, Russia saw the worsening of the social and economic crisis, due to the delay and the ways in which the policy of reforms relating to the launch of a free market and privatization had begun. Similar processes took place in the other former Soviet republics. In the Baltic countries, the economic situation worsened rapidly also due to the consequences caused by the break with Moscow on the industries of the three states, in fact dependent on Russia for oil and raw materials, and difficulties soon arose in establishing forms of collaboration real, both politically and economically, with the countries of Western and Northern Europe; all this on the one hand pushed – but with little luck – towards the search for agreements with Russia and from another caused serious political crises: thus in Lithuania the elections of October 1992 led to the defeat of the nationalist front and the victory of the former communists. In Ukraine serious social tensions followed the new economic policy initiated by the government. In Moldova, where a strong Russian minority had created an autonomous territory and opposed the first separatist and then pro-Roman tendencies of the majority, a tenuous truce was reached between the parties only when it was possible to sign an agreement between Russia, Moldova and Ukraine and Romania on the cessation of fighting and the start of negotiations. The situation in the Caucasus worsened both due to the consequences of the failure of an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan for Nagorno-Karabah, and due to the explosion in Georgia, alongside the ancient ones, of new conflicts.