Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 102

The GUAM summit in Kyiv on May 23 called international attention to the challenges and threats posed to the four member countries by energy insecurity and secessionist conflicts. Furthermore, Moldova and Georgia are the targets of politically motivated Russian embargoes on agricultural products and wine, their main exports.

The founding Declaration of the new GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development asserts that economic pressures and monopolization of energy markets are unacceptable. The document commits the member countries to work together to promote the security of energy supplies.

In their speeches at the summit, Presidents Mikheil Saakashvili and Vladimir Voronin cited Azerbaijan’s and Ukraine’s emergency deliveries of gas to Georgia and Moldova, respectively, when Russia stopped supplies in January of this year. Although the emergency deliveries were small, they were vital at that time and a mark of political solidarity (Channel 5 TV [Kyiv], May 23). However, GUAM Organization member countries have yet to begin discussions toward a common energy-security policy. Voronin’s chief adviser, Mark Tkachuk, told the media during the summit that such a policy would require a two-fold focus: attracting investments to create alternative routes of supply and concluding agreements on the free flow of supplies through member countries’ territories (Kommersant, May 23).

For his part, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko urged the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, to consider the possibility of setting up a network of gasoline and fuel supply stations in Ukraine. Yushchenko would order a Ukrainian working group to deal with this issue “within three days,” he stated. Furthermore, he sought Azeri commitments to: supply crude oil to the Odessa-Brody pipeline in the northward direction; co-invest in expanding the terminal capacity at Odessa to take Azeri and Kazakh oil; co-invest in building a refinery in Brody to refine that oil; and support extending the pipeline to Gdansk — a project that the European Union may help finance (Interfax-Ukraine, 1 + 1 TV [Kyiv], Interfax-Ukraine, May 23).

Kyiv has submitted such proposals to Baku repeatedly during the last year and Yushchenko has aired them internationally. They seem unrealistic, because the great bulk of Azerbaijan’s crude oil output is pre-committed to the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. Building a refinery at Brody seems incompatible with extending the pipeline to Gdansk, inasmuch as the Odessa-Brody line’s annual throughput (projected at 8 million tons, potentially up to 14 million) can hardly sustain both the refinery and the extension. In any case, the Odessa-Brody pipeline’s future depends almost entirely on the availability of Kazakh oil, but Russia stands in the way.

The summit’s Declaration expresses a shared concern in pointing out, “Occupation of a country’s territory through military force or threats of force is unacceptable. Territorial annexations and the creation of enclaves can never become legal. No country may intervene into another country’s affairs through military, political, or economic pressures.”

Yushchenko referenced the controversial plan that carries his name regarding settlement in Transnistria, which he claimed was “supported by both the Moldovan and the Transnistrian side.” Moreover, he advised, “A plan along the same lines should be developed for Karabakh and one along the same lines for Abkhazia.” But he seemed to change thought immediately: “The solution to each conflict, however, requires an individual plan and there can be no recipe on resolving the Karabakh problem along with the problem of Transnistria or Abkhazia. It takes an individual approach” (Interfax-Ukraine, May 23). Voronin chose to focus on the positive side, expressing gratitude for Ukraine’s recent cooperation with Moldova and the EU in curbing Transnistria’s contraband trade.

Aliyev and Voronin called for better coordination among GUAM member countries in international organizations regarding the secessionist conflicts and foreign troops (Moldpres, 1 + 1 TV [Kyiv], May 23). The unspoken reason behind that call is that Ukrainian representatives have stopped subscribing to joint GUAM positions on those issues in some meetings of the OSCE’s Permanent Council and Joint Consultative Group in recent months.

That joint stand was GUAM’s primordial raison d’etre. The group emerged during debates at the OSCE in 1996 on the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe in order to seek Russian compliance with force limitations, specifically on GUAM countries’ territories. The four countries’ joint stand, authorizing one of them to speak for the four, had become its hallmark in international organizations and one of the few tangible manifestations of GUAM’s viability. Kyiv’s recent tendency to stand aside from the GUAM position at the OSCE has become a matter of concern to some NATO diplomats as well. This situation might now be corrected after the presidents’ private discussions at the Kyiv summit.