Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 81

The meeting of heads of state of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova — the GUAM group of countries — in Chisinau on April 22 reverberated beyond the GUAM region. Presidents of other countries — in this case, NATO and European Union members Lithuania and Romania — took part in a GUAM summit for the first time. (Romania signed the treaty of accession to the EU on April 25.)

A joint statement by the six heads of state, “Building Democracy from the Baltic to the Black Sea,” asserted that democratic gains in this region strengthen democracy in Europe. It underscored the “European identity of [GUAM] countries, and the importance of offering them the prospect of European integration [which is] the most powerful instrument for consolidating democratic reforms in the region.” It urged the EU to draw up and promulgate Action Plans for the South Caucasus countries and indirectly called for the use of more effective instruments than the EU’s Neighborhood Policy to ensure the action plans’ implementation. The EU, however, missed the chance to be officially represented at the summit.

At Lithuania’s initiative, the joint statement called for support to democratization efforts in Belarus and assistance to civil society development in that country. Lithuania also offered to share its European integration experience with GUAM countries.

The U.S. State Department’s Senior Adviser for Eurasia, Steven Mann, took part as an observer and delivered an address emphasizing GUAM’s potential for regional cooperation on Caspian energy transit, as well as in the framework of the three-year GUAM-U.S. Program. A GUAM-United States joint statement also held out the prospect of U.S. funding for GUAM activities under that program.

In Moscow, the officials and commentators who did not ignore the event reacted to it resentfully. The Duma’s International Affairs Committee chairman, Konstantin Kosachev, asserted that GUAM’s sole raison d’etre was to distance itself and even other post-Soviet countries from Russia and that GUAM can only be kept alive temporarily with external support (Ekho Moskvy, April 22). The chairman of the Federation Council’s eponymous committee, Mikhail Margelov, predicted that GUAM would not only fail, but would alienate the other post-Soviet countries by attempting to spread “democratic revolutions” to them (RIA-Novosti, April 22).

Kremlin consultant Sergei Markov, head of the Institute for Political Investigations and who recently ran the anti-Yushchenko presidential campaign in Ukraine, charged that Poland stood ready to manipulate GUAM from the shadows (a remark in tune with Markov’s anti-Polish message during Ukraine’s presidential election). Andrei Okara, now identified as a lecturer at the State Service Academy attached to Russia’s Presidential Office (he had been additionally identified as adviser to Transnistria’s leadership last year) reached deeply into history for an analogy to the Baltic Sea-Black Sea democratization concept, namely the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which had at one time extended between those two seas. GUAM opposes Russia just as the Grand Duchy had opposed Muscovy, Okara commented (Moskovsky komsomolets, April 22).

Representatives of Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Karabakh met in Sukhumi on April 22 — a timing designed to match that of the GUAM summit in Chisinau. The Sukhumi conference prepared a “summit” of the four secessionist areas, to be held also on April 28 (Interfax, April 22). The group had in previous years earned the sobriquet “mini-anti-GUAM” by scheduling its meetings demonstratively to overlap with GUAM meetings.

(GUAM summit documents, Moldpres, April 22-25)