Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 23

Ahead of the Vienna conference, Ukraine nominated Borys Tarasyuk to succeed Max van der Stoel for the post of OSCE high commissioner on national minorities. The GUUAM countries supported Tarasyuk unanimously. Tarasyuk had been released on September 30 as Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister under Russian pressure because of his clear-cut Western orientation. For similar reasons, Moscow successfully opposed Tarasyuk’s candidacy to the OSCE post. Ukraine ultimately withdrew the Tarasyuk nomination and endorsed that of Sweden’s Rolf Ekeus, who will take over as high commissioner next year.

That post should prove crucially important to Ukraine and to Ukrainian-Russian relations, if Ekeus intends to continue the inquiry launched by van der Stoel into the situation of Ukraine’s Russian minority and of Russia’s Ukrainian minority. The Russian government has recently begun playing the ethnic card with respect to Ukraine. Among the GUUAM countries, it is Georgia and Moldova who have been the primary targets of manipulation of ethnic issues by Moscow from 1990 to date. But as long as Boris Yeltsin was president, Russia stopped short of playing that card in Ukraine. It is President Vladimir Putin who has initiated that risky official policy.

Unobtrusively but unmistakably, GUUAM’s common statement introduced the term “regional structure” to describe the group and called for direct contacts between GUUAM and existing international structures and institutions, both global and regional. This represents a thinly veiled bid for recognition of GUUAM as an international or regional organization in its own right. Such recognition and its practical consequences could officially bury the CIS. Russia has unsuccessfully fought for international recognition of the CIS and will not lightly accept the recognition of GUUAM.