Back in Ukraine, the Defense Minister, General Oleksandr Kuzmuk, lifted a curtain corner on plans to create a peacekeeping battalion of GUUAM, the five-country group of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova. According to Kuzmuk, the battalion will be a Georgian-Azerbaijani-Ukrainian unit. He gave no hint of Moldovan or Uzbek participation; indeed none is known to have been discussed for some time. Kyiv, Tbilisi and Baku will each assign and finance one company of motorized infantry for the planned battalion. The three Defense Ministries are about to select officers for staffing the joint battalion. Georgian and Azerbaijani officers and sergeants, once selected, will undergo special training courses at the Ukrainian ground forces’ academy in Odesa.
The battalion, once formed, will participate in peacekeeping operations authorized by the United Nations and/or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; this clarification places the unit wholly outside the framework of the “CIS peacekeeping” mechanism, which is in fact a purely Russian enterprise. No official deadlines have been set for completing the battalion’s formation. A number of organizational aspects, as well as a precise definition of its mission, are still on the drawing board.
In Tbilisi and Baku, the Ukrainian delegation discussed the possible use of the tripartite battalion to provide security for the planned oil and gas pipelines. Preparations for such a mission stagnated after a promising start made in April 1999, when the Baku-Supsa (Georgia) oil pipeline and the Supsa maritime oil export terminal were officially inaugurated in the presence of Presidents Eduard Shevardnadze, Haidar Aliev and Leonid Kuchma and the heads of major oil companies. On that occasion, platoon-size elite units from Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan staged a joint exercise, intended as a preview of the GUUAM battalion’s operations. Combat units beat back a mock terrorist attack on the pipeline, pursuing and pinning down the attackers, while Ukrainian military engineers, working in a mock battle environment, laid within only three hours a 2.8 kilometer pipeline section above ground, as a stopgap substitute for the section “sabotaged” by terrorists.
During Kuchma’s visit this month, the Azerbaijani and Georgian militaries accepted invitations to participate in upcoming joint exercises in Ukraine under NATO aegis. The exercises include Peace Shield 2000 at Yavoriv and air defense practice in the Crimea. Only days before signing on for the air defense exercise, Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister, Colonel-General Safar Abiev, publicly turned down a Russian invitation to the annual air defense exercise of the six-country CIS Joint Air Defense System.
In their public comments on GUUAM, leaders of the active trio were at pains to deemphasize the group’s security functions, underscoring instead the openness of its deliberations and the readiness of the group to accept new member countries. Yet the latest developments in GUUAM confirm the trends which have been in evidence for some months. First, that the group is becoming leaner and potentially more effective since Moldova and Uzbekistan–each for its own reasons–decided to distance themselves from it. Second, that security constitutes a basic potential function of the core trio of Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan, whereas economic functions such as the oil trade and transport remain a matter of bilateral arrangements, concluded among these same countries outside the framework of GUUAM. And, third, that security planning is returning to the operative agenda of the group, whose actual composition at this stage would accurately be reflected in the acronym GAU.
“The Fortnight in Review” is prepared by senior analysts Jonas Bernstein (Russia), Stephen Foye (Security and Foreign Policy), and Vladimir Socor (Non-Russian republics). Editor, Stephen Foye. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4526 43rd Street NW, Washington, DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of “The Fortnight in Review” is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation