On June 18-19 in Baku, the GUAM countries’ annual summit reviewed the state of implementation of the group’s policies, projects, and institutional development. Presidents Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, and Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev (substituting for President Vladimir Voronin who was attending top-level meetings in Brussels that day) were joined by Presidents Traian Basescu of Romania, Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania, and Lech Kaczynski of Poland, in keeping with the flexible GUAM-Plus formula of cooperation with the group’s partner countries.
Participants focused on policies that constitute GUAM’s strategic raisons d’etre — namely, Caspian oil and gas transit to Europe and efforts to resolve the secessionist conflicts. It also focused on the institutionalization of GUAM, which aims to attain the status of an international organization and recognition as such.
GUAM’s role as an energy bridge between Central Asia and Europe inherently depends on Kazakhstan’s and Turkmenistan’s cooperation and on the European Union’s policy on Caspian oil and gas. The signals are negative from both directions. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev turned down an invitation to attend the Baku summit, offered to send a minister or deputy minister instead, and ultimately sent no one. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedov simply ignored Baku’s invitation to attend. Austria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, invited to represent the lead country of the Nabucco gas transport project at this summit, also declined to attend.
Such responses may be seen as corollary to these three states’ recent agreements with Russia on energy supplies and transit, which, if implemented, could kill the trans-Caspian westbound transport projects via GUAM countries to Europe. Their responses reflect — as did their May summits and agreements with Russia — an unraveling of Western policies on Caspian energy and corresponding advance of Russian energy monopolism there. The European Union — the putative beneficiary of energy transit projects through GUAM countries and a focus of their reform programs — did not deign to take up the invitation to attend the GUAM summit.
The proposal to create a GUAM peacekeeping battalion dates back several years and was reactivated at GUAM’s Kyiv summit. Yushchenko and Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko commissioned the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ General Staff to draw up the plans for such a battalion. Kyiv is the main promoter of this idea in a bid to demonstrate Ukrainian capacity for regional leadership.
The General Staff Chief, Col.-General Serhiy Kyrychenko, unveiled the plan’s outline and just days before the Baku summit. It envisages a 500 to 600-strong unit, including 150 to 200 Ukrainians. A police element could be added. Each of the four national components would be based in the respective countries and be called by the chiefs of general staffs for annual exercises in one of the four countries (Interfax-Ukraine, June 15). According to Yushchenko shortly before the Baku summit, the battalion could be used for intervention in ongoing conflicts, conflict-prevention, or humanitarian operations mandated by the United Nations or the OSCE in any locations, potentially including GUAM member countries (ANS TV [Baku], June 14; Echo [Baku], May 16).
However, Georgia would reserve the formation of a GUAM peacekeeping battalion for the final stage of GUAM’s institutional development — implying a delay of several years — and would not favor its use on the territories of GUAM countries. Meanwhile, Georgia plans to double the number of its soldiers in NATO- and U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Balkans and could hardly spare resources for additional commitments such as a GUAM battalion. For its part, Moldova declines outright to participate in the proposed battalion, citing Moldova’s status as a neutral state (an unconvincing argument, given that some neutral and nonaligned countries do participate in international peacekeeping operations).
At the Baku summit, Ukraine alone proposed going ahead with a GUAM peacekeeping battalion or at least returning to the issue later on. The summit’s final documents do not mention this subject.
UN Resolution on the Protracted Conflicts
The four GUAM countries have drafted a resolution on the protracted conflicts on their territories for submission to the United Nations General Assembly during the ongoing session. The draft resolution condemns armed separatism, external support for it, and the resulting threat to international peace and stability. The document underscores the principle of territorial integrity of states and inviolability of internationally recognized borders as the basis for resolution of all these conflicts.
Russia (with Armenia in tow) has campaigned against this draft resolution at the UN and threatened to invite Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, and Karabakh to attend the General Assembly meeting that might discuss the GUAM draft resolution. The United States initially supported the draft resolution, but has recently taken a more cautious position, claiming for example that official U.S. support for the draft resolution might cast doubt on Washington’s impartiality as a mediator in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. In contrast, Ukraine is very far indeed from claiming that its participation would cast doubt on Kyiv’s impartiality as an official “mediator” in the Transnistria conflict.
The undeclared but crucial political and tactical consideration is timing. With the United States and many of its allies seeking recognition of Kosovo’s independence at the United Nations during the ongoing session, the timing of GUAM’s draft resolution has become inopportune. GUAM countries are considering the possibility of delaying the submission of their draft resolution until the end of the current General Assembly session (technically in early September) or to the next session, possibly depending on the process of negotiations over Kosovo.
GUAM can not yet claim the status of an international organization because its institutionalization is faltering. GUAM’s Ukrainian chairmanship (May 2006-June 2007) has mishandled this issue as well,and Moldova has added some pinpricks of its own, admittedly proportionate to its weight.
The Ukrainian and Moldovan parliaments have failed for more than a year to ratify the GUAM Charter. In Ukraine’s case, the reasons for this failure is protracted chaos in parliament as well as dislike of GUAM by a sizeable number of deputies (though some in the Party of Regions may ultimately vote for ratification). In Moldova’s case, the parliament operates in an orderly manner with a stable majority controlled de facto by the president. There, the president and his team feel that Moldova has little to gain from membership in GUAM but has much to lose from irritating Russia through active participation in GUAM.
Moldovan petty objections have also delayed GUAM decisions on staffing and financing the Kyiv-based GUAM General Secretariat for many months (Anton Dogaru, “Moldova Risks Losing the Friendship of GUAM Countries,” Timpul [Chisinau], May 21). However, Ukrainian authorities bear the main responsibility for the delay. The General Secretariat’s Kyiv headquarters, allocated in May 2006 to accommodate a staff of eight, are still being renovated and may be ready for use by November 2007, a full year and a half after that decision. GUAM’s General-Secretary, designated a year ago for a four-year term, was only able to take up his post in Kyiv this month, albeit not yet in the headquarters. The holder of this post, Valery Chechelashvili, is one of Georgia’s most distinguished diplomats, hitherto first deputy minister of foreign affairs.
At GUAM’s Baku summit, expectations are that Chechelashvili’s effectiveness and Azerbaijan’s chairmanship of GUAM in the next twelve months can energize the process of GUAM’s institutionalization.