How GUUAM turned into GUAM

As was already published earlier, a rather strange union of five CIS states (GUUAM) that joins Georgia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova, lost one of its members recently. Uzbekistan has officially withdrawn from the organization, which is now to be named GUAM. Even earlier, much talk arose regarding the objectives of GUUAM. It was even believed that GUUAM was an economic project of American investors controlled by Washington. The objective of the project was allegedly designed to neutralize Russia’s influence on the five states making the union.

On the other hand, it was evident that the organization became a so-called nostalgic club of presidents from the former Soviet republics. Indeed, GUUAM had no executive departments and managerial structures. It was not a military, political, or economic union. GUUAM was rather a company of friends where Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma liked to feel his superiority. Ukraine is the largest member of the union, which also stands at the point where Caucasian and Asian oil meet Europe. When Kiev started to make the union, it desired to engage Uzbekistan very much, as the latter was a sure leader in Central Asia. Its participation in GUUAM was strategically important.

Uzbekistan was the last to enter GUUAM in 1999 and the first to withdraw. It was stated that Ukraine (which claimed to be the informal leader of the organization) failed to achieve any success in the organization’s work.

Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov says that the participation of his country in GUUAM was caused by the intention to become incorporated into a process of multi-lateral economic cooperation. However, no positive results of Uzbekistan’s participation in GUUAM were achieved over almost four years. The Minister adds, “It is likely that to achieve an effective integration level really important for inter-governmental and interior problems are to be settled first of all, then a wide basis for bipartite cooperation should be created. Taking the suggestions into consideration, Uzbekistan believes it is irrational to participate in GUUAM activities under present-day conditions. The country plans to focus on the development of friendly and mutually beneficial bipartite relations with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldavia.”

GUUAM’s ineffectiveness has been touched upon several times already. Moreover, Uzbekistan was not the first that planned to withdraw from the organization, as, last year, Moldova said it intended to quit the organization. Later, Moldovian President Voronin was persuaded that GUUAM was not contradicting the CIS, and Moldova remained member of the organization. Azerbaijan also doubted for some time whether it was expedient to be member of GUUAM.

Some Ukrainian politicians consider the break-up of the five-member union to be a tragedy. It looks as though the creation of GUUAM was practically the only success of Ukraine on the foreign political scene within more than ten years of independence. Nationalists think that Uzbekistan is leaving the organization because of the Kremlin’s pressure.

In fact, Uzbekistan’s withdrawal from GUUAM probably demonstrates the tendencies of international progress that were clearly outlined in May – June 2002, especially in the regional sphere. This is the redistribution of powers in the anti-terrorism coalition.

Observers think that Uzbekistan would not have quit GUUAM without consultations with Moscow and Washington. Thus, Russia and the USA are probably displeased with GUUAM’s activity. This very fact makes Ukraine’s political elite uneasy.

Alexander Gorobets PRAVDA.Ru Kiev Ukraine

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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