The dynamics of international life of the passing year comprised a sound list of significant events, which are able to give a start for new large-scale transformations as many commentators think. They include – the launch of the “Eastern Partnership” program. This project has called different reactions among the states participating within “Eastern Partnership” as well as in neighboring capitals. The reaction was mainly emotional and unpredictable. It’s perfectly known that for example Warsaw gives a strategic meaning to this project. Moscow also sees a long-term effect, strategy but the aim of this strategy is observed in a different way.
By this many authors, commentators and politicians reasonably underline the evident parallelism and even a succession of this project with the existing, but hardly developing project of GUAM.
Each of these two projects deserves to be individually analyzed as they differ in shape, although there is something alike. They both also illustrate sufficient moves observed within current international interaction within Post-Soviet area. New Russian international line, its rigid economic pragmatism, activity within energy sphere, feedback of bordering states and international organizations on it, this or that way, are presented in the both projects
GUAM and “Eastern Partnership”: Common Vectors
The most concentrated fears connected with Russian activity within energy market were the reason for GUAM establishment. We remind that the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development – GUAM, also often called as a “club of miffed with Russia” includes Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
It went through a few stages within its institutional formation. Initially – Consultation Forum of GUAM, which was founded on the 10th of October 1997 during the Summit of the Council of Europe in Strasburg. Then the unification of GUAM on the 7th of June 2001, adopted by the signing of GUAM Yalta Charter by the heads of states.
The evident crisis of the union reached its peak with the withdrawal of Uzbekistan from the organization and then its reorganization into the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development – GUAM on the 23rd of May 2008 during the Summit in Kiev, where the Heads of the states signed the charter of the organization.
In accordance with the charter, the issue of ratification of which still remains not that clear, the following main objectives of GUAM were claimed: promotion of democratic values, the rule of law and respect of human rights; the assurance of persistent development; enhancement of international and regional security and stability; deepening of European integration for the establishment of a common security area; extension of economic and humanitarian cooperation; promotion of social-economic, transport, energy, scientific, technical and humanitarian potential; intensification of political interaction and practical cooperation within mutually attractive spheres.
The current structure of the organization includes the Council and Secretariat. Council is the main body, operating in the formats of the Heads of States (Summit), Foreign Affairs Ministers, National Coordinators and Permanent Representatives. The branch cooperation is coordinated by working groups, which are established over the decision of the Council of Foreign Affairs Ministers.
The Business Council of the organization is responsible for business cooperation. In 2004 the Parliamentary Assembly was founded, which included three committees: political; trade-economic; on the issues of science, culture and education.
GUAM Summit, held in 2007 in Baku, was the most representative-full within the short history of this institution. Then the capital of Azerbaijan welcomed delegations from 30 states, including China, Japan and Turkmenistan, representatives of the number of international organizations.
Moreover, a record number of the leaders of the states formally having nothing to do with GUAM were invited for the Baku Summit. These are Presidents of Poland – L. Kaczyński; Romania – T. Băsescu, Lithuania – V. Adamkus, the Vice-President of Bulgaria A. Marin, top officials of Latvia, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and European Commission.
During Baku Summit the following partnerships were established: GUAM – the USA, GUAM – Japan, GUAM – the Visegrád Four, GUAM – the Baltic.
And in the result of it, Baku Declaration under the title of “GUAM: Uniting Continents” was signed. It proves the harmony of interests and approaches of the organization member-states and their intention to create a common integration and security area. “Baku Declaration is a very serious document, which determines our intentions and common directions of development of the organization in future”, - noted Azerbaijani Leader Ilham Aliyev summarizing the Summit.
The list of stated intentions vividly demonstrated the aspiration of the members to secure themselves from the pressure from Russia, which was earlier a main although not a declared core sense of the organization. The novelty was that from this moment GUAM tried to dictate to last one its game, to become a real rival of Russia within European energy market and a significant political force within CIS area.
In general, the task of GUAM within analytical articles was often concentrated over the establishment around the perimeter of Russian boarders a “special political area”, as many like to state – a “sanitary cardoon”. The core, around which this area is formed, should become a Eurasian energy corridor Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan-Odessa- Brody with the prospect of its extension as in Eastern (to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan) as well as in western direction (to Płock and Gdansk), which will ensure transportation of hydrocarbons from Middle Asia and Kazakhstan to Europe round Russia. From the point of view of economy, this area should become a free trade zone with transport communications.
The attitude of Russia towards GUAM, in comparison with the policy of participation and involvement of the EU and the USA, can be defined more as a policy of contraction directed on the collapse of this union. This became especially evident when the organization expressed the intention to become a counterbalance to Moscow within the sphere of energy supplies to the CIS and West. GUAM-states at first kindly and then more expressly started to claim about their intention to limit Russian influence within Post-Soviet area. The leaders of GUAM-states underlined repeatedly that they considered their organization as a real alternative to the CIS. Moscow persistently tried to neutralize it.
The most successful “operation” against GUAM was the withdrawal of Uzbekistan from the Organization in 2005. Then Russia supported the actions of Islam Karimov to suppress the upraise of Islamites, and he left the Organization in the search of assistance and relative views on democracy, and the structure of political force.
Individual analysts think that also EurAsEc was founded as a counterforce to GUAM, as it included Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, Tajikistan and Armenia joined later.
The fear of Moscow bases not only on the so-called “post-imperial complexes”, but also on a real evaluation of the situation over energy carriers. The two GUAM member-states hold the control over the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which becomes an alternative way for Caspian oil supplies to Europe. The pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum lies through the territory of Georgia and Azerbaijan. The commissioning of the Odessa-Brody oil pipeline is also a matter of time. Ukraine and already Belarus express their interest to this project.
A number of Russian commentators observe not only the similarity, but also a mutual complementarity of GAUM and “Eastern Partnership”. Evidently for them the initially hardly promising and even naïve project of the organization (GUAM), grounded on one energy plot and political solidarity of democratic Post-Soviet regimes, started to obtain more serious outlines. GUAM policy gains initiative character, in comparison with the inertial CIS.
Here, they often notice that in a few weeks after the end of the war in Caucasus, the European Union called an emergency Summit “devoted to the situation in Georgia”, during which the resolution was adopted that stated that “it’s more than ever before urgent to grant a support for regional cooperation and strengthen the relations with eastern neighbors in particular on the ground of a good-neighbor policy, initiative of “Black Sea Synergetics” and Eastern Partnership”.
They also point that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk added this with another thesis, underlining that “the events of last few month, especially the crisis in Caucasus demonstrated the level of the foresight, laid into the Polish-Swedish initiative – suggestion, addressed to the whole European Union and having a global scale…”. In November of 2008 in Baku they held an energy Summit with the participation of the Presidents of Ukraine, Turkey, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Romania, Georgia and other leaders. There, a former President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus claimed that, “we need to extend the number of letters in the GUAM abbreviation – this will allow to strengthen the block and the member-states as well”, explaining: “We are working over GUAM strengthening, extending the contacts between the countries of Baltic, Black Sea and Caspian regions and intensifying the cooperation within energy sphere”. During Baku Summit in 2008 they discussed once again the subject of the most large-scale gas project “Nabucco”, which is supposed to comprise Northern Africa and the Gulf of Persia, as well as energy resources and pipeline networks of Caspian region. GUAM considers this project to be the most important. We’ll note that in one of “Eastern partnership” platforms it is also defined as the most significant.
But not only “Nabucco”, but all the kind of beginnings within the sphere of energy, as stated in many Russian expert texts, are supposed to get deeper within the framework of “Eastern Partnership” by memorandums of mutual understanding, which should promote the assurance of energy security in the European Union, to open for the energy resources manufacturing, transiting and consuming states the way to a joint management and possession of pipelines..
All this, from the point of view of most Russian experts is nothing else, but a full match of strategic vectors and strengthening of GUAM through this project” of Eastern Partnership..
“Eastern Partnership” and GUAM: the Variety of Shapes
Officially claimed objectives of the EU program lie in “significant raise of the level of political interaction, including the assurance of the possibility of conclusion of associative treaties of new generation, deep integration of the eastern partners economies into the economy of the European Union, simplification of visa procedures, accomplishment of joint efforts within the sphere of energy security ion behalf of all the partnership members, and also financial aid enhancement. Most of Russian and pro-Russian analysts suppose that the real objective of the “Eastern Partnership” establishment is in the assistance for the CIS collapse, isolation of Russia from the six of twelve CIS member-states, and finally, the European Union with the help of “Eastern Partnership” intends to withdraw Post-Soviet states from the spheres of interaction with Russia, to accomplish their integration as minimum into NATO.
Rick Rozoff from the USA, who published the text under the eloquent name “Eastern Partnership: The West's Final Assault On the Former Soviet Union” gives in this connection a number of traditional arguments and refers to the British edition of “The Telegraph” in which it was mentioned that Poland challenges its mighty eastern neighbor – Russia, suggesting the European Union to spread its influence deeper within the territory of former Soviet Union via establishment of the Eastern Partnership. And the Czech Republic, the first from former Republics of the Warsaw Treaty to take a Presidential seat, and made of priority the scheme of establishment of more close contacts with former Soviet Republics despite of the fears of Russia about the endeavor within the territory near its borders.
We’ll note that Rick Rozoff is not alone in his approach. The kind of logic dominates among Russian observers. Lately, there has been a number of publications, in which the “Eastern Partnership” is called as a “new edition of GUAM, polished up after the events in Caucasus in August of the last year”, which incites obvious conflict of interests.
The conflict of interests is hidden in the fact that most of countries included into “Eastern Partnership” have already developed shapes of economic partnership with Russia and first of all with Armenia and Belarus. And considering that these two countries are CSTO members, regular consultations with Brussels in energy, equally as in the sphere of defense and security will inevitably create prerequisites for permanent conflict of interests.
Another peculiarity is that for the most part of member-states economic relations with Russia and Russian economic aid carry a key and even a critical character. In one of the analysis it is states that Brussels insists on a peculiar division of labor: the countries were promised political independence from Russia in exchange for European loyalty, and economic part of the project should be assured by Russia.
The conclusion from the arguments within the logic of Rozoff is simple: “Eastern Partnership” to this or that extent picks up main objectives of GUAM – “The EU and pro-NATO aspects”, orientation on formation of new energy communications without Russian participation.
By this it is noted, that designers of such policy have considered the lessons, drawn from the failure of GUAM, one of which is concluded in a faulty message that exactly Kiev should become a key regional center. However, the course of events inevitably led to redistribution of functions between partners and weakened internal consolidation of this structure. Tbilisi has more likely received the status of GUAM political center rather than Kiev. And the priority of energy led Baku to domination – the only producer of hydrocarbons and at the same moment a state transiting gas and oil from Caspian region.
Thus, “a new GUAM” (for this logic read “Eastern Partnership”) is not yet given for to the discretion of Kiev or Tbilisi. The European Union will directly control all the processes and projects, planned within the framework of “Eastern Partnership”. If GUAM with all its pro-Western character and atlantism still was the initiative of the part of Post-Soviet states, then “Eastern Partnership” – the initiative of states, bordering CIS.
Many analysts sharing these views pay their attention also on the fact that the “main operator of the program” is Poland, pointing that Poland under the aegis of the EU in reality extends its own political and economic spheres of influence within the Post-Soviet area.
However, there are also other more moderate points of view. For example according to Irina Kobrinskaya a leading research officer of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Science the idea of “Eastern Partnership” is not in the intention to isolate Russia but in the coordination of actions towards the states located to the east from the current borders of the EU. By this the European Union grounds on that it may be well that sometime these countries will become its members, but this won’t happen soon. And yet the EU wants to border democracies, market economies, rules of law, which will allow Europe to feel comfortable. This is important that together with the extension of the European Union the migration of man power from Ukraine to Poland, and from Poland further intensifies. In this case it’s appropriate to compare the European neighborhood policy with NATO program “Partnership for Peace”, - they both allow these international organizations to cooperate with countries which are not their members, without intensifying the process of their inclusion into their number.
Another important detail, which many people underline is the budget weakness of the “Eastern Partnership” project, its secondary importance as well as the secondary importance of European neighborhood policy in general.
In general there is an impression that the states-partners and Russia give to this project greater importance, greater scale than Europe itself. Although, it’s pretty evident that the EU doesn’t have a clear strategy towards new neighbors. Just as Russia doesn’t have a clear strategy towards its partners in the CIS. Judging that the project doesn’t anticipate special financing, and will be financed from the budget of the Neighborhood policy “Eastern Partnership” in comparison with lately established Mediterranean Union, won’t become a priority for the EU. At least, in the near future. Most likely, the project will carry a flexible, voluntary and framework character, which proves also the list to those, who are suggested into the agenda.
It’s absolutely evident also that “Eastern Partnership” will differ from GUAM. Because except for Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan it also includes Armenia and Belarus, which are not ready to promote any political initiatives like GUAM. And although one of the platforms within the framework of “Eastern Partnership” is energy, hardly this program will form an alternative within energy sphere.
At the official level, the reaction of Russia as known was also not that positive, although not expressly negative. More likely not understanding. But we also can’t count on the clarification of some issues from the side of the EU and the neighboring states. Moscow doesn’t at all accept any unions of former Soviet Republics, especially if the EU or NATO supports them. Russia would like to become a leader within the Post-Soviet area.
Most likely, officially Moscow will follow restrained position as yet nothing proves an obvious anti-Russian direction of this initiative. And further, as politicians and experts think, everything will depend on which place energy will take within “Eastern Partnership”. And if pipelines dominate, than a negative or even confrontational position of Russia can be guaranteed.
Thus, comparing different expert evaluations, considering political specifics of the organizations participating in GUAM as well as in the “Eastern Partnership” program, we can note that GUAM and “Eastern Partnership” are two projects professing pretty equal political values, are addressed to one and the same region and this is their similarity. Their prospective and cooperation potential is concluded in it.
To some extent they are able to complete each other. And in particular, within the framework of the program of GUAM-EU cooperation. However, it’s is an evident exaggeration to call “Eastern Partnership” as a new edition of GUAM. Most likely, these both projects to greater extent demonstrate the secondarity and crudity of the European Union policy towards the new eastern neighbors, rather than strategic designed line.
Both projects are able to develop within individual lines, especially considering that Belarus and Armenia participate within the “Eastern Partnership” and these countries won’t support a direct anti-Russian ton, which is still common to GUAM. Most probably, they both are fated to slow and not that effective development (at least, in the start).
The countries participating within the program “Eastern Partnership” and Russia give much greater importance to this project than the EU itself. The reaction of Russian expert circles on the “Eastern Partnership” program is pretty sensitive and soundly exaggerated, which is demonstrated by the dominating point of view, that this and that project stand in one line, directed on the push out of Russia and further “exploration” of the Post-Soviet area by West.
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI