Under the approaching energy crisis, connected with the rapid rise in prices for oil and gas, as well as with economic recession in the West, the GUAM countries decided to revive their political activity, introducing a resolution on “frozen conflicts” into the UN. It was naturally done on the advice of Azerbaijan, which plays a key role in the organization thanks to its raw material resources. Georgia and Ukraine may serve as energy-transit countries, while Moldova… Things are a bit different with Moldova.
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ According to senior expert in the Hudson Institute Robert Weitz, the pivotal geographic location of GUAM members – which have direct access to the Caspian, Black and Baltic Sea regions – reinforces their energy potential. “Despite GUAM’s increasing activity in the energy realm, the institution suffers from several weaknesses that continue to limit its potential in this and other spheres. First, its member governments all confront actual or potential separatist movements that complicate their efforts to move closer towards Euro-Atlantic institutions, such as NATO. Second, Russian officials dislike the group while many West European governments and EU bodies continue to ignore it. Third, the GUAM countries either depend heavily on Russian energy imports or, in the case of Azerbaijan, rely on Russian-controlled pipelines for some of their energy exports. Fourth, GUAM members remain acutely vulnerable to pressure from Russian energy suppliers and political-military groups having ties with regional separatists. Finally, the organization suffers from the members’ diverse domestic and foreign policies,” writes Robert Weitz.
As for Moldova, the fact that its President Vladimir Voronin skips already the third GUAM summit to discuss Transdniestria with the Russian President, suggests certain judgment. According to Mikhail Alexandrov, Head of the Caucasus department at Moscow’s Institute for Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), GUAM was initially formed as an artificial organization pointed against Russia. “Presently, Moldova gradually tends towards Russia; Ukraine is experiencing serious trials which can affect its foreign policy. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan and Georgia have nothing in common. I do not eye GUAM as a threat to Russia. It’s merely a propagandistic move. The states of GUAM unity are hardly interested in settlement of conflicts,” Alexandrov notes. Indeed, neither Azerbaijan nor Georgia is able to settle their conflicts, setting hopes exclusively on the build-up of their military goods, as well as on practicing threat and blackmail both on Russia and on the whole world community. Moreover, as if agreed, Azerbaijan and Georgia are acting almost synchronically in the issues of conflict settlement. Though, unlike Tbilisi Baku has traditionally sought to pursue a policy of balance between Russia and the West, it is still a question how long the latter will be able to control the balance. Most likely before October Ilham Aliyev will make “loud” statements on Azerbaijan’s need for no one and nothing and will declare that the only aim of his country is regulation of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
Azerbaijan has other distinctions from the GUAM countries as well: unlike Georgia and Ukraine, for instance, the Azerbaijani government is not formally seeking NATO membership. Azerbaijan also hopes to tempt Moscow to pressure Armenia to retreat and withdraw its troops from the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. However according to Mikhail Alexandrov, Head of the Caucasus department at Moscow’s Institute for CIS, Russia and Azerbaijan are merely strategic partners, whereas Moscow and Yerevan are political and military allies. And what is not least important, only Armenia can help Russia’s consolidation in the Caucasus.
GUAM’s future will depend heavily on continued access to Azerbaijan’s energy and economic resources as well as the country’s pivotal geographic location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Although the organization could probably survive Moldova’s departure, Azerbaijan’s withdrawal would likely move it into obscurity. The presidents of Azerbaijan and Georgia still need the organization at least to introduce, on its behalf, resolutions on the countries’ conflicts into the UN and other international organizations. The internal political situation is rather complicated in the Ukraine; it experiences trials that might bend the country towards Russia. It sounds weak, but probable.