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The Organization for Democracy and Development, known as GUAM, is a regional international cooperation organization comprising four States of the former Soviet Union: Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova (from 1999 to 2005 the organization, then known as GUUAM, also included Uzbekistan). This pro-Western organization brings together states that feel threatened by Russia.
In 1996, Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan joined forces to form what would become GUAM1. The idea of forming an informal framework for holding quadrilateral consultations was articulated in 1997 in Strasbourg. In 1999, after Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan withdrew from the Collective Security Treaty, the latter, disillusioned with the rapprochement with Russia, decided to join the GUAM group, which took the name GUUAM (Uzbekistan is written Uzbekistan). However, the Uzbek authorities consider the project unattractive. Since 2001, Tashkent has been practicing the policy of the empty chair, avoiding the signing of the Yalta Charter in 2002 and announcing its withdrawal after the massacre in Andijan in May 2005.
In addition, these four states have two common features. On the one hand, they emerged from the break-up of the Soviet Union and were a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States at the time they were formed within it. On the other hand, they suffer from latent territorial conflicts in which Russia plays a leading role2, with the maintenance in particular of military bases3: Russian-speaking Transnistria for Moldova, Crimea and Russian minority in Ukraine, Abkhazia and South Ossetia (and to a lesser extent Adjaria) in Georgia, and Nagorno-Karabakh occupied by Armenia (Russia’s ally) for Azerbaijan.
In order to confirm adherence to democratic values, GUAM has changed its official name. At the Kiev Summit on 23 May 2006, it was announced that the Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development – GUAM – would be created.
This conceptual and institutional evolution was preceded by the signing of the Yalta Charter establishing the GUAM organization in 2002. The Charter gave the organisation international legal personality and allowed for observer status in the United Nations General Assembly (December 2003).
In an effort to move closer to the European Union and NATO (as stated at the Kiev meeting on 28 May 2005)5, GUAM countries are facing Russian mistrust, which in 2006 increased economic pressure on Georgia and Moldova, as well as on Ukraine. Trade wars have broken out, demonstrating the Russian government’s frustration with the rapprochement of GUAM states with the West. For example, it is worth mentioning the gas conflict of January 2006, which strongly discredited Russia. In addition, Moscow has used other means of economic pressure, such as banning the import of Georgian wines and mineral waters, Moldovan and Georgian agricultural production for “health reasons”.
The political and, to a lesser extent, financial support for GUAM from the United States suggests to some Russian experts that there is a new policy of containment in Russia today. Containment was developed in the 1950s with the aim of encircling the USSR through a network of political-military or commercial alliances.
In this case, GUAM’s objectives seem to be to reduce energy dependence on Russia, not only for GUAM member states but also for the European Union. One of the projects concerns the construction of oil and gas pipelines bypassing Russia but linking the Caspian, Black Sea and Baltic Sea regions. Georgia had proposed in April 1999 to create a peacekeeping force with the other GUAM members to protect hydrocarbon pipelines6, but this project was not implemented.
GUAM has produced few or no concrete achievements, limited by the lack of specific common means and objectives. In May 2006, Azerbaijani political scientist Zardust Alizade still expressed doubts about the alliance’s development prospects and the achievement of practical results.