Winter 2000 (8.4)
by Georgian Ambassador Tedo Japaridze at the GUUAM Workshop,
Stanford University, November 17-18, 2000
When the Soviet Union
disintegrated, the prevailing view in the rest of the world was
that nothing could fill the void left by its collapse. Few believed
that any of the smaller political pieces that had been subordinate
to Russia - the "republics" - were likely to find political
and economic affiliation apart from Russia, away from the ill-defined
Russian filter. Hundreds of times I was asked, literally, how
Georgia could survive without Russia? Where else could Georgia
go? How could its economy function without Russian inputs? In
general, few people had sufficient imagination to think beyond
the Russia paradigm.
The main, I would say, the strategic goal, for us at that time
was to retain our independence, to ensure political sovereignty
and to start a painful - very painful for a turbulent nation-state-
building process. We worked hard to diversify - maybe not always
successfully - our international relations to avoid slipping
into a CIS "gray zone," or even a "black hole."
The definition is a matter of the analyst's political taste.
From such a perspective, the subsequent development of events
was quite startling. Not only did we establish new affiliations
and relationships, we found them in ways that few people had
anticipated. GUUAM is one of those new sets of relationships.
GUUAM is the closest thing in the post-Soviet area to a strategic
relationship. No, let me re-phrase that: GUUAM is a strategic
relationship, even though the members of GUUAM may not be as
adept at the formal constructions of strategies as, say, France
But we shouldn't doubt that this is what GUUAM intends to be.
It is a group of states with common problems, threat perceptions
and, I hope, a common vision of the future.
What is GUUAM?
Many are asking: where and what is GUUAM? Is it in or out of
the CIS, is it pro- or anti-CIS, or is it against Russia? Let
me answer this question: First of all, GUUAM is beyond the CIS,
but it's neither anti-CIS, nor anti-Russian. It is a pro-GUUAM
strategic relationship. It is not GUUAM that is introducing visa
regimes with selected countries, erecting customs barriers within
the CIS and limiting the opportunities of its members to choose
their "external" economic partners.
GUUAM's birth mother is the CFE [Conventional Armed Forces in
Europe] negotiations, and its foster mother is NATO.
Above: The five member countries
of GUUAM - Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova-form
a transportation corridor East to West.
Two GUUAM members - Ukraine and my own country, Georgia - are
direct NATO borderlands, sharing common boundaries with Poland
and Turkey, respectively. Moldova and Azerbaijan are indirect
NATO borderlands. Moldova shares borders with Ukraine and Romania.
The latter, Romania, which will probably be the next NATO member,
thereby moves Moldova up to a direct NATO neighborhood. Azerbaijan
shares borders with Georgia and nearly so with Turkey, with which
it is connected by ethnic and linguistic ties.
Our newest member, Uzbekistan, is somewhat more distant but is
linked to all the others via the emerging Eurasian Transport
Corridor, by membership in the PfP [Partnership for Peace] programs,
by our affiliation with the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council,
and by common strategic needs. And I'd like to emphasize here,
at Stanford University, that today we cannot imagine our relations
within GUUAM without another big "U" - Uzbekistan.
In fact, all these connections prove that GUUAM is an ideally
placed bridge for different European institutions into the heart
of Eurasia. And it's a two-way bridge. The members of GUUAM benefit
immeasurably from walking over the bridge toward integration
into the Euro-Atlantic structures.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a number of regional
organizations have been created within that space (CIS, Customs
Union, Russia-Belarus Union, Eurasian Economic Union Treaty,
etc.) But most have been established either artificially or under
pressure. That's why almost all such organizations today are
defunct, and from this perspective, not viable.
One of the exceptions, or even the only exception, is GUUAM.
The GUUAM group came up only after all its members had already
formed strong political and economic relationships with states
that lie beyond the former boundaries of the USSR. In Georgia's
case, GUUAM came after we had developed dynamic relationships
with our strong neighbor Turkey, with much of Europe, Israel
and, of course, with the United States. The governments of Ukraine,
Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova similarly reached out to different
parts of the world before they reached inward, toward old friends
who share old problems.
GUUAM is the proof of our growing sense of confidence in dealing
with the unpredictability in our neighborhood. But it also presents
strong evidence of our growing political maturity, in seeking
common regional solutions to problems that cannot be solved easily
from outside of our region.
The development of GUUAM itself is evolutionary, beginning in
spring 1996, when the delegations from the four states laid the
groundwork for the consultations within the GUUAM format on the
CFE flank issues, and evolving naturally and without any coercion.
The range of issues for the consultations broadened and besides
security, it gradually moved to cover political, commercial and
economic matters and, naturally, the number of participant states
(This evolutionary process of development may be the answer to
your probable question of why Armenia is out of GUUAM. From the
regional cooperation perspective, Armenia's participation could
be valuable, but this country has significantly different threat
and security perceptions - which, as has been mentioned above,
initiated the creation of this group - from the other GUUAM countries,
and we don't want to artificially force the process. The viability
of GUUAM, in comparison with other newly established organizations,
is that all steps made within this group were thoughtful and
carefully measured, in accordance with pragmatism and "real
Today these countries - Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan
and Moldova - are linked together: politically, by their Western
orientation; economically, by their commitment to projects like
the Eurasian transport-economic corridor, ideas incorporated
into New Silk Road Legislation sponsored by Senator Brownback,
and prospects for commercial activities within the Black Sea
Basin; and strategically, by rebuffing CIS reintegration. I should
admit, in this connection, that Russia, under the leadership
of President Putin, is "quite successfully" rebuffing
the same integration within the CIS: it will suffice just to
mention the newly created Eurasian Economic Union Treaty.
(Within the dynamics of globalization processes, greater attention
has been drawn to the development of regional links. It is evident
that regional and sub-regional cooperation will result in more
flexible, transparent and effective principles, thus adequately
expressing the interests of the participant countries.)
The north-south linkage that once defined Ukraine, Moldova, the
Caucasus and Central Asia as separate regional issues is rapidly
giving way to east-west linkages that triggered the emergence
of a wide belt of countries - stretching from the Chinese border
to the Black Sea region - that share a wide range of strategic
interests. These new interests may be embodied in the planned
east-west trade link that will connect Central Asia to Europe
and in which GUUAM will play the role of a centerpiece.
I would also cautiously underline that economic revival and prosperity
within GUUAM should be built not by "constructing the pyramid"
from above, as would be the case if we prematurely introduced
a Free Economic Zone (FEZ). First, I think we need to start laying
a solid basis by pushing - step by step, brick by brick - forward
the legal reforms to harmonize the inter-communication of various
national services, like customs and border guards, and implementing
relatively smaller projects to start with.
By doing this, I'm convinced that the understanding of our regional
responsibilities toward each other can be rapidly advanced, at
the same time laying the foundation for bigger constructions
like the FEZ. These concerted efforts can withstand the mounting
attempts of economic expansion from Russia that concern each
and every one of us so much today. They diversify tactics of
political-military compulsion with the aggressively enforced
energy and commercial strategies. This can only be effectively
counteracted by establishing the strong economic identity of
We are also carefully watching the ongoing debate within the
Russian political and military leadership over the defining of
a new Russian defense strategy. Their probable gravitation towards
the conventional warfare doctrine, combined with the above-mentioned
"commercial assault" from the north, could have its
impact on Russia's foreign policy projection in respect to its
Let me tell you about several projects that can enhance interests
towards GUUAM. For example, the concept of restoring the "Great
Silk Road" has undoubtedly gained great importance. Nowadays
this process is gaining pace to become multi-dimensional and
multifunctional. It will rehabilitate and expand highways, railroads,
air routes, air and sea ports, link the states of this new Silk
Road with each other and the outer world via the most modern
and sophisticated communications and information technologies
and train a new generation of personnel to make it all work in
It is also apparent that the Great Silk Road, or Eurasian Transport
Corridor, is not limited only to its transportation and commercial
functions. In effect, it would become a stabilizing factor among
the states of Eurasian space of the former Soviet Union and would
foster the creation of a common market, new geo-strategic - I
would say, geo-commercial - alliances, as well as facilitate
the development of functioning democratic institutions.
The idea of a Eurasian Corridor embraces the following three
components: Europe-Caucasus-Asia Transport Corridor (TRACECA),
East-West Strategic Energy Corridor and a telecommunications
The international community has found it to be the most attractive
one. It has already stimulated rehabilitation of the main component
of transport infrastructure. The diversity of ongoing cooperation
ensured the elaboration of restructuring programs for all means
of transport systems. As a result, today we witness relatively
- though this could have been better - successful operation of
the Poti-Ilichevsk motor-ferry connection. The existence of huge
energy resources in the Caspian region proved the necessity of
diversifying effective links with the world markets.
"Energy Diplomacy" has turned into an important part
of foreign policy for many countries of the region. The first
completed regional project - the Baku-Supsa pipeline - has been
functioning for more than a year. I want to assure you that the
implementation of this project has already triggered a chain
reaction of new ideas and new perspectives, at least among Georgian
experts, and as far as I know, not only among them. These new
ideas envisage the full participation of all GUUAM countries
and other regional actors, including big powers, on a commercial
and economic basis, which in the end should be the basic guarantee
of a security equilibrium within GUAAM and beyond it.
Sustainable transit service, safe transportation of oil and gas,
requires the formation of a modern telecommunications infrastructure.
The implementation of new technologies in this field and the
realization of fiber-optic cable projects represents a basic
part of the activities to be taken in this direction. Modernization
of existing technological systems is also underway.
A Unified Region
These are the projects that should undoubtedly strengthen the
independence and sovereignty of GUUAM countries, create a new
atmosphere of trust and cooperation and improve security mechanisms,
which in the long run will make the democratic and market-oriented
This will eventually lead to the development of a common understanding
and the perception of unity and common interests within GUUAM
(which due to obvious reasons we may lack today) that will make
this organization strong and viable.
What are the benefits and advantages of GUUAM? Precisely this
group could emerge as the first phase of activities within the
above-mentioned processes and become a so-called "advanced
group" of Silk Road counties. The established framework
of consultations and consensus-reaching experience within GUUAM
might serve as the solid foundation to build up new interregional
This is particularly important, when some states within this
space might consider their development to be not quite in the
same direction. I think, (no, I hope,) the accomplishments of
GUUAM will set an example of success and definitely stimulate
other countries to participate in the practical implementation
of these ideas.
The GUUAM mission should bypass the geographical boundaries of
member states and reach out to a larger region. This is why GUUAM
activities of the recent period were somehow redirected from
strictly security and political consultations to the issues of
an overall development of the Eurasian corridor.
Nevertheless, all the above-mentioned can be implemented if a
unified and advanced communications system (for example, Silksat)
is created on the entire space and the artificial obstacles,
which exist as a result of an inadequate legislature and unacceptable
activities by some incompetent and corrupt officials, are removed.
That is exactly the reason why today, contrary to any logical
considerations, the majority of goods from Central Asia are transported
to Europe by a substantially longer route through Russia and
the Baltic States.
The GUUAM States are responsible for laying the groundwork for
the reversal of this situation. Definite work is being done in
this regard now. In the nearest future, meetings of GUUAM experts
will be held that will involve specialists from economic, energy
and transportation sectors, representatives of customs authorities,
border guards and tax revenue services. Such consultations among
GUUAM experts will make the Free Trade Zone project feasible
and ready to submit to the WTO (World Trade Organization).
I'd like to draw your attention to some practical ideas, such
as the recently conducted computer-based simulation training
in Georgia, sponsored by the U.S. DoD [Department of Defense].
This program - S.E.N.S.E. (Synthetic Environment for National
Security Estimate) - which is specially designed to facilitate
a high-profile dialogue among the key decision-makers of the
government and the private sector, might well be expanded to
the regional and GUUAM format level. This will help us train
a new generation of decision-makers, economic advisors and NGOs
to harmonize their collective efforts for regional cooperation.
In closing, I would say that GUUAM, in the long run, should not
be limited to the countries of former Soviet space. We have to
be open to invite - perhaps as observers - the adjacent states,
which might share our interest in regional cooperation. Turkey,
Romania, Bulgaria and Poland may be constructively engaged in
discussions within GUUAM.
The experience of GUUAM - like groups and initiatives has been
highly useful. For instance, together with my GUUAM colleagues
in Washington D.C., we have obtained ample information about
the Vyshegrad Group, Southeast European Cooperation Initiative,
South Balkan Development Initiative, Council of the Baltic Sea
States and the Northern Europe Initiative. Our experts will study
them and I hope that our Presidents will have sufficient information
for the GUUAM Summit in Kiev to make appropriate decisions towards
formalizing this group.
(8.4) Winter 2000.
© Azerbaijan International 2000. All rights reserved.
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