Will the Eastern Partnership Share the Fate of GUAM?

Will the Eastern Partnership Share the Fate of GUAM?

Kiev's decision to slow down the process of Ukraine's eurointegration after it seemed like the country was rushing headlong to sign an association agreement with the EU has given cause to think about whether the Eastern Partnership might not repeat the fate of the defunct military and political organization GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova) which they tried to create back in 1997…

GUAM was conceived as a counterweight to the CIS and the CSTO. The organization was officially born in October 1997 in Strasbourg during a summit of the Council of Europe. The long-term goal set by the project’s Western ideologists was to nip any attempts to integrate the post-Soviet states in the bud. 

Remember that this was preceded by the signing of the Treaty on the Union between Belarus and Russia by the two countries' presidents in Moscow on April 2, 1997. Ever since then, April 2 is celebrated as the Day of Unification of the Peoples of Belarus and Russia. Under this treaty, the decision was made to create a politically and economically integrated community in order to unite the potential of the two states. 

The GUAM bloc arose in response to the birth of the Union of Belarus and Russia.  In 1999 at a NATO summit in Washington, Uzbekistan joined GUAM, after which the organization was renamed GUUAM. However, in 2005 at a summit in Chisinau, Uzbekistan left the organization «due to its excessive politicization» and «the non-implementation of the economic component». In 2006 at the Kiev GUAM summit the organization was renamed the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development. On May 24, 2006 Romania stated its intention to join GUAM.

From 2007 to 2011 the leaders of GUAM member countries held several meetings; however, these had no results. GUAM never became a military organization which could carry out its declared goals of protecting the transit of oil and gas from the Caspian region to Western markets or participating in the resolution of conflicts on the territory of the former Soviet Union. The GUAM project failed as a first attempt to create a cordon sanitaire on the western borders of Russia. After Georgia's defeat in the war of 2008, GUAM essentially ceased to exist, and in early 2010 Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich stated that GUAM's activities were no longer relevant. This marked the end of the bloc.

However, in 2008, not long before Georgia's August attack on South Ossetia, the foreign ministers of Poland and Sweden put forward the Eastern Partnership initiative. The idea was presented to the EU Council on May 26, 2008 as a European Union project for developing integration relations between the EU and six former Soviet republics: Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Belarus.  On May 7, 2009 an inaugural summit was held in Prague at which a declaration on Eastern Partnership issues was adopted. 

Thus, after the failure of the first attempt to fence Russia off with a cordon sanitaire, a second, more substantial attempt immediately followed; even Belarus, Russia's partner in the Union State, formally joined the project, although it later quickly lost interest. 

On September 3, 2013 during a meeting between Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Armenia's accession to the Customs Union was announced; and on November 21 the government of Ukraine announced that the process of Ukraine's signing of an association agreement with the EU has been suspended. Dissatisfaction with the Eastern Partnership program is growing in Azerbaijan as well. In late October 2013 a group of Azerbaijani journalists and cultural figures urged Ilham Aliyev to abandon participation in the program.  The initiators cite Brussels' haughtiness toward Azerbaijan and the EU's double standards on the issue of Karabakh as the motivation for their proposal.  

Thus the question arises: might not this next anti-Russian project known as the Eastern Partnership meet with the same fate as its predecessor, the failed GUAM bloc? And yet projects with no economic, cultural or historical foundation based solely on the logic of creating a belt of limitrophe states in Europe to separate Russia from the western part of the European continent are apparently destined to arise regularly in the minds of Western politicians.