INDIA AND GUAM: A STRATEGIC OUTLOOK
Ambrish Dhaka, Assistant Professor at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi, India)
Post-Soviet Europe-Asia is reminiscent of an organizational mosaic with many regional groups emerging around Russia, both favoring and challenging its dominance in Eurasia. GUAM (later GUUAM) was one of the early geopolitical formations after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The four former Soviet states of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova were encouraged by the 1996 CFE Treaty of the Conference held in Vienna to form an identity opposed to Russia. The geopolitical significance of this was quickly realized by the West, and they saw GUAM as an important player in the Black Sea region, where Russia’s strategic access was of vital importance. GUAM was also important due to its location, since it occupied three land-corridors to Mackinder’s Heartland. Poland and the Baltic states had already created an arc between Russia and Western Europe. The rise of Ukraine and Moldova against Russia extended this arc from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
Uzbekistan joined GUAM in 1999, turning it into GUUAM. This transformed the arc into a circle around Russia extending to the Caspian and further East toward China. GUAM reminded the global strategists of the new forms of Cold War tactics that had resurfaced and the spread in the Great Game trends, which energy geopolitics only served to aggravate. GUAM has been particularly focused on Russia’s influence in the Near Abroad. Its effort to check Russia’s energy geopolitics was one of the key features. The Ukraine-Russia conflict over gas pricing is a well known issue. It has also tried to create a plank for NATO’s advance into the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea. The Partnership for Peace (PfP) program has been a success in Georgia and Ukraine.
The fate of GUAM has already been overshadowed by wider regional cooperation among the Black Sea countries. This has far more potential for secure economic and political cooperation, unlike GUAM, which has earned a bad reputation for being too geopolitically embroiled with Russia. The U.S. has been a consistent supporter of the GUAM initiatives. GUAM received another setback when Uzbekistan left the organization in 2005, after seeing the portent dangers of the Color Revolution in Kyrgyzstan and the destabilizing Andijan riots. According to Daly, “GUUAM was slowly replacing its economic orientation with increased military-political cooperation, including the formation of……………