Alexander SKAKOV

Alexander Skakov, Ph.D. (Hist.), head of the Department of Near Abroad Affairs, Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (Moscow, Russia)

It would seem expedient to discuss the topic Russia and GUAM in the context of the integration unions existing in the post-Soviet space, that is, with respect to the CIS and, to some extent, its alternative organizations. It is very evident that the activity of the CIS, despite the obvious need, in our opinion, for its further existence, at least as a negotiation platform, does not fully meet the functions of an integration structure. There are many different reasons for this, such as the Commonwealths diversity and the ineptness of its bureaucratic machinery, as well as the outmoded ambitions and phobias that are prevalent in some cases. So it was inevitable that integration organizations emerged that posed as alternatives to the CIS and singled out a few of the stronger nuclei within the Commonwealth. It is another matter that this demand could be and was used by external forces interested in forming all kinds of counterbalances to Russia or simply in weakening Russia as the CISs only driving force due to its potential. At the same time, Russias rather bumpy relations with some of the Commonwealth states prompted the latter to step up their participation in these alternative structures. Subsequently, normalization of the relations between the Russian Federation and any given CIS country led, as a rule, to the withdrawal of that state from the alternative integration union. It is worth noting that Uzbekistan, which joined GUAM in 1999, left it in May 2005 after its relations with Russia cardinally improved. Moldova, which has essentially curtailed its participation in GUAM due the normalization of relations between Chisinau and Moscow, is currently heading in the same direction. Correspondingly, the Russian factor has a way of exerting very tangible pressure both on the emergence and on the further existence of alternative unions. So the vision we offer of the GUAMs past and present will be based on our understanding of Moscows viewpoint on this issue, as well as on Russias national interests.

GUAMs formation on 10 October, 1997 was essentially tantamount to an attempt to turn the CIS into a bipolar structure. It was presumed that the GUAM countries, as equal states with similar political and economic interests, would form one pole. While the other pole would consist of the countries in Russias sphere of influence and members of the Collective Security Treaty, as well as the Customs Union, which was later transformed into the Eurasian Economic Community. The development of relations within GUAM/GUUAM was based on the conception of new regionalism, according to which special partnership relations are built keeping in mind the innate nature of relations between states, common economic interests (primarily energy and transport), and

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