Expression of joint and individual stances
The May 22 Kiev GUAM summit decided to sanction this regional organisation and to establish its priorities, including the settlement of the separatist conflicts in member states. The first great success of GUAM after the Kiev summit was to defeat the resistance of the Russian Federation, which has opposed the inclusion of the problem of “Protracted conflicts in the GUAM area and their implications for international peace, security and development” on the agenda of the 61st session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Joint stance of GUAM members
The GUAM members have expressed a joint stance regarding the “protracted conflicts”, exposing this standpoint in the Explanatory Memorandum of the request on additional inclusion of this problem on the agenda of the U.N. General Assembly. The document says that: The protracted conflicts have affected the lives of more than 16 million people for more than 15 years, threatening the international peace and security, jeopardising the sovereignty and territorial unity of three U.N. member states, making them lose control on a large part of their sovereign territories and leading to a permanent occupation of a big region of a sovereign state, causing an inflow of millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, obstructing the social-economic development of nations from that region. Regretfully, the international negotiations on settlement of the conflicts have failed. They have only prolonged the conflicts. The protracted conflicts defy the security, encourage the terrorism, aggressive separatism, organised crime, trafficking in human beings, trafficking in drugs, proliferation of light arms in territories uncontrolled by legitimate authorities.
The memorandum did not name Russia at all, but the latter observed a hint at itself.
Although they expressed a joint standpoint, representatives of GUAM members have highlighted their own problems and opinions in their speeches:
Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili was the first representative of GUAM who addressed the General Assembly on September 22. He said regarding the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia:
- the painful truth based on deeds is that the northern neighbour — Russia — is annexing the regions concerned;
- Georgia has inherited the peacekeeping framework and the negotiation format along with separatist conflicts, and they do not function any longer;
- the existing formats neither promote the peace, nor encourage the negotiations;
- there is enough evidence regarding shortcomings of the current peacekeeping system. They may be observed in reports by the United Nations and the OSCE, which demonstrate how the dominant Russian forces in the region have perpetuated the conflicts rather than contributed to their settlement. They annulled their own status through this actions;
- more than 2,000 Georgian civilians have lost their lives and more than 8,000 residences have been destroyed since deployment of Russian peacekeepers to Abkhazia. Russian peacekeepers have been incapable to help more than 250,000 internally displaced persons to return to their homes in at least 12 years, etc.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk laid the emphasis in a much artificial and generalised manner in his September 25 speech, saying that:
- the U.N. is in charge with dealing with the ethnic conflict in Kosovo with much ability and efficiency, given the extremely fragile situation in the region;
- any decision aimed to modify the internationally recognised borders by neglecting the interests of the sides will destabilise the Balkans for sure, creating dangerous precedents for Europe in the entire world;
- there is evidence that the former Soviet self-proclaimed regimes are already invoking the Kosovo precedent, this being an undesirable scenario;
- Ukraine does not recognise the recent referendum in Transnistria and the scheduled plebiscite in South Ossetia since they are illegal and cannot produce legal consequences;
- Ukraine, as chair of the Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development — GUAM, has supported the inclusion of the problem “Protracted conflicts in the GUAM area and their implications for international peace, security and development” on the agenda of the 61st session of the U.N. General Assembly, this being an important step toward capturing the attention on the need of some actions of the international community for achieving progresses in settling the conflicts in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova;
- Ukraine calls for the implementation of the Ukrainian president’s initiative on settlement of the Transnistrian conflict through democratisation and the Georgian president’s plan on South Ossetia;
- Ukraine calls for the implementation of resolutions of the Security Council and the OSCE decisions on conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh and Abkhazia;
- GUAM, BSEC (Black Sea Economic Cooperation) and CDC (Community of Democratic Choice), organisations in which Ukraine is playing an important or key role, represent a valuable contribution to creation of an area in South East Europe compatible with the E.U. area of democracy, stability and prosperity.
The foreign minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, has highlighted the procedural difficulties that halt the U.N. member states to introduce the problems it faces on the agenda of the General Assembly, indicating especially the obstacles faced by GUAM members. The Azerbaijani official indicated the main reference points in his September 25 speech:
- there are two problems of main disagreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia — the definition of the self-governing status for population of the occupied region Nagorno-Karabakh and the withdrawal of Armenian forces from all occupied territories of Azerbaijan;
- the status of the region cannot be established at present, it must be elaborated on a peaceful, democratic way, through legal procedures with participation and consent of both communities — the Azerbaijani and the Armenian communities from the region. For this purpose, the occupation forces must be pulled out from the occupied territories and conditions for comeback of internally displaced people to their residences in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijani neighbouring territories;
- GUAM states call on international institutions to facilitate the process of settlement of conflicts in this area in the limits of their competences;
- the inclusion of the problem of “protracted conflicts” in the agenda of the General Assembly aimed to raise the awareness of the Assembly over eventual dangerous developments of the unsettled conflicts.
Republic of Moldova
Moldova’s Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan delivered his speech on September 26. He welcomed the inclusion of the problem of “protracted conflicts” in the GUAM area on agenda of the General Assembly, noting that this success was achieved in spite of resistance of some member states and expressing gratitude to those who contributed to this accomplishment. The Moldovan minister laid the following emphases:
- a more active and systematic cooperation is needed with regional organisations qualified to deal with the conflicts which are not part of concerns of the Security Council on basis of Chapter VIII of the U.N. statute, especially in case of “protracted conflicts”, frozen conflicts, which have worsened rather than have been settled;
- the Transnistrian conflict is first of all a manifestation of geopolitical interests in the region, being unleashed from outside during the collapse of the Soviet Union and declaration of sovereignty and independence of the Republic of Moldova;
- unlike other conflicts produced and fuelled by ethnic and religious antagonisms, the Transnistrian conflict has a political nature and the ethnic structure of population from the two banks of the Dniester river is generally similar;
- the Moldovan authorities have promoted specific policies aimed to ensure respect for human rights and rights of national minorities in accordance with international standards;
- international human rights organisations have signalled more than once conditions that favour the cultural and linguistic development of minorities, including the functioning of a high number of schools teaching in languages of minorities, especially the Russian, which is a language of interethnic communication;
- the satisfactory settlement of the Gagauzian problem by awarding a special status to the region is one of the greatest accomplishments of Moldova’s national policy, a singular example of successfully settling an internal conflict through political methods in Europe after the cold war;
- these developments and the criticism of the international community against the totalitarian Transnistrian regime has made the latter give up the speculation of the cultural and linguistic factor in the negotiation process. The territory controlled by the separatist regime is one of few regions in the world where political parties and nongovernmental organisations which oppose the regime are prohibited, where freedom of mass media and expression of opinions does not exist, where human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially of Moldovan population are violated with regularity;
- the region continues to manufacture illegally different types of conventional arms, including those interdicted or restricted by relevant weapon control regimes;
- the armament of Transnistria promoted by its leader is done in spite of reduction of Moldova’s military forces and its intention to find a peaceful solution to the conflicts without neglecting the status of permanent neutrality;
- the Moldovan authorities are decided to find solutions to the Transnistrian conflict by ensuring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, regional security, through the five-plus-two negotiations only, with the participation of the main actors.
- the goal of Moldova is to elaborate the status of the Transnistrian region on basis of demilitarisation and democratisation of the region, which are regarded as indispensable conditions;
- there are strong tools such as the “road map”, the Ukrainian plan and the law adopted by Moldova’s Parliament on summer 2005 for the promoted solutions;
- the Republic of Moldova supports the resumption of five-plus-two negotiations in spite of the limited progress achieved after its was launched, considering that the resumption of negotiations is crucial toward the alternative of keeping the status-quo;
- the Republic of Moldova has undertaken a series of complementary actions by impelling the conflict resolution process, adopting the law on basic provisions of the special legal status of the districts from the left bank of the Dniester river (Transnistria), a law which guarantees the right of the region to resolve its legal, social, economic problems alone in the limits of Moldova’s Constitution. The right of the region to have own legislative and executive bodies, the right to establish the official languages of the region are guaranteed. Social and economic guarantees were established for residents of the region with the view to facilitate the social-economic reintegration of the country. Conditions were created to legalise the economic activity of the Transnistria-based companies in order to be able to benefit of facilities that Moldova enjoys in relations with the European Union;
- these achievements were due to Ukraine’s consent to introduce a new customs control regime and to place the E.U. Border Assistance Mission in the Transnistrian section of the border;
- Moldova has notified the General Assembly that the separatist regime in Transnistria organised the so-called referendum on future of the region on September 17. Moldova condemns this pseudo-referendum, which fragrantly violates the Constitution, undermining the territorial unity of the country by defying the democratic values;
- Moldova expresses its gratitude toward observers and mediators — the European Union, the United States, the OSCE and Ukraine — for not recognising the farce-referendum;
- Moldova continues to be concerned with situation in the security zone. The inefficiency of the current peacekeeping mechanism dictates the need to turn it into an international peacekeeping mission under an international mandate. Moldova welcomes some proposals in this regard and it is ready to contribute to their immediate implementation;
- as regards the military aspect, Moldova reiterates its concern and deep regret that the Russian Federation did not honour so far the commitments assumed at the 1999 Istanbul OSCE Summit. The complete implementation of those decisions would facilitate the process of enforcement of the CFE Treaty;
- Moldova underlines the urgent need of an international inspection to weapon depots in the Transnistrian region. The inspection of military enterprises in eastern districts of Moldova is needed for quite a long time.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addressed the U.N. General Assembly on September 21, just on the first day of presentation of stances of member states regarding the agenda. Problems of special interest for GUAM members were touched besides global issues of general interest:
- the outlining trends reflect the formation of a multi-pole architecture in international relations;
- the reformation of the U.N. will fail if schemes that run counter the U.N. status halts certain states or groups of states to participate actively in works of the U.N.;
- the role of regional organisations and their cooperation with the U.N. in maintaining the international security is on the rise;
- CIS has a special contribution in this respect, including via the Euro-Asiatic Economic Community, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which take efficient actions to resolve common problems;
- Europe cannot remain outside of global trends of collective tackling of security problems;
- Russia relies on transformation of NATO from a defence alliance into something modern capable to respond to principles of transparency and collective reaction on basis of some universal legal principles;
- the situation related to the CFE Treaty raises serious concern. The old Treaty is out-of-date and NATO member states block the new one;
- the military architecture on the European continent is re-configuring and the extension of a military alliance is in the middle.
The speech of Minister Lavrov and the behaviour of Russia, except for the precise outlining of natural interests and concerns of the Russian Federation, raise serious puzzle for their open duplicity. The call of Minister Lavrov for more rights of regional organisations and permission of all U.N. member states to exercise their rights via this organisation is interesting as it’s nothing but a mockery on background of obstacles raised by Russian diplomacy against inclusion of the problem of “protracted conflicts” on the agenda of the General Assembly, conflicts fuelled and sometimes inspired by Russia to threaten with annexation of some regions of sovereign states through illegal referendums financed by the Russian Federation. More than that, the Russian Federation ignores the ECHR judgments, the multiple calls of the E.U., OSCE and CoE, own international commitments, etc. which could contribute to the settlement of at least some of frozen conflicts. The invocation by Mr. Lavrov of the positive example of CIS, a commonwealth in which the “frozen conflicts” are perpetuating for dozens of years, where economic sanctions are applied without being able to appeal to arbitrage institutions, etc. is also curious.
About “double standards”
The way the Russian Federation opposes to “double standards” which it attributes to the West also raises interest. Thus, on one hand Russian authorities criticise vehemently the modality of settlement of bloody conflicts in the Balkans with participation of western countries and their institutions, while on the other hand the same Russian authorities threaten to follow the “negative precedents” created by the West.
Firstly, the West has got involved in settling the hot conflicts in the Balkans after some facts of genocide have become evident, as well as after Russia has demonstrated its capacity to settle the separatist conflict in Chechnya. Secondly, if Russia claims to be better than the West, why does it threat to follow the “Kosovo precedent”, the example that it considers negative? Does Russia manifest its revanchism this way? Why it does this on account of some small and helpless states, if the problem consists in the West’s conduct? If Russia’s claim that it has recently elaborated the “original” formula, which says that the rights of states are above individual rights, are grounded then why it would not apply this principle in relations with GUAM members, supporting them in the conflict with separatist leaders who are citizens of the Russian Federation, the way it has acted toward separatist Chechen leaders? Why does Russia want that the eventual “Kosovo precedent” be universal, but it does not want that the precedent of its attitude toward separatist Chechen leaders be also universal (not to mix up terrorists with separatist Chechen leaders)? Why the “combat of separatism is a basic pillar” in relations with member states of the Shanghai Organisation, especially in relations with China, and the support for separatism is the “pillar” concerned in relations with some CIS states? Why did Russia hurry up to support and finance the referendum in Transnistria before the eventual referendum in Kosovo? Who creates “negative precedents” in this case?
Of course, much more questions of this kind may be raised. Perhaps they have contributed to the “internationalisation of protracted conflicts” before taking them before the U.N. General Assembly. But these questions must also suggest that the Russian Federation has described the achievement of GUAM members as “counterproductive and meaningless.” If the Russian authorities affirm this, it means that it will also take the “appropriate” measures to demonstrate this fact. The first measure was made public with two days after the first GUAM representative has addressed the U.N. The chief sanitary doctor of Russia, Gennady Onishchenko, said on September 25 without being provoked and without any context that “the Moldovan wines will never come back to the Russian market,” while importers of Georgian wines will undergo special controls.
- The introduction of “protracted conflicts” on agenda of the U.N. General Assembly means reaching the limit of “internationalisation” of conflicts and unquestionable defamation of Russia’s “peacekeeping” claims. This could mean that GUAM members and their supporters will treat Russia at international level as part of the problem of frozen conflicts, not as part of their solution from now on. However, the settlement of frozen conflicts without Russia’s contribution will be impossible. The bad thing is that Russia has demonstrated readiness to take revenge for the “revolt of its former vassals.”
- The “achievement” of GUAM cannot have an immediate impact. If GUAM maintains its agenda and coherent actions, the impact of its accomplishment could be manifested under favourable conditions. Russia itself is preparing the favourable conditions for manifestation of the impact of the appeal of GUAM, since it has concomitantly opened several “fronts” against big western companies working inside and outside of Russia, against the West’s interests in the Middle East, Iran, in the effervescence linked to its ascension. Russia has one very strong and efficient weapon for all these assaults, — the energetic weapon. Hence it is not universal. Firstly, it cannot be gradually and secretly applied; it must be applied rapidly in order to ensure chances to the successor of President Putin to governing and his post-presidential comfort. The development of interests and methods used by Russia will also attract its replying reactions, which should be “adequate” and for benefit of all, including of GUAM. For this purpose, GUAM members should firstly survive in order to see the impact of their “accomplishments”. The potential of surviving of GUAM members is very different, while arsenals of Russian sanitary doctors as well as of ecological inspectors are endless. Nobody can wish to be the adversary of Russia, but the solidarity of GUAM member states indicate the constraint to act this way.
- The experience of 15 years of “independence” has taught the “new independent states” that they must be extremely careful over what marginal politicians from Russia say, more careful than toward what authorities of this country say in a right and diplomatic manner. The marginal politicians anticipate the future actions of authorities. It was not an occurrence that President Putin has awarded state orders to marginal politicians Zhirinovsky, Baburin, Zatulin. If the deputy chairman of the State Duma, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, affirms that it will be the turn of Ukrainian South and Crimea after separatist referendums in Moldova and Georgia, this is a reason for Ukraine to take these statements into consideration. This fact explains why Ukraine must maintain its role of GUAM leader.
- Why does Russia need all these? — this is the fundamental question. What are the collateral effects of the “Putin-style ascension” of Russia? Surveys conducted by Russian sociological researchers reveal that unfortunately all Russia may be likened to a huge “Candopoga”. But a “Candopoga with an energy weapon” will unlikely represent the essence of a country which wants the fame of enigmatic country to be confirmed at all costs, though it claims that it has got ennobled so much that it will not accept “Moldovan spirit containing liquids” on its market any longer.