Is GUAM Really Only an “Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development” in The Black Sea Region?

Assoc. Prof. Bayram Gungor


It is widely known that the most basic form of integrations is the cooperation agreements. However, cooperation agreements are different from the typical integration agreements in some respects. Cooperation agreements between two or more countries are identified by matters of mutually created concessions and can be terminated by either side. It is accepted that integrations which have various top institutions acting on behalf of participating countries are more powerful and irreversible after a certain stage. In the early 1950s, the theory of integration emerged in literature of economics. J. Viner was the first scholar who tried to create a theory of economic integration through the gains and losses of the customs union to the contracting parties’ production effects. The contribution of J. Meade in 1955 revealed the consumption effect of integration. The contributions and discussions continue within the framework of a new world order.

On one hand, the supranational organizations such as the World Trade Organization, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank Group aim to transform the world into a free market in which the factors of production move more freely than ever before, markets and ideologies of states converge with each other, barriers of trade are removed and country-specific discrimination is not on the agenda and policy recommendations are provided in this context, on the other hand, members of the same organizations, particularly developed countries are members of regional economic integrations such as EU, NAFTA, MERCOSUL and APEC which are shaped on the basis of protection and discrimination. The regional integrations which are more successful in international economic and political competition rather than economic development are controversial in the legal status of WTO.

The main goal of regional economic integration throughout the world is economic interests. However, foreign policy and security objectives are also seen in deepening the process of regional integrations. Therefore, the regional economic integrations should be assessed within not only a geo-economic but also geo-strategic respect. In this study, the GUAM (transport lines of energy resources from Central Asia and Caucasus to the West) is examined in detail. GUAM is situated in the Black Sea region and is perceived as a rival for the Russia Federation. Because of this, it is especially supported by the USA and EU overtly and covertly in financial, political and security contexts. The GUAM is also a strategic partner for Turkey with respect to the fact that they share the common opportunities and threats within the region.

The idea of GUAM cooperation was launched in October 10, 1997 in Strasbourg with the consensus of heads of state at the meeting of the project of the TRACECA transport corridor. The GUAM Charter was prepared in 1999 and adopted at NATO’s Washington Summit in 2001. The member countries repeated clearly that they will be in cooperation with the PfP, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and NATO. The community name was changed to the GUUAM with the participation of Uzbekistan. However, Uzbekistan withdrew from the area of integration in 2005. Thus, the community returned again to the phrase GUAM. GUAM is defined as an organization of democracy and economic development. It can be seen that the primary objective of the organization is to neutralize the efficiency of the CIS on the region.

The end of the Cold War, the elimination of the Warsaw Pact and the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Central and Eastern Europe changed the geopolitical environment of the Euro-Atlantic relationship drastically. The collapse of regional security structure created a new intervention area for Black Sea littoral countries and NATO. This new situation brought the need for strategic change. Policy implementations in the new security architecture are now working to implement the policy of each country’s most important interests, which is the most striking feature of this new era.

The USA has tried to interfere in the Black Sea region, the Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia directly or indirectly in order to cut off the transit areas of the Russia Federation, China and India to the West. The USA annexed Iraq. It has also tried to form proamerican administrations in Georgia and Ukraine in order to protect its own interests in the region. The Rose and Orange revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine were supported by the USA to create a pro-american administration. Iran is also being squeezed. It is clear that if the countries under intervention situated in the Black Sea region, the Caucasus and the Middle East come together geographically, a north-south security axis can be created. In the Russia Federation, this line is called the “red line” and it has continually tried to impede it. The Russia Federation proved how much is at stake by annexing the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia.

The axis of Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East is the richest area in the world with respect to oil and gas. So, the GUAM is vital for transporting energy resources from this region to the West. Therefore, the EU and USA are interested in the region in order to maximize their own benefits making the region a challenging area. The USA, particularly tries to interfere in the area and supports the Black Sea littoral countries in both economic and security respects, and even the democratic aspirations within these countries.

In the 21st century, the dominant idea about how energy could be had at the lowest cost, how secure and stable energy sources can be achieved, and how competitive advantage can be created. Therefore, major actors are trying to control the areas in which energy resources are being achieved at the lowest cost and the most strategic transport routes of transferring energy have been formed. Undoubtedly, one of the most important areas of transferring energy resources from the Caucasus and Central Asia to the West is the Black Sea region. The Black Sea is the only sea in the world that the USA has no fleet on. Therefore, the implementation of USA policies in the region depends heavily on the support of regional powers situated in the region. Because of this necessity, the Black Sea countries are supported by the USA through both economic and political means and invited to the pro-western integrations including security allies. The USA aims to unite the regional powers’ various policies into one which is the GUAM cooperation agreement that is established for the main purpose of providing democratic progress and economic development. The GUAM which is formed between the Western countries such as the EU and USA and Eastern countries such as the Russian Federation, China and India is the edge of a westward expansion policy for the eastern powers. The GUAM covering Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan is remarkable in the region for its strategic location.

“Turkey’s attitude towards GUAM is positive because of the fact that GUAM wants to be a part of the Euro-Atlantic and European integration movements. “ 

The Black Sea region is experiencing various conflicts because of its strategic position. Generally, the conflicts which occur in the region contain ethnic features. So, the neighbour countries that have the same ethnic groups, albeit unintentionally, became involved in ethnic conflicts. Therefore, despite the expressed aims of GUAM members, four standard principles for the resolution of conflicts and crisis were adopted. One of them is territorial integrity and the protection of existing borderlines, the second is rejection of discrimination and ethnic intolerance, the third is resisting religious extremism and the fourth is to prevent the supplying arms to conflict areas.

Turkey’s attitude towards GUAM is positive because of the fact that GUAM wants to be a part of the Euro-Atlantic and European integration movements. However, Turkey is also sceptical of GUAM because it is an opponent group for Turkey in view of the new projects of energy pipelines from the Caucasus and the Central Asia to the Western markets. The reason for the positive outlook of Turkey towards GUAM is due to the fact that Turkey is a member of NATO and supports the Euro- Atlantic process on Black Sea. However, there is a suspicion that GUAM has some alternative projects on pipelines passing through Turkey. That GUAM is a strategic partner of NATO and the European Union in geo-political scenarios is strengthening the Ukraine’s policy on the Caspian energy issues.

Although GUAM is not a major item on the agenda, it is an important cooperation for both global and regional actors such as USA, EU and Turkey. In the process of organization, the Russia Federation was not involved too much in the cooperation, and even minister of foreign affairs of Russia Federation stated that the GUAM is not against the Russia Federation. However, some perceive that GUAM is cooperation against the Russia Federation to deactivate its policies on the Black Sea. Today, it is known that the Russia Federation is worried about the relations of GUAM with Western security and economic organizations, and even relations with Ukraine are on a knife-edge. It is clear that the USA is the most important power to support the establishment of GUAM in all respects and it has carried out some joint projects on both security and economic issues. As for Turkey, it is a centre for transporting energy resources  from the Caucasus and Central Asia to the West and also an important stabilizer in the Black Sea region for military action. Turkey is a part of the economic and security network and a key country in the region in many respects. As a result, the Black Sea region has become a power challenging area for Turkey because of its geo-economic and geostrategic importance.

References: 

* Bayram Gungor is an Associate Professor at Karadeniz Technical University.

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