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GUAM Peacekeeping

19.06.2007 11:18

Matvey Senin

The GUAM member-states (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldavia) made a decision to set up their own peacekeeping forces. The idea that has been treated by the leaders of these four states for the last two years, was at last promulgated at the session of the GUAM Foreign Ministers on the eve of the GUAM Summit in Baku on June 18, 2007.

Meanwhile, a format of the future peacekeeping force and plans of its use so far are not undefined. A huge GUAM PR-project still remains a virtual structure.

"We have reached an agreement on a possibility for GUAM to perform in future peacekeeping operations both of a military and police nature, - Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili explained.

The same idea was expressed by his Azerbaijan colleague Elmar Mamedyarov. According to him, "it is too early to speak about a particular use of the peacekeeping force, because we need to know an opinion of not only diplomats but also militaries".

Legitimacy and goals of this new force leave international observers asking questions.

As a matter of fact all four GUAM states have territorial disputes with their neighbors. In so doing, such disputes are of a peaceful negotiation nature only in Ukraine. So far, it holds negotiations on individual sections of the Ukrainian - Russian border. Besides, It is well-known that Ukraine also has a dispute with Rumania about Island Zmeiny (Island of Snakes) in the Black Sea. The parties take legal steps in European courts.

At the same time, a dispute between Moldavia and Transdniestria remains unsettled for 16 years. Georgia has disputes with Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia, Azerbaijan has a Nagorni Karabakh problem.

That is to say that three GUAM states are directly involved in conflicts, in which they are going to act as peacekeepers. By the way, Kiev in fact came down to the side of Kishinev in the Transdniestrian conflict when it supported the transit blockade of Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. Ukraine was repeatedly incriminated in illegal weapon supplies to Georgia that also discredits its role as an impartial mediator.

Meanwhile, a role of mediator in all conflicts in the post-Soviet space is performed in one way or other by Russia. There are Russian peacekeeping forces in Transdniestria, Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia. An availability of the Russian peacekeepers for Nagorni Karabakh was several times pronounced by the Russian leadership.

Thus, GUAM is going to change the current formats where Russia operates quite successfully.

Moreover, at this stage no replacement of peacekeeping forces in Georgia and Moldavia is possible. For this purpose, both parties should express their consent. It is well-known that the authorities in Abkhazia, Southern Ossetia and Transdniestria flatly object any change in the current format. Provision of a UN or OSCE peacekeeping mandate is also rather questionable due to the same reason. Nevertheless, the GUAM states try to lobby provision of an international mandate for their virtual peacekeeping forces.

The Russian peacekeepers are stationed in Georgia in accordance with the CIS mandate. This mandate may be cancelled only by a decision of the CIS countries and consent of the parties involved in the conflict. As for the Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia they are deployed there by consent of Georgia and Abkhazia. As for the Southern Ossetia, the Russian peacekeepers there have a quadripartite mandate, issued also both by Georgia and Southern Ossetia. The mandate is such that no decision of the GUAM countries may affect the presence of the peacekeepers.

As quoted to Evgueny Sharov, Chief of Integration and Strategic Partnership Department in the Ukrainian Institute of Strategic Studies: "GUAM is a political project of the USA against Russia. Respectfully, establishment of so-called GUAM "peacekeeping forces" is a kind of challenge not only to the other party of the conflict but first of all to Russia".

And Vitaly Zhuravlev, Expert of the Institute of Russian Expat Communities, says: "No doubt, the GUAM "Blue Helmets" in fact will become an advance guard of NATO in Southern Ossetia, Abkhazia, Transdniestria and Nagorni Karabakh. The availability of these forces with an international mandate would facilitate membership of aspirant countries: first of all, Georgia, and in future Ukraine, Moldova and Azerbaijan in NATO. In so doing, it is quite possible that the situation may develop in accordance with the Yugoslavian scenario including direct NATO intervention in the Southern Caucasus and other regions".

It is evident that if there had been no peacekeepers in these areas, Georgia and Moldavia would have tried to solve the problem by force.

It would mean that the post-Soviet space would again witness wars and conflicts that have been extinguished in the mid-90s only due to the efforts of Russia. The people of Transdniestria, Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia repeatedly expressed the vision of their future, and so far they do see themselves inside Moldavia and Georgia. It is a reality, which both Tbilisi and Kishinev have to be reconciled with. The improvement of the situation and final settlement of the conflicts need long-term talks, trade-off and sensitive decisions taken on the basis of mutual respect. As for the loud statements on establishment of GUAM peacekeeping forces, they are definitely out of the framework of this conciliation process.