By Paul Goble
Moscow is reading Azerbaijan’s decision not to take part in a Chisinau meeting on March 2 with the Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia as the end of GUAM, the association of countries that seeks membership in Western institutions rather than being dominated by Moscow.
That will transform GUAM into GUM, Bogdan Bezpalko of the Russian Presidential Council on International Relations says because the enterprise in the Moldovan capital in partnership with the Atlantic Council “bears an openly anti-Russian character and Azerbaijan does not want to take part in it” (https://haqqin.az/news/123344).
“Up to now,” the Russian commentator says, “all attempts to create anti-Russian blocks on the post-Soviet space have ended in failure, chiefly because the idea of opposing Russia comes from the West and contradicts the economic interests of the post-Soviet republics not one of which is in a full sense its own actor and independent.”
Bezpalko adds: “Accusations against Russia that it is interfering with ‘the European choice’ of former republics of the USSR are invented.” Those countries which want to work with European institutions are free to do so, but those that do have in every case, he says, suffered economically.
The Kremlin would certainly like to see GUAM collapse. It celebrated the decision of Uzbekistan which joined the association in 1999 to pull out of that grouping in 2002. And it is clearly pleased that Azerbaijan appears to be following along the road of Uzbekistan now.
But Moscow may be counting its chickens before they are hatched: Azer Kerimli, the head of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of GUAM says that the Chisinau meeting “is occurring outside of the GUAM format” between three countries which have signed association agreements with the EU.
Azerbaijan has not, but “we will continue to work in the Parliamentary Assembly,” the Azerbaijani diplomat said. About that, “there are here no issues.”