GUAM countries at NATO Wales Summit
The organization for democracy and economic development – GUAM, is the only international organization in the post-Soviet space that has indicated Euro-Atlantic integration as one of its core principles. Today, the GUAM member states Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova constitute the four countries within the Eastern Partnership that have resisted Moscow’s pressures to join the Eurasian Custom’s Union. In order to show support for these aspiring partners and minimize the costs of the confrontation with Russia, NATO leaders need to establish a new GUAM partnership council, during the upcoming Wales Summit on 4-5 September.
In its charter signed in 2001, the cosignatories of GUAM mention “deepening European integration for the establishment of common security space, and expansion of cooperation in economic and humanitarian spheres,” as one of the purposes and principles of cooperation. However, these countries are paying a high price for their commitment for self-determination, as each one of these countries is entangled in a territorial conflict, which is arbitrated by the Kremlin. To counter the destructive influence of the Kremlin on regional peace and security, NATO needs to establish a new council, holding regular meetings represented by high level government officials in order to discuss the common problems of GUAM member states.
On 28 August, 2014, NATO’s Allied Command Operations released satellite images of Russian combat forces maneuvering inside the territory of Ukraine. Outraged by the visual evidence of Russian troops and armaments moving into Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko called for an emergency meeting of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council and pleaded the international community for support. Subsequently, in an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, the US representative accused Russia of outright lying, as all this time the Kremlin officials have been denying any kind of military intervention in Ukraine. Also, after the extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine commission, the Secretary General of NATO Anders Rasmussen called Russia’s act “a blatant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity… [which] defies all diplomatic efforts for a peaceful solution.”
However, this seemingly new development around Ukraine is not really surprising as it follows an established pattern: Kremlin, ambitious to regain its Soviet era influence, takes a step of aggression and Western leaders hold extraordinary meetings to manage the crisis. Sometimes they make serious efforts, which yield positive results, but other times they fail. For example, in 2007, after Russia launched a cyber-attack on Estonia, NATO established a cyber-defense center of excellence in Tallinn (positive). In 2008 Russia attacked Georgia, but Tbilisi received only moral support from the West and nothing more (failure). Today, Ukraine is still waiting for tangible support from the West, as more than 2200 Ukrainians have fallen victims in the war against Russian backed separatists.
If NATO does not react properly to the crisis in Ukraine, the conflict will most likely have a spillover effect on other countries in the region. New crises could emerge in the Transnistria region of Moldova, South Ossetia or Abkhazia of Georgia, or Nagorno Karabakh of Azerbaijan. Less than a month ago, military clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno Karabakh region took the lives of 19 soldiers, 13 of them Azerbaijanis. As Associated Press put it “Russia’s annexation of Crimea, however, has contributed to the tensions. Armenia, which depends on Russia for economic and military support, has welcomed the takeover of Crimea and some Armenians have suggested it could be a model for Nagorno-Karabakh. This has rattled Azerbaijan, which like Ukraine has aligned itself with the West.”
Overall, events in Ukraine send a clear message to Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova on whether they are safe to develop a closer partnership with Euro-Atlantic institutions. The evolving partnership between NATO and GUAM member states is mutually beneficial for both parties. For example, the Azerbaijan-Georgia corridor is the only window of opportunity for European states to build partnerships with energy-rich Central Asian states, bypassing both Russia and Iran. However, so far Russia is expressing more commitment to the GUAM region than NATO. While NATO has not given any security guarantees to Georgia, Russia is planning to sign a deal with Abkhazia on common security space by the end of this year.
News headlines from Ukraine not only shape public opinion worldwide about NATO and its reliability as a security partner, but also determine the future role of NATO in the region. In order not to lose strategically important allies in this part of the world, NATO needs to establish a new framework of partnership with the GUAM countries. Through a new GUAM council NATO could draw more attention to the security issues in Eastern Europe and be more prepared to tackle the next steps of aggression by Putin administration. Therefore, the GUAM council could even help NATO states switch from crisis management to crisis prevention.
 “Charter of Organization for Democracy and Economic Development – GUAM.” GUAM <http://guam-organization.org/en/node/450 >
 Crimea in Ukraine, South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, Nagorno Karabakh in Azerbaijan and Transnistria in Moldova
 “New Satellite Imagery Exposes Russian Combat Troops Inside Ukraine.” Allied Command Operations. NATO <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aco.nato.int%2Fnew-satellite-imagery-exposes-russian-combat-troops-inside-ukraine.aspx>
 Stanglin, Doug. “U.S. Says Russia Has ‘outright Lied’ about Ukraine.” USA Today. 29 Aug. 2014. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/08/28/ukraine-town-under-rebel-control/14724767/>
 “NATO Accuses Russia of Violating Ukraine Sovereignty.” BBC News. 29 Aug. 2014. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28984241>.
 Cumming-Bruce, Nick. “Death Toll in Ukraine Conflict Exceeds 2,200, U.N. Says.” The New York Times, 29 Aug. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/30/world/europe/ukraine-toll.html?_r=0>.
 “Putin Meets Heads of Armenia, Azerbaijan10.” World Digest: Aug. 10, 2014. The Washington Post, 10 Aug. 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/world-digest-aug-10-2014/2014/08/10/93d5438a-209f-11e4-8593-da634b334390_story.html>.
 Sultanova, Aida, Avet Demourian, and Lynn Berry. “Outbreak of Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh Kills 15.” The Big Story. Associated Press, 02 Aug. 2014. Web. 01 Sept. 2014. <http://bigstory.ap.org/article/outbreak-fighting-nagorno-karabakh-kills-15>.
 “Russia, Abkhazia to Sign Deal on Common Security by Year-End – Kremlin Spokesman.” RIA Novosti. 28 Aug. 2014. Web. 01 Sept. 2014. <http://en.ria.ru/russia/20140828/192402366/Russia-Abkhazia-to-Sign-Deal-on-Common-Security-by-Year-End.html>.