Ukraine withdraws from CIS. Is GUAM an alternative?

Author : Pavlo Horin

Source : 112 Ukraine

At the 11th Kyiv Security Forum, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko proposed the official withdrawal of the country from the CIS statutory bodies, as well as the termination of certain provisions of the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Another important event of the forum was the agreements between Ukraine and Moldova, which correspond to the desire of both countries to launch in the short term a free trade zone and a single transport corridor of GUAM organization
23:10, 23 April 2018

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The atmosphere of the forum was also supplemented by the speeches of the representatives of the United States and the North Atlantic Alliance calling for accelerating the reforms for the speedy entry of the country into NATO and the European Union. Ukraine is on its way to a final break with Russia. At the same time, if Kyiv succeeds in reanimating GUAM and lobbying for the increase in the defense capacity of its member countries, Ukraine could pretend to be a regional leader and further weaken Russia's position in the post-Soviet space. Although Kyiv itself will have a lot of work after leaving the CIS, first of all on the individual revision of contractual relations with the countries of the Commonwealth.

In the context of statements by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that Ukraine is not and has never been a member of the CIS, it should be noted that this opinion, which was later published by many domestic experts, is somewhat erroneous. Yes, indeed, de jure Ukraine never became a member state of the Commonwealth, not signing in 1993 the CIS Charter. But de facto, until 2014, we took an active part in the work of almost all the executive bodies of the Commonwealth and formed a joint legal framework with them.

In the context of recent years, the continued presence of Ukraine in the CIS became inappropriate for our country.

Ukraine in the CIS is no longer effective

In the middle of 2000s, the structure of the Commonwealth began to crack. With the coming to power of Viktor Yushchenko and his supporters in Ukraine, and also after a number of notable political failures of the Russian leadership in relations with former post-Soviet countries (Georgia, Moldova), skepticism about the viability and efficiency of the CIS has only increased. In 2006, this was also fueled by trade wars between Russia on the one hand and Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine on the other. But especially - with a sharp deterioration of relations between Russia and Georgia in 2008, after which Georgia left the organization. The attempts to somehow reform this international organization have also proved to be unsuccessful. Even Vladimir Putin noticed then that the CIS was created for the "civilized divorce" of the post-Soviet countries, and everything else - is "political husks and chatter."

Nevertheless, the turning point in relations between Ukraine and the CIS came only in 2014 as a result of Russia's aggression in Crimea and Donbas. On March 19, 2014, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine decided to end our chairmanship in the CIS, and its secretary, Andriy Parubii, for the first time announced that the country is beginning the process of seceding from this international organization. Further, our cooperation within the framework of the Commonwealth was minimized. Until 2016, we delegated to the summits of the organization only ambassadors, and in 2017 ignored this event. Then Ukraine withdrew from a number of multilateral agreements within the CIS and suspended membership in many sectoral cooperation bodies. And on November 9, 2016, a bill was submitted to the Verkhovna Rada on the withdrawal of Ukraine from the CIS, which for a year and a half has never been considered by the Ukrainian parliament, and on March 20, 2018, shortly before Poroshenko's loud statement, it was withdrawn.

It should be noted that Russian aggression also affected individual contacts between Kyiv and the top leadership of the Commonwealth countries, which was also influenced in some way by the results of the vote of the latter in the United Nations on Ukraine's resolutions on the territorial integrity of 2014 and the situation in Crimea in 2016 and 2017.

Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia systematically voted against Ukrainian resolutions. As a result, no ambassadors have been appointed by Kyiv either in Kazakhstan or in Armenia today, and the dynamics of our bilateral contacts, besides the above-mentioned countries, also decreased with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. At the same time, Ukraine retained an increased interest in GUAM member countries (Azerbaijan, Moldova) and Belarus.

It is also worth noting that it would be absolutely unacceptable for Ukraine to continue participating in the organization of the so-called Commonwealth of unrecognized states or CIS-2. In the Republic of Abkhazia, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Transnistria and South Ossetia. Especially in the context of the desire of these pseudo-republics to establish cooperation with the unrecognized the "LNR" and "DNR".

In Russia, however, they believe that Ukraine's withdrawal from the CIS will not affect the Commonwealth in any way, while Ukrainians, in turn, will lose the opportunity to "keep their hand on the pulse," express their opinion and even block (the organization is built on the principle of consensus) some decisions of the organization. First of all, concerning the sphere of military cooperation in the post-Soviet space.

Ukrainian experts consider the only drawback which is the risks associated with the revision of our existing treaty and legal framework with the CIS. In their opinion, this will affect the question of how long the process of inventorying existing treaties will be delayed, are all the CIS countries ready to review the contractual relations with Ukraine under the same conditions as Russia will interfere in this process and how cooperation of Kyiv with the countries of the Commonwealth will affect the indicators of trade and economic.

Some experts are convinced that the process of inventory of the contractual base may drag on from several months to a year, and the gap will primarily affect our trade with the Commonwealth countries, which are just starting to recover after the crisis of 2014-2016.

It should be noted that Ukraine now actively trades with such CIS participants as Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan. By 2015, the share of CIS countries in Ukraine's foreign trade fell almost twofold, from 34% to 16.6%, mainly due to the freezing of economic relations with Russia. Trade with other Commonwealth countries fell less. But in 2017-2018, the numbers began to grow again. Thus, for example, the overall trade turnover between Ukraine and Belarus increased by 20% during 2017 and amounted to $ 4.4 billion.

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It should be taken into account that during the freezing of trade relations with Russia by other countries of the CIS - Moldova, Kazakhstan and especially Belarus - they began to function as economic intermediaries selling Ukraine the necessary goods or buying Ukrainian goods, including for further export to Russia. And it can push these countries after the release of Ukraine from the Commonwealth to the resumption of the FTA already at the bilateral level.

GUAM - why Ukraine needs it?

In addition, after leaving the CIS, the GUAM format will come to the forefront for Kyiv, where the Agreement on the Free Trade Zone de jure came into force in 2003, but in practice, it has not been implemented yet. First of all, due to the existing FTA within the CIS, as well as the FTA of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova with the European Union that came into force after 2014.

It should be noted that the period from 2005 to 2008 was the peak for GUAM. Then the parties completed the creation of a new international organization, signing the declaration on the establishment of the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development - GUAM (ODER-GUAM) and its charter. Plans were also made for the creation of a fuel and energy council to coordinate efforts to ensure the energy security of the participating countries. The organization has gained wide support from the European Union, OSCE, BSEC, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, USA and Japan. The Baku Declaration "GUAM: Uniting the Continents" was signed, where special attention was paid to the issues of energy security, the use of the transit potential of the member countries, as well as issues related to combating international terrorism, aggressive separatism and extremism, transnational organized crime, and the Batumi Declaration " GUAM - uniting the East of Europe ", which was approved by the presidents of five states - Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania and Poland. The latter noted the special geopolitical location and transit potential of GUAM as a bridge between Europe and Asia, which offers unique opportunities for the development of transport and communication links and diversification of routes for the delivery of energy resources, thereby uniting the continents.

As of 2008, Ukraine's bilateral trade with the Oder-GUAM countries amounted to about $ 3.2 billion.

In early 2010, the then-presidential candidate of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych said that the activities of GUAM are now irrelevant. Yanukovych noted that over the past five years he had heard only talks about GUAM, but did not see concrete actions.

In 2013, the mutual trade turnover between Ukraine and the GUAM countries fell by about 17% and amounted to about 2.6 billion US dollars.

And in 2017, compared with 2013, imports to Ukraine of goods from Azerbaijan and Moldova increased significantly against the backdrop of a decrease in exports of Ukrainian products to GUAM countries by 67%.

After nine years, the work of GUAM was resumed. In March 2017, at the initiative of Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, the fourth ODER-GUAM summit was held in Kyiv, the main theme of which was the resumption of a full-scale free trade agreement and the creation of a transport corridor within the framework of GUAM.

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Also among the goals of the summit was the need to implement a program of cooperation with Japan, which was signed on December 3, 2015, as part of the GUAM-Japan meeting, and the preparation of cooperation programs with the countries of the Visegrad Four and the United States.

A number of documents on the implementation of the FTA and, in particular, a protocol on mutual recognition of the results of customs procedures regarding goods and vehicles crossing the state borders of the GUAM member countries was signed at the meeting.

As a result of the fourth summit, the sides, among other things, underscored the intention of the fastest settlement of existing conflicts in the territories of the GUAM member states in order to preserve the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and inviolability of internationally recognized borders of states.

Then, in October 2017, a special meeting of the GUAM Foreign Ministers Council took place in Tbilisi, where the head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, Pavlo Klimkin, again called on Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova to unite against Russia in order to confront the challenges of violating territorial integrity.

In 2018, GUAM is chaired by Moldova, which prioritized the provision of the operation of the FTA between the countries of the organization and the strengthening of interaction in the economy, transport and energy. An equally important area of activity will be the improvement of the quality of interaction in such areas as the exchange of information in the fields of education, science, research and innovation. And special attention will be paid to the consolidation of international cooperation in the so-called format GUAM +, in particular with the countries of the EU, the OSCE, with Japan, the United States and the countries of the Visegrad Four.


Also, Moldova will try to use its chairmanship in GUAM to persuade Russia to implement the "Istanbul agreements" (on withdrawing troops from Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria), which Chisinau made clear during the 11th Kyiv Security Forum, urging Kyiv to provide the relevant corridor for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria.

At the forum, the sides also concluded a new agreement on air communication between Ukraine and Moldova, signed a protocol that will improve transport and automobile cooperation, as well as a memorandum on the synchronization of Moldovan and Ukrainian energy systems with the European energy system. The importance of these decisions, among other things, is also due to the intentions of the parties to accelerate the process of creating a free trade zone and a single transport corridor of GUAM.

At the same time, experts believe that GUAM members should begin to think strategically. Vasyl Yurchishin, director of economic programs at the Razumkov Center, notes that "it would be appropriate and useful if the intentions of expanding and strengthening ties within GUAM or with other countries on the territory of the former CIS were addressed immediately in the context of entering into serious infrastructure transcontinental projects. The Silk Road will be used by Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine - almost all the GUAM countries, Moldova could also join it. In turn, the political observer from Moldova, Cornel Churia, is sure that it will be extremely difficult to reanimate this organization as a geopolitical player. In his view, "the linking of these four countries is quite complicated ... all four countries have slightly different agendas: Azerbaijan has economic goals, Moldova has a pro-Western vector, but there are no significant geopolitical ambitions, but Ukraine and Georgia have more ambitions. It is important to have effective leadership that would set the direction of the organization, and also be able to balance the different interests of these four countries."

* * *

The next GUAM summit will be held in Moldova on June 21. Let's hope that by that time Ukraine will come to an agreement with all the countries of the organization and at the summit will be announced the launch of the FTA and the beginning of the formation of a single transport corridor of GUAM. After all, the potential of mutual trade of these countries in the medium term may amount to about 3.4 billion dollars. In addition, Kyiv should not delay the inventory of the CIS legal framework and it is better to speed up the process of individual revision of contractual relations with the Commonwealth countries, primarily with Belarus and Kazakhstan.

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