Baku, March 12 – If Moldova agrees to leave GUAM in exchange for Russian promises not to support Transdniestria separatism as its President Vladimir Voronin suggested yesterday, two leading Azerbaijani political commentators say, neither Chisinau nor Moscow will achieve what it hopes from this political trade off.
Chisinau will quickly discover, former Azerbaijani national security advisor Vafa Guluzade says, that Moscow could “solve” the Transdniestrian problem only if Moldova renounces its independence. Otherwise its promises to do so are certain to prove empty (http://www.1news.az/articles.php?sec_id=2&item_id=20080311123827687).
And both he and Echo’s political observer Nurani say that if Moldova nonetheless does decide under pressure from Moscow to withdraw from GUAM as Uzbekistan did several years ago, the grouping will move to include within its ranks Poland and other countries (http://www.echo-az.com/zarubej01.shtml).
Having succeeded in forcing Uzbekistan to leave what was then called GUUAM in 2005, Moscow has been working hard to peal off yet another member of a group that it views as a Western-backed threat to Russia’s dominance of the post-Soviet space through its Commonwealth of Independent States.
After the election of communist Voronin, Moscow identified Moldova as the weakest link in GUAM, and following Western recognition of Kosovo’s independence, the Russian government has dramatically stepped up the pressure on Chisinau to do its bidding or risk some Russian counter-move on Transdniestria.
Yesterday brought the most obvious indication that Moscow’s efforts are having an impact. In an interview published in Kommersant, Voronin said that Moldova was prepared to withdraw from GUAM in exchange for a Russian guarantee of that country’s territorial integrity (http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?docsid=865338).
In other comments, Voronin said that as part of that exchange, he was also prepared to reduce Moldova’s contacts with NATO and declare his country “neutral,” an indication both of his own generally deferential attitudes toward Moscow and of the increasing Russian pressure on him and his government.
Not surprisingly, Voronin’s remarks immediately drew the attention of the other GUAM member countries, and nowhere was that focus greater than in Azerbaijan. (See, the coverage of Voronin’s comments at http://www.525.az/rus/2008/03/12/get=14603 and http://www.day.az/news/world/111118.html).
But the most important reaction in Baku so far has been from Guluzade and Nurani. In his comments to the 1News.az portal yesterday, Azerbaijan’s most senior political observer noted that Voronin had always been the most skeptically inclined of the GUAM leaders.
The Moldovan’s latest declaration shows, however, that “he has forgotten one thing: the foundation of this organization was laid by the late [Azerbaijani president] Heydar Aliyev and he never took up anything which did not have a future,” Guluzade, who served as his advisor, said.
”You can be sure,” he continued, “that GUAM has a beautiful future,” not the “cloudy” one Voronin predicted in his interview. If Moldova in fact decides to leave, he said, then its place in the group “could be taken by many states, including Poland, Lithuania, Hungary and even Turkey.”
Nurani for his part seconded Guluzade’s conclusions. On the one hand, he noted that the Azerbaijani government has not responded to Voronin’s remarks except to point out that Baku has not heard anything officially from Chisinau regarding any change in Moldova’s status in the organization.
And on the other, he stressed, Moscow’s current desire to craft “a Russian ‘response’” to Kosovo clearly frightens Voronin. And that explains why the Moldovan leader is so desperately seeking to find a way to prevent the Russian government from promoting the disintegration of his country.
However, Nurani said, whatever the Kremlin may be promising Voronin now, it is unlikely to give up Transdniestria “as a lever of pressure” not only on Moldova but on the broader region. And even if he promises to leave GUAM, that group will not collapse but grow, possibly adding Poland and Lithuania as members in the near future.