Uzbekistan: Taking a U Out of GUUAM

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Uzbekistan has formally withdrawn from GUUAM, a regional grouping of states that also includes Georgia and Ukraine. Political analysts say the move confirms a geopolitical turn by Uzbek leader Islam Karimov away from the United States towards Russia, according to this EurasiaNet article published by Transitions Online.

The revolutionary trend in the former Soviet Union, which has produced regime change in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan over the past 18 months, heavily influenced Uzbekistan’s decision, regional analysts believe. Distancing Uzbekistan from GUUAM appears to be part of Karimov’s strategy to diminish the revolutionary pressure on his regime. Since the start of 2005, Uzbeks have become increasingly bold in protesting what many view as the government’s draconian political and economic policies. The March revolution in Kyrgyzstan, a neighbor of Uzbekistan, seems to have heightened Karimov’s sense of political insecurity.

Uzbekistan notified Moldovan authorities on 5 May of Tashkent’s desire to quit the regional cooperation organization. Moldova currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the group. The fifth member of GUUAM is Azerbaijan. Since its formation in 1997, GUUAM has existed mainly only on paper, as member states failed to put mechanisms in place that could promote substantive trade and political cooperation. 

Prior to Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in late 2004, few political analysts believed GUUAM would ever develop into a viable organization. Of late, however, member states, led by the new administrations in Georgia and Ukraine, have expressed renewed interest in GUUAM, seeing it as a potential vehicle to promote integration with Western economic and political structures. 

Uzbekistan joined the group in 1999, but over the past three years Tashkent has been only a nominal participant in GUUAM’s affairs. In formalizing its withdrawal, Uzbek officials asserted that the organization had “significantly changed [its] initially declared goals and tasks.” In effect, Karimov wants nothing to do with the two leading figures of the revolutionary trend, Georgia’s Mikheil Saakashvili and Ukraine’s Viktor Yushchenko. 

To read the full text of the article, visit the Transitions Online website.

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