Washington, 6 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Even before U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had returned to Washington, military and diplomatic analysts said his trip to Russia and Central Asia appeared to have been successful.
GUUAM comprises Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova. It began to take shape in 1997, although participating states adopted the organization's charter only in June 2001. A primary aim of GUUAM, whose members tend to have a robust distrust of Russia, is to serve as a counterbalance to the Moscow-dominated CIS Security Pact.
The United States' reinvigorated interest in relations with Eurasian countries raises prospects for a dormant regional security alliance known as GUUAM. The US-led anti-terrorism campaign provides new impetus for the organization to act as a stabilizing force and vehicle for economic growth in the region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent visit to Tajikistan is indicative of Moscow's concern about a possible loss of influence in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Amid signs of growing US-Russian competition for sway over the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, Putin is taking steps to solidify Russian ties with long-time allies in the region.
During an October 23 meeting, both Georgian Parliament chairman Zurab Zhvania and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Murtuz Alasgarov, harshly criticized Russian policy in the South Caucasus. Both men said Russia was playing an unconstructive role in attempts to promote regional stability.
The fallout from the September 11 terrorist attacks is spreading to the Caucasus. After years of uneasy peace, Georgia and Abkhazian separatists are mobilizing to resume their bitter conflict. Georgian officials are accusing Russia of fomenting unrest, and President Eduard Shevardnadze is considering pulling Georgia out of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Some analysts believe that cooperation between the United States and Russia in the fight against terrorism could open a new chapter in relations, particularly in Central Asia. There seem to be more questions about whether the same spirit will extend to the Caspian and Caucasus areas.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov is striving to keep a tight rein on events that threaten to stampede out of control. After years of repressing freedom of expression, Karimov is now taking tentative steps to open up Uzbekistan's tightly controlled media. But gaining popular trust is proving a difficult challenge for the government.