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16 iunie 2020 - Special reports - Weekly review

D.S.M. WEEKLY REPORT - Main Political and Military Developments (WEEK 24 of 2020)

Sandu Valentin Mateiu

I. GERMANY / RUSSIA. Phone conversation between Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin. II. RUSSIA / UNITED STATES - NATO. Strategic talks are announced, but military exercises and actions continue. III. CENTRAL EUROPE. Visegrad Group nation leader reunion. IV. LIBYA. Interventionist powers’ decisions might provide hopes for peace. V. Developments to track this Week 25 of 2020.

Sursă foto: Mediafax

English version by Mircea Mocanu

I. GERMANY / RUSSIA. Phone conversation between Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin.

In Libya, General Haftar, who is supported by Russia, suffered defeats. In Syria, the Kremlin obtained what was possible, which is extending its military bases; therefore, Moscow looks ready to accept a peace process, possibly sacrificing Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, Germany has found out that Russia is considering it an adversary[1] and makes efforts to resume peace negotiations in Libya. On this background, the recent phone discussion between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin seems quite important. However, although it was not on top of the agenda, the key issue was Ukraine, where the Kremlin cannot make significant concessions (the aggression in Donbass, aimed at limiting Kyiv’s sovereignty, is crucial for the outer sanitary corridor, the “near neighborhood”, meant to secure abroad the Chekist control on the Kremlin). On this issue, on June 12th, NATO took an important decision: the NAC raised Ukraine’s level of partnership to Enhanced Opportunities Partner. This is an important political and military element, although, even it is denied, it is a political step backwards, as the focus is now on cooperation in this framework, not on NATO integration. This realistic political step backwards, but military step forward was accompanied by Washington’s resumption of military aid for Kyiv. Although there is no immediate result, the Merkel – Putin talk opens the dialogue between Berlin and Moscow, which is of essence in current circumstances featuring confrontations in multiple fields, between Russia and the West. It is a signal that Berlin forcibly accepts the Kremlin “as is” (although Merkel will yield nothing against western values and European interests. The problem is that details matter too[2]). 

On June 9th, Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Libya, Syria, and Ukraine. Libya was urgent, and it was discussed in the context where the Europeans make efforts to resume peace negotiations: on June 10th, Germany, France (sympathetic to Benghazi) and Italy (sympathetic to Tripoli) have issued a common declaration calling all parties involved in Libyan war to commit to peace negotiations (it was a reference to the recent Egyptian cease-fire initiative rejected by Turkey, who considers that such move would be just a break needed by General Haftar for getting military reinforcements). Regarding Libya, the two leaders underlined that "there is no alternative to the ceasefire and the soonest launch of United Nations-brokered intra-Libyan talks” (after being militarily defeated by Turkey, the Kremlin now supports negotiations, although Russia has breached the UN embargo and Berlin Convention stipulations, as Turkey and other involved powers did as well). Moscow “hailed Egypt’s mediatory efforts to promote peaceful settlement of the Libyan crisis in furtherance of the resolutions of the Berlin international conference on January 19, 2020". Regarding Syria, the two parties discussed key issues of the situation on the ground, including the problem of humanitarian support for Syrian population (following the motto “Germany pays, the Kremlin controls”). In the Ukrainian dossier, the two leaders voiced their concern regarding the lack of progress in implementing the Minsk Agreement and the package of measures decided in Paris, meant to solve the situation in Eastern Ukraine. Putin insisted on the need for direct dialogue between Kyiv and the “Donetsk and Luhansk Republics”, in view of implemnting the agreements (the Kremlin’s objective: to knee Kyiv to the level held by the separatists – Kremlin creation. Meanwhile, Russia rises as refferee of the confrontation, although it is, in fact, part of the conflict, aiming at limiting Ulraine’s sovereignty). The Russian side, quoted above, stated that dialogue occurred at German request.  

We will summarize the situation in these three dossiers, as well as the situation in the two countries. Libya became an emergency on the background of Tripoli Islamist government’s victory against Benghazi authority LNA forces led by General Haftar (where Tripoli ia supported by Turkey up to the level of direct involvement). That situation generated the danger of a regional war, as Russia and Egypt are determined to prevent Estern Libya to fall under the Islamist governemnt and Turkey. German efforts are remarkable, Merkel talked even to Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and German ambassador to Tripoli met General Haftar. However, the true solution was decided by the two interventionists, Turkey and Russia, at the Istanbul summit. The situation shows Europe trembling at the dangers caused by a civil war in Libya, but the decisions are taken by two interventionist aggressive regional powers, Russia and Turkey (only an American surveillance action blocked a ‘new Syria’ in Libya). In Syria, Putin is ready to drop Bashar al-Assad, provided Moscow gets guarantees of keeping acquired positions (extended military bases, the political peace solution to consacrate the military victory, access to economic resources. The United States is an obstacle, as it blocks access to oil and to Qamishlia). This is Moscow’s objective, not the much claimed wish for peace, which would bring European money to rebuild whatever is left standing in Syria. Damascus is in a difficult situation, economic and political, as Iran has no more money to subsidize Syria, Moscow does not want to support Bashar al-Assad anymore (has no more money to waste on foreign adventures), and Turkey does not leave Idlib (where it took the jihadists and sent them to Libya, exactly as Russia did as well; Moscow controlled there the Wagner mercenaries  paid by... Saudi Arabia). As in the case of Libya, some decisions will be found by foreign ministers of Russia, Iran, and Turkey. The Europeans must settle with that decision and pay. However, the main influence on that decison is not German, but American, through Turkey (President Donald Trump had a phone discussion with Trukish President Recep Erdoğan, and they reached certain conclusions not reflecting the European point of view. However, their conclusions do not totally neglect the European point of view either, see the U.S. warning to Turkey regarding the exclusive economic zones, and the beginning of cooperation activities between the “IRINI” EU Mission and NATO).

Without holding the top of the agenda, Ukraine remains the most important problem, both for the Kremlin, and for the West. Perhaps, before discussing the propositions sent by Russia through Dmitry Kozak both with the United States, and with Kyiv, Germany and France[3] prepare a new Normandy format meeting, aiming to obtain progress to peace (which will arrive only when the Kremlin considers it gets intended political concessions from Kyiv). Meanwhile, the Westerners seek to create the framework where Ukraine remains in a realistic process of getting closer to the West (also appeasing certain Russian interests) and continue military support to Kyiv. On June 6th, the U.S. State Department informed the Congress it would offer Ukraine military equipment worth $125 million (already approved by the Congress). The new support package includes artillery fire detection systems, and patrol warships Mark VI, exactly what Kyiv needs most (for fixing enemy artillery and for a minimal naval / costal deterrence).

Regarding NATO, the NAC decision to raise Ukraine’s level of cooperation to “Enhanced Opportunities Partner” (EOP) level is a pragmatic step. Thus, on June 12th, NATO granted Ukraine this title, in conditions where Ukraine shows commitment for Euro-Atlantic security. Designating Ukraine as EOP is meant to "maintain and deepen cooperation between Allies and partners that have made significant contributions to NATO-led operations and missions". Ukraine will get more access to Alliance interoperability programs and exercises, as well as intelligence exchange. It was specified that this new status does not jeopardize Ukraine’s aspirations to NATO membership. Practically, this is an intermediate solution: militarily, pragmatic cooperation is amplified, and politically, a solution has been identified, and this is compatible with limits imposed by Russia (although there is assurance that membership process will continue). This is a solution designed by NATO for friendly western neutral nations facing Russian threat, such as Sweden and Finland, as well as for pro-western nations located farther (Jordan). This solution was extended for nations in the post-Soviet space willing to make the integration step – Georgia and Ukraine. Together with the new pragmatic procedure of EU accession, this NATO status provides Ukraine a position closer to the West, adequate to the moment by observing certain Russian red lines (no integration into NATO and EU). Is this enough for the Kremlin? We will see, as the Kremlin’s aggressivity grows higher when its economic and social vulnerabilities diminish.

The context in Russia is difficult for the Kremlin. The power managed poorly the Coronavirus crisis, which revealed multiple domestic deficiencies with political causes, because the economic, social and political impact is significant (all “Soviet countries”, Russia, Belarus, and Republic of Moldova tweaked health situation figures so blatantly that even the WHO stepped in; therefore, Moscow changed the procedure to make the published figures better reflect the real situation). The Kremlin is pressed by the Constitution referendum calendar, which is necessary to the power for maintaining legitimacy apparencies; therefore, Moscow launches the economic program for post-Coronavirus reconstruction, and beefs up propagandistic events (the Victory parade). The Kremlin will prevail after the referendum, but Russia will not, as the future begins with a “putinist stalemate period”, where the Chekists secure themselves the certainty of dwelling in power until 2036, by keeping Putin in the driver seat. The price is maintaining Russia isolated and in economic dire straits. Let us notice that the EU will extend sanctions against Russia, as the Kremlin ‘managed’ to damage its relations with almost all European countries, except Hungary (anyway, it seems to be Viktor Orbán’s calling to defend dictators, he also requested EU sanctions against Lukashenka be lifted).

The context in Germany is positive, as Berlin is in full swing Europe reconstruction process, after the Coronavirus crisis, by assuming common commitment for loans. On the other hand, the withdrawal of American troops, now officially confirmed, although is a small and hasty step by the White House, is warning Berlin on serious problems. As a German official stated, it would “shake the pillars of the transatlantic relationship”.

This happens not only because of Trump Administration, but also due to Berlin’s policy, which failed to find answers to the great questions which ‘Europe’s ‘reluctant hegemon’ must ask itself regarding security and military issues (although, in policy and economy, Berlin showed it is Europe’s responsible power).

We said that the solution for Libya and Syria wars would be decided by interventionists, Russia, Turkey, and Iran (on Syria), with the Europeans bringing propositions on the peace negotiation framework, and the United States monitoring the red lines. In these circumstances, we will see how far the progress in Ukraine can reach. Will the Kremlin accept Ukraine with a ‘Transnistria-type’ Donbass, or it will push for the crisis to continue? Unfortunately or the opposite, the answer does not rest with any principled basis of the Kremlin, but it depends on oil and gas price instead (as we know what Russia’s leaders want: domination over other countries, in breach of international laws). For the moment, oil and gas prices are low, therefore there are chances for peace. For Romania, keeping Ukraine sovereign is vital, but Libya and Syria are not unimportant either, considering that the interventionists have generated, respectively steered the migrant wave towards Europe - a destabilizing decision they might repeat.


II. RUSSIA / UNITED STATES - NATO. Strategic talks are announced, but military exercises and actions continue.

The announcement of beginning negotiations on the New START provides hopes, but these hopes are limited, because conditions for reaching an agreement are not met: the United States insists on bringing China in the negotiation format, and Beijing refuses, while Russia launches an arms race by introducing a niche weapon meant to secure its supremacy, although it causes instability (the new nuclear torpedo submarine). Russia responded with exercises in the Baltic Sea to NATO’s small-scale exercises in the Barents Sea. The same, in the Barents Sea, Russia responded with a naval exercise to the presence of a NATO (French) frigate there. Russia also responded to the American B-52 bomber flight with Norwegian escort, with a massive air mission: four Tu-95 bombers, with an escort of two Su-35 and two A-50 towards Alaska. These Russian aircraft flew close to the U.S. air space, and they were intercepted by American F-22 fighters. Things will grow more complicated after Russia launched its nuclear submarine armed with the already famous Poseidon nuclear torpedo. The game of alternating direct threat with arms race, nuclear included, opened by Moscow, might lead to the fall of the most important agreement between the two countries, the New START, although its extension for a limited period is in sight.

On June 6th, American negotiator on strategic armaments Marshall Billingslea communicated that United States and Russia agreed to begin negotiations on nuclear weapons, and invited China to participate too. The two delegations will meet on June 22nd, in Vienna. Unofficially, Washington communicated it would accept a New START extension, if Russia "commits to three-way arms control with China and helps to bring a resistant Beijing to the table”. Billingslea said only: “Today I agreed with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov on time and place for nuclear arms negotiations in June. China also invited. Will China show and negotiate in good faith?” Through Sergey Ryabkov, Moscow confirmed the beginning of negotiations, but not the role that United States placed on Russia in efforts to bring China to the table. Beijing officially refused to participate in negotiations (although it has a much smaller nuclear arsenal, China has no limitation set on the number of its nuclear warheads and vectors, and it budgets significant money to consolidate its nuclear arsenal). 

Negotiations are urgent, as the New START, an agreement having been observed by both powers, is due to expire in February 2021. The United States hinges the agreement negotiation on bringing China along, but Russia has neither the intention, nor the power of persuading China to come on board. Moscow counts on its head start in renewing Russia’s nuke arsenal (platforms, vectors, and warheads) and on its niche weapons (much more destabilizing than effective) in response to American missile defense systems. One should consider that, while on medium-term, Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenal is directed against the United States, on long-term, things are different: Russia is interested, although it cannot admit it, that a China in full economic and military development, be part of such agreement (for the moment, given the nature of their regimes, Russo-Chinese friendship is growing; however, in the Kremlin, there are many questions linked to what is going to happen after decades of honeymoon between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping[4]). Moscow’s hopes point to an extension of the agreement with the U.S. on long-term, but, highly likely, if China does not show up at the negotiations (and it will not), such extension will only see a short period (perhaps one year). Nevertheless, extending the New START would be a positive signal we would benefit, in a world which is more and more destabilized by the lack of, or breached agreements. Thus, the level of trust between the two nuclear powers might increase, which is a necessary element, in circumstances where tensions between them are to increase in Europe (NATO response to Russia’s SSC-8 deployment) and in the Arctic.

Although NATO reduced the size of its exercises in Poland and the Baltic Sea, Russia responded with its own exercise in the Baltic. This is a new phase towards escalation, from observing an exercise or using the exercise of an adversary to organize one’s own exercises, to interfering with an exercise by organizing one’s own tactical exercise in immediate vicinity. In addition, Russian aviation violated Estonia’s air space for the first time this year (although only for a couple of minutes – Russian style). On June 11th, Russian Ministry of Defense announced that Baltic Sea Fleet aviation conducted exercises of attacking warships of a hypothetic enemy: more than ten naval aviation aircraft, including Su-30SM fighters and Su-24 fighter-bombers (escorted by Su-27 fighters) conducted attacks against naval targets in its firing ranges. Russia’s exercise unfolded in the same period when NATO was conducting the BALTOPS 2020 exercise (although NATO diminished the exercise to only the naval component, therefore its size was relatively small: 30 warships, 30 aircraft, and 3,000 sailors). Worth mentioning, the exercise in Poland, even during the Coronavirus crisis, proves a good Polish-American military cooperation.

On June 5th, the entrance of French frigate ‘Aquitaine’ / D650 into the Barents Sea was likely the triggering element for Russian naval exercise, and Russian destroyer ‘Amiral Kulikov’ closely shadowed the French frigate. Russian General Staff perceives the entrance of NATO warships into the Barents Sea (Moscow’s ‘Northern Bastion’), as a provocation against Russia. On June 9th, Russian Defense Minister announced that, in the framework of this event, North Fleet warships conducted anti-submarine exercises, where a search-and-strike naval grouping was hunting a Russian nuclear submarine playing the role of an enemy submarine (having the mission to destroy the surface warships in that naval grouping). Three submarine-hunter warships joined the exercise, ‘Brest’, ‘Snezhnogorsk’, and ‘Yunga’, as well as an anti-submarine aircraft Il-38. This exercise was presented as part of a larger defense exercise in this Arctic maritime area (the ‘naval bastion’ and the access gateway to this Arctic area, already militarized by Russia; however, the United States announced its intention to catch up, by launching its program of building warships designed for the Arctic, especially vital ice-breakers).

NATO naval presence in the Barents Sea (American-British, and now French) and Russian reaction can be explained by  three elements”: 1) at tactical level: there were Russia’s sea tests of Moscow’s second nuclear submarine with Bulava ballistic missiles, the Borei II – class project 955A ‘Knyaz Vladimir’ (commissioned by the North Fleet on June 6th), and sea tests for the ‘Khabarovsk’ nuclear submarine (with Poseidon intercontinental nuclear torpedoes) are to follow. Especially in case of the ‘Khabarovsk’ submarine, a ship which brings the strategic novelty element - six Poseidon nuclear torpedoes, NATO must copy its acoustic signature. The Poseidon nuclear torpedo was presented as Russia’s niche weapon. This is a nuclear-powered nuclear-warhead underwater vehicle, with features of both an autonomous vehicle and a nuclear torpedo (after identifying the target, it accelerates to high speeds). The Poseidon is Russia’s solution as response strike, considering that its ballistic missiles, including those launched from submarines, might get intercepted by American missile defense systems; 2) at operational level, NATO warships enter Russian ‘naval bastion’, where they learn Moscow’s whole naval deterrence strategy (nuclear submarines protected inside the ‘bastion’, which is defended by naval, submarine and air assets, can securely launch Russia’s response). NATO warships also respond to Russia’s aggressive actions with submarines in North Atlantic, towards the ‘GIUK Gap’; 3) at strategic level, the U.S. and other NATO nations challenge Moscow’s militarization of the Arctic for securing Russia’s unhindered access to resources and waterways in the region. One should take into consideration that, at a much smaller scale, yet equally dangerous, the situation replicates in the ‘Southern Bastion’ around Crimea, where Kalibr cruise missiles launched by Russian Black Sea Fleet submarines and surface warships represent an equally significant threat to Europe, as those of the ‘Nordic Bastion’ in the Barents Sea.

In the Far East, the flight by those four Tu-95 strategic bombers towards Alaska, on June 10th, displayed a couple of specific features: two groups of Tu-95 bombers, one of two Tu-95 aircraft escorted by two Su-35 fighters and accompanied by an A-50 (the Russian AWACS) reached about 20 nautical miles near the American territory; and the second group of two Tu-95 bombers, accompanied by an A-50, which got at about 32 nautical miles of U.S. shores. Both groups were intercepted by American F-22 stealth aircraft. Interesting, while the Russians likely attempted to surprise the NORAD with the simultaneous attack with two groups of Tu-95 bombers, the Americans also responded on forward positions: early interception, before the attacking bombers have the possibility to launch cruise missiles, as well as intercepting the A-50, which control and monitor the whole air operation; an indication of such planned and forward implemented operational concept is the presence in the area of an American in-flight-refueling tanker. Although conducted ‘at the far end of the world’, such missions make a useful lesson for anybody interested, knowing that Tu-22 bombers fly as close as Romania’s own territory, escorted by Su-30SM fighters taking off from Crimea, and coordinated by an A-50 based close to Crimea. Interesting, Russian aviation tests American ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone), while working on establishing its own Russian ADIZ in the Black Sea; this is the significance of activities of marking the action range of anti-aircraft A2AD system in Crimea, in the presentation delivered by Russian head of Operations Division about recent B-1 flights in the Black Sea. Worth mentioning, the situation gets more complicated at the borders between Russia and NATO, and a true deterrence is needed, one which can be achieved only with a high-tech equipment and well-trained personnel.


III. CENTRAL EUROPE. Visegrad Group nation leader reunion.

The June 11th Visegrad Group (VG4) nation leaders’ reunion focused on deciding a common position regarding the European post-Coronavirus reconstruction fund. Although positions of the four leaders diverge, a fragile common ground was identified, and this reflects their concern that the gravity center of European aid might transfer from East to South. Although it remains important, especially at the second echelon of modernizing European economy and society, the VG4 became a problem quartet, back-warded in many issues (migration and rule of law) and eclectic (few common points between Slovakia’s leader, a European Conservative, and Czech Republic’s… Slovak president, a populist accused of collaborating with communist secret agencies, and of European fund fraud; but also between Polish Conservative leader, who perceives Russian threat, although Polish Conservatives are at war with the judiciary and the homosexuals, and the Hungarian leader, who courts Moscow while building an anti-European authoritarian regime using… European funds).

Nevertheless, the VG4 tilted towards supporting the EU plan of establishing the post-Coronavirus reconstruction fund. But they stated that the EU Recovery Fund should not favor larger or richer nations at the expense of smaller countries who better managed the crisis (less impacted by Covid 19, these smaller nations will benefit smaller sums, which is worrying the VG4). Poland will get a larger amount, which makes it a supporter of the Recovery Fund, while Czech Republic and Hungary are skeptical, because they are to receive less. Budapest will oppose common commitment for loans by EU nations for so large funds, but will accept the plan if it gets more money (the fact that Viktor Orbán forgot about European solidarity will be noticed in Rome, by his very friend, the anti-European Salvini). VG4 suggested as a source for financing the Recovery Fund should be established in budgetary returns which benefit some rich EU nations, as such returns are no longer justified after Brexit. Although the danger lingers, hinging the EU funds access on respecting the rule of law was not insisted upon in Brussels, but Hungary and Poland are eyed in that respect.

The VG4 countries’ positions are divergent, the same as their respective domestic political situations, but the earmarked money remains the main criteria for their support. Prague, but especially Budapest are discontent of the small money they were allotted. Considering that Viktor Orbán has hit Romania before (the moves with its support for OECD membership), European level negotiations should be granted a sharp attention, as the other three VG4 nations are friendly to Romania. Even Viktor Orbán’s recent speech suggests caution. More noisy that patriotic, his speech signaled certain directions: the regime’s anti-Western stance, by linking ideology with history (the West would have betrayed Hungary by altering its borders); Budapest ambition of being a core power in Central Europe, where Viktor Orbán does not see Romania. Regardless how many problems would VG4 raise in the EU, for Romania, this group remains a stage we cannot skip in our way towards Western Europe, and their increased interest in Romania (when Bucharest reaches a political, economic and social level high enough to make us interesting) is the indication that Romania has come back where it was before the WWII, and where Romania’s place is, in Central Europe.


IV. LIBYA. Interventionist powers’ decisions might provide hopes for peace.

Libya reached the level of regional war when Egypt stepped in to offer a peace initiative (that was rejected by Turkey, but greeted by Russia, the Europeans, and the U.S.), but Egypt also moved troops into Eastern Libya. The Europeans work to resume peace negotiations, and the United States monitors the developments. Most important, the two Libyan parties, GNA (the internationally recognized Islamist government in Tripoli), and the LNA (the group in Benghazi, led by General Haftar) accepted United Nations mediation, and there is hope that a cease-fire agreement can be reached (although GNA discovered mass graves, which is not at all encouraging). Frontline developments shape the positions of main actors, Turkey and Russia, and Ankara won an important victory outside Tripoli. The two regional interventionists, although adversaries, have an intense dialogue, and the possibility of harmonizing their position is real. Therefore, the result of June 14th meeting in Istanbul will decide on a would-be agreement in Libya. The frontline is now in Sirte, the East/West border town, and the GNA offensive is blocked by LNA’s ally air attacks. Both sides prepare for the next round: Turkey conducts exercises with F-16 aircraft in view of engaging them in Libya, while Russia deployed its aircraft (not admitting that), and on Libya skies Rafale fighters appeared (belonging to Egypt? France announced they are not hers). However, Turkey won the first round and got control on the air space by annihilating Russian air defense system Pantsir S, proved superiority in Electronic Warfare, and has frigates equipped with AA systems deployed in the area. Also, Turkish drones systematically attacked LNA forces made up mostly of mercenaries, ranging from Russian (Wagner contractors) to Sudanese and Syrian (but Turkey also sent ‘its Syrians’ to Libya). 

In conditions where allies of both Libyan parties, especially Turkey, opened air and naval bridges (LNA allies controlling ground roads) for consolidating their military disposition, incidents occurred between EU mission on implementing the UN embargo, IRINI (with Greek and Italian warships at sea), and Turkish (NATO) warships. The problem is linked to Ankara’s policy of grabbing an extended exclusive economic zone (EEZ), at the expense of Greece and Cyprus. This is how the EU – NATO dialogue can be explained, regarding their cooperation between EU IRINI mission and NATO mission in the Mediterranean (perhaps the United States also participated here, for preventing a clash between two NATO allies). After revealing Russia’s plans of concealed / non-assumed deployment of its aircraft to Libya, the United States monitors the negotiating process; Donald Trump and Recep Erdoğan reached certain results (since Turkish officials talked about the need to involve the U.S. more in the issue). However, thorough an official, Washington warned Ankara on forcing the EEZ. In this issue, Greece obtained support from Italy, whom it signed an agreement with regarding the EEZ delimitation, and Athens is about to do the same thing with Cairo.

We witness a divide moment in Libya, and Europeans’ efforts in mediating the conflict might pan out, to the measure where Ankara and Moscow, the two regional interventionists, will harmonize their interests. This is possible because, for each of the two, there are limits drawn by the United States: Russia cannot have a military base in Libya, and Turkey cannot forcibly extend its EEZ by using the agreement with Tripoli. Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Shoygu’s visit to Istanbul, meant to find a solution mutually acceptable in Libya, is crucial.

Reaching a balance is possible and, although there are not significant chances of salvaging a united Libya, there is the possibility of reaching a cease-fire agreement and an accord for beginning peace negotiations. The result of June 14th Istanbul meeting is crucial for providing a direction for would-be peace negotiations, and there is common ground for Russia and Turkey to harmonize their interests. Beyond that, let us notice that in places left by the West, especially by the United States, regional powers interfered and cynically imposed their interests (as Tomaso di Lampedusa said, “leopards leave, and hyenas come”).


VI. Developments to track this Week 25 of 2020.

► ROMANIA / RUSSIA. Bucharest draft of national security strategy triggers Moscow reaction. No more should be said on that indeed, for three reasons: 1) Romania had, with Russia, o period of mutual silent ignoring, which is the pinnacle of positive that can be achieved in current conditions, when the Kremlin is aggressive; 2) the problem is not an ironic declaration by Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (this is her role, considering that Russian diplomacy is part of the peace / hybrid war game), but Moscow’s military threat, for example Russian Tu-22M3 bombers, which flew close to our national air space (Romanian Air Force scrambled two MiG-21 fighters); 3) Romania’s main problem, equal to Russian threat, is its vulnerabilities. Thus, the strategy draft includes wording on the vulnerability of delayed equipment programs. This seems to be just an effect, the cause is different, is structural, and is well-known. So, if we do not tense the situation, Russia will do it when it deems our time has come. Romania’s mission is to be truly ready when that time comes.   

► NATO. The June 17th Defense Minister format North-Atlantic Council might bring the return to discussing NATO’s main issues, especially the post-INF response, but also the developments in Afghanistan and Iraq Theaters of Operations (where the United States withdraws troops). Notably, the Alliance agenda includes more and more often China, while China also appears in EU agenda. 

► RUSSIA / SERBIA. Sergey Lavrov’s June 18th visit to Belgrade will allow consultations with Belgrade regarding negotiations on Kosovo. Moscow cannot lose the opportunity offered by the breach created between the United States and the EU (Germany). Kosovar government offer cannot be accepted by Belgrade because it settles the result (Kosovo recognition, without exchange of territory) and the EU cannot budge things without an agreement with the United States.

► UNITED STATES / International Criminal Court (ICC). By imposing sanctions on ICC, Trump Administration increases America’s isolation and allows destabilizing powers, in this case, Russia, to capture international organizations. Since it has information of Russian manipulations within the ICC, the United States should act accordingly. Washington might well be angry on an ICC finding war crimes in Afghanistan, where the U.S. and its allies respected the rules of war (exceptions are tried by military courts) and not in Syria, where war crimes committed by Damascus and Russia were strategic; however, the struggle should be diplomatic, not through such actions.

[1] German Prosecutor Office indicted an individual of Russian military intelligence (GRU) of committing a cyber-attack against the German Parliament, and the accusation was mentioned by Angela Merkel herself. Of course, Russian Foreign Ministry denied Moscow involvement.

[2] It is not pleasant at all to see that Transnistrian separatists are tolerated by an OSCE Mission under German control, who establishes numerous checkpoints using the pretext of fighting Coronavirus, and to see the Republic of Moldova isolated and impotent (in conditions where Igor Dodon does nothing to persuade his sponsors to have mercy on his country). Let us see what Thomas Mayr Harting’s visit to Chişinău will generate. The same, it is not pleasant at all to see Spetsnaz frogmen troops with high-tech German equipment or FSB snipers training by killing Ukrainian soldiers in Donbass equipped with high-tech western equipment. Much of Russian military progress is achieved by combining old Soviet projects with stolen or offered Western European technology. How can someone explain that we will have, in a couple of years, Russian warships built on the Mistral French project, which means Russia’s true force projection capability from the sea in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea? 

[3] An indication in that respect is the recent visit paid by a high Ukrainian official to France, but also the dismissal of Ukrainian ambassador to Paris.

[4] One should take into consideration that, from China’s ‘centuries of humiliation’ by the Europeans, only one trace remained: Czarist Russia’s advance towards the Pacific, in the 17th  to 19th  centuries, through a series of unfair treaties with China (the latest being the 1858 Aigun Treaty).