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Weekly review NATO - UE LEVANT Western Balkans Black Sea Region

23 iunie 2020 - Special reports - Weekly review

D.S.M. WEEKLY REPORT - Main Political and Military Developments (WEEK 25 of 2020)

Sandu Valentin Mateiu

I. EUROPEAN UNION. EU nation leader reunion. II. EUROPEAN UNION / UNITED STATES. EU foreign ministers meet the U.S. Secretary of State. III. EUROPEAN UNION. EU defense minister reunion. IV. NATO. North-Atlantic Council in defense ministerial reunion.V. Developments to track this Week 26 of 2020.

Sursă foto: Mediafax

English version by Mircea Mocanu

This past week, four high level (video) meetings unfolded: 1) EU nation leaders talked about the post-Coronavirus Recovery Fund; 2) EU foreign ministers and U.S. Secretary of State discussed the transatlantic relation; 3) EU defense ministers met to relaunch the common defense and security policy; 4) NATO defense ministers decided the Alliance response to Russia’s deployment of SSC-8 missiles. Russia interfered with NATO exercise in the Baltic Sea, and sent strategic bombers towards the United States, and its warships join the U.S. destroyer USS Porter, which entered the Black Sea. In the Kosovo-Serbia dispute, the United States and EU / Germany follow different paths, and Washington launched the initiative of inviting the two presidents to the White House, and Russia re-entered the game. In the Republic of Moldova (RM), President Igor Dodon lost the majority in the Parliament, his government is no longer supported by a majority. On Libya, Turkey and Russia failed to reach an agreement, and the gap is so wide that the meeting in Istanbul was canceled. Meanwhile, Egypt and Italy entered the arena, with Cairo catalyzing the Arab reaction in Libya, and Italy tried to play the moderator role, not only between the Libyan warrying parties, but between Turkey and the European Union as well.


I. EUROPEAN UNION. EU nation leader reunion.

The EU post-Coronavirus Recovery Fund is on its last leg: highly likely, a decision is to be made this July. The problem is the way to forge a trade-off between North and South, as well as between East and West. As about the agreement with the United Kingdom, the EU leaders’ message is that EU wants an agreement with Britain, but not at any cost. 

As expected, the June 19th meeting between European Union leaders ended with no agreement, they were not prepared to approve the financial recovery plan. No important progress was achieved, but it is not a dead end either: there are conditions for reaching a compromise during the face-to-face meeting soon, in July. Basically, there is a fragile accord on the fund size – 750 million Euros, part of multiannual budget of 1,850 billion Euros (as addition to the previous 1,100 billion Euro budget draft; however, there is no agreement across the table on those previous figures either). Ursula von der Leyen declared that “leaders unanimously agreed that the severity of this crisis justifies an ambitious common response”. Nevertheless, differences persist: while southern nations, the “Club Med” (who suffered most from the pandemic, but are also the most in-debt) are eager to reach an agreement, those in the “frugal group” remain reluctant.

These nations have doubts regarding the size and terms of money distribution (proposed by the European Commission – EC to be built according to this outline: two thirds - grants, and one third - loans) and they brought as counterproposition a reduction in both total size and grant proportion. The latter also request two principles: this fund be used solely for overcoming Coronavirus crisis impact; and hinging this aid on implementation of economic reforms (Sebastian Kurz: the recovery fund should not become an “an entry into a permanent debt union”). Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lovfen noticed that differences regarding the Recovery Fund and the multiannula budget remained, and significant changes should be applied, if an agreement is wanted. The easterners, especially the Visegrad Group (VG4), claim that too much money goes to the Southern nations, at their expense, and they want funds directed to their agriculture and development programs, in view of diminishing the gap between them and the North.

An outsider would describe this meeting as somewhat useless, but it was not fully antagonistic either. The most important European leader, Angela Merkel, summarized the situation: discussions were constructive, and first prerequisites appeared for starting negotiations in good conditions, it is just that “the bridges we have to build are large”. She expressed her intention to act quickly, and a decision is to be taken in July, at the opportune moment to provide trust in European economy reconstruction (on the backdrop of recent European Central Bank warnings). Germany’s determination will budge things forward, as both North and South build their approaches on French-German scaffolds. Let us notice that, although Germany is the decisive factor, the merit of a bold solution goes to France. The South will probably yield on certain mostly grant-based conditions imposed by the North, in exchange for generous funding. A solution will be found, because all Europeans realize that Europe must give itself a chance in the global competition. The voice of Visegrad Group will likely fade away, given that these countries are eyed for political problems[1].


II. EUROPEAN UNION / UNITED STATES. EU foreign ministers meet the U.S. Secretary of State.

This reunion was not  the moment of full mutual understanding but it provided the opportunity for communicating respective perspectives on the transatlantic relation and international problems of common interest. It is important that both shores of the pond realize the need for transatlantic coherence in a moment of large differences. These differences do not threaten the basis of transatlantic relation (although the Europeans fear that), but the transatlantic relation lacks its former substance, in circumstances where  the EU is perceived by the Trump Administration as an economic competitor – first, and only after that as a political and military ally. At the same time, certain hasty initiatives by European heavyweights only deepen the American mistrust. For the Europeans, it is important that the EU remain close to the U.S. in approaching the threats and in identifying solutions for defending common values and interests.

The June 15th videoconference held by EU Foreign Affairs Council (reuniting EU nation foreign ministers) and the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo focused on the transatlantic relations. Josep Borell declared that “We engaged in a strategic dialogue with Mike Pompeo on our relations and on the key foreign policy issues both for the European Union and the United States”. It was reaffirmed that “the transatlantic partnership is one of the key pillars of the world order”, as well as the common "commitment to transatlantic cooperation". On the other hand, the existence of divergences was admitted, when Josep Borrell stated that “Maybe we do not agree on everything, but our commitment to transatlantic cooperation is as strong as ever”. The dialogue was hot flashy and, for each item of discussion, Mike Pompeo pointed at what he agreed and what he did not agree with. Although not many details were offered, the transatlantic relation was the key issue of the meeting, in a moment when divergencies between Trump Administration and the EU, especially the European heavyweights, reached high levels (temporary though, such as the disagreement regarding the G7 and the announced withdrawal of American troops from Germnay, although this second issue was not detailed in this framework, but especially the structural issues, such as American threats regarding tariffs on EU products, and the failure of negotiations regarding taxation of digital giants).

Three important issues were discussed: China, the Middle East Peace process (the Israeli-palestinian problem), and the EU Eastern neighborhood, especially Ukraine. In addition, of course, the Coronavirus crisis was touched too. China was the main topic, as current situation shows an on-going economic war between U.S. and China, which spilled into political and military tensions (even Mike Pompeo announced the beginning of a new Cold War), and the Europeans are determined to reevaluate their own relations with Beijing. Mike Pompeo needed a common approach with the EU, before his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, and the EU is preparing a summit with China (during its EU Presidency, Berlin has the priority of resettling Germany’s economic relations on other parameters, but the new approach is viewed as constructive, although Berlin will insist that China should respect democratic values and international norms, and transatlantic relation will also be mentioned). Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian problem, the Europeans insisted on resuming a credible political peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, at the same time acknowledging a certain dynamic generated by the American peace plan. The Europeans insist that the American plan, although created a new situation, is not based on established international parameters. Heiko Maas presented concrete proposals and insisted on the need for preventing the annexation of new territories. The Europeans stressed the negative consequences that a possible annexation would inflict on the two-state solution perspective and upon regional stability. Some of the EU nations were very clear in that respect, but there were also other opinions (Luxemburg, Hungary). On the issue of eastern neighborhood, the strong EU – U.S. partnership was reaffirmed and this will remain crucial, especially regarding Ukraine. It was agreed that Russia must fulfil its commitment in implementing the Minsk Agreements. Dissinformation performed by international actors was also discussed, and the two parties decided to respond together in this issue. Certain EU nations raised the topic of the situation in eastern Mediterranean Sea, where the EU is more and more concerned over recent escalations by Turkey. In this context, they presented recent incidents which unfolded during the European Operation IRINI. It was agreed that a deescalation in needed, as well as a true partnership with Turkey. Mike Pompeo focused on the situation in Libya.

The meeting boded well, although immediate results in the above mentioned dossiers are not visible. It is important that both sides intend to consolidate (better said repair) the transatlantic relation, which is of essence for both sides (although several actions do not reflect at all that this is widely understood). Regarding China, although the threat is commonly identified, the approach on these relations is divergent: while the U.S. has a confrontational approach, the Europeans choose dialogue. If the American approach is realistic, stemming also from temporary political reasons, the European approach is providing hopes, although it lacks realism (how can Beijing be persuaded to provide reciprocity conditions to European companies and shed the practice of grabbing European technology by questionable / illegal means?). Before the upcoming meeting in Hawaii, Mike Pompeo sent a warning to the Europeans on their unrealistic approach to China, and Josep Borrell reiterrated the need to avoid a confrontational approach in relations with Beijing[2]. Differences will likely persist until China becomes an existential problem (from an economic point of view) for both sides of the Atlantic. On Ukraine, there is a full agreement between the U.S. and the EU, which will preclude Russia from implementing its strategy. On the Israeli – Palestinian problem, the dice are cast, and, in view of upcoming July 1st decision, Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to annihilate any international reaction that might jeopardize the annexation. For the Europeans, the problem is not that much Washington, which already decided, and now tries to calm down Netanyahu’s determination to annex as much as possible, as soon as possible. For EU, the problem is rather its inner divide: the European policy, initiated by France and mediated by Germany, is to oppose annexation (Keiko Maas paid a visit to Israel and, based on the good bilateral relations, he warned Netanyahu). But this policy is met with disagreement from older and newer friends of Israel in the EU.

For Romania, maintaining a functional transatlantic relation is crucial, both in security and in defense, both in politics and economy, as Romania is vitally linked to both players, the U.S. and EU (especially the EU heavyweights). On Ukraine, the common approach by U.S. and EU is important for Bucharest. On China, the differences do not directly impact on Romania, we are too small, and we will follow the common solution they agree when the problem becomes really pressing for both. In the Israeli – Palestinian dossier, Romania finds itself in the middle as friend of Israel, not too outspoken though, considering that annexation will likely occur anyway, although it seems to unfold against the international laws.


III. EUROPEAN UNION. EU defense minister reunion.

Looking from afar, there is a realistic attempt to budge things ahead, starting from immediate problems like Operation IRINI, and a recalibration of EU’s common defense and security policy by identifying the common threats (the old problem, the large yet not imminent threat from Russia, and the small but immediate threat from the south-eastern arch of insecurity outlined by the Middle East and Northern Africa). 

The June16th reunion was described as expressing the importance of European security and defense after the Coronavirus crisis, with the need to resume EU military operations and define common defense directions. The first topic was the consolidation of operational commitment, because, in Coronavirus crisis conditions, significant  personnel was withdrawn and many missions were downsized, especially training. It is considered that the moment came to have the personnel return to training missions and gradually resume military activities. Then, a structural issue was debated, the need for growing the dimension of EU military missions and operations, respectively force generation. The focus was on Operation IRINI, where forces and means are equally necessary, as well as intelligence support. In circumstances where the EU is engaged in training missions under the Common Security and Defence Policy, and it supports partners in the African Peace Facility framework, participants discussed the establishment of a European Peace Facility before the end of 2020. A new approach will be considered: partners are to be more effectively equipped, not only trained.

The second topic was the future efforts on defense cooperation initiatives, whence the Permanent Structured Cooperation is the first, with fourty-seven PESCO projects. These projects will be analyzed in the framework of PESCO Strategic Review, for improving chances of reaching long-awaited results. The domestic market EU Commissioner Thierri Breton presented the first proposals of the European Defence Industrial Development Programme, on the background of the announcement made by the European Commission (EC) for selecting sixteen pan-European projects pertaining to defense industry, whence nine are PESCO projects worth 205 million Euros. The key issue is the financial means and necessary structures meant to sustain these initiatives, and the negotiations for their funding within the European multiannual budget are crucial for their success (we talk about the European Defence Fund, the Military mobility, and, additionally, the new European Peace Facility). The third topic was the initiation of developing the “Strategic Compass” (strategic direction), meant to outline the level of ambition for the security and defense agenda established in 2016. Again, the work will begin with a threat assessment.

President Trump’s decision to withdraw part of the U.S. troops deployed to Germany increases certain fears that America might quit being decisively involved in defense of Europe. Regardless how baseless such fear might be, the EU is caught between - on one hand, its endemic impotence to build a common European defense and this fear that Washington will diminish its paramount contribution in defending Europe (the most important challenges of the day) and, on the other hand, France’s policy of promoting a European defense independent from the U.S. (currently obscured by political and military realities). As soon as the practical approach imposed by realities overcomes unrealistic plans based on pro domo concepts, the European defense policy will strengthen. The urgency is to have the European operations continue, and Operation IRINI is quite relevant in this respect (both for showing the European lack of interest in force generation, and for pointing at the problems Turkey raises[3]). It is interesting to see the advantages and disadvantages of the new approach of extending support for partners from just training to training and equipping (probably a German idea). As mentioned, European defense initiatives depend on financial commitment. This is where everything will be decided. Notably, there will be a threat assessment for shaping the strategic direction. For Romania, participating in European defense is important, both for consolidating Bucharest’s military relations by contributing to operations, and for revitalizing Romanian defense industry in European architecture.


IV. NATO. North-Atlantic Council in defense ministerial reunion.

The Defense Ministerial NAC provided the Alliance with the opportunity to decide the response to Russia’s deployment of SSC-8 missiles. This response includes defensive means, NATO refrains from deploying ground-based intermediate-range nuclear warhead missiles, which explains Moscow’s low-key reaction.

The June 16th NATO Defense Ministerial focused on the issue of defense and deterrence, in conditions where “state and non-state actors continue their attempts to destabilise, disrupt and divide Allies”. NATO decided to respond to “Russia’s extensive and growing arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles... and their implications for NATO’s security”, considering that, “last year, Russia’s deployment of SSC-8 missiles led to the demise of the INF Treaty”. The SSC-8 missiles were described as weapons which are “dual-capable, mobile, and hard to detect. They can reach European cities with little warning time. And they lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons”. Moscow was also accused for “modernising its intercontinental ballistic missiles. Its hypersonic glide vehicle [the Avangard] has entered operations. Russia has tested its air-launched ballistic missile system [the Kinzhal]. And is developing a nuclear-powered cruise missile” (although the program marked a failure, due to an accident). Jens Stoltenberg continued accusations against Russia: “We have also seen a pattern over many years of irresponsible Russian nuclear rhetoric, aimed at intimidating and threatening NATO Allies. Russia’s behaviour is destabilizing and dangerous”.

NATO decided a balanced package of political and military measures. This package includes the consolidation of allied air-defense and missile-defense integrated system (several allied nations announced the purchase of air-defense and missile-defense systems, including the Patriot and SAMP/T systems). The allied defense ministers agreed to consolidate modern conventional defense capabilities: they will invest in new platforms, including in fifth generation (5G) fighter aircraft (reference to F-35 stealth fighter). Also, allied intelligence and drills will be adapted accordingly. They mentioned that the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) also convened, which means that decisions in the nuclear realm are considered too. Jens Stoltenberg stated: 1) NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements (reference to the need for preserving the American nuclear armament on European territory); 2) NATO nuclear deterrence in Europe remains a vital element for peace and liberty in the Old Continent, and additional steps were decided for making NATO nuclear deterrence certain, effective, and secure. NATO Defense Ministerial has insisted that the Alliance will preserve its defense and deterrence capability facing the Russian threat without responding in the mirror, symmetrically, to Moscow’s actions. NATO has no intention to deploy new nuclear warhead ground-based missiles in Europe.

Regarding NATO operations, they focused on Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, NATO will adjust its military presence (while the U.S. will diminish its strength, according to its recent agreement with the Taliban). The Alliance expresses its support for Afghanistan’s long-term security and the need for continuing the peace process, requesting the Taliban to fulfil their commitments. In Iraq, as Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi communicated, NATO remains engaged in this country and increases its efforts, in agreement with the government in Baghdad and the Global Coalition. A briefing was presented on NATO 2030 vision, a food-for-thought aiming at maintaining a militarily strong Alliance and globally consolidating NATO’s policy. This NATO Defense Ministerial debated China’s emergence, both as global and military power, and Beijing’s absence in arms control agreements was reminded (reference to U.S. intention to bring China to the negotiation table on nuclear armament).

The United States responded to Berlin’s concern regarding the withdrawal of American troops from Germany by explaining that nothing is final yet. Following Turkey’s hostile actions, France raised the issue within NATO, and obtained an investigation in the case of radar illumination of a French frigate by a Turkish frigate. That was an unprecedented event showing the way Ankara approaches the problem (French accusations go beyond that, including the use of NATO indicatives by Turkish warships during Turkey’s missions IVO Libya). In this context, the need to establish communication procedures between NATO mission in Eastern Mediterranean Sea and EU Operation IRINI is of essence for preventing such incidents. The U.S. role in this démarche will pan out, as Ankara accepted American involvement in solving the crisis in Libya (even Russia would accept this role for the United States).

Most important for Romania, NATO responded to Russia’s deployment of SSC-8 missiles and presented toughly but realistically Moscow’s destabilizing actions. The Alliance preferred to take defensive measures which, by their sophistication (necessary for detecting and annihilating such weapon system) will be effective, but expensive. Thus, for countering the SSC-8, missile interception measures were taken (C4ISR measures, air-defense, and modern aircraft) and annihilation measures against launching installations (fifth generation aircraft make possible in-depth forays into adversary territory, for attacking launchers). But no mirror response was considered, no countervailing approach with offensive weapon systems, at least for the moment. This does not mean that NATO will remain on a defensive posture, with no deterrence component, and the NPG reunion is an indication in that respect. An additional indication that NATO is considering such deterrence element is the recent (June 18th) flight of two American B-2A nuclear capable strategic bombers from Whiteman AFB to the Sea of Norway. After closing the transponders, these aircraft went stealth, highly likely for the adversary too (no press communiqué was published about their detection and interception, which usually and proudly happens). 

For Romania, as a frontline nation, the fact that NATO decided a response to SSC-8 missile threat is quite positive, especially that the Alliance non-symmetric response does not provide a reason for escalation. However, in these circumstances, Romania’s duties regarding suitable equipment will significantly increase, and our future C4ISR, air-defense and aviation systems must be able to conduct sophisticated missions for defending European NATO nations from the SSC-8 missiles.


V. Developments to track this Week 26 of 2020.

► SERBIA / RUSSIA. Russian foreign minister visits Belgrade. Sergey Lavrov visited Belgrade for providing support to the power three days ahead of parliamentary elections, and for announcing the role that Moscow intends to take in Belgrade’s negotiations with Pristina. President Aleksandar Vučić’s nationalist party SNS won past Sunday’s elections with 60%, and just over 50% turnout. Although Serbia is no longer a democracy, the accusations by Serbian opposition being based on facts (most of the opposition boycotted the elections), Vučić is the convenient solution now for Serbian electorate, from political and economic points of view. His foreign policy, along Russia and China, but aspiring to European integration too, has no future. However, Aleksandar Vučić is best fit to relaunch Serbia’s future by reaching an agreement regarding Kosovo and thus opening a new chapter in Serbia’s history. All hopes are linked to his invitation to the White House, together with Hashim Thaci, on June 27th, although EU (read Germany’s) opposition calms down expectations. In these circumstances, Lavrov reminded that no solution will be implemented without Moscow agreement (considering that Russia can block Kosovo’s admission to the United Nations, especially since Kosovo’s legal Constitution is still the UN Resolution 1244). Let us hope that the most stable solution, Kosovo recognition with exchange of territories (Belgrade recovering Serbs living north of Ibar River) will be accepted by Belgrade, Pristina, and… Berlin.

► REUBLIC OF MOLDOVA. Igor Dodon lost majority in the Parliament. A new PDM deputy transferred to the Pro Moldova party (he was accused of being bought). Therefore, President Igor Dodon’s majority in the Parliament (PSRM Socialists and PDM Democrats) vanished. In these conditions, Dodon sees only the following options: his government remains in office, even without majority; The democratic opposition is brought to the government along the Socialists and Democrats; Early parliamentary elections are organized (which would likely take Pro Moldova and Shor parties out of the Parliament, and damage PDM too). This last course of action is preferred by opposition leader Maia Sandu. Encouraged by disagreements within the opposition, Dodon ignores another option, immoral though (same as those by which he captured the country, after he played with Plahotniuc, in addition to his game for Moscow), yet effective: the united opposition topples the government and establishes a pro-European minority government (only the democratic opposition). We will likely see RM steer towards early elections, but, first, let us see what Dodon brings from Moscow.

► LIBYA / TURKEY / RUSSIA. Istanbul summit ended before beginning, for political causes: Russia forced the appointment of a future leader of Libya, and Ankara refused, considering it held a position to shun Moscow. Ankara shows it needs GNA leader Fayez al-Sarraj to be alone in power, in order to keep the EEZ agreement valid. In these conditions, although the frontline is settled at Sirte, the situation on the ground is worsening (Russian aviation, already deployed to Libya, started to conduct flights, while other aircraft were deployed in support of LNA too). Tensions rise between Turkey and Egypt, which mobilized the Arab League, as tensions also rise between Turkey and France. Italy plays mediator, Italian and Turkish foreign ministers met, and warships of the two countries conducted combined exercises (while Italy is the second country as Operation IRINI contributor). Ankara signed economic cooperation agreements with Tripoli, but, highly likely, it realizes it cannot continue this way, Turkey accepted a higher role for the United States (which Russia also accepted). Meanwhile, after reaching a multifold agreement with Iran, Turkey initiated attacks in Iraq, against PKK (and on the backdrop of Kurdish protests in Turkey). Ankara’s domestic and foreign policy become more and more “multilateral”, and dangerous developments are hard to avoid, in the context of current tensions and conflicts.

► UNITED STATES / CHINA. On June 18th, Mike Pompeo met Yang Jiechi, Chinese responsible official with CCP Political Bureau (China’s highest official responsible for foreign policy!). Although constructive, this meeting in Hawaii failed to show any intention from China to meet U.S. requests. Results were poor, there were major divergencies on all issues (Hong Kong, arms control, North Korea, Coronavirus crisis), although China promised to fulfil its commitments pertaining to the first phase of trade agreements. Later, President Trump renewed the threat it would suspend America’s relations with Beijing: “the U.S. certainly does maintain a policy option, under various conditions, of a complete decoupling from China”. The pressing issue is Hong Kong, and G7 sent a warning to China regarding the intention to impose Beijing’s national security law in Hong Kong.

► RUSSIA continues to draw attention by illegal acts committed around the world: 1) Germany: the Prosecution Office officially accused the Kremlin of being responsible for ordering a murder committed on German territory; 2) Czech Republic: two Russian diplomats were expelled, and Moscow responded by expelling two Czech diplomats; 3) Georgia: a Chechen was arrested by Georgian authorities and accused for being sent by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to execute a journalist who had insulted Vladimir Putin during a live TV show; 4) United States: an American was convicted with a harsh prison sentence for espionage, although he maintains he was the victim of a provocation (in this case, no other individual was arrested, and no video evidence was produced). Information surfaced that Russia and the United States were in process of negotiating an exchange where Moscow was requesting… an arms smuggler and a drug smuggler imprisoned in the U.S.

[1] Almost all VG4 countries have problems: 1) Poland faces justice independence problems; 2) Czech Republic has the problem of its… Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, accused of EU fund fraud (there is a European Parliament initiative aiming at expelling him from negotiations, on grounds of conflict of interests); 3) Hungary has major problems on rule of law, the latest being the imposition of NGO financing law even after a negative ruling by European justice. Another eastern nation, Bulgaria, reached the moment of revealing domestic problems, and the beam is cast on Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who was accused by a businessman (more than dubious, protected for years, but indicted only now) of receiving big money. What is relevant, Boyko Borisov was taken a picture showing him near a drawer full of money and a handgun on the nightstand.

[2] There is more: in an interview to Wall Street Journal, Josep Borrell stated that President Trump’s actions afflict the transatlantic relations: “President Trump’s attacks on the European Union have materially damaged the trans-Atlantic relationship and strengthened European determination to pursue an independent path on emerging challenges such as China’s growing assertiveness...  Europe wouldn’t follow U.S. calls to adopt a more confrontational”.

[3] The EU had to accept the situation where a Greek frigate under Operation IRINI, which hailed and questioned a vessel sailing under Tanzanian colors, was answered by a naval group of three Turkish frigates that the merchant vessel was under Turkish protection. Highly likely, the ship in question was in breach of the UN embargo, transporting weapons and ammunition from Turkey to Tripoli. In order to avoid an incident, the Greek warship yielded. Notably, there is the danger that, on the backdrop of disputes over the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Ankara – Tripoli agreement, Operation INIRI become part of the general Greek – Turkish confrontation (the EU supports Greece in its EEZ dispute, as it also supports Cyprus). This explains, perhaps, the reluctance by some European nations to get involved into IRINI, since it turned from an EU mission regarding embargo implementation into a mission of confrontation with a NATO nation. It is significant that the danger comes from the detail that Turkey is not EU member, only NATO. Thus, an even more dangerous incident, between a French and a Turkish warship was able to be solved within NATO.