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18 august 2020 - Special reports - Weekly review

D.S.M. WEEKLY REPORT - Main Political and Military Developments (WEEK 33 of 2020)

Sandu Valentin Mateiu

I. ROMANIA - UNITED STATES / RUSSIA. Moscow reacts to planned American troop deployments to Romania.II. BELARUS. Lukashenka faces a major crisis.III. TURKEY / GREECE. Tensions rise again. IV. GERMANY / RUSSIA. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visits Moscow.V. Developments to track this Week 34 of 2020.

Sursă foto: Mediafax

English version by Mircea Mocanu

I. ROMANIA - UNITED STATES / RUSSIA. Moscow reacts to planned American troop deployments to Romania.

Russia reacted to information regarding future deployment of American army troops to NATO eastern borders, namely to Romania, and Romanian Foreign Ministry responded with moderation. American soldier presence on Romanian territory represents the guarantee that no aggression will unfold against our national territory, while these troops are in no way a threat to Russia, especially since Romania has no land border with Russia. The announcement about transferring a significant number of U.S. Army soldiers was made by the Head of U.S. Army Staff General James McConville, during his visit to Bucharest. Regardless Moscow’s reaction, this is the most important political – military event in 2020, for Romania. Our hopes are that this American presence will help not only to deter Russia but will also add to the activities of common training by Romanian and American land forces.   

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova presented the communiqué called “Pentagon’s Plan to Increase the U.S. Military Presence in Romania”. This document includes partial truths, extrapolations, and threats: “Following the announcement of the Pentagon decision to increase its military presence in Poland and the Baltic states, high-ranking U.S. commanders spoke about their country’s plans to redeploy to Romania some of the troops being withdrawn from Germany. Washington does not conceal that these steps are part of the effort to bolster the so-called ‘north-south axis’ from the Baltic to Black Sea, the axis that is to become the line marking Russia’s ‘containment’, with Romania viewed as a key stronghold for projecting power in the Black Sea region. Obviously, there is a clear trend here of systematically reinforcing the U.S.-NATO military group in the so-called near-front zone, which is what NATO considers Russia’s western borders to be. This is about something that is actually happening, not made-up stories of Russian interference. This is a routine feature of current U.S. policy.  At present, it means that there will be essentially permanent U.S. and allied contingents in Eastern Europe where they had never been before. The fact that this presence is anecdotally called a ‘permanent rotation’ does not change the essence of the matter. If these steps are taken, they will endanger the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act, in particular the provisions that deal with the obligation not to station “substantial combat forces” in the alliance’s new member-states. All that is evidence that the US and its NATO allies are intent on seeking to create an ‘arc of tension’ along the contact line with Russia, at the expense of European security interests. Of course, Russia will respond appropriately to this provocation of encroachment. This fact must be taken into account, among others, by the east European capitals which are constantly thinking up new ways to incite Russophobia while beckoning U.S. soldiers. We just advise them to carefully weigh all the risks and seriously consider the consequences.”

We will shortly investigate Moscow’s communiqué to decipher the image it attempts to create. The communiqué begins with a series of truths, correctly extrapolating that the United States and the Alliance seek to ‘contain’ Russia[1]. However, this strategy is officially assumed by the Alliance, after Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and illegal occupation of Crimea. It is mentioned that Romania is “viewed as a key stronghold for projecting power in the Black Sea region”, but this is just a consequence. At its eastern border, where NATO has Russia as a neighbour which has committed armed aggressions and which officially designated the Alliance as adversary, NATO benefits important member nations: Poland (with the Baltic states) to the North, and Romania (together with Bulgaria), to the South. Naturally, U.S. support is directed to these two main countries. In addition, in history, Poland and Romania have been victims of Russian imperialist expansion, first Czarist, then Soviet, and the lesson has been well learned. Therefore, in the framework of Alliance policy, these two countries are crucial. It is worth mentioning that, in the South, due American deployment has been delayed (in Poland there are already several thousand American soldiers). Consequently, Washington’s decision to deploy troops to Romania, other than those leaving Germany, speaks to long-due expectations. The truth is simple and sad, from any angle, including from Moscow: it is only the American troop presence to assure Romania, meaning we are assured we will not be enslaved as result of an invasion from the East (especially now, after the aggression on Ukraine). At the same time, the Romanians cannot be accused of Russophobia[2], but, perhaps, of indifference, because, when provided with liberty by the EU, NATO and especially the United States, we were lucky to forget what happened when the Kremlin had control over Romania.    

NATO continues the ‘rotation’ recipe to oblige Russia as agreed, and please the allies who try to establish a minimal level of communication and trust with Moscow. However, even these allies have troubles trying to react wisely to the illegal actions ordered by the Kremlin (as the recent visit paid by Heiko Maas to Moscow shows, see below). It is not NATO, but Moscow to disparage the principles of 1997 NATO – Russia Founding Act, when Russia invaded Ukraine, also breaching other treaties[3] and international norms.

American troops deployed to Romania pose no threat to Russia, whose land borders are 1000 kilometers far (measured on land) from Romania’s border with Ukraine, and 700 kilometers far to the illegally occupied Crimean Peninsula. Therefore, although they defend us from an aggression, American troops are far from being a border danger for Russia. There is no ‘arc of tension’ whatsoever, this move only adds to the containment of Russia’s ‘arc of aggressions’ (Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine), at the same time consolidating European security against Russia, NATO’s declared adversary. Nevertheless, among the frontline countries, Romania has the most restrained official discourse on Moscow: Bucharest presents its defense in rapport to Romania’s membership to Euro-Atlantic structures, not referring to Russian threat. The threats communicated through Moscow’s reaction are superfluous because Romanian authorities of course took into consideration that “Russia would respond appropriately”, and “carefully weighed all the risks and consequences”. However, Bucharest was forced to invite the military presence of an ally whom it would have cooperated with anyway: How is it better? To face the danger alone, or to have a trustful ally by your side, when facing a threat? Not the ‘Russophobia’, but relief is the feeling Romanians have when ‘Yankees are coming’, and this should make Moscow think, because such defense reaction speaks volumes, much more than a hypothetical threat against Russia.


II. BELARUS. Lukashenka faces a major crisis.

After announcing he “won” the elections, President Lukashenka unleashed a tough repression against protesters. Therefore, he faces a peaceful but determined reaction from a wide range of social classes (women and workers in several state enterprises). This domestic situation, as well as principled reactions from the West, especially from the European Union, show the illegitimacy of Lukashenka’s power. As assessed in the latest bulletin, his victory comes with the price of instability. Lukashenka tried a strategy of combining a tough repression with insignificant concessions, as well as the release of those arrested, plus excuses from the minister of interior affairs, a scape goat of the moment. But protests continued, and Lukashenka is determined not to yield. The illegality of his reelection was sealed by the declaration issued by his former counter-candidate, who announced, from exile, that she would not recognize the election results. Therefore, his walk on thin ice failed, and the specter of European sanctions plus the domestic strong uprising force him to turn to Moscow for rescue. However, even in the congratulation message, the Kremlin had sent Lukashenka the conditions for rescue: Moscow will save him if he delivers Belarus to Russia by intensifying the integration process into the Russia – Belarus Union State. Moscow drafted the intervention scenario and uses Lukashenka’s story that protests were orchestrated in the West. Surprised by the reaction of Belarusian society, which did not yield to rough repression, Lukashenka refused to talk with the opposition and to accept mediation by the West (knowing that, once he opens this road, he is lost). Therefore, Lukashenka turned to Moscow: he released and sent to Russia 32 of the 33 arrested Wagner mercenaries, requested Moscow support, and, in a phone conversation with Vladimir Putin, he agreed upon the way to commonly respond to protests. Regarding the mercenaries, their mission to sparkle a ‘color revolution’ (in fact a social disorder, pretext for Russian intervention) is now fulfilled by Lukashenka himself, who accused the protesters of organizing a revolution. Current most likely scenario is ‘Russia intervenes in support of reelected Lukashenka, for the price of integrating Belarus into Russia’. However, upcoming developments will follow more than the agreement between Lukashenka and Putin. Due to Belarus’ geopolitical role and a genuine strong domestic political reaction, the games appear to be more complicated. So, neither Moscow, nor the West can accept this buffer state disappear, and Belarus’ integration into Russia is not acceptable for the West. But the West has limited means to intervene compared to the Kremlin, and democratizing Belarus in not acceptable by Moscow, because it would mean losing this country (there is a low likelihood of seeing Belarus remain in Russia’s sphere of influence after Lukashenka’s fall, and witnessing a true democratization at the same time, although such development cannot be ruled out).

The crisis in Belarus is in full swing, and it is a serious test for Belarusian society and for the balance between Russian and the West in this neck of the woods. The problem is that chances of finding a solution to this crisis, and not cause bigger problems in the process are low. A likely course of action includes Moscow promise to ‘rescue’ Lukashenka in the framework of completing the creation of an integrated Russia – Belarus Union for the price of blessing Lukashenka with a high position in this contraption. In that scenario, the power in Belarus would remain with the current elite, while Moscow would identify its henchman to implement the maximum of democratic appearances in Belarus. Anyway, the Kremlin would preserve this country in the shape of non-democracy, ripe for being absorbed by Russia, regardless the duration of such process. However, the situation is fluid and presents too many unknowns to allow Moscow to unabatedly implement all its plans. Nevertheless, Russia has major trump cards: Belarusian society only wants to get rid of Lukashenka, is mostly pro-Russian, and Belarus is an OTSC member nation, which allows Moscow to act ‘in full legitimacy’ by direct intervention (with a false argument of being called by an illegal and illegitimate leader, the same as in Syria).

We will summarize the events on three lines of events, in the attempt to catch the trends and decisive elements for future developments: 1) the domestic conflict between the eclectic resistance and an illegitimate Lukashenka shows no sign of ending; 2) The West reacted in unity, firmly and principled, not purely geopolitical, as Lukashenka had likely hoped; 3) Moscow reacted by accepting the power’s narrative, and Putin offered a chance to Lukashenka, for the moment. Desperate Lukashenka accepted this rope, at least initially, although many things must be cleared up for eventually having the two leaders cooperate in implementing a solution. The loser is  Belarus anyway, as it might see its sovereignty considerably diminished, if not voided.

The domestic conflict remains the main stage and the place of deciding a final solution (although perhaps partial). Being sure of having control, Lukashenka announced his victory right after the official exit poll results, in the evening of August 9th. Then, on August 14th, the Central Electoral Commission communicated the outcome, which was according to plans: 80.1% for Lukashenka, and an insignificant 10.12% for Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya. The latter contested the results on August 9th, and street demonstrations began immediately with protesters accusing the power of forging the election results. Then, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and her three children fled to Lithuania. She sent a video recording where she asked her countrymen to refrain from confronting the police, and to avoid putting their lives in danger. It was learned that that recording was obtained by pressure and blackmail. Tsikhanouskaya came back to ask Belarusians to continue protests and demand a ballot recount. Thus, the power’s attempt to eliminate the main competitor and use her even for stopping the protests failed. Now, the opposition has a champion who cannot be eliminated, being safe in the West, and who challenges the election results, the legality of elections, and the power legitimacy. The law enforcement forces, loyal to Lukashenka, acted brutally, by arresting and molesting any individual who seemed to pose the potential for forming a protest group (protesters adopted such tactic in the attempt to disperse the law enforcement forces). At least two protesters were killed, and 6,700 were arrested during this past week. Lukashenka accused the protesters of being individuals of no good, ‘sheep’ manipulated from abroad (Czech Republic, Poland, and UK were mentioned). It seemed that the power had managed to put down the rebellion, but a peaceful mobilization of other parts of Belarusian society occurred: a plethora of women and blue-collar masses demanding the release of arrested protesters.  Thousands of workers from state enterprises, the backbone of Belarus’ economy, began a strike on August 13th, and joined the street protests with the message ‘Leave!’. The power attempted to isolate the country by arresting journalists and cutting the Internet, but it failed. Therefore, the power made a step backwards, it released about two thousand protesters from arrest, and apologized for using force. New clashes occurred in the weekend. On August 14th, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya proposed a council for power transition, and requested the protesters to provide a weekend of peaceful demonstrations: “Belarusians will never again want to live with the old authorities… Let’s defend our choice. Don’t stay on the side-lines. Our voices need to be heard”. On August 14th, Lukashenka warned the population to remain at home and not become “cannon fodder”, also stating that revolutionaries supported from abroad destabilize the country: “Today people have come from Poland, the Netherlands, Ukraine and from Russia [refference to anti-Kremlin activists, not Wagner mercenaries!]. Aggression against our country has already begun”. The power’s narrative, with revolutionaries from abroad who direct the protests, has no basis, but bodes well in the post-Soviet framework. Although eclectic and uncoordinated, continued protests create serious problems for the power, and first cracks appeared. The release of 2,000 arrested protesters, and the apologizes offered by government representatives, although parts of a strategy to calm the popular rage, indicate there are hesitations at high level, regarding further repressions. An official, Natalia Kochanova, head of the National State Council, declared: “We don’t fight, we don’t need war”. Dangerous for the power, on August 14th, metropolitan Pavel, the head of Belarusian Orthodox Church (subordinated to Russian Orthodox Church), asked Lukashenka to stop violence. Journalists with main radio and TV channels began to resign. Even in these circumstances, there is no break in the balance, only a continued resistance of Belarusian society against an absolute leader, whom it does not want anymore, while the leader still has the power to resist. On August 15th, Lukashenka has announced he refuses the offers of foreign mediation (from the West), and he will not relinquish the power. Beyond these visible elements, the wheeling and dealing within the power and elite in Minsk are decisive for the ongoing domestic developments in Belarus. These power centers consolidated during Lukashenka’s years of ruling, and their interests only partly overlap with those of the dictator. There are proofs of the games performed by these centers of power: several counter-candidates to incumbent Lukashenka came from within the power; workers of state enterprises participated in street protests; many propagandists defected. These centers of power, spearheaded by Belarusian KGB, are not pro-West, as Russia holds influence over some of them, at least partly. The political solution should secure their continuity in power, especially since the national wealth remained largely collective, and these circles must grab it to uphold their social status.

The European Union did not recognize the Belarus elections, and described them as being neither free, nor fair. EU leaders and European nations sent the same message. The EU Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) agreed on non-recognizing the elections in Belarus, and on imposing sanctions (against the persons responsible for this ill-doing, whence a list has been made). None of the 27 nations opposed sanctions (initially, in Budapest, there was a discussion about patience to be granted to Lukashenka, but, in the FAC, Hungary did not oppose sanctions). Previously, Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania had offered to mediate between power and opposition, but Lukashenka refused any dialogue or mediation. Finally, as a latest development, the EU decided to hold a video-Summit Wednesday, to discuss Belarus. While visiting Poland, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed a similar position of the United States. Bottom line, the West, spearheaded by the EU, reacted unitarily, but has little influence in Belarus and is not part of the domestic games. Therefore, frustrated that his gamble between the West and Russia did not work, Lukashenka will likely choose Russia’s solution, as the narrative about protest coordination from the West stands to prove. Lukashenka saw that the West would not accept his dictatorship any longer, as he is now an illegal and illegitimate leader (the West did not recognize the election results). Therefore, he has no other choice that to accuse the West of all evils, and open dialogue with Moscow. Lukashenka might change his mind only if the Kremlin raises unacceptable conditions. 

In one week only, Russia switched from the position of a country preparing to intervene in Belarus by destabilization, to a position supporting Lukashenka. The first appeasement signal was offered by Moscow, who recognized Lukashenka’s reelection, in the congratulation message, where the Kremlin also included the ‘surrender conditions’ (what Lukashenka must accept in exchange for Russian rescue): Belarus integration into Russia. Moscow accepted Lukashenka’s narrative that street protests were coordinated from the West. Lukashenka sent Putin an explicit message: "If Belarus collapses the entire post-Soviet space will follow" (translated, the message said, in fact, ‘if my dictatorship collapses, all other dictatorships in what is left under Russia’s control in the former Soviet space, including the Kremlin’s, will also collapse’). On August 15th, Vladimir Putin and Aleksandr Lukashenka discussed the current situation in Belarus during a phone conversation, and the two expressed their trust that “all issues that arose would be resolved soon”. The narrative pretext for intervention was reiterated: “It is important that destructive forces do not use those issues with the aim to damage the mutually beneficial cooperation between both countries within the Union State". On August 15th, after that discussion with Vladimir Putin, Lukashenka talked to the brass about the possibility to ask Russia for assistance in the framework offered by the State Union and the OTSC, in the context of a state of emergency requested for combatting ‘revolutionary movements’. He declared himself concerned of the “military disposition consolidation” in Poland and Lithuania, where NATO would conduct military exercises. Lukashenka ordered the deployment of a paratrooper brigade from Vitebsk to Hrodna, on the Polish border. Is Lukashenka not doing exactly what he was accusing the 33 Wagner mercenaries of doing, when they were preparing an intervention by Russia? Or is he using this threat to scare the Belarusians, and make them stop the protests, while also soften the West’s stance? 

Even if Lukashenka seems to have chosen the solution ‘with Russia’, implementing concrete measures will not be easy. Moscow has enough leverage on Belarus: formal leverage (in Belarus’ membership to OTSC, the Economic Eurasian Union, the CIS), as well as many informal tools. But can Moscow risk domestic opposition (from Belarusian population, from power circles with various interests, and even Lukashenka’s gambling), or foreign reaction (from the West)? Perhaps, although Moscow and Lukashenka work to build a solution, it is hard to say whether they do it together, and whether a solution can be implemented as Lukashenka would imagine.


III. TURKEY / GREECE. Tensions rise again.

As he had threatened, on August 10th, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent the commercial vessel Oruç Reis into the maritime area disputed with Greece, south of Kastellorizo Island, with escort of Turkish warships. Greece reacted by alerting its fleet and triggering the ‘military and diplomatic barrage’ it holds available. France intervened in support of Greece, by deploying warships and aircraft to conduct common exercises with Greek counterparts. The EU expressed its support to Greece during an emergency Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) requested by Athens. Greece obtained a meeting in Vienna, on August 14th, for its Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mike Pompeo, which showed the United States support for Greece (the strong Greco – American relations, and the urgent need for reducing tensions in eastern Mediterranean were discussed). Although a minor incident occurred, the standoff between warships of the two countries did not degenerate into an armed confrontation. Threats continued, but, eventually, even the Turkish vessel itinerary shows that Ankara quietly returns to détente. The situation remains fluid, until negotiations resume, and a lasting détente is not certain.

The peak of this recent rise in bilateral tensions occurred when two warships, Turkish frigate Kemal Reis, and Greek frigate Limnos were involved in a minor naval incident on August 12th, when they were maneuvering IVO Turkish seismic survey vessel Oruç Reis. The incident resulted in minor damages to the Greek warship. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, and President Erdoğan himself warned that Turkey would react if Greek warships get close to the Turkish vessel again.

On August 13th, Recep Erdoğan talked over the phone with Charles Michel and Angela Merkel and accused Emmanuel Macron of putting on a show (reference to the French power play with warship and aircraft deployment, whence two Rafale fighters). Michel reaffirmed the European solidarity with Greece, and asked Erdoğan to “de-escalate tensions and avoid provocations”. Perhaps Erdoğan received the same message from Angela Merkel (it was learned that, during the previous talk, in July, Merkel would have told Erdoğan that Turkey would be subjected to European sanctions if it began drilling in Mediterranean waters disputed with Greece, respectively Cyprus). On August 14th, during a visit to Switzerland, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu requested the EU to stop “pampering” Greece (reference to EU diplomatic support to Athens). He announced that Switzerland offered to mediate between the two countries, and that Turkey accepted this offer, in principle. During the August 14th FAC session, European foreign ministers discussed the deteriorated security situation in Eastern Mediterranean and reaffirmed their solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. They also  reiterated the sovereign rights of these EU member nations and, considered that immediate de-escalation by Turkey is crucial. FAC decided that Josep Borrell should relaunch EU dialogue with Ankara, but also prepare appropriate measures in case new tensions arise (reference to the sanctions discussed during the July 13th meeting).

On August 15th, Recep Erdoğan declared that Turkey would not back up facing the threat with sanctions and would not yield to bullying in the waters of its continental shelf. He added that Oruç Reis is no longer in the disputed area, but in the waters disputed with Cyprus (unlike the activities in Greek waters, Turkish unauthorized presence in Cypriot maritime territory has precedent). It is possible that Ankara decided to begin negotiations with Greece, but for saving appearances, President Erdoğan continued the same music sheet. We will see what happens, as both countries are interested in avoiding a conflict, especially since Turkey’s relative naval superiority was compensated by France’s decisive implication (accused by Ankara of playing a threat game), and the EU solidarity isolated Turkey (the risk of sanctions is quite high).


IV.  GERMANY / RUSSIA. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visits Moscow.

This was just a contact, considering that bilateral problems mounted, from those where the two countries cooperate (building the Nord Stream II, blocked by the United States), to those which separate them (Berlin accuses Moscow of illegal actions in Germany). Highly likely, main problems, like Ukraine, arms control, as well as Syria and Libya were discussed, in quest for solutions. Germany holds a top EU position in all these dossiers, which are important for European security, and Russia is directly involved in all these files, even in places where it claims it is not involved (Ukraine, Libya).

On August 11th, German foreign minister visited Moscow and Sankt Petersburg, with an agenda of urgent political problems, but also with actions linked to important historical events (Siege of Leningrad, and the initiation of Ostpolitik). The main political – economic problem is the situation of Nord Stream II (NS II) gas pipeline, while Ukraine and the arms control were the main political issues. However, the two illegal actions committed on German territory became the thorny problems of their bilateral relations. German Prosecution Office directly accuses Russian authorities of implication: a murder whose culprit was caught (a murderer recycled by Russian authorities and sent to execute a Chechen with Georgian passport), and a cyber attack against the Bundestag. In circumstances where German judiciary will rule according to indictments raised by the prosecution, the bilateral situation cannot escape damage, and this was the warning communicated by Heiko Maas, although it was rejected by Sergey Lavrov as “absurd” and “unfounded”.

NS II gas pipeline, a common Russo – German project (although Berlin claims the project is private), was opposed by Ukraine, Poland, and the United States, for political and economic reasons. This project cannot be completed, although it is almost finished, due to sanctions imposed by Washington to participating companies. Russia works to finish the projects by using a Russian vessel, but the United States threatens to sanction the German ports which would supply that vessel. In Moscow, Heiko Maas expressed indignation about this perspective, but the U.S. is determined to impose sanctions. Current situation shows Germany close to Russia in the NS II file, an important economic problem, and the United States close to Russia against Germany in the case of inviting Putin to take part in G7 meetings, an important political issue. The situation speaks volumes about the low level of German – American relations, with Russia working to capitalize on this situation. However, Russia’s general isolation will increase as consequences of its actions pile up, even in cases which make Russia necessary for reaching important solutions (Ukraine, Syria, Libya).

The main problems discussed in Russia, but kept in low profile in the media, are Ukraine and arms control (what will happen after the INF demise). In case of Ukraine, the road map can be guessed: the Normand proposal of implementing a peace solution which guarantees Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This solution is hard to chew by Moscow, because those two attributes were precisely the reason for Russia’s unadmitted aggression. In case of the arms control, only Russia’s previous proposals for a moratorium are publicly known so far, and they were rejected by NATO, who decided to respond, but not by deploying nuclear warhead ground-based missiles[4], in the mirror. It is remarkable that Berlin cultivates its relations with Moscow, especially considering the illegal acts Russia is accused of. The fair explanation is the high stakes of all these dossiers, from huge money invested in NS II, to issues essential for Europe’s security – Ukraine and Libya. However, it will be difficult to build something durable when Russia can only draw advantages from previous aggressions, without  initiating new conflicts: it can withdraw for the sake of peace, especially in Ukraine, but also in Libya which cannot be written in Moscow’s plans (because Russia claims it is... not present there). Moscow wanted to be an important player, and now it is important indeed, but what did it gain, in fact, beyond hostility, isolation, and crises?


V. Developments to track this Week 34 of 2020.

► UNITED STATES / CENTRAL EUROPE. The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s European tour includes Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, and Poland. The goal of this diplomatic journey is to bring along these countries to the American policy of containing China, with the G5 networks as priority. Mike Pompeo described Sino – American tensions as a new Cold War, more dangerous than the first one, because, now, China is an economic power strongly linked to the West. On this backdrop, he asked his Central-European hosts to join the United States attitude. The crisis in Belarus and tensions between Greece and Turkey added to the agenda. In Poland, Pompeo signed the agreement for an additional one thousand American troops to be stationed in Poland, plus the deployment of an army corps command. How much the Europeans will join America in a sturdy anti-Chinese position remains to be seen, as the Europeans generally still prefer a middle position.

► ISRAEL and UNITED ARAB EMIRATES establish official relations. Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the process of establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a historic moment, and he is probably right. Israel obtained a new breach in the Arab world, after Egypt: its recognition by the UAE is an essential element for the very existence of the Jewish state. The question is whether this recognition by the UAE launches a larger process of recognition by more Sunni monarchies in the Persian Gulf, as Saudi Arabia keeps quiet. The Palestinians were joined by non-Arab Muslim nations Iran and Turkey in rejecting this agreement. Although Netanyahu declares that annexations in the West Bank were only postponed, shedding this project was the price paid for this success. But it seems it is worth the concession: Israel recognition means peace, and it is Israel’s main objective, while land annexations are only a political symbol, because, on the ground, the two security conditions for Israel are acquired already: control over West Bank heights and the River Jordan Valley.

► HUNGARY. The opposition unites. Encouraged by local election results, Hungarian opposition parties decided to join forces for the 2021 parliamentary elections too. They will participate together and will govern together, should they win those elections. For the first time in decades, Viktor Orbán faces an opposition force with chances to remove him from power. A fierce political fight begins in Hungary, with consequences for Romania, due to the role of Hungarian minority living in Romania.

[1] This ‘containment’ is a defensive strategy described by blocking an aggressor while it occupies or initiates the control of other countries.

[2] As defined by Maria Zakharova, ‘Russophobia’ means the official negative reaction which appeared in countries where Russia recently committed infamous illegal actions, which were evidenced, as it happened in the United Kingdom, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Estonia, Slovakia. Romania was just lucky to miss the front page of such recent illegal actions.

[3] Russia is signatory of Budapest Memorandum, which guarantees Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.

[4] Russian brass offered signals opposing the deployment of American missiles to Europe, even if those missiles carry only conventional warheads. Russia’s new nuclear doctrine justifies such attitude.