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13 octombrie 2020 - Special reports - Weekly review

D.S.M. WEEKLY REPORT - Main Political and Military Developments (WEEK 41 of 2020)

Sandu Valentin Mateiu

I. EUROPEAN UNION / RUSSIA. Germany and France propose sanctions in the Navalny Case.II. UNITED STATES / RUSSIA. Unproductive negotiations for the New START agreement extension. III. UNITED KINGDOM / UKRAINE. Strategic partnership generates a new navy for Ukraine.IV. ARMENIA / AZERBAIJAN. The Nagorno-Karabakh war saga.V. Developments to track this Week 42 of 2020.

Sursă foto: Mediafax

English version by Mircea Mocanu

I. EUROPEAN UNION / RUSSIA. Germany and France propose sanctions in the Navalny Case.  

The international Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) issued an official confirmation regarding the utilization of Novichok nerve gas in the case regarding the poisoning of Russian political opponent Aleksey Navalny. Therefore, Germany and France proposed to the Europeans the establishment of sanctions against Russia. These measures are directed against officials suspicioned of being involved in this criminal case, due to the official positions they hold, and by implication in the Novichok program (although Moscow maintains that no such program even exists!). However, these sanctions will not cover economic issues, and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will not be touched. Starting from a Russian domestic political incident, the Navalny case led to a ‘moment of truth’ in the Kremlin’s relations with the West, and with Germany  in the first place, although Berlin took care to internationalize the problem (to the OPCW), and spread it across Europe (France, the European Union). Berlin accused the Kremlin for attempted murder against a political opponent, by utilizing a forbidden chemical weaponized agent (once, such act would have been labeled ‘state terrorism’, while now, Realpolitik waters down the wording, but not the signification). Let us notice Romania’s principled position, both in the Navalny case, and regarding the Belarus crisis (withdrawal of Romanian ambassador). 

On October 7th, Germany and France announced they would jointly propose European sanctions against Russia, regarding the Navalny case. These sanctions will hit specific individuals and interests. The two nations announced they would propose to the Europeans measures against individuals responsible for poisoning Aleksey Navalny, after OPCW confirmed the presence of Novichok, nerve gas forbidden by international agreements, in samples collected in the Navalny case. Foreign ministers of the two countries declared in a communiqué that "no credible explanation has been provided by Russia so far. In this context, we consider that there is no other plausible explanation for Mr. Navalny's poisoning than Russian involvement and responsibility". Proposed sanctions will be directed against individuals responsible for the criminal act (the murder attempt by poisoning) and for breaching international regulations (the Interventional Convention for Prohibiting Chemical Weapons), considering their public positions and their implication in the Novichok program. It seems that GRU (Russian military intelligence) officials are included on the list of sanctions. Navalny had suggested that appropriate measures should be taken against individuals close to the power at the Kremlin (top officials and oligarchs). However, sanctions will not reach too high on the political ladder, as Germany tries to avoid such escalation, the same as it avoids imposing economic sanctions linked to the Nord Stream 2. Russia denied any implication, it refused to provide any explanation, resisted Western pressure to initiate an investigation, and responded by a campaign of accusations against the West, through diplomatic and media channels: that Germany would be non-cooperative in refusing to send incriminating evidence to Moscow, respectively by hallucinating narratives (Navalny would have poisoned himself; he was poisoned by the Westerners; he is a CIA agent). The OPCW confirmed the presence of Novichok nerve gas in the samples collected from Navalny (Germany has been waiting for this international confirmation  before initiating the process of imposing European sanctions against Russia. Perhaps these sanctions will be decided during the next European leader reunion. Moscow responded just by a declaration of its representative to OPCW, who, forgetting the promises made regarding Russia’s readiness to cooperate with OPCW, and eluding the problem (OPCW tests confirmed the presence of Novichok agent), transferred again the responsibility to Germany by reiterating the Russian request to be provided with the evidence of Navalny’s poisoning. 

Highly likely, all European leaders will support Germany’s proposition on imposing limited sanctions against Russia, although certain frontline nations might point to Berlin that Germany requests European political solidarity for these measures, while it protects its own economic interests at the expense of those countries’ security interests. Nevertheless, European leaders will soon decide these limited sanctions against several Russian officials. This is not the worst effect upon Russia’s leadership though, but the fact that Berlin’s trust in the Kremlin plummeted to levels which cannot allow an effective political and diplomatic cooperation. The Kremlin’s representatives might continue to ignore reality by accusing the Europeans of all evils, from poisoning Navalny to an arrogant behavior, yet this does nothing but underline the gravity of current situation, and the Kremlin’s isolation.


II. UNITED STATES / RUSSIA. Unproductive negotiations for the New START agreement extension.

There is no relevant information available on the October 5th meeting in Helsinki between Russian and American representatives on the New START extension issue, except Russian reactions, at official level, and in the media. These reactions indicate that the meeting was a failure, with the U.S. side insisting on the conditions it had requested, and the Russian side not accepting them. Sergey Lavrov’s, and later the Kremlin’s declarations show Moscow’s discontent regarding this situation, which might lead to not extending the agreement. Russian media broadcast a pessimistic message and the hopes that President Trump, who is in an election campaign and seeks foreign policy achievements, eventually accepts to extend the treaty in Russia’s terms, as well as the fear that a solution will be postponed for after the elections in the U.S., when, regardless the outcome, the American stance will be more intransigent. 

After the meeting in Helsinki between representatives of the two nations to negotiations, Sergey Ryabkov and Marshall Billingslea, there were no official declarations, which came in contrast with the large media coverage of the event before it unfolded. This was an indication that negotiations petered out during this third political level meeting, which is the last before the U.S. presidential election. Sergey Lavrov’s reaction was immediate, it occurred on October 5th. Although he did not refer to this meeting, his message was eloquent, he accused Washington of being the sole responsible for not extending the agreement. According to Lavrov, the American conditions for extending the New START are unilateral, they ignore Russia’s interests, and they will lead to the demise of this agreement. Lavrov’s message was replicated by that of Russian ambassador to the U.S. Anatoli Antonov, one of the best Russian experts in strategic and nuclear issues, who has stated that American conditions are unacceptable. Later (October 7th), by the voice of Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin has communicated there is no room for optimism in the negotiations between Russia and the United States regarding the New START agreement extension, but he still wishes the negotiations succeed. This cannot be ruled out though, but chances are slim, and the U.S. representatives’ silence does not bode well.

Russian media mentioned that one of the sources of current blockage would be Washington’s insistence to include China into the agreement, which bumps into Russia’s request of including France and United Kingdom too. However, this is not the main cause of current jam, but the other two requests raised by the United States: 1) more detailed methods on control for non-compliance with New START agreement stipulations; 2) the commitment that signatory parties will begin negotiations for limiting the total number of nuclear warheads, i.e. not only the strategic warheads, but also the sub-strategic and tactical nuclear warheads. United States supports these conditions by pointing at Russia’s proliferation of sub-strategic nuclear weapons (especially after Moscow breached the INF by deploying the SSC-8 missiles) and tactical warheads, albeit limited, as well as pointing at Russia’s development of new types of nuclear capable armament systems, whence two at strategic level (such as the Avangard hypersonic glider) and sub-strategic, such as hypersonic missiles (including the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missiles). On the other side, Russia avoided discussing the sub-strategic and tactical nuclear warheads and insisted that U.S. firstly withdrew its tactical nuclear bombs deployed to Europe (which are the pillars of NATO nuclear deterrence and linchpin of transatlantic military connection). Although rejecting Russian approach in its entirety, many American experts support an extension of New START, considering that it limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads (both the total number and the deployed quantity), and this was respected by both parties (Russia accepted inspection even to the ballistic missiles carrying the Avangard system) and is the last agreement still standing between the two great powers to secure strategic stability (this is one of the reasons making the Democrat candidate Joe Biden support an extension of New START).

This is the context where, on October 7th, Moscow announced the successful testing of a Zyrkon missile launched from the modern frigate Admiral Gorshkov, in the Barents Sea. The Zyrkon missile is hypersonic, it can reach eight times the speed of sound, has a range of 1,000 kilometers, and can hit naval and ground targets. The missile was tested only at the range of 450 kilometers, which it reached in four minutes and a half. The Zyrkon missile cannot be intercepted by any existent air defense system; however, considering the ballistic features of its trajectory (it reached 28,000 kilometers), one cannot rule out its interception by anti-ballistic systems (BMD systems), warship-based included. Together with other new strategic systems announced by the Kremlin (such as the nuclear torpedo), the Zyrkon missile opens a new age where the strategic balance is strongly destabilized, and forces the United States to beef-up its own programs of new strategic armament development. This is the context unacceptable for the United States, where Washington raises conditions for extending the New START agreement, and these conditions are deemed unacceptable by Moscow.


III. UNITED KINGDOM / UKRAINE. Strategic partnership generates a new navy for Ukraine.


While visiting London, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed the strategic partnership agreement with the United Kingdom. This document includes a free trade arrangement, which is necessary to Kyiv for improving its cooperation with the West, but also important for London, in the context of Brexit, and the negotiations for a trade agreement with the European Union. So, Britain continues its policy in support of Ukraine against Russian aggression, in circumstances of the ongoing conflict in Donbass. In the military field, the signatures on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding the production of eight guided missile speed boats, financed by a British loan, secure the rebirth of Ukrainian Navy. 

After signing these agreements on October 8th, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that UK is firmly committed to secure Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and specified that this new strategic partnership opens a new chapter in bilateral relations, which generates security. The immediate visible element of UK-Ukraine strategic partnership is the MOU signed on October 7th, which will make possible the production of eight guided missile warships by Britain for the Ukrainian Navy, with finance assured by a $ 1.6 billion British loan, extended over the next ten years. These eight future warships will be similar to vessels of Vita / Barzan class built by Vosper Thornycroft (currently part of BAE) for Qatar. Such warship will have a big fire power and will be furbished with eight anti-ship Neptun missiles produced by Ukraine. A Vita-class warship is relatively big (380-tone deadweight, size 56m x 9m x 25m), 35 crew. It can reach 35 knots and an optimal range for the Black Sea: 1,800 nm (at a 1w2 knot speed). This warship’s initial remarkable weapon system includes: an Oto Melara 76 mm caliber canon; air-defense missiles – a Sadral system (with six Mistral missiles); Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) – a Goalkeeper 30mm caliber canon; a 3D radar MRR; a STING fire-control radar; a STING-EO electro-optical target acquisition system; an IRSCAN IRST infra-red ISR system; a SEWACO FD / TACTICOS Combat Data System; ESM / ECM systems (roughly SIGINT and jamming).  

Ukraine’s ‘mosquito fleet’ project of small warships with artillery weapons, but a limited combat capability failed (as demonstrated by the Kerch Strait incident). Therefore, Kyiv solved part of the problem with the patrol speedboats donated by the United States (which mainly perform patrol missions and maritime policing within the Exclusive Economic Zone / EEZ – all specific to coast guard operations). Now, Ukraine announces the renewal of its navy, with these eight guided missile warships as a back-bone. These warships combine a combat-proven naval platform, high-tech sensors, and western-manufactured air defense systems with Ukrainian ship-to-ship missiles. Thus, this arrangement provides a chance to Ukrainian armament industry, as well as to Kyiv’s naval industry (after the first two warships to be built in UK, the other six will be manufactured in Ukrainian shipyards). In designing a new fleet, Ukrainian officials found an adequate response solution to Russian threat (Russian Black Sea Fleet supported by aviation and armament / sensor systems deployed in occupied Crimea). This solution reflects the specific context (defense in the maritime area of northwestern Black Sea) where systems deployed to the littoral (aviation, coastal artillery, air defense missile systems) have an influence on the naval situation equal to the fleet, and small warships are equally important as the big ships (autonomy and range are not important factors in this case). Therefore, the limited combat capacity of small warships (modest features of the platform, sensors, and weapon systems) can be compensated by cooperation with sensor systems and armament located on the shore, and with aviation. However, the adversary will have to cope with an important naval offensive force distributed on eight platforms (8 x 8 = 64 Neptun anti-ship missiles). Of course, after the Ukrainian sailors acquire the necessary expertise in exploiting western modern sensors and weaponry (while personnel remain the essential component of a competitive navy), and Kyiv gets the necessary funding, Ukraine can think about purchasing a corvette (Ukraine had a home-grown corvette program). As other nations show (Greece, with the Roussen class, and the long-time experience of Sweden, Finland, and Israel), the guided missile warships provide the optimal solution in this given situation, especially when they feature a dense capability of weapons and sensors. In circumstances of significant progress in sensor developments (small by performant 2D/3D radars, mature PESA technology, and AESA revolutionary technology) and air defense systems (missiles and air defense CIWS), these small warships can provide survivability while offering the offensive capability of a corvette / frigate (eight ship-to-ship missiles), and an adequate C4ISR system can support effective targeting with a combination of littoral and air-based sensors. Indeed, the anti-submarine defense capability remains low, but northwestern Black Sea specific conditions can contribute to warship survivability too. Finally, the fleet structure is crucial: Ukraine (as Russia too, when speaking about the Black Sea!) began to build its fleet bottom-up, starting with guided missile warships in a relatively large number, which provides ‘distributed lethality’. Although many details need to be solved, the Ukrainian example has undoubtful merits.


IV. ARMENIA / AZERBAIJAN. The Nagorno-Karabakh war saga.

The war between the two countries continued with high intensity, the Azeris attacked in force along the two directions in the North and South, and succeeded to conquer some localities, mainly in the South, but the Armenians succeeded to stop the offensive. The Azeris occupied a couple of areas without big significance in either strategic position or size. Bombing inhabited places deep into the adversary territory represents an escalation, but also an indication that we near the climax, where the Azeris no longer have the capacity to sustain an intense level of offensive, although the Armenians cannot turn to counter-offensive either, in the attempt to recover lost territory. At political level, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev is still intransigent, and is supported by a determined Turkish President Recep Erdoğan. Meanwhile, Yerevan shows it is ready for compromise, although it seems only a strategy to obtain a cease-fire and return to negotiations. The Minsk Group seeks a solution, but its mediation capacity diminished after Azerbaijan challenged its impartiality and chose to have Turkey involved, while preserving Russia in play (practically, it means expelling the West, i.e. France and the United States). The cease-fire agreement signed in Moscow by foreign ministers of the two warrying countries following Sergey Lavrov’s mediation was not respected by any of the two sides. Perhaps Ilham Aliyev, advised by Ankara, considered that Azeri forces still had the offensive capacity to conquer Hadrot, an additional locality in the South of Nagorno-Karabakh (from a strategic point of view, Hadrot is more important than Jabrail, which is located in the Azeri territory surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh). However, considering that the cease-fire agreement was signed after the direct intervention of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had a phone talk with Azeri President Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nicol Pashinian, Baku cannot continue too long on the same music sheet, although it will persist in hiding behind accuses against Yerevan. Therefore, both sides engage troops in combat knowing that, sooner or later, they will have to accept a cease-fire, and the territory they hold at that moment will make a difference for the negotiation outcome. Regardless how much would have Turkey helped, politically and militarily, Ilham Aliyev knows the force balance in the Caucasus, therefore he cannot risk losing its good relations with Russia by confronting Vladimir Putin. Consequently, sooner or later, this cease-fire will highly likely be implemented, either in its current shape or in a modified version. It is interesting to watch the way Baku seeks to bring Ankara into play, although no Western member of the Minsk Group wants this, and neither does Russia: Moscow rejects any participation by the other large interventionist Turkey, inside Russia’s sphere of influence, or by the West (especially France, but the U.S. as well), who are concerned of Ankara’s aggressivity, since Ankara contributed to destabilize an additional region with its role in the Nagorno-Karabakh war resumption. The Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh have considerable losses in people and military equipment (Turkish support provided to the Azeris eliminated the initial Armenian qualitative advantage), and they find it more and more difficult to cope with the Azeri offensive. But they have back-up from Armenia proper. The Azeris have heavier losses, especially in human casualties, but Baku chooses to keep them ‘confidential’, as Aliyev hopes to gain an enough great victory to compensate such losses. Nevertheless, he does not possess enough reserves to further throw to the battlefield either. Thus, the cease-fire moment cannot be delayed too much, and the pressure upon Aliyev is increasing, both the pressure caused by the military situation, with domestic political impact, and the foreign pressure from Russia and the West (which counterbalance Turkish encouragements). The lack of information about the true situation of the warrying forces makes a precise assessment impossible because this force ratio, reflected in the situation on the ground is the basic element for further political decisions.  

The cease-fire agreement was signed in Moscow after dozens of negotiation hours. The “Communiqué of Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation, Republic of Azerbaijan and Republic of Armenia” includes the following language: In response to the call by the Russian Federation President V.  Putin, and according to agreements between Russian Federation President V. Putin, Republic of Azerbaijan President I.  Aliyev, and Republic of Armenia Prime Minister N.  Pashinian, the parties agreed upon the following steps: 1) A humanitarian ceasefire declared coming into force at 12:00, in view of exchanging war prisoners and other retained persons, as well as to recover the bodies of deceased, by mediation and an accordance with the International Red Cross rule; 2) Specific ceasefire conditions will be agreed upon at a later date; 3) Armenia and Azerbaijan will enter into substantive negotiations, by mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-presidents, fundamented on the basic principles of solving a conflict; substantial negotiations begin, and they have the goal of achieving a peaceful solution as soon as possible; 4) The parties reaffirm the unchanging nature of the negotiation process. According to a later statement of Sergey Lavrov, the parties confirmed the invariability of the established negotiation process format.

Let us notice the following issues: 1) Vladimir Putin’s role in reaching this agreement; 2) the cease-fire is only temporary, decided for pressing humanitarian reasons; 3) the basic cease-fire parameters are to be decided after future negotiations; 4) the Minsk Group (Russia, France, United States) remains the solution format, Turkey is not part of the solution. Although the fire did not cease, this agreement is an important phase, because it opens the path to a future truce and the beginning of negotiations. 

The situation on the ground is still fluid and fights continue especially in the South, where the Azeris seek to conquer Hadrut, which has strategic and political importance, being the first large locality in Nagorno-Karabakh proper to be taken by the Azeri troops. So far, following weeks of battles, the Azeris only managed to take control of some small localities in the North (Talis and, maybe Madaghis). In the South, the conquered territory is larger, and is partly former Azeri lands surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh (territories occupied by the Armenians three decades ago, in view of consolidating their defense disposition). The most important locality conquered by the Azeris is Jabrail, seat of a local district. Baku seems to be far from happy with current situation (it has not conquered strategic position within Nagorno-Karabakh proper yet) and continues the offensive aimed at taking control of Hadrut.

Bombing inhabited places deep in adversary territory led to an important number of civilian victims and material damages, but only insignificantly influenced the developments on the frontline, those which decide the outcome of this war, respectively the moment when a cease-fire is established and the conditions of such situation. However, this represents an important conflict escalation which increases the international community concerns. Turkey’s military meddling is more and more obvious, President Aliyev admitted that the Azeris use Turkish drones, and satellite imagery showed two F-16 aircraft in Ganja, on October 3rd

Russia intervened decisively, but Baku does not want yet to reach a cease-fire. United States and France, along Russia, call Baku to the negotiation table, and Yerevan already accepted this. Encouraged by the disbalance of Turkey’s political and military intervention, Azerbaijan wants not only to recover as much territory as possible, in order to secure a solid position at the upcoming negotiations, but also wants the replacement of mediators: Baku wants to have only Russia and Turkey as mediators, while France (who self-expelled herself from this role, when Paris accused Turkey for military implication and, especially, for, bringing Syrian jihadists to the conflict), and the United States should be expelled from the process. Interestingly enough, Moscow supports the preservation of the negotiation format, especially after Yerevan, facing the current difficult situation, accepted the idea of having Russian peace-keeping troops deployed in the conflict zone. The Kremlin considers that it would be worse without the ‘evil’ Westerners (who have principles), and having aside Ankara, who encourages Baku to go the whole nine yards with this war. This is the general result of the Southern Caucasus war: a repositioning of the camps, the West (United States, France, and other nations) placing itself along Russia (not for the same reasons) for a peaceful solution of the conflict, while Turkey opposes, hoping that Azerbaijan militarily defeats the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians. Perhaps, should Baku continue to obey Ankara and not accept peace, Russia will be more and more ready to support Armenia (where Pashinian’s regime democratic will pay the price by accepting an increased Russian influence and reverse its former recent evolution). Exactly this reconfiguration triggered by Ankara’s decisions is a concerning element, beyond the tragedy of this atrocious armed conflict.


V. Developments to track this Week 42 of 2020.

► BELARUS / RUSSIA. Lukashenka consolidates his position, although opposition protests continue to destabilize his regime. The exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya met German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which shows that the European play this fragile card, in absence of an alternative. In response to sanctions established by the Europeans, Lukashenka asked Poland and Lithuania, the most active European countries in this crisis, to withdraw their ambassadors to Minsk. He received an answer from Brussels, but the ‘exodus’ of European ambassadors to Minsk already began. On October 10th, dictator Lukashenka met his former counter-candidate Viktor Babariko, who is in jail (he is the former director of Belgazprombank, the Belarusian bank dealing with gas industry finance, an indication of his relation with Moscow), but also met other opposition representatives, members of the Coordination Council, who are also arrested. Although the contents of these talks remained confidential, Lukashenka’s declaration speaks volumes: “a Constitution cannot be written in the street”. Do we witness the initiation of a political stabilization process meaning the generation of a new Constitution? Such process would be strictly controlled by the dictator and supervised by Moscow, keeping out the opposition representatives who found refuge in the West! Maybe yes, and the fact that Russia announced the prosecution of ‘indicted’ Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, based on Russia’s bilateral agreements with Belarus, stands to prove it. The West cannot respond to such maneuvers except by encouraging the Belarusians in their democratic struggle, while the dictator, even with Moscow support, is forced to submit the new Constitution to the vote of Belarusian nation. Although the situation in Belarus seems to develop in the desired direction, the Kremlin has no reason for satisfaction, because it holds enough evidence that its policy of supporting dictatorial regimes is doomed: Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Azerbaijan, all in Moscow’s sphere of influence, were supported by the Kremlin just for being similar to Putin’s regime in Russia, and they generated domestic and foreign political instability. Nevertheless, the Putinist regime survival and control on countries within its turf comes first, and they seem to be the main objectives of domestic and foreign policy promoted by the Kremlin.

► NATO / TURKEY. NATO Secretary general visits Ankara and Athens. This visit showed the fragility of Turco-Greek dialogue, and Turkey’s distancing from the Alliance. So, after Jens Stoltenberg warned about the continued operationalization of Russian S-400 missile system, Ankara is preparing to test it. Stoltenberg praised the military appeasement agreement between Greece and Turkey and was right about its role in increasing stability; however, this is easier to achieve, because it is at military level, it does not reach the political realm. The Greco-Turkish appeasement met difficulties, it was enough for Turkey to open a touristic resort in Northern Cyprus, and Cyprus reacted accusing Turkey, and Greece sympathized with Cyprus. As such hurdles show, the road to fruitful negotiations is long and painful. The Europeans will discuss the situation in December, and Ankara, although it maintains a bellicose rhetoric, takes relaxation measures. However, it seems to be a whack-a-mole game, when a fire is put down, another fire starts, and now it is Nagorno-Karabakh, with the Europeans accusing Ankara of its role in this conflict. The dialogue became a dialogue of the deaf: while Stoltenberg was calling on Turkey to use its influence for calming the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkish foreign minister, standing beside, was talking about Turkey’s support to Azerbaijan in view of recovering territories occupied by Armenia. This stands to prove that the situation is growing more and more dangerous.

► REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA. In full election campaign, Tiraspol arrested Moldovan citizens, a policeman included, with espionage accusations. Although the Security Zone is a rather a one-way throttle, from Transnistria to Republic of Moldova (RM) mainland, both sides are forced to obtain information, and they are, at the same time, adversaries, and companions. Therefore, recent developments are likely a provocation but, even if it is genuinely an espionage case, why is this arrest performed right now? Igor Dodon continues to play double, with and against Tiraspol, as he needs all the votes from Transnistria. The accusations are about a meeting with Vlad Palhotniuc. Should such information be confirmed, the situation would become difficult not in RM, where anything is possible, but in Moscow, because the Kremlin would not accept to acknowledge that its assets continue their cooperation with Vlad Plahotniuc. The election campaign in RM will continue to surprise, with Igor Dodon determined to become again president, although himself he is somebody else’s tool.