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21 noiembrie 2018 - Special reports - Weekly review


Monitorul Apărării şi Securităţii

Sursă foto: Mediafax

I. EUROPEAN UNION: FRANCE and GERMANY work to relaunch the European project: the French President’s speech at the 1918 Armistice commemorations in Paris, and the German Chancellor’s speech at Strasbourg. The UK has a Brexit agreement, but not the Parliament’s accord for it.

II. RUSSIA. Vladimir Putin casts a light upon Russia’s position on the Ukraine conflict.

III. REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA. The European Parliament’s Resolution clears the situation: R. Moldova is a captured state.

IV. HUNGARY. The former Macedonian prime-minister, Nikola Gruevski requested political asylum in Hungary.

V. In ISRAEL, after losing the parliamentary majority, will Benjamin Netanyahu resort to snap elections?

VI. This week 47 – developments to track.



FRANCE and GERMANY work to relaunch the European project: the French President’s speech at the 1918 Armistice commemorations in Paris, and the German Chancellor’s speech at Strasbourg.

Emmanuel Macron’s speech commemorating the 1918 Armistice and Angela Merkel’s last speech to the European Parliament have historical swing. The two European leaders supported each other regarding a new thrust for the European project based on reaffirming the European values. Despite some spikes, which caused a personal rift with the US President, Donald Trump[1], E. Macron called for European unity and voiced against nationalism and in support of the values that created the EU.  The same did A. Merkel’s speech, additionally calling for a ”European army”.

 Both speeches have a weak link, and that is the fragile political situations of the two: E. Macron’s popularity is going south, as his economic and political reforms do not pan out and the far right-wing is getting better in the polls; meanwhile, A. Merkel is an outgoing chancellor and her speech is a swan song, full of principle substance, yet lacking any concrete plan.

For both, however, reaffirming the fundamental liberal values in opposition to nationalism was mandatory in view of winning the next European Parliament elections, which are crucial for the future of the EU. It is worth mentioning that it is not the traditional nationalism we are dealing with, but ”makeshift ideological constructions” of the newcomers ranging from former communists with their elites – either their offspring or elites generated against them, to populists and far right movements. Nevertheless, in order to win the next elections, the French and German liberal powers must find answers to the great challenges, not to dangerous desires, like sovereignty from the US. No, they must provide answers to important concrete problems like the migration and the domestic reaction to it, the Euro Zone financial consolidation and the political consolidation of the European Union.  

The two are determined to do it, and a first signal is the common French-German EU budget draft to be presented during the next meeting of the European finance ministers. By consolidating the Euro Zone, the French-German core not only officially establishes the nucleus to be joined by those who wish so (and when they are able!), but also reestablishes order within: Italy, Greece and even Spain must look at the figures (budget, deficit, debts) not at ideological improvisations for the rescue.  Among them is Italy, whom A. Merkel demanded to abide by the rules regarding the budget deficit. Within the Euro Zone, the two leaders isolate the populist and far right drifts which bring to the table dangerous economic and political solutions. Thus, the East-European nationalist dangers (especially Hungary) are deprived of the capacity to create an anti-European axis. As for the ”European army”, Germany’s decision not to shift the French ambition to the third gear results in the optimal solution: an ”European army” within NATO, similar to the already decade old ”European pillar” project.

The UK has a Brexit agreement, but not the Parliament’s accord for it. On November 13th, the UK and the EU have reached a framework agreement regarding Brexit. The basics are known: for the transition duration, the custom union is preserved, and European, respectively British citizens’ rights will be protected by both parties. The provision of keeping the Irish border open is also included, without an inner custom control between Ulster and mainland Britain. In a nutshell, there is no sudden divorce followed by a cumbersome partage, but a gradual separation process in the same house, with Britain still contributing to the European budget and abiding by the EU regulations. The problem is that those in opposition are right, this gradual process is not a Brexit. However, Teresa May is right too: in absence of this arrangement there is nothing else than a Brexit without agreement /, which is… no Brexit, although Teresa May is against a supplementary referendum[2].  

Although bleeding continued, with more ministers leaving the Cabinet, Teresa May managed to get her government’s approval on November 14, as well as the support of important ministers. The next step is passing the bill in the Parliament and, unfortunately, a rejection is more likely than an approval. It is only the double danger of a Brexit with no agreement and the fall of the government that is nourishing the hope of maintaining a conservatory majority in support of Teresa May. A reminiscence of Margret Thatcher’s ”There is no alternative”...

However, the danger of ditching Teresa May by her own party remains quite real, as a group of conservative MPs are working to start an internal dismissal procedure. As of yet, they do not have the minimal numbers to do it. This is why the European leaders assorted their optimistic language regarding an agreement with... details on preparing for a Blind Brexit. Additionally, the pressure increases on Teresa May to renogotiate the current agreement.

The good news is that Britain’s separation from EU will proceed without a political crisis between the two. The bad news is that... everything might colapse into a Blind Brexit. On the other hand, the Europeans, and probably most Brits still hope that... no Brexit will happen.


II. RUSSIA. Vladimir Putin casts a light upon Russia’s position in the Ukraine conflict.

On November 16th, V. Putin declared that Russia would not partake in the Normandy format meetings regarding the implementation of the Minsk Agreements until the elections in Ukraine were over. He explained that such meetings are ”pretty much meaningless because today’s Ukrainian authorities have not shown any desire to comply with the Minsk Agreements. They do nothing to implement these agreements, and nothing is happening... Even the law on the special status of Donbass, which was adopted by the Parliament of Ukraine, has not yet entered into force. This is a key element of the agreement. It is as if it is supposed to be this way. Everybody is waiting for Russia to fulfill the Minsk agreements, but everybody prefers not to notice that Kyiv’s authorities are doing nothing.”  

Putin has added he ”expects the election winner to be capable of negotiations. By the way, we will in any case respect the choice of Ukrainian people and will work with everybody”.  

V. Putin is right, Kyiv did not implement anything from the political chapter, meaning concessions expected by Moscow. However, the Ukrainian leaders must be mad or traitors to do such thing while Russia kept the conflict hot by breaching the military chapter of the Minsk Agreement and consolidated the separatist regions, including by organizing illegal elections.

Moscow’s nonparticipation decision is logical, as nothing good for Russia can result from the Normandy meetings where it would have to answer to the West why it has not accepted UN peacekeeping forces in Donbass. The Kremlin’s problem is that a true answer is clear: accepting UN peacekeepers would lead to a de facto end of the conflict. Or, a burst of the conflict is precisely the argument used by Russia as a trump card against Kyiv. Again, Moscow uses a potential conflict to blackmail the world.

By these declarations, V. Putin announces Russia’s policy for the next period: Moscow will focus on rigging the Ukrainian elections although the pro-Russian opposition has no chance to tilt the current political balance.

The other short-term strategy elements have been communicated by Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, and  by Denis Pushilin, the separatist leader. On November 16th, D. Peskov stated that Russia would take measures to protect its vessels in the Sea of Azov and would act according to international laws in the process. It will be interesting to watch to what extent Russia just protects its ships and refrain from hampering the Ukrainian maritime traffic through the Kerch Straits, which would damage eastern Ukraine economy, the port of Mariupol especially. In his turn, D. Pushlin declared that the two separatist republics (Donetsk and Luhansk) foster the ambition to grow closer to Russia and later integrate into it: ”tomorrow will come, and we will be in one country and this issue will be solved by itself”. He added that the two republics would also start a process of coming together and would fully remove the borders and customs between them.

The situation starts to look like the Transnistria conundrum: a consolidated separatist entity planning to join Russia is used by Moscow to destabilize and, if possible, to control the central power of that country. However, this is just Plan B, because the Kremlin cannot put aside a conflict for which it already pays by sanctions, but from which it did not gain too much (unless two territories bringing only limited advantages, although they have an important industrial base). Additionally, the mirage of Novorossia is not fading away from Moscow’s plans.   

Although it is rather hard to believe, let us hope that V. Putin really wants to stop the escalation of the situation[3]. We will see how his discussions with Donald Trump will occur, after constantly having declared ”I hope a comprehensive negotiating process will be resumed", and "Both they and we want to resume dialogue".


III. REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA. The European Parliament’s Resolution clears the situation: R. Moldova is a captured state.

On November 14th, the European Parliament (EP) passed a quite critical Resolution on R. Moldova. This document resulted with a large majority – 396 yays, 76 nays and 186 abstentions. In the report supporting the resolution, R. of Moldova is described as "a state captured by oligarchic interests" which regressed regarding the democratic standards and rule of law. The Resolution advances the idea that financial assistance should be provided only after the 2019 parliamentary elections, and only to the extent they are free and fair. The EP Resolution also asks the power in Chişinău to answer to the EU concerns regarding  major setbacks on independence of justice, fight against corruption and money laundering. Specifically, the EP Resolution requests publishing the Kroll 2 Report regarding the huge one billion fraud known as "the robbery of the century" in Moldova; and the Resolution also requests finding the culprits.

The resolution does not come as a surprise, as the grave problems pointed above are obvious. Petras Auštrevičius, the EU rapporteur, repeatedly showed them as well, in numerous warnings to the power in Chişinău led by Vladimir Plahotniuc and Igor Dodon. Also, very severe for V. Plahotniuc, the US ambassador to Chişinău reiterated the same problems in a recent declaration and added that Washington conditioned the American support on the way the February 2019 elections would occur.

V. Plahotniuc’s answer was defiant: his marriage godson Adrian Candu, also the speaker of the Parliament (the former position in the clan structure of Moldova is more important than the latter though) suggested that the opposition leaders might be accused of high treason for having cooperated with an NGO financed by Russia. One can see that the secret service shows obedience to the ”supreme leader”, and the country may still wait. However, where were they when the R. of Moldova was plundered of one billion dollars? This is what they are paid for, not for services made to mobsters like V. Plahotniuc.

The immediate effect will be limited, as the European financial assistance package was already suspended (the Moldovan budget might have a deficit of 1 billion Moldovan lei). On the other hand, the power has time to manipulate the European message: V. Plahotniuc’s party, the PD, already turned from pro-European to pro-Moldovan – whatever this might mean, besides the fact that he captured the state. On the long run, the mafia party and state structure must find a financing solution, as another billion to steal is not available, and idealist idiots glad to throw money on the window are no longer easy to find. Thus, we will likely see the organized crime thriving in all domains in this territory.  Consequently, the main nonconventional threat against Romania will seriously increase, even before becoming a ”geopolitical problem” through Chişinău’s toying with the Russian solution for the Transnistrian conflict.


IV. HUNGARY. The former Macedonian prime-minister, Nikola Gruevski requested political asylum in Hungary.

 On November 14th, The Hungarian authorities confirmed they received a request for political asylum from the former Macedonian prime-minister, Nikola Gruevski. He has been convicted in Macedonia for implication in corruption crimes committed while he was in office, and he was about to go to jail. The Macedonian authorities issued a request for extradition on his name. On November 14th, the Cabinet led by Prime-Minister Viktor Orbán issued a communique mentioning that there is no desire to meddle in the domestic issues of other sovereign states, but Nikola Gruevski has been the prime-minister of his country for ten years and, for security reasons, the Hungarian authorities allowed him to file a political asylum request which is about to be examined.

N. Gruevski run Macedonia for a decade as head of his nationalist party VMRO. During that tenure, he built a full-grown mafia system, especially in the economic field. He was removed from power with difficulty, by the socialists, through EU mediation. There was also the problem that, after having N. Gruevski lose power, Macedonia would solve the country name problem, thus paving the way of Macedonia’s integration into NATO and EU. This perspective made Russia support Gruevski, including by illegal means.

Although the Hungarian authorities used caution to keep up reasonable appearances, not an accomplice attitude, there is a question: why would a convict from a non-EU country, who benefited from Russian support to preserve his power, risk an escape from his country, using illegal means (a car with diplomatic license plates), to get exactly to Hungary, a EU nation with a regime close to Russia?

 We were used that important individuals at political level, convicted or in course to be convicted run to Serbia, a non-EU member nation and with close relations with Russia. Only ethnic Hungarian indicted Romanian citizens seek refuge to Hungary. We have a first, Hungary taking up the role of European sanctuary for a highly placed questionable person in the Western Balkans. We should note that, around Romania, there is an increasing number of countries where criminals can find refuge. As for Hungary, let us just say that Budapest’s gesture does not surprise anybody in Europe anymore.


V. In ISRAEL, after losing the parliamentary majority, will Benjamin Netanyahu resort to snap elections? After an Israeli special forces action led to an escalation of the conflict in Gaza and the Israeli air force responded to the missile salvos launched by Hamas, Prime-Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted a cease-fire mediated by Egypt. This displeased the Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman who resigned and withdrew the parliamentary support of his party, Israel Beytenu. A second party, Habait Hayehudi, left the governing coalition because B. Netanyahu declined to offer the now vacant position of minister of defense to Naftali Bennet, the leader of this party. Consequently, the B. Netanyahu Cabinet became minoritarian.

Since the moment of the prosecution decision on his corruption file is getting near, will B. Netanyahu choose early elections? Probably yes, but first he needs to show to his constituency and the undecided that he is not a weak leader. Well, since both Israel and Hamas declared their lack of interest in going to war, then a war against Hamas is not on the agenda. Then, to whom will he take his security issues? To Hezbollah in Lebanon or to the Iranians in Syria. Netanyahu wanted to secure the Russian neutrality on both issues, but the problem is that the meeting with V. Putin did not happen. Thus, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) will have to attack Iranian targets under the threat of the S-300 anti-aircraft systems. While militarily that is hardly a great threat, the problem would remain political if those systems were neutralized by the IDF and Russian victims occured. Israel does not need an additional enemy, it has enough of them even without Russia.


VI. Next week 47 – developments to track.


  • UNITED KINGDOM. The vote on the Brexit agreement might become a non-confidence vote for Teresa May Cabinet. Thus, instead of an accord, we might witness a political crisis in Britain, and the perspective of a Blind Brexit. However, the strong argument TINA (There Is No Alternative) might persuade a parliamentary majority (inclusive labor MPs) to vote in favor of Teresa May’s arrangement. But this only provided Teresa May is not removed by the mutiny within her own party.


  • All the ways to the future go through Buenos Aires, where three presidents will meet at the G20 summit: the American Donald Trump, the Chinese Xi Jinping, and the Russian Vladimir Putin. Both issues to be discussed will affect the future of the Europeans and the World, either directly or indirectly: first, the initiation of a process meant to regulate the Sino-American trade relations, i.e. aligning China to the global trade rules; second, the initiations of Russo-American negotiations on INF, i.e. Russia’s renunciation to SSC-8 missiles or the US’s renunciation to the INF. There is a third way though, to renegotiate a new solution: including China into the INF or regionalizing the INF to Europe only.   


  • The price of oil will enter a decisive phase. While Saudi Arabia and Russia announced measures to reduce production, the price of crude continued to drop and a meeting on the issue is to take place in December. But there is another important producer in the market now, and this is the US. And this new joker is interested to plateau the oil price; this is the only reason Washington allowed Iran to continue its exports by offering exceptions to selected significant importers. It will be interesting to watch the American pressure on Saudi Arabia and the negotiations to single out a culprit for the murder in Istanbul. In the background, R.T.Erdoğan seeks the solution to maximize his benefits, which would be… the very truth: identifying the Crown Prince as culprit.



[1] So what Germany defeated France three times taken alone? Now the two together are the backbone of Europe precisely due to the US, who not only liberated them, but also helped them become powerful democracies. The insults made by E. Macron to D. Trump are not the danger here, but the fact that D. Trump wants the European Union to disappear as a political and economic construction. For mercantile reasons instead of political values, the US President considers the EU an adversary for America. This seems to be counterproductive, the same as building the EU in opposition to US, instead of considering opposition to Russia and China.

[2] Many Britons seem to feel as Saint Paul after the trip to Damascus, and a new referendum might result in UK remaining in the EU.

[3] At the Palermo conference on Libya, Russia showed it can take a constructive role while reaching for economic advantages (oil) yet abiding by the rules: it can work to find a political solution able to stabilize this country. Maybe it is just a favor offered to Italy, which is paying the price for instability by the large number of migrants transiting Libya towards Italy / Europe.