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19 noiembrie 2019 - Special reports - Weekly review

D.S.M. WEEKLY REPORT Main Political and Military Developments (WEEK 46 of 2019)

Monitorul Apărării şi Securităţii

I. REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA. Igor Dodon established his own government. II. UNITED STATES - NATO. NATO Secretary General visits the White House. III. UNITED STATES - TURKEY. President Trump meets President Erdoğan. IV. SPAIN. Parliamentary elections only complicate the political situation. V. Developments to track this Week 47 of 2019.

Sursă foto: Mediafax

I. REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA. Igor Dodon established his own government.

While Prime Minister Maia Sandu did not yield regarding a real reform of the Republic of Moldova (RM) judicial system, the Socialists (PSRM) and the Democrats (PDM) passed a non-confidence motion which toppled the ACUM government. Thus, the against-the-grain ACUM – PSRM alliance colapsed, and Igor Dodon established his loyal government, supported by PDM. For domestic reasons, i.e. avoiding a reform which might have shaken the political bases of both political formations, PSRM and PDM made an agreement and they are again together[1]. Now, the question is how will the western sponsors be tricked with a phony reform, so they continue to finance RM?

Apart from that, Igor Dodon will be able to steer RM towards Moscow, but only as far as PDM agrees, which is a grey area, not under Russia’s absolute control, but also shy from the danger of real reforms, which would democratize RM and would turn it towards the West. The solution brings political stability, but dooms RM to stagnation. Igor Dodon will be able to justify himself to his master in the Kremlin for not implementing the Kozak Memorandum quickly enough: the “Bolshevik Moldovenists” / PSRM cannot make this step in absence of support from the PDM “sovereign Moldovans”. And these do not agree with  new Kozak Memorandum... not yet, but if the West makes too many waves instead of just sponsoring, we’ll see!

On November 12th, Maia Sandu government fell after the parliament passed the non-confidence motion filed by Igor Dodon’s Socialists supported by the Democrats. 63 parliamentarians (of the total 101) voted to topple the government, exactly the Socialists and the Democrats. PSRM and PDM proved a remarkable complicity, which replicated quickly, when Igor Dodon’s new goverment was voted.

President Igor Dodon immediately jumped in to promote his government. This Cabinet was presented as a technocratic team, perhaps in order to sugarcoat the collaboration between the apparently antagonistic PSRM and PDM, for the PSRM and PDM electorate, as well as for the western sponsors. Igor Dodon selected his former financial adviser Ion Chicu [KEE-koo] as prime minister. No less than six ministers are former presidential advisers, and the others are also linked to Igor Dodon, one way or another. This guaranteed loyalty makes them even more dangerous than possible Socialists: being member of a party sponsored by Russia – PSRM is one thing, while being member of the inner circle of a proven influence agent of Moscow, Igor Dodon, is quite another thing. And Ion Chicu has an additional quality: he was raised by Vlad Plahotniuc, which makes him the perfect example of a cynical politician created by the two branches of “the pyramid of power” in RM, PSRM and PDM.

On November 14, the Chicu government was approved with 62 ballots of the PSRM and PDM. The haste was generated by the need to put the western sponsors in a fait accompli situation, and depriving them of any chance to interfere. But the haste is also motivated by the need to quickly start faking a reform in justice[2], so that the EU and the United States continue to finance RM.

This realignment of political forces in Chişinău is no surprise, it is back to business as normal, which is chronic anormality in RM. In fact, the ACUM represents anormality, being a principled party truely promoting a real reform, but lacking a social basis or support in the ranks of those holding power, i.e. the “state pyramid[3] and the “business network[4]. This power structure is similar to the mafia structure, with the only difference that its members act in the position of state employees or private businessmen. In the pro-Russian camp, the representatives of this system are within PSRM, and in the “sovereignist” camp they are in the PDM. The reform promoted by Maia Sandu was meant to destroy their economic basis, thus being a direct threat against their very existence. Naturally, the two poles of crime, PSRM and PDM, joined hands for eliminating such major danger. Although PDM justified its decision to fall Maia Sandu’s government with all sorts of arguments, the next step they made, which is to support Dodon’s government, shows that what brings them close to the Socialists is more important than what keeps them apart (the mandatory pro-Russdian orientation of PSRM opposed to the simulated pro-western orientation of PDM).

The West will likely accept the reform mockery that Chicu government is about to perform, for being fed up and settled with the situation in RM, as well as relieved of the burden of supporting “RM’s European path”. Such path does not exist, it is only faked by the those in power in RM in order to get financial support stricly necessary for keeping afloat a country they bankrupted themselves. The situation looks like plateauing until the next crisis, forseeable before the next presidential elections.

Maia Sandu declared that the ACUM bloc’s next priority is to “rid the country of the next danger, and this next danger is Igor Dodon. Igor Dodon together with PDM tries to capture the state institutions, to steal from us what we managed to achieve with so much struggle”. Although she is right about the “Igor Dodon danger”, Maia Sandu is wrong about the diagnosys: PSRM and PDM never lost control over state institutions. More precisely, we recently witnessed just the transfer of part of the control over state institutions from PDM (institutions which PDM was controlling during Vlad Plahotniuc’s rule), to PSRM, which is going to control them in the future.

For Romania, this is the final victory (yes, by mistake, we reached the... final victory): we finally realize what the “big Moldovan charade” means. Since the Romanian ambassador to Chişinău declared, after meeting Maia Sandu, that he knew now who wants to reform justice in RM, means that we no longer accept being blinded by the PDM machinations. Of course, we should continue to financially support RM, for the simple reason that Romanian citizens live there, and they are in dire straits. However, this financial aid must be regarded as a tribute, the same way as, in history, Romanians have paid tribute to so many invaders, only for securing survival: now, we help our Romanians in RM survive, by paying tribute to the RM “pyramid of power”.


II. UNITED STATES - NATO. NATO Secretary General visits the White House.

Passing almost unnoticed, the meeting between NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, and U.S. President Donald Trump on November 14th, has an outstanding importance because it paves the way to the NATO anniversary reunion in London.

Most information about this meeting were mad available by NATO Headquarters. NATO communiqué mentions that Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg thanked President Trump for his leadership and commitment to NATO. Jens Stoltenberg highlighted the increase in military spending by European NATO member nations and by Canada (raising to more than 100 billion dollars in latest years) and underlined that NATO allies are determined to continue this course. Jens Stoltenberg also outlined the Alliance’s important role in Afghanistan and Iraq, and congratulated President Trump for his recent operation against ISIS leader al-Baghdadi. Stoltenberg underlined the importance of the Europe - North America links, which serve the Alliance interests. After the meeting, the White House confirmed President Trump’s participation to the upcoming anniversary reunion of NATO nation leaders in London, next month.

The few images on this meeting show how difficult Jens Stoltenberg’s mission was. President Trump, throning in his presidential armchair of “America first” president, was listening with an inquiring look the explanations provided by NATO Secretary General who, very likely, was pleading for the Alliance and for the fulfilment of financial commitments by NATO nations, the Europeans first, and especially Germany.  Jens Stoltenberg prepared his visit well, probably with previous meetings with some European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, precisely aiming to deliver a convincing message to President Trump.

This is NATO reality today. We should rejoice to have this great achievement, Jens Stoltenberg being welcomed at the White House, and managing to convince President Trump that he has reasons to look with more openness at the London anniversary reunion, since the European allies spend more for defense, as they were requested.


III. UNITED STATES - TURKEY. President Trump meets President Erdoğan.

The meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump did not solve any of the many problems in bilateral relations. However, this event was a success, because the worsening in bilateral relations was halted, at least at face value. In current circumstances, this was the only good thing to be expected. The good personal relation between the two presidents was the clue to this positive outcome.

The November 13th meeting between D. Trump and R.T. Erdoğan unfolded better than expected. President Trump did not follow the recommendations offered by the U.S. Congress (which is extremely critical to President Erdoğan) to criticize the Turkish leader, if not even to warn Erdoğan regarding his domestic and foreign actions ranging from the more and more dictatorial authoritarianism to the recent armed foray in northern Syria. The danger of further degrading the bilateral relations has been avoided, although neither of the two presidents can brag about having solved at least one of the predicaments in current Turco- American relations.

All issues were discussed, including the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense system by Turkey, and the United States response to expel Ankara from the F-35 aircraft program. It seems that no remarkable progress was made, as President Erdoğan later declared that Washington was wrong when asking Turkey to shed the S-400 deal, because that request breached Turkey’s sovereign rights. However, President Trump stated he expected the F-35 aircraft problem “to be solved, one way or another”. He added that F-35 was an important issue during the discussions with President Erdoğan, conducted in the presence of some Republican senators. On the backdrop of delayed S-400 delivery, and information regarding certain problems in the transfer of technology (so much coveted by Ankara), it cannot be ruled out that Turkey stop the contract in current status. Such development would allow Turkey to reenter the F-35 program, with certain caveats, as well as other elements[5] pertaining to F-35 program. Nevertheless, the problem is both military and political. As President Trump is tolerant with autocrats like Erdoğan and has a mercantile vision (bringing Poland in the F-35 program cannot compensate expelling Turkey), he will find it very difficult to persuade the Congress, which is very hostile to President Erdoğan[6]. The U.S. Congress position is quite eloquent for the matter in hands: it recently passed a resolution recognizing the Turkish genocide against the Armenians, which is a serious blow for Ankara.

The secret of this successful visit lies in the good personal relations between the two presidents. Donald Trump publicly highlighted his very good personal relations with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The foundation of these relations is President Trump’s admiration for autocrats like Erdoğan, as well as the extension of these relations into lucrative familial enterprises. Thus, the sons-in-law of both presidents make the communication channel between them. Erdoğan’s son-in-law, Turkish finance minister Berat Albayrak was the one to provide an assessment of the visit to the White House: Turkish delegation led by Recep Erdoğan had fruitful discussions in Washington, in the context where the two countries seek to overcome multiple problems which appeared in bilateral relations.

A good thing is President Trump’s declared disappointment, stated in Erdoğan’s presence, regarding the considerations made by French President Emmanuel Macron about the situation in NATO. Nevertheless, it seems it is not recommendable to criticize a diagnosis, albeit exaggerated, in the presence of precisely the culprit for the disease.

Finally, let’s see the full half of the glass: there is a halt, albeit temporarily and shallow, in escalating bilateral tensions, although nothing was practically solved. For President Trump, the visit arrived in the right time, when the U.S. House of Representatives began public hearings in the impeachment procedures.

For President Erdoğan, this visit was a success as well: he demonstrated that Washington talks to him even after he blatantly defied the United States. It would be nice to see this success temper Erdoğan’s actions, but it is hard to believe this will happen, as his ideology and domestic policy are strongly established. This is also valid  abroad, especially now, when the operation in Syria led not only to an increase in his popularity, but also to a division among his political adversaries. The answer will come with Ankara’s reaction to the sanctions that the EU might decide to reprimand Turkey for drilling in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone. It will likely be a negative reaction. The question is “How negative it will be?” Will it lead to using the “Damocles sword” of migration? Will the European Union buy its security with money paid to Erdoğan for aiding the Syrian emigrants? 


IV. SPAIN. Parliamentary elections only complicate the political situation.

The November 11th parliamentary elections in Spain were designed by the Socialists to strengthen their ability to form a government. Instead, they had a different result: they weakened the Socialist position and complicated the political scene by diminishing the power of the center and by the ascent of the extreme right. The Socialists argue they can form a “progressist government”, which, in left-wing terminology, means obtaining the support of left-wing populists, but rejecting the center-stage parties.  However, this will not be possible without support from smaller regional political formations, and even from Catalan independentists. 

The Spanish Socialist party (PSOE) won 120 seats (three less) of the 350 seats in the parliament. The left populists, Podemos (= we can), won 35 seats (seven less), and the Mas País (= more country), three seats. The Center went down, with Ciudadanos (= citizens) getting just ten seats (47 less!). The right-wing had a revival, as the Popular Party won 89 seats (23 more), and the far right grew significantly, as VOX party won 52 seats (28 more). A plethora of regional parties obtained between one and six seats, and the Catalan separatists, Junts for Catalunya (= together for Catalonia) won eight seats.

The right-wing is ruled out from forming the government, because a coalition by right, center and far-right would not reach the necessary 176 seats for absolute majority in the parliament. Anyway, the Populars and Ciudadanos would find difficult to ally with VOX, an anti-immigration extreme right on the rise. A “large coalition” between the Socialists and the Populars was already rejected by the Socialist leader, Pedro Sánchez.

The Socialists announced they would seek a lefty, “progressist” governing alliance with the Podemos, exactly the alliance which was not reached before the elections. This time, things unfolded more easily, with the leaders of the two parties sending positive signals regarding such alliance. However, in order to reach absolute majority, they also need votes from smaller political formations. Mainly, Catalan separatists come to play, as their vote is needed too. The Socialists sent some messages to the separatists in that regard, but the whole Spain asks the question “what will be the price demanded by the separatists in exchange for supporting a left-wing government in Madrid?”

Spain faces a new political instability period, as the problem of forming a socialist government in Madrid intertwines with the Catalan separatist policy problem. At European level, at least until a compromise solution is found (at what price?), Spain jumps into the pool of European nations with significant domestic policy problems. 


V. Developments to track this Week 47 of 2019.

► ISRAEL - GAZA. Eliminating a Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader triggered a streak of rocket attacks from Gaza to Israel, and a response from the Israeli Defense Forces. The attempts to reach a truce was interrupted by new attacks. This is a new phase of Israel – Iran war, as Iran sponsors the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Escalating tensions can cause a certain political impact in Israel, where negotiations on forming a government continue.

► RUSSIA – UNITED STATES. Sergey Naryshkin, the head of Russian foreign intelligence agency (SVR), announced that an extension of New START strategic nuclear control agreement was unlikely. Developments related to New START and INF will likely mark the military aspects of Russia – United States / NATO henceforth. 

► UKRAINE. After French President Emmanuel Macron announced that Paris would host a Normandy format meeting, on December 9th, with participation of presidents Putin and Zelenskiy, it is interesting to watch the way a solution for Donbass conflict gets shape. How much Kyiv will concede, especially since its position is weakened now, on the backdrop of the impeachment procedures in the United States (U.S. support is less certain)?   

► RUSSIA. Information about the Kremlin leaders’ meddling in the Donbass conflict, was presented by the commission investigating the MH17 liner downing, and there are upcoming reveals in the report regarding Russia’s subversive actions in the United Kingdom. These reveals might lead to new accusations mounting against Moscow, while President Vladimir Putin sent signals that the time had come for lifting the sanctions (most recently, at the BRICS summit). Apart from promising to free the Ukrainian vessels arrested during the Kerch Strait incident, how will the Kremlin react to this situation, considering that it recently made significant efforts to look non-aggressive, precisely in order to prepare an appeasement towards the west, attitude which Moscow hoped would lead to lifting the sanctions? 

► UNITED STATES. Although the outcome is predictable, the impeachment process against President Trump will focus the whole attention in the United States and beyond.

[1] The rumors that Igor Dodon was preparing the fall of the government since August, plotting with the PDM, are very likely well based. An important indicator of such cooperation will be whether… the accusations against PDM leader Vlad Plahotniuc are withdrawn. This is not impossible: if a proven spy is not prosecuted, why would an unproven mafioso be prosecuted?

[2] Ion Chicu declared that Maia Sandu’s proposals were rejected by the Venice Commission. This is simply not true. Chicu also announced he would urgently send his government’s proposals to the Venice Commission to be approved during its next reunion, in December. Of course, on the paper, everything will look fair and legal, but, in fact, those proposals will only be the smokescreen hiding the future activity of RM judicial system, which will continue to perform non-justice, being controlled by PSRM and PDM. The reason is well known, RM lacks consciousness throughout its “power pyramid”.  

[3] Heir of the nomenclature and of the former Soviet repression apparatus, the “state pyramid” means subordinating all state institutions to groups of interests, from ministries and force structures, to local administration. These work not for safeguarding the state and society interests but serving the interests of those who de facto hold the power by “random tribalism” relations (from consolidated nepotism to ad hoc mafia type associations for personal interest). Corruption is just a euphemism in describing this system. A historical example occurred when a detachment of intelligence agency SIS agents arrested the escort of a convoy transporting a couple of hundred kilograms of drugs: the escort of that transport consisted of… Police Special Detachment officers, when the Police Department was led by a close kin of the then minister of interior!

[4] The word “business” has a specific signification in the post-Soviet area, being rather illegal than legal. Born of the widespread plunder following the fall of the Soviet Union, the “business network” needs protection (“krisha”) from the “state pyramid”, which the “businessmen” pay in the way small traders were paying protection  fees to the racketeers in the 90s. An important role in securing protection or, rather, in illegally attacking property, is reserved to… the justice system, which offers selective injustice!

[5] Non-operationalization of the already delivered S-400 system was considered. However, the Turkish side had already pointed at not connecting the S-400 to the NATO air defense architecture, but the United States considered that this provision was not enough.

[6] Last week, a bipartisan group in the U.S. Congress recommended President Trump that, "given this situation, we believe that now is a particularly inappropriate time for President Erdoğan to visit the United States, and we urge you to rescind this invitation". President Trump denied this recommendation, saying: "We have been friends for a long time".