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26 noiembrie 2019 - Special reports - Weekly review

D.S.M. WEEKLY REPORT Main Political and Military Developments (WEEK 47 of 2019)

Monitorul Apărării şi Securităţii

I. NATO. Reunion of North Atlantic Council in Foreign Minister Format. II. RUSSIA - UKRAINE. Russia returns the warships it arrested during Kerch Strait incident. III. SERBIA. An espionage case tests Belgrade’s relations with Russia. IV. REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA - RUSSIA. Prime-Minister Ion Chicu visits Moscow. V. Developments to track this Week 48 of 2019.

Sursă foto: Mediafax

I. NATO. Reunion of North Atlantic Council in Foreign Minister Format.

On November 14th, in view of NATO Summit planned for December in London, the Foreign Ministers of NATO nations discussed the prepared agenda, but also emerging issues generated by internal tensions. Attempting to dwarf the real problems, as well as cumbersome proposals dividing the Alliance, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a message of unity: “We all agree that NATO remains indispensable for our security, and that, despite our differences, we are stronger as we face the future together”. Decisions regarding NATO adaptation were also made at this reunion. It was agreed that space become the fifth operational environment, besides ground, air, maritime, and cyber: “This can allow NATO planners to make requests for Allies to provide capabilities and services, such as hours of satellite communications” [1]. On energy security, NATO Foreign Ministers agreed to consolidate the Alliance role by improving “situational awareness and understand the risks; protect critical infrastructure and enhance Alliance resilience; and enable NATO forces to have the necessary energy resources at all times”.   

NATO’s role in the war on terror was also discussed, and the progress in securing the Black Sea region was analyzed. Of course, another topic was assuming the task of providing the necessary military spending by each Alliance nation, where “the trend is up, and it is unprecedented”. Also, NATO position on three big strategic issues was discussed: Russia, China, and arms control (the post-INF reaction, and monitoring China’s military and technologic power). In order to fend the dangers looming large over the trans-Atlantic relationship, Jens Stoltenberg has reiterrated that NATO is the only platform where Europe and North America can debate the strategic issues regarding common security. He also insisted that the allies on both continents currently achieve more together, than they did years ago.

The general context includes three aspects: uncertainty generated by President Trump’s credibility deficit regarding the United States commitment to NATO; concerns caused by Turkey’s military operations in northern Syria; and mistrust about the Europeans’ commitment to their own defense. In these circumstances, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas proposed a “commission of experts” for analyzing strategic issues. However, he insisted that Europe should not go alone (thus contradicting the French position). Those experts should focus on NATO’s relations with Russia, and future security problems, such as terrorism, China, and the impact of new technologies. In an initiative separate from the German proposal, the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian proposed the establishment a “group of wise persons” meant to scrutinize NATO’s future[2]. Both ideas consider enlarging NATO’s level of ambition to cover areas like Syria and the Middle East. Maas declared that “what is important is that the political arm of NATO is strengthened”, and insisted that NATO represents Europe’s “life ensurance”. Berlin proposes informal meetings without official declarations prepared in advance (as it usually happens), in order to allow more debates. That would allow NATO nations to share a clearer vision regarding the direction of Alliance development (which improved more as reaction to Crimea’s annexation by Russia, while retaining only a limited role in solving conflicts in other regions of the world). About Le Drian’s proposal, the rumor has it that Paris seeks to raise tabu questions regarding American leadership in NATO, in response to President Trump’s opinion that NATO is obsolete. It is considered that Germany and France separately seek to request a larger representation of European control in NATO, on the backdrop of President Emmanuel Macron’s declaration on NATO’s “brain death”. This questioning of United States leadership in NATO arrives on the brink of upcoming NATO Summit in London. Diplomatic sources commented that, in fact, this is all about Europe’s natural leader, Paris, Berlin, or the two together, and about the direction this leader wants NATO to evolve.

The overwhelming majority of Europeans spoke against President Macron’s declarations, underlying the Alliance viability and unity, and implicitly not challenging the American leadership. Notably, NATO Secretary General made references only to the German proposal[3] and stated that the idea was taken into considered by the allies. However, he avoided to take position regarding the French proposal, which he presented though, but in the framework of arms control issues[4]. Thus, Jens Stoltenberg, who will meet Emmanuel Macron next week, avoided to comment the French plan, but appreciated the German plan, stating that "the proposal from minister Heiko Maas received support from many allies and I think it has value". As most European nations, Romania avoided the dangerous option of trading the security provided by the American military power for a risky French vision, which lacks a basis of military capability and an adequate political commitment. This is the secure path, especially in this complicated security environment.

The Alliance routine decisions are  natural adaptations to the latest developments. After the United States granted due attention to space within its multi-domain doctrine, and the Pentagon established a Space Command, NATO, which is esentially depending on  American military capabilities, space means included, had to react in the mirror. Energy security was discussed perhaps on the background of American accusations regarding German duplicity: Berlin realizes the Russian military threat but continues its energy cooperation with Moscow by building the Nord Stream II pipeline, at the expense of NATO frontline nations energy security.

Discussions on terrorism very likely focused on recent events: the withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria, and Turkish aggression in that region. Here, the questions are whether ISIS was defeated, and who are the terrorists (in Ankara’s vison, contested by the United States and the “large Europeans”, who question Turkey’s operational allies in northern Syria).

Worth mentioning, Black Sea region security was discussed, which was probably raised only by Romania, because Turkey has “specific” relations with Russia (one of NATO’s big concerns!), and Bulgaria always shows restraint. Very likely, NATO, and especially the United States, are prepared to respond to Romania’s request to provide a larger American / NATO presence on Romanian territory and in the Black Sea waters. Regardless how complicated American and European policy is today, the problem lies not in Brussels or Washington, but in Bucharest. Regardless the size of Russian threat, and the American strategic commitment to Romania, which remains a certainty, Romania will not receive this so much coveted support more than Bucharest shows it is a serious nation, politically and militarily, not only a goody-two-shoes: Romania should turn from talking the talk to walking the walk, and its elite should show by political actions leading to social and economic development, that it truly wants to make this country a western nation enjoying respect and friendship of its allies; also, from a military point of view, Romania should prove it is able to turn its 2% of GDP into military capabilities. Until then, despite a Romanian pro-western, respectively pro-American nation, we cannot expect more. Before requesting others to defend us, we should prove that we are worth defending (“mourir pour Bucarest”), and that we truly do something to defend ourselves. Which is exactly what our political and military elite always declares!

The three large strategic issues analyzed at NATO Foreign Ministerial are also three serious threats: Russia, China, and arms control. The first of them is NATO response to Russia’s deployment of SSC-8 missiles (when and how it will respond). Regarding China, the immediate problem is the 5G technology[5]. The United States likely requested the allies a position in sync with its efforts to “contain” China.

The upcoming NATO Summit in London will be not so much anniversary, but a crossroads, at least at internal division level, and about proposed solutions to overcome these divisions. There is now President Trump’s reticence toward the Alliance (which did not turn into a U.S. reticence toward NATO), there is Turkey’s alienation (which will continue, but this nation’s NATO membership will contribute to moderate Ankara’s anti-western policy). Stunningly, neither of them is the most dangerous at this crossroads, but the hasty sentence concluded by France, and the solution Paris proposed for NATO’s predicaments. Therefore, the German proposal is nothing else but an attempt to diminish the problem through a midway solution.

The French stance is dangerous for being unrealistic, and also for being against NATO’s foundation: 1) The Europeans, let alone France, cannot defend Europe by themselves, without the United States, against current and future threats; 2) By its stance, Paris counterposes the basic rule that “NATO is about keeping the Americans in Europe, and the Russians out”. Everything is about domestic policy and threat perception: most Europeans, especially those in the East, see the Russian threat (defense against it remained NATO’s main raison d’être), and they see the United States as the only force able to cope with that threat; meanwhile, France perceives the immediate threat of terrorism stemming from its “arch of instability” ranging from northern Africa to the Middle East, with connections in France. However, this is not an existential threat to NATO nations, and its “arch of instability” is not within the Alliance’s Area of Responsibility. Even more, a misunderstanding between France and the United States in northern Syria, with Turkey’s “contribution”, should not lead to shaking NATO, which has a totally different mission. An extension of NATO’s responsibilities, as France wants, does not mean shedding the main responsibility, defense against Russia, which Paris wants replaced by an unnatural cooperation with Moscow, based on appeasement. France risks to be isolated within NATO, and only Berlin’s tact, through its counter-proposal, seems to keep the problem within a debate acceptable to the other NATO member nations: Germany’s proposal does not exclude the United States from the solution, although it also raises the issue of American leadership in the Alliance, but watered down and open to compromise. Thus, Berlin contradicted the third part of NATO’s basic rule, “…and keep Germany down”, which was here overcome by events: Germany is up, and Berlin must assume a role to measure.

Regarding leadership, the answer is already known: he who brings decisive military contribution has the political ownership in NATO[6] (as anywhere else for that matter). As about France, it remains one of the leading nations in Europe, but it must admit that, in the European Union, there are other Europeans as well, and they cannot substitute the United States in NATO, neither militarily, nor politically, no matter how inventive Russia can act (many Europeans are worried exactly about this “original” idea of co-opting Russia at the expense of the United States!).      


II. RUSSIA - UKRAINE. Russia returns the warships it arrested during Kerch Strait incident.

The four Ukrainian vessels arrested during the Kerch Strait incident, three warships and a tugboat, were returned by Russia. After Moscow had announced this decision on November 18th, the vessels were returned on November 18th, IVO Ukrainian port Ochakiv. The vessels were vandalized, some equipment and weapon systems being dismantled. The return gesture is an additional step in confirming the openness by the two parties to pave the way to a Normandy format meeting in Paris. This does not mean, though, that this meeting will unfold without major risks for Ukraine. 

The November 19th meeting between foreign ministers of Ukraine and Germany stands to prove that, as does President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s declarations. After his meeting with Heiko Maas, Vadym Prystaiko stated that Ukraine is not in position to request Russia’s withdrawal from the separatist region as prerequisite for the Normandy format meeting, but he expects "from the Normandy Four [summit] in Paris... all four countries, we hope that at this summit we will see real progress that we have been expecting since at least 2016, when there was the latest summit in the Normandy format". Prystaiko pointed at the painful and emotional perceptions of Ukrainian society regarding the failures of previous Normandy format meetings. He also mentioned the domestic criticism regarding the current Ukrainian leadership initiatives on troop withdrawal from the contact line and Kyiv’s acceptance of the “Steinmeier roadmap”, which indicates multiple risks: "Despite all the difficulties of the process, we are still moving along it, and... by the time the Normandy summit is held all [forces] must be withdrawn... We understand that demanding this [the withdrawal of Russian troops], just before the Normandy summit, simply doesn't make sense. We're going to a Normandy summit with open ideas, and we are ready to accept a reasonable compromise and bring home progress that Ukrainians have long been waiting for".

Responding to these concerns, Heiko Maas insisted that Moscow must fulfill its commitments taken about Donbass (see the Minsk Agreements). He praised the steps made by the Ukrainian side, and stated that, "from our perspective, it's now Russia's turn to implement negotiations". Maas declared that "we have the best opportunity in a long time to change something", and highlighted that, after Zelenskiy’s election, people have new hopes about ending the conflict.

In order to calm Ukrainian concerns, Maas insisted that Germany and France, although wishing to contribute to reaching peace in Donbass, will not be simple neutral mediators. The two nations will act for maintaining Ukraine’s territorial integrity: “we're doing this not as neutral mediators. We stand for the interests of Europe, for the principles of European peaceful order, and therefore we stand for territorial integrity of Ukraine within the EU, while, in general, our bilateral support for Ukraine is unparalleled". Germany and France commit to contribute to a final solution for the negotiations, getting involved in upcoming important steps, both regarding progress on the special status, plus in preparing local elections in Donbass and pardoning the combatants. Regarding the Kerch Strait, Russia is requested to allow free navigation.

On November 21st, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy specified four critical issues, in view of the upcoming Normandy format meeting in Paris: 1) the most important item of discussions will be conducting local and regional elections in separatist territories, where Kyiv does not have control. Organizing these elections is difficult, because it has many components: "This is an opportunity to hold local elections already in the territory of Ukraine, not in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine. It's the most important issue"; 2) liberating all captured Ukrainians; 3) restoring Kyiv’s control on Ukrainian borders with Russia in the separatist region, along all their length; 4) signing a permanent cease-fire agreement is of paramount importance, as the current agreement does not have teeth, no penalty for breaching the cease-fire. Zelenskiy specified that Ukraine wants a clearly defined timeline for Russia’s return of separatist territory to Ukrainian control. 

It is obvious that Ukraine is concerned that, after taking so many risks, at the Normandy format meeting, Russia will achieve formal arrangements bringing Moscow the advantage of controlling Ukraine through the separatists legitimated after the local elections, without providing anything in exchange. Kyiv is afraid that its territorial restauration will be achieved at the expense of Ukraine’s sovereignty. Therefore, Zelenskiy requests clear timeline, border control, and free and fair elections in Donbass. Another problem is that Russia should give up military pressure. This is the reason for which Kyiv requests a permanent cease-fire agreement[7]

Kyiv moved boldly, taking military risks in order to relaunch negotiations. However, diplomatic risks are not that big, the biggest of them being to accept the “Steinmeier roadmap”. In the fog of an unclear American support, Ukraine just handed itself to France and Germany, who reassure Kyiv not only that they will be principled, but will treat the issue as being European, where European values and interests are at stake. The problem is not whether these two countries want (it is certain they honestly want to help Ukraine), but whether they will be able to face Russia’s requests and machinations. Although pressed by the need to have the sanctions lifted, Moscow cannot give up its objective, otherwise why had it commited the aggression in Donbass, and why did it assume so many negative consequences? The Kremiln asks Kyiv for a part of its sovereignty, in exchange for returning territories. The question is how much would the Kremlin settle for, just admitting that Ukraine renounces NATO and EU future membership, or it would also wants a deeper dent in Ukrainian sovereignty, with a control upon Kyiv through the separatists (the tail wagging its dog situation). An answer is provided by the image of the Kremlin’s long-term plans: Ukrainian military sources highlighted the consolidation of Russian military disposition and Russia’s military provocations (simulating a missile attack on Odessa by Russian Tu 22M3 strategic bombers[8]). 


III. SERBIA. An espionage case tests Belgrade’s relations with Russia.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić reacted with moderation after evidence about an espionage case was made public, where a Russian GRU agent and a former Serbian serviceman were involved. However, the shock he received facing these Russian actions was visible. Both his reaction, and the way this case was made public shows Vučić’s will to overcome this impasse in bilateral relations with Russia, but also the limited maneuver space he has in Belgrade’s relations with Moscow. Although Vučić still promotes strong links to Russia, he very likely starts to foster concerns regarding Russia and Russia’s objectives in Serbia.  Or, maybe having such concerns for a long time already, he was not able to find the opportunity to publicly present the reasons for such concerns. As for Moscow’s objectives in Serbia, although they seemed to concur with Serbia’s objectives, in perspective they might prove to be opposite. 

Everything began when a video clip published on YouTube showed a Russian officer, LTCOL Georgy Kleban, former deputy defense attaché with the Russian Embassy to Belgrade, handing a bag of money to a Serbian citizen (later identified as ZK, a retired armed forces officer). Then, on November 20th, the head of analysis with the Serbian security intelligence agency (BIA), Relja Zeljski declared that it was "undoubtedly established that a Russian intelligence officer is seen in the video".  

Recently after being released from hospital, where he had checked in for heart problems (occurred rather quickly!), on November 21st, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić summoned the National Security Council. He also urgently met the Russian ambassador to Belgrade, Aleksandr Botsan Kharchenko. Vučić declared that Serbian intelligence agencies discovered a large Russian espionage network involving former members of Serbia’s armed forces. Vučić stated that the incident on YouTube took place in December 2018, and the video clip was not made by Serbian intelligence. Besides Kleban, other Russian intelligence officers were identified to have had contacts with nine sources within Serbian armed forces. In the case in hand, Kleban would have contacted other ten sources, and paid money to three sources in three separate instances.

Aleksandar Vučić provided guarantees that this espionage scandal would not afflict the friendship between Serbia and Russia. Serbian president presented the incident as an isolated occurrence of no consequence on Serbian – Russian relations: “We will not change our policy towards Russia, which we see as a brotherly and friendly country ... but we will strengthen our own intelligence defenses”. Aiming at diminishing the impact of this Russian espionage case, it was mentioned that representatives of western countries also conducted espionage actions in Serbia. However, Vučić offered an emotional approach as well:  "That's why I ask Russian friends, and today I asked Russian Ambassador, Botsan Kharchenko: Why? I didn't see any logic in all this". Remarkably, Vučić also stated the idea he was sure that “President (Vladimir) Putin was not informed about this”.

Moscow responded by the voice of Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maya Zakharova, who presented the video clip as “a provocation” designed to create “a certain impression” before an important meeting (Vučić will visit Moscow on December 4th).

In such complicated situation, one should start to understand begining from the espionage case, in order to catch the political impact. It is not an isolated espionage case, as Russian GRU agents built a complex espionage network aiming at spying the Serbian Armed Forces. In theory, the military is the last institution to be spied by a friendly Russia, who donated equipment and whom it more and more intensely cooperates with. The way the video clip was presented, annonimously on Youtube, but later followed by a complete documentation of the case, shows that Serbian counter-intelligence agencies knew long before about this activity, but refrained from going public, very likely for political considerations. Why did they decide to do it now? Or why another party made this decision now? Hard to say, but also irrelevant for the given situation, although there are many devils hiding in these details. It is essential that Russia systematically spied on Serbian military, and that Belgrade knew about it. This occurred in the circumstances where the two nations, as well as their intelligence agencies, closely cooperate[9]. Thus, the two countries’ intelligence agencies recently signed two cooperation agreements, and their common actions in Northern Macedonia and Montenegro were visible.

President Vučić was exposed to a sensitive situation (that, if he did not generate it himself!). With all due precautions, Vučić sent a discrete message to Moscow: do not continue this path, because it jeopardizes bilateral relations. The fancy hypothesis that Vladimir Putin must have not known about this espionage network, as well as the emotional approach (Why, Russian brothers, why?) shows Vučić’s wish to preserve bilateral relations. It also shows that the case was sugarcoating to make it digestible by a Serbian public who holds Putin’s popularity very high.

It is too early to assess the impact of this case on the power structures in Belgrade, where people close to Moscow[10] are in competition with independent officials and with pro-western officials. We can only say that Belgrade stepped to a new phase of relations with Russia, and we will see what phase that is in December, after Vučić’s meeting with Putin, in Moscow. However, very likely, in Belgrade, the expression “Save me, God, from friends! (like Russia)” is again the flavor of the day.


IV. REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA - RUSSIA. Prime-Minister Ion Chicu visits Moscow.

On November 11th, only five days after his appointment as Prime Minister of Republic of Moldova (RM), Ion Chicu paid a visit to Moscow. He had several meetings there, the most important being those with Russian Prime-Minister Dmitri Medvedev, and the Gazprom CEO, Alexei Miller. The main topics were economic, but security issues were discussed too. As economic topics, it was the reduction in gas price for RM for gas imported frorm Russia, and a possible credit line for RM[11]. The security issue discussed by Chicu was the decomissioning of ammunition sored at Colbasna. In reality, the main topic was political, that is Russia’s support for President Igor Dodon’s reelection, as part of the plan of having pro-Russian political forces taking over of the whole power in RM, with Moscow offering extended yet conditional economic, political and diplomatic support to current RM government. The conditionality is based on the principle that Moscow would sponsor Igor Dodon, but at the expense of RM interests!

Many agreements were concluded, the most important being the reduction in gas price to $173 / 1000 cubic meters (compared to currently $235 / cm). A $500 milion credit was also negotiated. Russia is supposed to grant RM this credit for road reabilitation. The prime minister Ion Chicu [KEE-koo] dramatically dectared that “we will turn RM into a construction site, as promised”. Ion Chicu stated he received guarantees that Russia would continue to deliver gas to RM through “alternative scenarios”, even if transit through Ukraine was suspended. On security, Russia will present a plan to dismantle the ammunition at the Colbasna dump in Transnistria. Ion Chicu provided guarantees that this process “will be transparent to the other RM strategic partners”. For the rest, Russia supports everything that the European Union wants to do in RM! Thus, Ion Chicu announced Moscow’s support for reforms, including in economy and justice! Later though, the Russian side provided details about the credit, with Dmitri Kozak, responsible for relations with RM (and for the Transnistria problem!), declaring that “the issue is not yet decided. We must see what would the conditions be for granting such credit, and what would the guarantees for its restitution”.

However, the visit itself is the most important thing: much worse than during Vladimir Voronin’s Communists, Igor Dodon sent his prime minister to put RM at Moscow’s disposal. But Russia does not want and cannot pay for controlling RM, it only wants Igor Dodon reelected, and the total control of RM through Igor Dodon and the government in Chişinău, while the task of providing finance is reserved for... the West. The reduction in gas price was natural, a real low hanging fruit in the context where the oil price (which leads to the gas price) remains low, and Gazprom had to give up its monopoly prices in all Europe. Anyway, in current conditions, this reduction was credited to Igor Dodon. There is a question though: what was requested in exchange? Even Igor Dodon previously declared that Russia’s request that RM should take Transnistria’s huge debt to Russia, through Moldgaz, was unacceptable. In the meantime, did that idea become acceptable to Dodon? The above mentioned credit will be also seriously hinged, if ever to be granted (we will see what Russia will get its hands on, from what is left in RM). However, the main goal is propaganda (everywhere banners reading “this is Russia’s money”), but it could also be a legaly disguised way to finance Dodon and PSRM’s campaign (the Bahamian count method is obsolete).

As about the Colbasna dump issue, the guarantees presented by Ion Chicu are, very likely, false, the whole plan being to secure a transfer of military equipment in Transnistria, through RM. Let’s not forget that, after the Ukrainian crisis began, Russian troops in Transnistria (the Operational Group of Russian Troops - OGRT) are isolated, are are supposed to receive logistic support through RM! A way should be found...

Russian support for reforms in economy and justice is most duplicitary. Of course, these reforms will not be reforms, and will not get RM one inch closer to democracy and market economy. But, precisely because they are not doing all these, RM leadership will have full Moscow support. In fact, the “Dodonian charade” must be supported, for making the West keep sponsoring RM (do not forget, Moscow controls, it does not finance. The task of financing goes to the EU, the U.S., and... Romania!).

We witness Russia making another step to consolidate its control on RM through Igor Dodon and his government. That’s it, nothing more. This will be the path in the future, and the dust of reforms and politically correct declarations by Igor Dodon and Moscow will cover the systematic process of taking total control of RM. Romania is condemned by history to financially support RM, anywhere anybody would lead it, we are only left to hope that the West will preclude this process. All bad things for RM can be expected, but let’s hope that PDM “sovereignists” will show the patriotism to say “no” when RM fundamantal interests, sovereignty and independence, are breached.


 V. Developments to track this Week 48 of 2019.

► BELARUS. Parliamentary elections secured a whole parliament with Aleksandr Lukashenko’s people. On the waves of absolute victory, Lukashenko announced his intention to run again for president. However, not everything went as planned, as the observers declared elections as not free and not fair. It is a blow in the game Lukashenko plays between the East and the West. He made remarkable efforts to “charm” the West (the latest being a visit to Austria and relaunching his relations with the United States). However, his problems come from Moscow, where, at the prime minister meeting, no agreement was reached regarding a deeper integration of the two nations. In fact, Russia refused to secure an energy arrangement securing the economic subsidizing of Belarus with cheap Russian oil (previously, Moscow had refused to grant a new loan installment (one of already many), but Lukashenko turned to China to solve this problem). In general, in view of Moscow’s struggle for control over Belarus, with or without Lukashenko, the bilateral relations became a maze of hard-to-read tensions, but with a simple conclusion though: Moscow rather lost patience with Lukashenko, and a decision is getting closer. Lukashenko defends himself on all fronts (he refused a Russian air base on Belarus territory, and he also expelled the Russian defense attaché to Minsk), but it is hard to believe that he would resist a major Russian aggression. Of course, this must be “perfectly hybrid”, making Lukashenko yield to Moscow’s will or to leave power, all without identifying Moscow’s tools beyond any doubt. Therefore, one of the upcoming crises will likely occur in Belarus. Now let’s see how and when Moscow acts.

► ISRAEL. The political equation in Israel turned more and more complicated with the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A repented General Prosecutor presented the accusations of  fraud, corruption and abuse of power against Netanyahu, insisting on the fact that evidence is clear and verified, but saying, after praising “king Bibi”, that everybody must abide by the law. Beyond the precedent (it is for the first time when a prime minister is indicted during his tenure), the indictment is a blow for Netanyahu’s political future. He rejected all accusations, blaming a conspiracy against him, and he refused to resign. Very likely, Netanyahu is wrong regarding the accusations (they are proved), but he is right about the moment. As like knowing something, Israel’s President tasked the parliament to form a new government, after Beni Gantz failed. After Netanyahu’s indictment, Gantz came back with the offer of forming a national unity government, with himself as prime minister at the beginning, and then again with Netanyahu, in the second half of the mandate. Of course, it was a poisonous apple which Netanyahu will not accept, knowing that, once the power is lost, he is lost too. We will witness Netanyahu’s agony in the position of prime minister, which is going to weaken Israel. His decline already started, it is left to see how much this will affect Israel, especially since the war with Iran continues (last time, in Syria, where Israel conduced another air attack). In the same time, in diplomacy, the good news that the U.S. accepted the West Bank colonization (for the Trump Administration, these do not contradict international laws), will be counterweighed by the Arab states and the EU reaction (a bit moderated by Hungary’s interesting position!).

► HUNGARY. While Viktor Orbán struggles at home to find methods to reform justice and be palatable by the EU in the same time, the days of his FIDESZ party in the European Popular Party (EPP) are limited (February 2020). After Donald Tusk (the realistic “polak”) took power in the EPP, expelling FIDESZ is almost certain, as Orbán lost his German connections who tolerated him for such a long time. (Well, the elections for the EU Parliament are over too, and he is no longer needed…). Nevertheless, Orbán announced he would withdraw FIDESZ from the EPP, which drifted too much to the left (!). False, FIDESZ placed itself too far to the right. Therefore, being accepted by the Polish Conservatives would sound well, compared to getting ditched into the far-right European political grouping.   

*      *      *

A ”hot” early December is coming, with the European Union having a new European Commission (which will have to discuss the French proposal practically blocking the EU extension), with a sensitive NATO Summit, and with elections in the United Kingdom, which are crucial (for the EU as well).

[1] Such as access to communications satellites. NATO has no intention to weaponize space, and NATO policy in this regard will abide by the international laws.

[2] Le Drian suggested a “small group of eminent persons” be formed to reflect on "the vision the Alliance has of its values and aims". 

[3] Some ministers, like the Norwegian foreign minister, appreciated the German idea, while others, like the Hungarian foreign minister, stated that, although the German initiative is welcomed, it is not sure that such approach would solve the problem.

[4] Perhaps an indication that France wants a NATO reaction to Russia’s SSC-8 missiles through dialogue with Moscow.

[5] In the future, China’s military will appear in Romania’s region as well: after showing up in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, and after Beijing’s partaking in Russian “Center” exercise, a Chinese participation is expected at the “Kavkaz” exercise, and, why not, a Chinese warship presence in the Black Sea.

[6] Even the “northern Syria episode” showed the real situation: after U.S. troop withdrawal, Paris had to quickly evacuate its own troops from the theater of operations, because France was not able to cope with the situation on its own; on the other hand, German Defense Minister’s proposal of a military operation led by Germany in Syria did not get any response, not even at home, because it was not realistic.  As about implication in defending Europe, even a German member of parliament asked Paris why it did not offer its nuclear weapons to EU control, since France wanted a European military to counterweigh NATO. Worth mentioning, the United States is the power which deploys nuclear weapons to European nations’ territory, such as Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey, and shares the nuclear response with part of them (German and Dutch aircraft partake in nuclear exercises, but not Turkey, whose aircraft are not certified for such mission).

[7] Even after Ukrainian troops returned from the contact line, a permanent cease-fire was not agreed.

[8] So, we have the provocations we were afraid of, it is good that at least the Ukrainian side identifies them and shares the information!

[9] Make no mistake, in the world of espionage, the rule “everybody against everybody” applies almost always, including among friendly countries, even in democratic countries, especially when the two partners are quite different in size, and the degree of political trust is low. However, is exactly for the reason that, from a political point of view, when two nations show a certain degree of friendship, actions are conducted “with gloves”, through influence agents who act discretely, in support of common objectives, not against their own country. The issue of espionage remains political (the spies are just the eyes providing information to the political brain; when spies substitute the political decision-makers, there is a usurpation, ranging from political police to dictatorship). So, excluding President Putin from the decision chain regarding espionage on Serbian military is pure fabulation, and President Vučić is aware of that. Only amateurs act without clear political command, and Russian intelligence agencies are in no case associations of amateurs.

[10] Minister of Defense, Aleksandar Vulin, was the one who attempted to hackney this case where his own soldiers were spied upon. He did that by referring to the fact that other people, like the westerners, spy on Serbia as well. Even if true, does it make it OK?

[11] Also, it was announced that the number of Moldovan companies allowed to export to Russia was increased, and the number of authorizations for Moldovan trucks transporting merchandise to Russian markets was raised by one thousand. These problems are a temporary lifting of classical chicanes that Russia does to RM manufacturers and transporters.