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04 februarie 2020 - Special reports - Weekly review

D.S.M. WEEKLY REPORT - Main Political and Military Developments (WEEK 5 of 2020)

Monitorul Apărării şi Securităţii

I. UNITED KINGDOM. Brexit. II. POLAND. F-35 purchase. III. UNITED STATES / EUROPE. American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits the United Kingdom, Belarus, and Ukraine. IV. UNITED STATES / ISRAEL. The peace plan is launched. V. Developments to track this Week 6 of 2020.

Sursă foto: Mediafax


Brexit is the most important historical moment since the collapse of communism and it truly shakes Europe. Brexit is a decisive moment both for the United Kingdom, which will have to face many challenges, and for the European Union which, for the first time, loses a member nation… and quite a top one indeed (Brits always say they neighbor Europe, but being Europeans though). After the expected day of voting in the European Parliament and acceptance by the EU nations, symbolic events followed: taking down the British flags in Brussels and departure of British parliamentarians, as well as the event that a divided British society organized in Britain to mark this historical moment.

The real problems are just about to begin, especially for the U.K.: negotiations for a trade agreement will follow, with specific hurdles and a relatively tight deadline. In parallel, the U.K. will have to readapt to life outside the E.U. by renegotiating economic agreements with other countries worldwide, and by imposing again national norms. In addition, Scottish nationalists request a new referendum on the backdrop of a Brexit-caused revival of the independentist idea. Beyond worries regarding the future trade agreement with Britain, the Europeans have the bigger problem of readjusting the EU budget after British money disappears[1] (the U.K. was an important budget contributor).   

Simply put, if the EU learns well the Brexit lesson, it will survive; if not, it will perish. The lesson learned does not mean only lamenting and continuing the mistakes made hitherto, but having each national elite assume a European responsibility above current interests, let alone irresponsible interests ranging from pilfering European funds to blaming EU for all evils for political benefits, while the blaming parties are themselves to blame for those evils. As for temporary interests, one should think about France in the first place, since Paris imposes its visions as being Europe’s; about Italy, which is financially ill; about the Visegrad Group, which behaves as a profiteer and breaches the rule of law; and about the “Orthodox caboose” nations who should join the European proper ranks as soon as possible. The picture shows that we, the Europeans, stopped killing each other (which we used to be rather good at, we should admit), and that foreign challenges include Russia and China, as well as terrorism and migration, but also economic competition, especially from the United States. In these circumstances, if the Europeans do not feel the EU as being “their super-state”, we will not have a future together, although domestic European needs increase and demand to people in this neck of the woods to circle the wagons, because this part of the free world is diminishing in demographics and economic importance at global level. French president Emmanuel Macron’s speech is relevant in this respect: he correctly identified the mistakes of everybody – Europeans and Britons, except his own mistakes.

Although nothing special will happen immediately after this moment, a difficult period follows for the United Kingdom and the European Union alike. It is crucial that negotiations between the two parties do not turn into negative political developments. To this outcome, both parties must offer fair approaches, which is not guaranteed either by the way cynical politician Boris Johnson acted so far, or by the attitude of several selfish European governments (We are sorry you left, but our position in the EU after your departure is quite good though!). British temptation to practically remain part of the Single Market but halting the free mobility for labor will be a problem. Also, there is the European temptation to facilitate the transfer of large British companies to the Continent, as well as a British temptation to make The City a magnet for finance at the expense of the EU, by new deregulation measures. Such temptations must be controlled if the EU wants cooperation instead of an economic separation with significant political impact. Germany sent positive signals by inviting the United Kingdom to cooperate closely, but also to continue common defense projects, as well as consolidate security for both Britons and continental Europeans.

Michel Barnier presented the EU strategy for negotiations with London regarding a new trade agreement, but this will be commented in a future report (he had warned that Brussels would not make concessions regarding the European Single Market). A chapter is closed, another begins, and the impact will not be only economic, but political as well. Let’s hope that current differences will not have a too big political impact and afflict cooperation in common security issues.


II. POLAND. F-35 purchase.

On January 31st, Polish Minister of Defense Mariusz Blaszczak signed a contract for purchasing 32 F-35A Lightening aircraft. The $4.6 billion contract includes pilot training, logistics and flight simulation equipment. Poland will be the first nation owning fifth generation fighters in the region, which considerably strengthens NATO military capabilities in the center of its eastern frontier. M. Blaszczak  declared that the newly signed contract would secure the Polish military the possibility to make a technological leap forward: Polish “air force is entering a new phase of its development”. At political level, Polish President Andrzej Duda stated that it was an “exceptionally important day for Poland's air force and for the security of Poland and of our part of Europe”. He has pointed that this contract is the largest ever in the history of Polish armed forces, and it is a sign of his country’s strong relations with the United States.

Consistent with its previous policy (which leads to beefing up Polish arms industry and return of part of the procurement money through investments), Poland included offset specifications in the contract signed with Lockheed Martin. In September 2019, the U.S. State Department had approved this sale of 32 F-35A aircraft to Poland, in a tops $6.5 billion contract. The aircraft will be delivered starting with 2024 and continuing until 2030. The contract was reached without a due bidding, which was criticized by the opposition. Poland also has 48 F-16 C/D Block 52+ fighters, which are modern 4++ generation aircraft equipped with AESA radars and network operating capabilities.

Poland thus makes a huge step ahead in consolidating its military capabilities and becomes the main air power in the Eastern Europe, the only nations operating fifth generation aircraft. Poland’s technological air superiority facing Russia is secured, which will spark a military reaction from the Kremlin, However, Russia lacks options of symmetric response, because the F-35A is a Low Observability (LO) aircraft (a “less stealth” stealth aircraft) to which Russia cannot oppose anything, because the Su 30SM is just a 4++ generation aircraft, perfectly opposable by the above mentioned F-16 C/D currently operated by Poland. In addition, neither Russian ELINT (radar reconnaissance) VHL receivers, nor its Nebo radars, can guarantee the detection of F-35 aircraft.  Therefore, the Russian ground-based air defense will have to identify response solutions which have little chances to appear in Russia’s current isolation from the West. Moscow’s double game ended with its aggression against Ukraine: The West cannot be in the same time the declared enemy and the technology supplier: what would the Su 30SM have been without French avionics, or Russian radars without western high-power electronics?! Politically, Polish President Duda is right, this decision will have an impact on “the security of Poland and of our part of Europe”, since Polish deterrence towards Russia reached a level little expected by the Kremlin.

At military level, difficulties are yet to come, from absorbing the new technology to training the pilots and operationalizing the aircraft. But Polish military have already demonstrated their competence and patriotism, the two qualities making a force invincible, especially when such human qualities are complemented by a remarkable quality and considerable quantity of military equipment.

Poland is about to become an economic and military power, and probably will also reach its place at political level: there are already signals that, in the dispute regarding its judicial system, Polish Conservatives in power in Warsaw will avoid a direct confrontation. They will seek to impose their vision on justice, while opening a dialogue with Brussels in the same time. The upcoming visit of President Emmanuel Macron to Warsaw will likely secure an additional step on this path. So, a historical friend is prospering and makes a very good example to follow for Romania, but first, we need to understand what the Poles possess inside, to allow them reach where they reached. See first their elite and middle class (heart and mind)! 


III. UNITED STATES / EUROPE. American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits the United Kingdom, Belarus, and Ukraine.

This visit has an outstanding significance. Kyiv is reassured of Washington’s support in difficult times (President Trump’s impeachment process is based on the “Ukraine scandal”). The United States relaunches its relations with Minsk, where President Lukashenka desperately needs a visible support to face Moscow, which lost patience. In London, Mike Pompeo’s visit had a special significance too: the British-American relations, especially the future trade agreement, are a crucial component in Whitehall’s strategy to find again its place in the world after the European divorce. The messages Washington sent to Kyiv and Minsk were explicit: The United States assumes the role of totally supporting Kyiv in its fight against Russia and begins relaunching its relations with Belarus, in view of supporting Minsk’s fundamental interests (independence and sovereignty) facing the same Russia. Such assurances consolidate the positions of Belarus and Ukraine, but they will generate a reaction from the Kremlin, not happy that the U.S. comes back to Russia’s backyard, where the main cards of Moscow’s foreign policy are played. An indication of the dangerous level of tensions between Moscow and Minsk is that a previously contemplated Putin – Lukashenka meeting was not confirmed by the Kremlin. Lukashenka understands the danger, Belarusian armed forces just conducted an alert exercise.

1) London. Mike Pompeo’s January 30th visit to London marked another step in relaunching bilateral relations after Brexit. The strategy of bringing the two nations even closer than before was highlighted by both parties: The United States will play a special role in reintegrating the United Kingdom into the Anglo-American world, after the divorce from the European world. Remarkably, Mike Pompeo did not hinge further “five eyes” cooperation (the intelligence strong cooperation among the five large Anglo-Saxon nations: US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) on Britain’s decision regarding G5 implementation with Huawei technology. However, Mike Pompeo warned about the danger which that option rises (London prefers to avoid upfront and completely rejecting the Chinese G5, but, very likely, will make key decisions regarding any inclusion of Chinese G5 in economy and security systems). In this context, Pompeo reiterated the new policy of “containing Communist China” by calling China's ruling Communist Party "the central threat of our times" and one that challenges "Western democratic principles".

2) Ukraine. During his January 31st visit to Kyiv, Mike Pompeo met President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The American Secretary of State assured the Ukrainian president of Washington’s firm support in the Donbass conflict against the forces backed by Russia: "The United States understands that Ukraine is an important country. It’s not just the geographic heart of Europe, it’s a bulwark between freedom and authoritarianism in Eastern Europe". Then, Pompeo insisted on political issues: "The United States sees that the Ukrainian struggle for freedom, democracy, and prosperity is a valiant one. Our commitment to support it will not waver". He also praised the domestic reforms in Ukraine, and encouraged Kyiv to further continue on this path: "The U.S. side emphasized the importance of maintaining the high dynamics and effectiveness of reforms in Ukraine".  

Upon his arrival in Kyiv, Mike Pompeo wrote that “U.S. support for Ukraine is unwavering, and I'm intent on underscoring this as I meet with Ukrainian government leaders to discuss ways we can advance our strategic partnership and reinforce Ukraine's position as a free and democratic state”. Pompeo met Kyiv’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko and together participated to a ceremony as tribute to Ukrainians killed in the Donbass conflict. Remarkably, Pompeo also met leaders of Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church recognized by the Patriarch of Constantinople, while visiting the Saint Michael Cathedral, symbol of Kyivan Russia.

At economic level, The United States commited in key areas of Ukraine’s economy, thus promising contribution to its survival after Kyiv’s blunt separation from Russian economy. Trade exchanges between the two countries topped $4 billion in energy raw materials, vehicles, iron ore and steel, as well as agricultural products. Although less visible in the current picture, the religion-identity and economic issues are crucial elements meant to yank Ukraine from Russia’s sphere of influence, thus increasing the danger perceived by the Kremlin (a western style democracy at the doorstep of its empire!).

The State Department announced that U.S. would continue to impose sanctions to Russia until Moscow engages in peace in Donbass and ends occupation in Crimea: “our support is for Ukraine”. In order to put an end to speculations, Pompeo announced that Zelenskiy’s visit to United States is not hinged on the investigation in the Biden jr. case. In military issues, possible new weaponry deliveries were discussed[2].    

Pompeo’s visit relaunches the bilateral relations which are vital for Ukraine and eloquent for the role the United States assumes[3]. Stunningly, the “Ukraine scandal”, which led to impeachment, will eventually have a positive effect: after ridding the impeachment issue, President Trump will not toy with decisions on Ukraine anymore, and Kyiv will likely benefit a constant political, military and economic support. Of course, this will happen only if Ukraine does its homework, from reforms, concrete decisions in the Donbass conflict and its dispute with Russia, especially since both sides know that the geopolitical conflict between Russia and Ukraine is still uphill, where Crimea and Donbass are just two ongoing episodes.

3) Belarus. Mike Pompeo’s February 1st visit to Minsk responded to Lukashenka’s expectations of relaunching bilateral relations. However, it is still a long way to achieve a real cooperation between the two nations, as there are many hurdles in the way, against the only argument that Lukashenka needs to find a political support in facing the Kremlin’s increasing pressure to have “this country handed over”. After meeting President Aleksandr Lukashenka, Mike Pompeo noticed the “real progress” in bilateral relations: "We are confident that together we can make real progress across every dimension of our relationship". Pompeo reiterated the U.S. support for a sovereign, independent and prosperous Belarus, and advocated a normalization of bilateral relations. Lukashenka declared that it was "very good that you risked coming to Minsk after various misunderstandings between Belarus and the U.S."[4]. He mentioned he hoped to "open a new chapter" in relations with the United States.

Pompeo’s visit is historical, after the low level of bilateral relations having been reached when the ambassadors of the two nations were withdrawn. Washington already made a good will gesture by deleting Belarus from recently republished list of countries whose citizens are banned from entering the United States. However, the level of bilateral relations is as low that, regardless the rapprochement measures the two leaders would take, time and mutual concessions are needed to make things budge. Political obstacles remain major, and the United States has only a geopolitical basis, not a political foundation to support Lukashenka’s Belarus: why support a dictator against another dictator? In economy, the U.S. cannot do much, Minsk needs not oil, but “cheap oil”, which is quite different. An analyst pointed out that Mike Pompeo’s visit has no economic relevance: "You can have all the meetings you want, but the money doesn't come from the West". That speaks to the oil business keeping Belarus economy afloat: cheap Russian oil is refined in Belarus, and the products are sold at market prices, including to the West). Moscow will pay special attention to military issues: should Lukashenka be assured that no western strong reaction can occur regardless what he does at home, Belarus might reorganize its military disposition to face the military threat from the East – Russia, not that from the West, an imagined threat for which Minsk so strongly has cooperated with Moscow within the CSTO. However, on short term, there is the question of Belarus economy survival, and a consistent support seems to come from... China (Beijing just identified a new “gateway to Europe”, to Russia’s concern, but concerns for the West too). 

We are now to see whether tensions between Minsk and Moscow will increase, or whether the Kremlin patiently resumes its old game of gradually “absorbing” Belarus. Russia can do that by renouncing the multifold pressure applied to Lukashenka, in order to make him return to his previous “embraced by Moscow” position. The dangerous situation is that where the Kremlin completely turns the page and opens the options for hard measures, regardless of their nature, minor and hybrid, or major and military. However, Lukashenka must find a solution, and time works against him.

Mike Pompeo will also travel to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, to visit a dictatorship in consolidation process and a dictatorship in a relaxation process. These visits will disturb Moscow, but this discontent will be nothing compared to that caused by Washington’s support initiated for Minsk and renewed for Kyiv. Russia’s response will certainly come, and Romania should pay attention to its region, where Donbass is at war, although this is easily forgotten. So far, Russian discontent only showed in the flight of two Tu 160 bombers to Alaska, intercepted by American F-22 stealth fighters.


IV. UNITED STATES - ISRAEL. The peace plan is launched.

The peace plan designed by Trump Administration was launched on January 28th, during the visit paid by Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu to Washington. This plan has no chance to succeed, being already rejected by the Palestinians for being unilateral, because it responds only to Israel’s need for security, and it includes the annexation of part of the West Bank by Israel. The Palestinian Authority ceased any relation with the United States and Israel, and Hamas announced it would do everything to prevent this plan from coming true. On the other hand, although unilateral (son-in-law Kushner only cooperated with the Israeli side), this plan does not exclude the two-state solution, albeit vaguely mentioned. Also, this plan has not been strongly rejected by important Arab countries, except Jordan, and by non-Arab nations like Iran and Turkey, while the Arab League position seems strong, but is irrelevant.

However, the plan sets a new reference for the future of Israel, the Palestinians, and possible negotiations for a solution meant to solve all Israel’s problems. The plan cannot be ignored though, considering the difficult position the Palestinians find themselves in, and the dominant position Israel has reached by becoming a de facto ally of the Sunni kingdoms in the Gulf[5], against the Iranian danger, and having good relations with the new significant player in the Middle East, Russia. Benjamin Netanyahu went from Washington to Moscow, where the Kremlin’s caution shows the Palestinians they cannot rely on Russia no matter what. 

More dangerous than this plan’s unilaterality is the next step, when the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset) declares the colonized territories in the West Bank as being part of Israel’s own territory. Even the “creator apprentice” Jared Kushner requested a postponement of such step. This new plan takes the United States out of its traditional impartial role, and Washington thus becomes just an ally of Israel. Therefore, Benjamin Netanyahu profits as much as he can from this situation[6]. Of course, since this plan fully serves Israel’s security interests, the Israeli political spectrum and population across the board approved the document. Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz declared that the plan represents “a significant moment and a historical event”. In exchange, during an emergency meeting requested by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian leaders rejected the plan, and the foreign minister summarized: "The US administration will not find a single Palestinian who supports this project... Trump's plan is the plot of the century to liquidate the Palestinian cause".

Before the peace plan, in November 2019, the United States had abandoned the four-decade-old stance regarding the Jewish colonies in the West Bank, that such settlements were in breach of international laws, for being established in occupied territories. Washington also ceased to provide assistance to the Palestinians by ending the financial contribution to UNRWA. This decision increased to the level of degrading the Palestinian economic and social situation, on the background of corruption and administrative incapacity of the Palestinian Authority, and especially Hamas’s.

The problem. In order to understand the plan, let’s review the problem:

1)Jerusalim: Both Israel, which already declared Jerusalem its capital, and the Palestinians, want this city to be their capital (350000 Palestinians live in Jerusalem). The United States already recognized Jerusalem as capital of the State of Israel.  

2)Palestinian State: the Palestinians want an independent state formed by Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with its capital in Eastern Jerusalem (al-Quds). Israeli leaders accepted the idea of a Palestinian State, but they want it demilitarized, in order to eliminate any security threat to Israel.

3)Recognition: Israel insists that any agreement must include its recognition as “national state of the Jewish people”, arguing that, in absence of this recognition, the Palestinians will never cease to promote territorial demands, thus feeding the conflict. The Palestinians declare that the way Israel defines itself is its own business, but its recognition as being a “state of the Jewish people” would mean discriminating the Palestinian Arabs who live in Israel.

4)Borders: the two parties have divergent ideas on borders. The Palestinians request that the border be the cease-fire line valid between 1949 and 1967 (before the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Eastern Jerusalem were occupied by Israel). Israel states that these borders are not defendable, and that the cease-fire line does not represent an element of permanence. Israel insists to have border on River Jordan, and allowed settlements in the West bank also for military considerations (to occupy the West Bank heights, which provide defense advantage).

5)Settlements in the West Bank: Israel established about 140 settlements plus about 121 other facilities without official approval, with a total of about 600000 colonists.

6)Palestinian refugees: the about 5.5 to 6 million Palestinian refugees, who left Palestine during the 1948-1949 conflict, and their descendants represent another bone of contention. The Palestinians claim it is their right to return home, while Israel rejects their return, arguing that such move would unduly change Israel’s demographics.

The plan stipulates:

The United States will recognize Israel sovereignty on the territories presented in the map annexed to the plan. Israel agrees with these borders, in fact, with the whole plan. According to Donald Trump, the map shows “a double Palestinian territory” (compared to what the Palestinian Authority currently controls); but, according to the Palestinian Authority, it only represents 15% of the “historic Palestine”.

Jerusalem “will remain the undivided capital of Israel”. The Palestinians “have the opportunity to have their independent state”, although details are not provided; perhaps details are to be decided after negotiations in exchange for Israeli requests. The question rises whether this state will ever exist and where its capital will be. The map presents something resmbling rather a enclave dominion, although a would-be tunnel will link Gaza Strip to the West Bank. Israel would work with Jordan (who rejected the plan) to secure the status quo, i.e. the administration of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem (even currently, Jordan holds the religious administration of these places). The question rises whether the Palestinians are completely excluded from Jerusalem.

The territories allocated to Palestinians according to the map are to “remain open and undeveloped for a period of four years”. During that time, Palestinians can study the deal, negotiate with Israel, and "achieve the criteria for statehood". Later, economic programs will be implemented, in view of securing a better fate for the "Palestinians [who] are in poverty and violence, exploited by those seeking to use them as pawns to advance terrorism and extremism. They deserve a far better life", as President Trump said. The description Donald Trump offered for the Palestinian situation is accurate, and it became so due both to compromises made by the Palestinians with various foreign powers who sponsored them, and to Israel (which is the occupying power in the West Bank, and did not refrain from defending its security interests facing the Palestinians especially considering Hamas in Gaza Strip, who often attacked Israel). However, the message is clear: first capitulation, then economic stimulus. The realistic part of the plan was highlighted by an American official: “The notion that hundreds of thousands of people, or tens of thousands of people, are going to be removed either forcibly or not from their homes is just not worth entertaining” (but the problem is not about those citizens, but about the Palestinans already removed from their homes, the refugees, as well as the problem of grabbing territories through colonization in occupied West Bank).

The plan responds to the issues in dispute, as follows: 1) Jerusalem represents just the capital of Israel. The Palestinians might negotiate, perhaps, an hypothetical control in East Jerusalem, although Jordan will be the country to administrate the Muslim holy places; 2) the Palestinians will have a state as presented in the map, more of a dominion or protectorate, but provided that... 3) the Palestinians recognize the existence of the State of Israel; 4) the borders are those presented in the map, starting from current situation, which will be made official through their recognition by the United States and legalized by the decision of Israeli Knesset; Israeli colonies in the West Bank will be annexed to Israel, according to the map; 6) Palestinian refugees are not on the table, indication that they will not return.

The plan has a strong point and a point so weak that it rules it out as an implementable peace plan, rather a dictate imposed by the de facto situation, with support from a biased Trump Administration. The strong point is that the peace plan fully responds to Israel’s security needs, considering that Israel abided by the commitments taken under the Oslo peace arrangements, at least at the beginning. It was the Palestinians who pursued a duplicitary strategy, both benefitting the peace plan, and continuing their “resistence”, which is to deny Israel recognition. Worse, the Hamas extremists profited foreign sponsor support to implement an anti-Israel policy[7] designed for its own interests. The weak point is that this peace plan is unilateral, wrought with Israel alone, and it takes two partners and an impartial, unbiased mediator for a “dance towards peace”. Instead, there is a United States plan here, where Washington is no longer a mediator, and this plan is forged together with Israel, for Israel, while the Palestinians are left just to negotiate their surrender. For Israel, although the plan is unilateral, it still provides a chance to achieve its fundamental national interests. For the Palestinians, it is sad that, although the plan forces them to crucial consessions, it represents a better chance than the current situation, which is the absence of any hope.  

Anyway, for the near future, the Palestinians will not yield, but will refuse both discussions and any relations with Israel and the United States. The peace plan might cause a conflict situation if Israel pushes to officially annex the West Bank territories, and Hamas receives, though, money and weapons from an almost bankrupt Tehran.


V. Developments to track this Week 6 of 2020.

► CHINA / EUROPE. Coronavirus was officially recognized as a global threat. Measures must be taken, considering that cases already appeared in Europe. Reminding that the term pandemics has been mentioned by important governments as being one of the first threats to national security (in size and probability), we judge that the problem must be approached diligently long before it reaches Romania. The virus spread follows an exponential growth, so the three hundred deaths and thousand infected patients represent but the tip of the iceberg.

► UNITED STATES The impeachment process ends with a very likely nay vote decided by the Republican majority in the Senate. Everybody lost: the Democrats failed to topple the president, the president failed to turn the process into a successful election campaign, and the Republicans have demonstrated they place their political interests above the law, albeit a moral law, by refusing to accept witnesses which might have complicated the case, especially John Bolton. Anyway, let’s hope that the United States will overcome this moment, and that President Trump will pay more attention to the way he conducts a foreign policy separate from his election campaign.

► SERBIA / MONTENEGRO / KOSOVO. Tensions increase after Podgorica specified what it wanted by the church property law, and Belgrade showed its concern about the incidents which appeared in Montenegro (the opposition considers itself as ethnic Serbs, but there is no legal basis, like recognized nationality / ethnicity, for this ethnic identification). Meanwhile, the United States proposes a realistic plan for Kosovo, and the EU representative declares that there is no contradiction in this issue between the U.S. and the EU (how about Germany’s opposition to the exchange of territory between Kosovo and Serbia?).

► SYRIA. Following the offensive of Bashar al-Assad’s troops and the bombing by Russian aviation, a new wave of Syrian refugees prepare to travel towards Turkey. Ankara accuses Moscow for failing to abide by the Astana agreement, threatening with a military intervention, but experience shows that the two aggressive regional powers reach an understanding, and the losers are those caught between their interests. 

► LIBYA. Franco-Turkish tensions on Libya escalated in circumstances where President Macron accused Ankara for failing to abide by the commitments taken in Berlin, and President Erdoğan responds by accusing France for complicity with General Haftar. France deployed its aircraft carrier in eastern Mediterranean, having the possibility to better monitor Turkish escorted transport vessels sailing toward Libya.

► GREECE / TURKEY. We witness the prelude of a confrontation. Turkey escalated the problem of access to resources in maritime areas in dispute by deploying a geological prospection vessel escorted by a frigate into Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Greece responded by deploying a frigate, and a Greek F-16 aircraft overflew the Turkish prospection vessel. Worth mentioning, the Turkish escorting frigate did not enter the Greek EEZ. Both countries avoid war, but resort to military means to deter the adversary. However, Ankara pushes, and Athens can only respond adequately, in a strategy like “no war, but negotiations under the threat of war”. Greece benefits from solid support provided by neighbors (Egypt, Israel and Cyprus), by Europeans (France – which already voiced its support, and Italy), and by the United States (the Greek Parliament passed without any hesitation the Greco-American military agreement regarding Pentagon’s access to Greek bases).

[1] Austria already announced it opposed an increased contribution, and eastern nations request an urgent debate on the EU budget. In fact, eastern Europeans want guarantees that European funds previously earmarked for them will not be diminished.

[2] Same as the Stinger missiles in Afghanistan, the anti-tank missiles Javelin now cross the border of tactical significance weapons and can change the game at operational level: the Ukrainian army must respond to Russian maneuver forces with upgraded tanks and effective artillery fire support (with UAS target acquisition). Of course, the tactical technical element must be combined with adequate tactics, but that is not hard to find: during the Cold War, West Germany developed “tank-hunting” tactics of waiting for Soviet tanks to flood the northern German fields and the Fulda Gap. Very likely, those tactics were dusted off, updated and successfully implemented to benefit the reborn Ukrainian military. Kyiv’s forces are inventive at tactical level, while the “Soviet sclerosis” is more difficult to cure at operational and strategic levels: at Deblatsevo, only the tactical level initiative made possible the last-ditch escape from encirclement, while “hesitations” continued at strategic level. Kyiv identified the solution: those who performed outstanding at tactical level were promoted to operational and strategic levels, replacing the “desk theoreticians”. 

[3] The same Pompeo was previously cynical with a journalist, asking himself whether the Americans can find Ukraine on the map: “do you think the Americans care about Ukraine?”. False problem, since the Americans did not know where Vietnam was either, but, fighting there and in other lands as well, they eventually brought freedom to Budapest and Bucharest, which many Americans still mistake one for the other. And this is important, because, in this example, two nations born free and Christian became free and Christian again, part of the free world led by the United States.

[4] In fact, the risk is bigger for Lukashenka, both in confronting Russia, and the domestic risk of taking democratic relaxation measures, although shy and symbolic. He will have to pursue democratic measures though, if he wants better relations with the West. And presidential elections are coming soon. Regardless how much Lukashenka loves Belarus, he will have to win these elections the same way he did hitherto, without respecting the rules; it is “his Belarus” after all!

[5] Relevant, the Gulf kingdoms hesitated to strongly reject the plan, as American support against Iran is more important for them, but also because, between them and the Iranian nuclear bomb, there is only the… Israeli F-35 aircraft, not the Palestinians!

[6] Netanyahu gave up his request to the Knesset for immunity, and he will be tried, but from the position of hero of the State of Israel. This stance might secure not only his freedom, but a political future too.

[7] Mainly Iran. The situation is more complicated for Hamas because the Sunni countries, save Qatar, no longer tolerate the Hamas – Iran alliance. Anyway, Tehran has no more money to sponsor the Hamas machine, which includes a terrorist organization, a political force, and a welfare organization.