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19 februarie 2020 - Special reports - Weekly review

D.S.M. WEEKLY REPORT - Main Political and Military Developments (WEEK 7 of 2020)

Monitorul Apărării şi Securităţii

I. NATO. North-Atlantic Council in Defense Minister format. II. GERMANY. A spectacular inevitable crisis. III. RUSSIA. New heads of Ukraine desks. Military exercises in the Caucasus. IV. GERMANY / HUNGARY. Viktor Orbán visits Berlin. V. Developments to track this Week 8 of 2020.

Sursă foto: Mediafax

I. NATO. North-Atlantic Council in Defense Minister format.

During the February 12 – 13 Defense Ministerial NAC, NATO nation ministers of defence discussed three important issues: NATO mission in Afghanistan; NATO future mission in Iraq in response to Washington request; and Allied response to Russia’s deployment of SSC8 intermediate range missiles (and other missiles operationalized by Moscow as well, for that matter, such as the Kinzhal hypersonic missile and the Avangard hypersonic glider). Undoubtful answers resulted for each of the three issues, although the devil is hiding in the details: 1) Ally support for Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, in the significant context of a possible agreement between the United States and the Taliban, which might impact on these arrangements; 2) The way a new NATO training mission for Iraqi military might be established, but built from current contributions by Allied nations to the same kind of International Coalition training mission to Iraq; 3) NATO response to Russia’s deployment of SSC-8 missiles. However, specific measures still need to be communicated, as available public information shows only ceilings and a few features of NATO response, such as effective, yet balanced actions. As about ceilings, it is decided that a new arms race will not be encouraged, there will be no symmetric response, and no ground-based nuclear warhead missile will be deployed. The most important is that NATO nation position was unitary, although there are various perspectives, but these views were not enough divergent to jeopardize the forging of unitary decisions on all three issues in discussion. We will discuss these issues in order they impact on Romania: first, the problem directly threatening our country, then the operation in Afghanistan, where Romanian soldiers are still fighting; and finally, the training mission in Iraq, where Bucharest will likely contribute again.

a) NATO response to Russian threats, especially to SSC-8 deployment. NATO reaffirmed its commitment to arms control and disarmament but will respond to “Russian missile build-up”. Jens Stoltenberg underlined the Alliance unity across all steps made in order to respond to the situation created by Russia’s breaching of INF and deploying the SSC-8. Reaffirming their commitment to arms control and disarmament, NATO ministers of defence analyzed “the full range of Russia’s short and intermediate range missiles", mainly the SSC-8. In the already established line of an “asymmetric response”, the NAC continued to assess the practical way NATO will respond, as well as the negotiation option (perhaps, the European heavyweights, France, but also Germany, want the door left ajar for negotiations, including by considering the moratorium proposed by Russia). NATO Secretary General underlined that it was precisely the INF breaching that demostrated “the strength of NATO”, which produced a unitary response in all stages of this issue!

Worth mentioning, NATO response was discussed regarding not only the SSC-8 missiles, but the whole range of missile systems deployed by Russia, including the hypersonic weapons. Many of these missiles have dual capacity, both nuclear and conventional, which can generate escalation and error[1] risks. The Alliance maintains that SSC-8 missiles breach the INF, although INF is obsolete[2]. The “burden sharing” within the Alliance was also discussed, meaning the aritmetics of financial commitment for defense (perhaps also in the context of this NATO response to SSC-8 missiles).

Now we will see whether “avoiding an arms race” means negotiationg with Russia regarding the post-INF situation or even, although less likely, some of these negotiations might refer to Moscow’s proposal of a moratorium (which is up front dangerous, because it would mean accepting the deployment of SSC-8, and thus offering a strategic superiority to Russia in the European Theater of Operations, as any later NATO response would appear to be... violating that would-be moratorium!). Jens Stoltenberg’s declaration is crucial: The Alliance “Remains United in Reaction to Russia’s New SSC-8 Missile System”.  Everything else is just details, albeit important, but just details: politically speaking, the trans-Atlantic link resisted the Russian SSC-8 test and is a slam dunk! No wonder the latest Sergey Lavrov’s anti-western tirade.

Germany’s position is also important. Despite a constructive approach toward Russia, Berlin remains strongly united to NATO regarding the new SSC-8 threat[3] (by itself, a weapon system that threatens both the military strategic infrastructure of European NATO nations and, politically speaking, the trans-Atlantic coherence). “Macronist” France is dipping a toe in the water, but fosters no illusion regarding Russia (which, in Paris’s plans, is more than an argument for Washington’s eyes in view of building a “sovereign Europe”, not a reference power itself). We are to see concretely where and when NATO will deploy ground-based missiles with conventional warheads, in a response including naval and air platforms and vectors (with nuclear warheads!); and steps are already visible.

b). NATO mission in Afghanistan. Beyond reaffirming NATO nations’ support for Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, the table was set keeping in mind the perspective of reaching an agreement and deciding a withdrawal. In these circumstances, Jens Stoltenberg declared that NATO "fully supports the U.S.-led peace efforts, which can pave the way for intra-Afghan talks". He asked the Taliban to show they wish and are able to reduce the violence level. The Taliban should “understand that they will never win on the battlefield, they have to make real compromises around the negotiating table” (the problem is that the Taliban understood they can absorb huge losses and so, although they cannot win, they cannot lose the war either, at least in the perception of a large portion of Pashto population). The statements by NATO Secretary General can be fully understandable considering the signals sent by Washington that a peace agreement is imminent.

The United States announced an agreement for seven days of reduced violence in Afghanistan and communicated its hope that such measure would facilitate an agreement with the Taliban. Additionally, President Trump himself announced that an agreement with the Taliban is in sight. The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that important progress occurred in negotiations with the Taliban, but he also pointed that the United States wants to see first a significant reduction in violence, a kind of test for the Taliban[4]. Information surfaced that the United States and the Taliban are on the brink of signing an agreement this February, which would allow Washington to withdraw the 13000 American servicemen currently deployed to Afghanistan (and, of course, the coalition soldiers too, Romanian included!). The U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper was more cautious: “signing an agreement, a drawdown of troops and further negotiations with the militants would be ‘conditions-based’ and begin after a decline in violence... It will be a continual evaluative process as we go forward -- if we go forward". This was the good news brought by the Americans to this NATO reunion, the longest was is inching toward its end. If this does not prove to be another unfunded hope, it would really mean the end of the war that became the longest for Romanians as well.

From a political point of view, stating “we are shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States there, in order to bring the United States closer to us here, at home” had a clear meaning. From a military point of view, we will see how many lessons we absorbed, but the way is open for us to participate to more and more complicated operations along the United States, or with NATO or the European Union.

c) IRAQ. NATO training mission in IRAQ. NATO is ready to extend its training activities for Iraqi military, although the Iraqi government is not ready yet to approve this activity. The European mission of training Iraqi military started within the International anti-ISIS Coalition in 2018 (although suspended last month, after the Pentagon eliminated Iranian general Qassem Soleimani). NATO commitment represents a response to President Trump’s request that the Alliance involves deeper in the Middle East. However, this commitment is limited, as the Europeans are reluctant to engage in combat operations[5]; they will only participate in training Iraqi troops. And this is where the problems start, the current mission is already approved by Baghdad, while a NATO mission must wait for its approval, and NATO – U.S. relation will be considered by Baghdad, in its decision.

NATO plan for this training mission is to transfer 200 soldiers who currently do this job for Iraqi military in the framework of the International Coalition, to a NATO mission which would continue this training. For the moment, there is no word about deploying additional personnel to this mission, although Jens Stoltenberg announced that NATO nations agreed, in principle, to increase their efforts of training Iraqi soldiers: “In the first instance, this will consist of taking on some of the global coalition’s current training activities... Ministers also agreed to explore what more we can do beyond this first step”. Asked why the Alliance failed so far to get approval from the Iraqi governement for accepting the NATO mission, Stoltenberg replied that “NATO is in Iraq on the invitation of the Iraqi Government. And we will only stay in Iraq as long as we are welcome”. Stoltenberg’s explanation does not solve the problem in full, it is just a political notice, but not in the necessary legal framework, i.e. Iraqi government agreeing to a NATO mission. In extremis, NATO nations can continue or increse their participation while remaining in the Coalition, which secures the legal framework. It is precisely this situation that makes the Germans reluctant: since the training mission works so well within the Coalition, why should it be turned into a NATO mission? That might bring difficulties linked to the agreement with Baghdad, and changes on the ground (insignificant at strategic level, yet huge at tactical level, especially in logistics!).

Further on, it is of essence that the Europeans are ready to oblige to President Trump’s request, although some are reluctant to a larger cooperation with the United States on Iraq, since the anti-Iranian policy, whence they do not totally aggree, might impact upon the security of their soldiers deployed in a NATO mission. Nevertheless, the reluctant Europeans should not forget that they would not have soldiers directly involved in fighting against ISIS; this role still rests with the United States and the already participating Europeans. Practically, “several hundred NATO soldiers” will be transfered to other three bases in central Iraq. A second step, perhaps in the summer, will be changing the mission mandate, which will take more training activities from the International Coalition.   

Finally, it is also about harmonizing political positions of European heavyweights and the United States, with the Europeans understanding that, however, the U.S. contribution to defending Europe demands an answer to measure from them in areas where the United States withdraws, in order to cope with new threats. This might mean, at the end of the day, sending soldiers to fight. Meanwhile, the United States must understand that military support from the Europeans does not mean subordinating the political positions of European heavyweights who are reluctant to the American policy in the region, especially Washington’s approach on Iran, which they disapprove (they want the nuclear deal to endure). However, beyond the many public complaints, both showed they were capable of remaining faithful to NATO principled basis of defending the “free world, based on democratic principles”.

For Romania, the situation is relatively simple: we are in a NATO mission, along the United States and other European allies whom we are used to cooperate with, and we will see where and how we will join the NATO (not Coalition) training mission in Iraq. Currently, this looks less dangerous (just for now!), compared to the operations in Afghanistan, where, finally, the time to go inches closer.


II. GERMANY. A spectacular inevitable crisis.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and the far right / AfD jointly voted the election of a… liberal for the position of leader at land level. This apparently minor event triggered an earthquake inside the CDU, because an unwritten law of the German center politics has been violated (no alliance whatsoever with either far right[6] or far left). After the resignation of Merkel’s protegee Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK), the incumbent CDU president, this event also showed that CDU is divided and AKK did not hold control of the party. Practically, AKK was forced to leave the seat of CDU leader, and this decision harbingered that Angela Merkel’s days in power are numbered. This is not only because the future CDU president will be one placed more to the right, and probably a Merkel’s rival, but also because the trick of separating the position of party president from that of federal chancellor simply does not work[7].

On February 10th, the CDU president AKK (and protegee of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, once having the perspective of becoming chancellor herself), announced she would no longer run for the office of federal chancellor in the next year parliamentary elections, and she would give up the position of CDU president as well. Remarkably, AKK declared that the two positions (party president and chancellor) must rest with the same person. This contradicts the scheme by which Angela Merkel broke tradition when she remained chancellor but proposed AKK as CDU president (then AKK won the CDU elections by a small margin). Apparently, AKK’s decision reveals that she failed to impose herself in the party (the Thuringia elections just topped that), because AKK is seen only as a Merkel protegee who should leave taking her mistakes with her. Angela Merkel is not forgiven the accepting a million refugees, but also for the transformations which brought CDU to the left of its traditional German Conservative (Christian-Democrat) position, as well as for other structural problems. In fact, as any other leader, Angela Merkel (a Protestant from the East in a Catholic party based in the West) marked her party by shifting it too much to the left and neglecting the position of her party’s electoral basis, the Conservative right (in problems like migration, but in others too). In the process, Merkel also neglected the interests of important political and economic circles with even more conservative visions and interests[8]

Angela Markel’s classic rival, Friedrich Merz, is hardly waiting to take revenge and his announcement regarding his candidacy for CDU president was delayed only for election strategy reasons. Merz matches the party core, he promotes a pro-business social-conservative message. Merz resigned last month from the position of manager (after a long activity in the posture of leader in the business world), just for focusing on politics (like he was sniffing something…). Another candidate is Jens Spahn, also an Angela Merkel’s rival (she made him minister of health to neutralize him) who opposed the Chancellor’s decision to open the borders to the wave of migrants. He benefits support especially from the right wing of the party. The only Merkel loyalist, Armin Laschet, has slim chances, exactly for representing continuity in a party eager to close the Merkel chapter. Ralph Brinkhaus and Markus Soeder have even smaller chances.

The change process began and will end when Angela Merkel steps down as Chancellor. First, there will be party elections, and the future CDU president, probably Merz, will start an internal reform, focusing to a right-wing orientation which will lead the party to its traditional place and will recover the electorate CDU lost to the AfD. This process alone is enough to weaken Chancellor Angela Merkel’s position very much. Therefore, she will have to choose between resigning and playing a role which would be less hers, and more in the hands of the party (the only hurdle preventing her resignation is the Social-Democrats threat that they would remain in the governing alliance only with Angela Merkel as Chancellor).

Anyway, what had to happen did happen, the developments and tensions within the party only bring the end of Merkel era closer (“Mutti played her role, Mutti must go”). From a certain perspective, there is a normal process, as the Merkel way ceased to meet current requirements, and a change is needed. It seems that the time has come for failures to pay back, although Merkel’s successes were huge, both for Germany and for Europe! Eventually, as a correct state official, Heiko Maas was right when opposing the ideologically colored position supported by Merkel - the politician: on the streets of Dresden, protesting migrants, there were not only neo-fascists, but also non-affiliated citizens, not extremists. The political picture shows that, while the electorate shifted to the right, the Social-Democrats (CSU) shifted from the center to the left. Therefore, Mitte, the center which the German Christian-Democrats always tried to reach, was lost. For the right-wing minded electorate, traditional for the CDU, the party went… too much to the left, and the AfD hurried up to take the place left by CDU. CDU leaders will likely repeat the Austrian lesson, where the right wing recovered its electorate by adopting several non-radical solutions inspired from… the far right!

The issue goes far beyond the German political stage level: it is crucial both for the future of Europe, as Germany is the engine of the Union, and for the European political right wing, which seeks to rebalance the centrist liberalism with the traditional conservatism. Should Germany fail to find an answer, the far right, from the German and the French to the Italian and Hungarian, will surge as political power within the EU. At the end of the day, if an era had to end, it better ends quicker and in an orderly manner, because the EU needs a strong and active German leadership, both for coping with foreign challenges and for balancing internal turbulences.


III. RUSSIA. New heads of Ukraine desks. Military exercises in the Caucasus. In Russia, an appointment and a military exercises hold the headlines.

  1. New figures are appointed to master the Ukrainian dossier, both in Kyiv and in Moscow, and this announces a change in method, not in goals. However, these steps are still forward to achieving peace in the region. On February 11th, Ukrainian president appointed the Head of Presidential Administration, Andriy Bohdan, with Andriy Yermak, friend and business partner of the president, yet having business links in… Russia. Yermak was involved in recent negotiations regarding the prisoner exchange with Russia and in several Ukrainian domestic issues. There is no doubt that Yermak will be a more responsible official in negotiating with Moscow. In order to calm the concerns about his links to Russia, Andriy Yermak reiterated Ukrainian position regarding Donbass and Crimea. Russian response came from Dmitri Peskov, who reminded that Ukraine must fulfill its commitments taken in Paris, by implementing the Minsk Agreements, while the Crimean Peninsula is no part of the discussion. Out of question is also Zelenskiy’s wish to change stipulations of Minsk Agreements.

More important, a similar move occurred in Moscow. The official responsible for Ukraine used to be Vladislav Shurkov, the “Sorcerer’s apprentice” and mastermind  of the Novaya Rossiya / New Russia project (in fact the blueprint for dismembering Ukraine) and of political aspects in the hybrid war: “all against all”. He was replaced by Dmitry Kozak, born in Ukraine and having a long activity in “solving” conflicts: in the Republic of Moldova / RM, his plan is well-known after the 2005 failure, although now, with Igor Dodon as President of RM, his plan sees a new light. Shurkov’s dismissal does not mean a strategic change in the Kremlin’s policy on Ukraine, the objective remains the same: “Ukraine must not go west”; it is a tactical move instead, regarding the means: a better diplomatic communication.  However, this change might mean a bit more, that is lowering the level of ambition by one notch, from the bar raised by Shurkov at the highest levels: ranging from New Russia / dismembering Ukraine, to political control of Ukraine. The new lower and more pragmatic level would range from political control of Kyiv to the minimal goal of “entanglement”: limiting Ukraine’s sovereignty to the level where Kyiv would practically become unable to decisively steer towards the West, especially for domestic reasons. Russian Foreign Ministry also announced that the Kremlin is ready to send back its ambassador to Kyiv and receive back the Ukrainian ambassador to Moscow. However, Ukraine is not considering such opening for now. Remarkably, this opening is done only at communication level, while the conflict in Donbass continues, its continuity being of paramount necessity for Moscow (during the last month, eleven Ukrainian soldiers died at the contact line, many of them “executed” by separatist snipers, which indicates a continuity strategy ordered from the highest level of decision).

The appointment of new officials in charge of negotiations both in Kyiv and Moscow is the necessary (but not sufficient) prerequisite for relaunching negotiations by getting the parties closer, towards a commonly acceptable basis for discussions. However, it is not yet about finding a solution, we only witness the phase where the two parties can sit at the same table, just that! We will see whether Shurkov’s departure dampens the maximal objective (New Russia project / dismembering Ukraine) and the Kremlin focuses now on the minimal objective – limiting Ukraine’s sovereignty to the level where Kyiv can no longer steer the country towards the West. In order to achieve this objective, Dmitry Kozak seems to be the right man, although his appointment is not the decisive factor; that would be the power ratio between Kyiv and Moscow and the measure the West wants and can decisively commit in support of Kyiv. For the latter, Kyiv capacity to persuade the West it can become a functional democracy is crucial.  

  1.  Russian military exercises in the Military Region South are important both for their dimension (number of soldiers) and their significance. Although they are conducted at the Caspian Sea, and they send a message to the Southern Caucasus nations, the landing capacity as that demonstrated in these exercises make a signal for all Black Sea littoral nations too.

On February 3rd, Russian Ministry of Defense announced that, during an exercise involving 1000 marine infantry, a landing practice was conducted in a wild, unprepared shore of the Caspian Sea. Twenty warships were involved in this exercise, including Sema type landing vessels, as well as 200 vehicles and artillery systems, and six Mi-8AMTSh helicopters. Previously, Black Sea Fleet marine infantry formations were parachuted from helicopters. During the drill, troops conducted a march with BTR-82 personnel carriers from training ranges in Dagestan, embarked on landing vessels and conducted landing operations. The marines established a beachhead and conducted an attack against the enemy, neutralizing its defense. Artillery support was provided by 2S9 Nona systems (the versatile self-propelled howitzer, which is both amphibious and can be parachuted). Officials with the Military Region South Command announced that “tactical company-level exercises” will end at the end of this week 7 of 2020, and all units will return to home bases. This is a quite interesting mix of actions for a company-level tactical exercise which ends with a landing conducted by a brigade! Such brigade-level action can provide a strategic-level effect, as a littoral landing and securing a beachhead are the first phase of an offensive at strategic level.

Nevertheless, in the last two weeks, Russian military conducted a series of exercises in the Caucasus, similar to those it conducted prior to the 2008 invasion of Georgia, only this time at a larger scale. Recent drills involved 2500 servicemen of Russia’s Military Region South. They began with a large exercise in Northern Caucasus, with 300 vehicles and artillery systems. Tactical exercises took place in Dagestan, Chechnya and Northern Ossetia – Alania and South Ossetia (!), including communications units belonging to the 58th combined arms Army, which participated in an exercise near Alkhanchur (level of communications unit participation shows the operational-strategic level of the overall exercise). Almost 3000 servicemen participated in drills in the Sernovodsky/Stavropol Territory – Tarskoye/North Ossetia  and Alpine and Gvardeets training grounds in Chechnya. Mechanized riflemen had air support by aircraft and helicopters of the 4th combined arms Army. Notably, although the exercises took place in separate modules at company–battalion levels, they formed a complex larger exercise finalized with the above-mentioned landing operation.

Although such level seems less significant, it becomes more interesting to watch the future operational-strategic level exercises to follow this year in Russia’s Military Region South.


IV. GERMANY / HUNGARY. Viktor Orbán visits Berlin.

Viktor Orbán’s visit to Berlin occured in a bad moment, due to the political crisis at the level of Germany’s leadership. However, this represents his attempt to remain in the traditional political mainstream by reviving the relations between Budapest and Berlin. He also asked the German right for support  (after having slimed it, see Weber case) for avoiding to be expelled from the European Populars, although he has a record of hostile actions (from proposing a far right alliance in the European Parliament for last year’s elections, to cooperating with right / far right in Europe, brilliantly failing in both).

The two parties focused on economic issues, where Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined the clever way Budapest acted for promoting Hungarian economic interests (practically, using European funds for creating the infrastructure used by German investors, invited and encouraged by Orbán). Although painful for Hungarian opposition (who would have prefered a total rejection of autocrat Orbán in Berlin), this is a truth creating bases for the economic and scientific cooperation projects announced by the two leaders.   

For the rest, there was a request for political support, but without a departure from Orbán’s autocratic position (disguised in a “neo-Democrat-Christian” contraption). Viktor Orbán did not recieve too much support in this issue, Merkel being reluctant (she had told him, during her visit to Budapest, that she could not understand what “illiberal democracy” means). Nevertheless, Orbán asked German Christian-Democrats to exempt him from being kicked out of the European Popular Party (EPP), and he will probably not be expelled. The story about “we better reform the right wing within the European Populars instead of exiting their ranks” is just a narrative for the Hungarian public opinion (the leader with autocratic habits cannot admit that he becomes just a politician begging Berlin... not to be ousted from the EPP). Especially under its future leadership, CDU will likely grant Viktor Orbán the chance to keep his FIDESZ in the EPP, but they will tolerate him only as long as the negative effects of his policies remain smaller than the German economic advantages in Hungary, and that limit gets closer.

There were days with Juncker-Soros banners in Budapest and threats to Brussels about a far-right FIDESZ – La Lega alliance (those threats dissapeared only after the European electorate provided an answer to these deviations, and after Matteo Salvini’s La Lega steered towards the right-wing, leaving Orbán alone at the limit between right and far-right). Although sad memories about those days still dwell with us, it is eventually still good to keep FIDESZ in the EPP, although FIDESZ is way past deserving that treat, because this way Viktor Orbán will be forced to preserve a moderate position, and this benefits the Hungarian democracy and the whole Europe.


V. Developments to track this Week 8 of 2020.

► GLOBAL. Coronavirus (Covid 19) reached Europe and keeps spreading, and the perspective of this decease becoming pandemic cannot be ruled out. An antidot was not yet found, and the only weapon against Covid 19 is prevention!

► SYRIA / TURKEY / RUSSIA. While Damascus, supported by Russian aviation, continued offensive in Idlib province, Ankara announced it was ready to act, after consolidating Turkish military presence in Idlib, including in military installations now surrounded by Syrian governmental troops. The discussions between Russian and Turkish leaders, including those conducted through delegations, led only to a fragile outcome. After Turkey lost other five soldiers to Damascus artillery fire, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered a large-scale air attack resulting in 115 Syrian targets being hit and 100 Syrian soldiers being killed. Practically, the war between Bashar al-Assad and Turkey began, and additional 700000 Syrian Sunnis became refugees. Certain officials warn that up to three million Syrian emigrants might hit the road to Europe. Remarkably, the United States expressed its support for Ankara.

► The WEST. The Security Conference in Munich tested the atmospherics of European and global security under the relevant theme “Westernlessness” (the World without the West). Numerous messages and relevant positions were issued for what is coming and might hit us.

► IRELAND. Parliamentary elections with European impact. The two traditional Irish parties noticed that a nationalist Sinn Féin (with a history of links with terrorism) almost won the elections with a pragmatic lefty message. Sinn Féin cannot be excluded from the political equation in Dublin although it remains in opposition, and this will have effects in Europe: after a Brexit which leaves Northern Ireland in the EU from a customs point of view, there is Sinn Féin on the wave in Dublin. Now, the idea of reuniting Ireland does not look too fancy anymore, and this is dangerous, not only for the Brits.

► UNITED STATES. The Democrats are in search for the man able to defeat Donald Trump, and this appears now to be… Mike Bloomberg. It remains to be seen whether Bloomberg will be accepted by the Democrat electorate (with a strong argument: instead of a losing Socialist, better a billionaire able to defeat Trump). Then, the election campaign, mother of all fears, a battle between two giants! Good to notice, Romania “doesn’t have a horse in this race”, the United States is basically supportive to Romania either way.

[1] For example, a wrong interpretation of a conventional warhead missile-launch as being nuclear, respectively a decisive nuclear attack, which might cause a full-scale nuclear response.

[2] Even those who advocate for a dialogue with Moscow are not gullible: Russia breached the INF by deploying the SSC-8, thus aiming at obtaining a strategic advantage. The rest is propaganda and manipulation, including diplomatic, meant to divide the Alliance and deceive those who perceive the need for dialogue as larger than the danger posed by missile deployment. 

[3] Not by chance, on February 3rd, the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) published the “Germany’s Role in NATO Nuclear Sharing” report.

[4] This test is not only tactical, “an instance of good faith” meant to lead to an agreement, it is a strategic test too: the United States leaves if the Taliban renounce armed confrontation to reach the power in Afghanistan (they control about 40% of Afghan territory, but not the towns, that is if “control” can be properly defined in Afghanistan). This is a necessary prerequisite, considering that the Taliban refused negotiations with the current government in Kabul, which they call a puppet of the Americans, although, albeit all its shortcomings, this current power was democratically elected by the people the Taliban claim they represent! However, this should be no wonder in Afghanistan, where legitimacy is a lax notion, and the central government is not what we define it to be.

[5] Save those already involved along the United States, France included. In fact, the mere fact that the United States does not leave the Middle East, not even Syria, as President Trump initially intended, makes France accept that arrangement, France being usually reluctant to put its troops under NATO control. The United States did not leave France alone in Africa either, in circumstances where, although with reduced American troops in Africa, the United States remains present and, in certain areas, in addition to France, the United Kingdom, already politically “non-European” after Brexit, will go along with the U.S., and Germany will not commit its troops in combat operations, thus continuing its post-WWII pacifist stance. This attitude should be well-understood: although some of Europe’s best soldiers are still the Germans, let’s not forget that German functional democracy revived after 1945 precisely because one of its basic elements was anti-militarism. Therefore, the current situation should be better understood: the same post-WWII Germany is that which built Europe both in economy and politics, by participating in opening the way to freedom for the Eastern Europe. Of course, Germany benefited itself too, by rebuilding its own east, which was “severed and closed” during communism. For Romania, Germany remains a model, especially in the issue of reunification: only when we reach an unquestionable economic and political level, there will be the possibility that Bessarabian Romanians (of the Republic of Moldova / RM), especially the profiteer elite, see this union as a survival solution. Should such moment occur, as Bonn did at its time, Bucharest will have to overcome all real dangers stemming from such union (we bring home the thief elite who stole the billion from RM’s impoverished population), only for the sake of helping our kindred live same well as we do. But far away seems no longer to be too far, because Igor Dodon is working hard to bankrupt RM, and he will not succeed to “transnitrianize” RM. This will not happen albeit because the Bessarabians cannot be turned post-Soviet Russians, as they are Romanians or “whatever they consider themselves to be” after being “Sovietically Moldovanized” in the decades after Bessarabia was annexed to the Soviet Union and later, during the decades when the Bessarabians fought not only their own post-Soviet elite (who plundering the country), but also the Russians, in the Transnistrian war. The RM post-Soviet nomenclature narrative was revealed by RM Foreign Minister Aureliu Ciocoi who, in a surge of sincerity, presented the false position that Russian 14th Army did not fight against the Moldovans, but it “avoided a bloodshed”. Igor Dodon simply lied when he maintained that Ciocoi was referring to the Russian peace mission: false again, the “peace mission” was conducted by Russia just to exploit by occupation the success reached in the Transnistrian war (tanks of a whole Russian 14 Army fought against Moldovan volunteers, and those resisted!), and to allow the establishment of a bridgehead, the de facto state of Transnistria.  We all know this truth, from Chişinău and Bucharest to Moscow, less the agents in RM who must obey orders from their masters! 

[6] Bearing a symbolic value too: also in the land of Thuringia, and also through an alliance, the Nazis began their march to power, almost a century ago. Germany is marked forever by the Nazi trauma, probably worse than the trauma caused by the 30-year war, another German tragedy with European participation. Of course, the comparison has no real basis, but for this Germany, a simple analogy raises strong alarm signals. In fact, German democracy is so solid that any comparison with the past does not work, because the Germans tread gently.

[7] By electing her protegee as party president, Angela Merkel enjoyed the security of a smooth and extended swansong. Now, the situation grows more stressing for Merkel, who will be practically ousted by the future CDU president who, very likely, as… AKK herself recommended, will also claim the position of federal chancellor. Only the Social-Democrats, partners in the governing coalition, can raise an obstacle, by hinging the governing alliance on a continued Angela Merkel chancellorship. 

[8] The situation can be easily described: “the Moor completed his duty, the Moor must die” (political death, of course). At the end of the day, Heiko Maas, as any fair and diligent official, who sees only the realities, not what the politicians want to see (the world “colored” by their political ideas) was right: on the streets of Dresden, during anti-immigration protests, there were not only neo-fascists, but also many laymen, among them the traditional right-wing voters in danger of being captured by the far right AfD!