24 October 2018

D.S.M. WEEKLY REPORT - WEEK 42

Monitorul Apărării şi Securităţii

Image source: Mediafax
  1. THE EUROPEAN UNION. The EU Summit had no draft agreement to agree upon, but the “extended transition” solution appeared, even in absence of a solution for the Irish border. Meanwhile, the conflicts between the European Commission and various problem nations increase: Italy stirs the fire on the budget issue, and Poland gets an answer from the European justice board. The EU heavyweights, Germany and France, display political stability issues.  

II. RUSSIA continues the war on all fronts, although the Kremlin voices moderation. The US announced its withdrawal from the INF Treaty. The Moscow Patriarchy triggered “the big orthodox schism”. At the Valdai Conference, Putin sent a peace message which does not calm at all. The EC created the framework for a response to the Russian cyber-attacks, but still seeks a communication channel to Moscow. The US judiciary indicted a Russian national for meddling in American elections. The Russian ambassador to Bucharest made some statements. Canadian aircraft deployed in Romania intercepted a Russian aircraft above the Black Sea.  

III. WESTERN BALKANS. One step ahead and one step back. The Macedonian parliament voted to begin the procedures meant to result in the change of the country name. The parliament in Kosovo voted the bill to “establish the army”.

IV. REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA. Vladimir Plahotniuc’s dictatorial power failed the attempt to secure its “European coverage”.

  1. THE EUROPEAN UNION.

The EU Summit had no draft agreement to agree upon. Despite the optimistic signals and the diplomatic shuttle, an agreement on Brexit has not been reached because the Irish border impasse has not been overcome, as the EU requested a longtime solution, not a temporary arrangement. Thus, the “crucial” EU summit could not approve any Brexit agreement. However, the meeting proved useful since the solution of a longer transition surfaced, and it has been agreed by both parties, who seek an economic and political optimal modus vivendi after the separation. The latest signals from London point that Teresa May might yield in this respect, and thus open the path to a longer Brexit, negotiated in a cooperation atmospherics. However, the situation is not that clear yet, since Teresa May is not sure at all even about the support of her own party[i]. Even if she is decided to pursue the path that is now open in the negotiations with Brussels, the majority of her party’s legislators think otherwise. Those MPs differ on both solutions (the extended transition and the Irish border), especially since a permanent solution is sought upon. On the transition extension, the UK would have to pay its contribution to the Union and would have to respect the European rules without having a voice on them. In these conditions, any course of action is possible, from a forced passing of the Teresa May plan in the Parliament (take it or leave it!), to the fall of her Cabinet, with a possible option for a second referendum on the issue (which has already been supported during a large demonstration in London).

On October 10th, the European Commission (EC) sent a letter to Rome, requesting the Italian Government to review its budget draft before October 22nd, or else the proposed budget would be rejected. The letter has been sent by the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, Pierre Moscovici, after the Brussels summit, where the Italian Prime-Minister, Giuseppe Conte, unfruitfully talked to the “money providers”: the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, and the Dutch Prime-Minister, Mark Rutte. The EC faces a difficult dilemma: if it yields to the Italian Government, a dangerous precedent is born, and others will profit as well, while Italy will progress towards a foreign debt and an internal deficit of the nature to jeopardize the whole Euro Zone; if it refuses, the Italian populists and far right will increase their propaganda, saying “Look: Brussels stands against the Italian people”. Consequently, the EC will probably choose the lagging tactic, waiting for the market itself to solve the problem instead, by forcing Rome to take the right decision: the Italian treasury bonds already fell by comparison with the German bonds, and Moody’s degraded Italy’s rating.

However, the tensions between Luigi di Maio’s populists and Matteo Salvini’s far right supporters increased immediately, because it is difficult to reconcile Cinque Stelle’s intention to offer something to the poor, especially to the southerners, with La Lega’s plan to offer perks to the rich. This conundrum is especially difficult when the maneuver of “the golden budget paid by the Euro Zone” does not work. The only valid argument that Rome can bring to the table is that the EU cannot treat a country like Italy as it treated Greece (Italy is the third largest EU economy, which is performing well, although its budget has always been in deficit). Nevertheless, is Italy such a big country that it cannot default? Rome knows the answer is no, hence the long-term answer to the Italian budget crisis is already known.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) sent to Warsaw, on October 19th, its demand to suspend the controversial reform of the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ). The ECJ demanded Poland to reinstate the SCJ judges previously removed by forced retirement. A week before, defying Brussels, President Andrzej Duda had appointed 27 new judges with SCJ, to replace those retired according to the new law. This law, stipulating that the SCJ judges beyond the age of 65 are to retire, was passed by the parliament dominated by the conservative party Law and Justice (PiS), whence the President once belonged. Brussels’s decision is a step ahead to further strain the relations between Warsaw and the European Commission but is also a road block in the way of the authoritarian drift pursued by the Polish conservatives led by Jarosław Kaczyński. The ECJ démarche is provisional, as the EC asks ECJ to take such decision before the case is completed. The very EC request shows how serious the situation is, and the attention Brussels is paying to the antidemocratic and lawless deviations in Eastern Europe. Should Warsaw fail to obey by the ECJ decision, Poland will be punished by financial means. It is expected that Warsaw passes this test by… complying with the ECJ decision. The Article 7 activation and the significant drop in European funds already produce political and economic problems to the Polish government.

On October 16th, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, reshuffled his government. He appointed as the new Minister of Interior[ii] Christophe Castaner, former socialist who belongs to the President’s inner circle. Other ministers have also been reshuffled (culture, social cohesion), and the second most important is the Minister of Agriculture, which points to the direction that E. Macron seeks to improve his relationship with the rural voters, which can be easily captured by the far right. The reshuffle was prompted by the resignation of Gerard Collomb, on October 2nd, from the position of Minister of Interior. That was a quite a blow for President Macron, as Collomb was one of his closest coworkers. E. Macron and the political forces around him are crossing a deep valley: the President plummeted in the polls (to 30%); the society, and foremost the unions, reacted to Macron’s liberal reforms (“we need to own the pie before we share the pie”); on the other hand, the reform does not show noticeable effects, as the economic growth is below expectations; E. Macron’s political movement, “En Marche”, which rallies to the center pragmatical left and right politicians, is in quest of an ideological platform to substantiate its actions; in addition, there was a scandal linked to a Macron’s bodyguard, and internal disputes within the party (the real cause of Collomb’s resignation).

The lack of cohesion within the „En Marche” party, and the lack of a clear ideological platform thereof, were easy to notice even within the reshuffle, as E. Macron had to balance various ideological groups. Hence, how would the French President promote his agenda at European level[iii], where so many challenges prowl, especially since the German ally does not feel too well either? The European parliamentary elections are the test which „En Marche” needs to pass in order to become the movement which will stabilize France and the EU.

On October 14th, the general elections and the monopoly of power were lost in Bavaria by CSU, the Christian-Democrat ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, CDU. This loss was felt at Berlin as a warning on the governing alliance fragile political future. Although used to gain over 50% of the ballots, and form the Bavarian government by itself, this time CSU gained only 37.2%, a drop of about 10%. The beneficiaries were the right wing AfD, with 10.2%. Also bad, the social-democrat allies, SDP, suffered a hard blow, with only 9.7%, while the greens got 17.5%.

For the Christian-democrats, generally, the result of the Bavarian elections are a warning: using the far right antiimmigration rhetoric does not pan out. This was tried by Horst Seehofer[iv], Minister of Interior. However, the mainstream right-wing voters ask for rational solutions, without excesses, for the migration problem, not a xenophobic language. Angela Merkel reacted by asking the party members to regroup, and by warning that, should the Christian-democrats remain stuck in useless debates about the migration crisis of 2014, they might lose the leading political position. The next test will be the elections in Hessen, the financial heart of Germany. Should these elections also peter out for Christian-democrats and social-democrats, the coalition in Berlin will start to think about alternatives. However, this coalition has certain trumps: the German economy works well, and the migration wave, as well as the reactions therefore, ebbed.

 

II. RUSSIA continues the war on all fronts, although the Kremlin voices moderation.

The US announced its withdrawal from the INF Treaty. On October 20th, the US President, Donald Trump, announced that his country would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which prohibits the ground-based missiles having the range between 500km and 5500km, invoking the breaching of this accord by Russia. Moscow reacted on October 21st, through the voice of its Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov: the US withdrawal from INF is a dangerous step. Another agreement offering both the stability in Europe, and the arms race limitation vanishes. When it decided to breach the INF, the Kremlin might have considered either gaining leverage over the US or forcing the negotiations regarding the antiballistic shield. Either way, Russia will be seriously affected by such decision, as it lacks the capacity to cope with the American response. This response includes the option of deploying missile systems to Europe, despite opposition by certain nations, especially Germany. Anyway, the US and Russia were restrained by the INF in their balance with China[v], which, being not a signatory of the treaty, has developed such missiles.    

The Moscow Patriarchy triggered “the big orthodox schism”. On October 11th, the Constantinople Patriarchy initiated the process of recognizing the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC). Then, as expected, soon after the Minsk meeting, on October 15th, the Moscow Patriarchy announced that it ends any relation with the Constantinople Patriarchy and accused it of schism, because “it accepted the schism of the UAOC”[vi]. Moscow’s decision spells that not only the Russian Orthodox Church splits from the Constantinople Patriarchy, but also all the other orthodox churches in the former Soviet space, which are subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchy, more precisely the orthodox churches in all countries still under Moscow’s political obedience[vii]. The political dimension of the schism between the two patriarchies is obvious[viii]: on October 12th, President Vladimir Putin summoned the National Security Council to discuss this issue, and Russia announced it would protect its parishioners in Ukraine. Moscow Patriarchy’s decision puts the other orthodox churches in the crossroad: to sever their ties with the Constantinople Patriarchy or not. They will hesitate to do it until Moscow gives an ultimatum[ix]. Should these churches (even the Bulgarian Orthodox Church) have to choose, they will likely choose tradition, i.e. the Constantinople Patriarchy. The orthodox world might split into a European church, centered on Constantinople, and a Euro-Asian church, centered on Moscow. Russia will probably avoid giving such ultimatum, realizing this spiritual dimension, but also a political dimension: the loss of Russian imperialism’s major argument.  

At the Valdai Conference, Putin sent a peace message which does not calm at all. On October 18th, President Vladimir Putin excluded the option whence Russia launches a nuclear preemptive attack and stated that his country would utilize the nuclear weapons only in response to a nuclear attack by another country. This clarification of doctrine should calm us, because Russia appears to give up the nuclear escalation aiming to deescalate a conflict. This ruse has been exercised by the Russian military, as many of its conventional drills ended up with the simulation of a nuclear missile launching. Let’s see: in the same speech, V. Putin threatened Ukraine that it “will lose territories” if it continues its present policy of confrontation with Russia. This certainly generates doubts. Thus, should Russia occupy Ukrainian territories in a conventional offensive, and then declare them Russian territories (as it did with Crimea), and after that Ukraine tries to recoup those lands, what would Russia do? Would Russia accept to lose territories which it just acquired, if its conventional forces were not able to / or prefer not to stop the counteroffensive? Considering that the Russian security strategy mentions that Russia would resort to the nuclear weapon when the very existence of the Russian state is threatened (read territories), the answer is NO. 

The message is part of the preparations for the Russo-American negotiations regarding the strategic armament[x], as well as a last-ditch attempt to persuade the US to remain in the INF Treaty. V. Putin also reminded about the modern armament systems which Russia is developing – a hypersonic missile[xi], and a new intercontinental missile, called Avangard, allegedly able to penetrate the American antiballistic shield. For the rest, V. Putin has sent a message of moderation, he did not attack the West, as “Russia has patience” until the West gives up the sanctions. In fact, the apparent silence is given by the economic chance offered by the increase in oil price, and by the political support provided by China[xii].

Russia faces the consequences of its actions aimed at destabilizing the West. On October 10th, the European Commission (EC) approved the framework for a response to cyber-attacks, both regarding the measures, and the sanctions to be considered against the aggressor country. As Moscow angrily noticed, the EC prepares to implement sanctions on Russia in this respect as well. However, the EC did not decide sanctions, and is willing to find a way to communicate with Russia, but not in Moscow’s terms tolerating the Russian aggression, from Ukraine to cyber-space. So, at the Asia – EU Summit, on October 19th, where the Russian Prime-Minister, Dmitry Medvedev took part, the European leaders, headed by Angela Merkel, call for cooperation. In general, the summit showed the Europeans’ wish to cooperate with Russia and China in maintaining the free trade, but in other problems as well – the Iranian nuclear treaty, and the Paris climate agreement (the latter is also a message to Donald Trump), yet with reasonable limitations[xiii].

Across the ocean, the US intelligence agencies issued a joint declaration on October 19th, where they show concern regarding Russia, China, and Iran’s actions to influence the result of American elections. In the same day, the US judiciary indicted a Russian national for cyber activities meant to meddle in US elections[xiv].

On October 16th, Valery Kuzmin, the Russian ambassador to Bucharest made statements regarding the bilateral relations, accusing Romania for becoming an “instability provider”, in the region, due to the antiballistic installations at Deveselu.  On the positive side, V. Kuzmin mentioned that the bilateral relations “could be much better”, and that Russia tries to “yank this diplomacy stuck in a deadlock”. On the negative side, V. Kuzmin accused Romania for “becoming a provider of insecurity and destabilization in the region, because of the missiles at Deveselu”. He explained that the antiballistic shield itself would have a destabilizing role, and he reiterrated the Russian theory that the universal launching platform used by the antiballistic installations can also be utilized for cruise missile launching, which breaches the INF. Let’s answer the accusations: 1) The antiballistic shield at Deveselu cannot intercept Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the location of those facilities and the speed of the interceptors exclude such possibility. The shield was deployed to counter the threat from intermediate range ballistic missile, which Russia does not possess, based on INF. Or it does, based on the US acusations, and that voids the INF, which is really dangerous for the the European security!; 2) It would be illogical to launch cruise missiles from the universal launching platforms, even if technically possible. It would mean breaching the INF and compromizing the antiballistic role, by deploying cruise missiles instead of ICMB interceptors in a land location – fixed target, easy to strike. Why do that, when a single American warship, mobile platform, can launch over 100 cruise missiles? Therefore, since Romania does not really destabilize, but only hosts an antiballistic system which defends Europe, based on a strategy correctly established by the whole Romanian political class: we are strategic partners with the US, ”we bring them here” and we join NATO and the EU. Why would we adopt such strategy, approved by the whole nation, and what would the threat be? A rhetoric question though, the answer being obvious: just think of Romania being subjected to what happened to Ukraine, having the same degree of independence as Ukraine, without ”giving up sovereignty to Brussels”, but also the same way exposed as Ukraine.

Canadian aircraft deployed at Mihail Kogălniceanu AFB intercepted a Russian aircraft above the Black Sea. A communiqué issued by the Royal Canadian Air Forces (RCAF), on October 19th, reads: ”Working with the Romanian Air Force as part of the NATO enhanced Air Policing, Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornets intercepted a Russian SU-27 Flanker aircraft that was operating near Romanian airspace over the Black Sea. When the Russian aircraft was detected by the Control and Reporting Centre of the Romanian Air Force, RCAF Hornets were scrambled by NATO’s southern Combined Air Operations Centre at Torrejon, Spain. The Russian aircraft was closely monitored by our Hornets before it left the Romanian flight information region[xv].”

Let us notice that NATO met the ”level of expectations” of the Russian test: the NATO detection system worked promptly, and Canadian airmen perfectly executed the interception of a supersonic aircraft. Probably, the Russian aircraft flight was part of the complex exercise conducted by the Crimean littoral warships, aviation, and anti-aircraft defense. As for the Russian pollical-military intentions towards NATO, the SU-27 Flanker aircraft action speaks for itself.

III. WESTERN BALKANS. One step ahead and one step back.

On October 19th, the Macedonian Parliament voted with a qualified majority to begin the procedures of changing of the country name. The referendum conducted to that goal was not validated, because the necessary participation was not achieved. However, a large majority of the participants have declared their adherence to the change of name. After that, the socialist government forced a vote in Parliament, although it did not have the two third necessary majority. This was secured by the support of certain opposition parliamentarians, after Zoran Zaev, the Prime-Minister, negotiated with the leadership of VMRO-DPMNE opposition party the permission to their parliamentarians to vote according to their individual beliefs, considering the impact of this vote on the nation’s future. Although the Prime-Minister refused to admit, all legal means were used to help their conscience decide well, including the promise to pardon by amnesty those accused for corruption. Of course, Russia accused the West for putting excessive pressure to achieve this result. Most likely, the EU and US made promises regarding the future of Macedonia, and these worked better than political pressure. Consequently, until the January 2019 final vote, Macedonia will be a geostrategic battlefield between the West, aiming to integrate the country, and Russia, opposing that process.

The parliament in Kosovo voted the bill to “establish the army”. The bill extending the Kosovar Security Forces (KSF) size and the competencies was passed on October 18th, at first reading, in absence of the ethnic Serbian parliamentarians, who boycotted the session. This bill turns the KSF, trained by NATO, into a national military. Based on this bill, the KSF strength will increase from 2500 to 5000 active soldiers plus 3000 reserve. The bill needs to be approved after a second reading, then signed into law by president Hashim Thaci.  

The Kosovar prime-minister, Ramush Haradinaj, declared that the bill, actually a package of three draft regulations, will protect the territorial integrity and the citizens of all communities in Kosovo. The problem is that the Serbs north of Ibar River want to be protected by Serbia against the KSF threat, especially since KSF is transformed into a national military. The Kosovar Serbs maintain that this bill breaches both the UN Resolution 1244 and the Kosovar constitution. Specifically, the UN Resolution states that NATO takes the responsibility to protect the population in Kosovo, and the constitution stipulates that a new state is established on Serbia’s territory but not recognized by Serbia (or by other nations, six European countries among them, including Romania). Through the voice of Aleksandr Vulin, the Serbian defense minister, Belgrade declared that the bill is a threat to peace and a threat to “Serbia and the Serbs”.  A. Vulin added that “there could be no other armed force in Kosovo except KFOR as long as the UN Security Council 1244 resolution was in place”.

A NATO official replied that any change "in the structure, mandate, and mission of the Kosovo Security Forces is for the Kosovo authorities to decide". The situation is even worse, as the US embassy in Priština declared that it was "not consulted on the timing of this announcement" and will have to "analyze the draft laws to understand their purpose and effect". The US embassy also reminded the US recent efforts focused on normalizing the relations between Kosovo and Serbia. It seems that the US speaks different than the authorities in Priština, and so did the EU foreign policy authority, Federica Mogherini, both focusing on the normalization of Serbian-Kosovar relations. They even accepted the solution the two parties had reach, i.e. exchange of territories. Considering that, and knowing that Priština cannot act by itself, then who sponsored the Kosovar Parliament action? We know that Germany opposed the normalization of the situation by exchange of territories, but encouraging Priština to arm is a totally different business.

 Any name the sponsor would bear, a natural question pops up: wouldn’t it have been natural to achieve normalization first and arm later? That is, to approve the steps to normalize the relations with Belgrade before approving another phase, consolidating KSF, which could lead to conflict. After all, Kosovo is de facto a state, regardless its recognition by certain nations. And who takes the responsibility for a situation where a consolidated KSF and the Serbian armed forces might clash north of Ibar? That might happen after missing the option to solve the situation politically, and strengthen the KSF later. A. Vulin labeled the bill as being a threat to peace, and, unfortunately, he is not far from being right, considering the latest forays conducted by KSF soldiers north of Ibar, as well as Serbia’s arming by Russia.

IV. REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA (RM). Vladimir Plahotniuc’s dictatorial power failed in the attempt to secure its “European coverage”. During its October 18th session, the RM Parliament rejected (with only 54 votes pro, when 67 were necessary) a proposal made by the majoritary Democratic Party (PD). This initiative intented to modify the Constitution by introducing an article to stipulate that “the European integration is the strategic objective for the Republic of Moldova’s development”. Igor Dodon’s Moscow obedient socialist parliamentarians opposed up front, and the power needed the ballots of other parties (PLDM and PL). They also refused to join PD in this démarche, for a different reason though, i.e. considering the action to be just a political game aimed at nurishing a pro-European appearance for the dictatorial power of Vladimir Plahotniuc. The pro-Romanian party PL, led by Mihai Ghimpu, demonstratively conditioned their participation by introducing into the Constitution the wording ”Romanian language” instead of ”Moldovan language”, based on the contents of the Declaration of Independence, and on a decision taken by the Constitutional Court of RM. Of course, V. Plahotniuc’s self-labeled ”pro-European and pro-Romanian” party refused such deal. This label is true, though, about spending money. The real reason of PL’s refusal was revealed by Mihai Ghimpu: PL could not back a Plahotniuc’s maneuver to build a post-election alliance with Igor Dodon’s pro-Moscow socialists claiming that it wouldn’t be harming the country, since the European orientation was protected by the Constitution.  

V. Plahotniuc’s situation might be even worse in case the Kremlin wanted to kick him out of the political stage, should he fail to obey Moscow. His duplicity might fail him and V. Plahotniuc might lose any hope for support from the West, even a minimal support forced through such “constitutional imposture”.

V. Next week – developments to track.

RUSSIA – US. The US National Security Adviser, John Bolton, will visit Moscow to talk about the disputed issues, ranging from the bilateral relations to Ukraine, Syria, and Iran. The discussions will be marked by the US announcement about leaving the INF Treaty, which angered the Kremlin. After the end of INF, the measures possibly to be taken by Russia would be the deployment of intermediate range cruise missiles against us, respectively and the measures possibly to be taken by US would be the deployment of intermediate range cruise missiles on our territory. Both these options will have effects on Romania’s national security.        

           

EUROPEAN UNION: The Brexit will dwell in this critical phase, especially in… London, where the political crisis is expected to worsen, with Teresa May government lacking the Conservative Party majority support for implementing either the draft agreement negotiated with the EU, or the solution of an extended transition period. Thus, a nonconfidence vote in the Parliament cannot be ruled out, and the path towards a Blind Brexit would be opened, as well as a reaction leading to a second referendum. The problem of the Italian budget will take the floor of the Euro Zone, and the consequences of a populist economic policy in Rome will have economic impact upon the Euro Zone and the EU, both on short term, and, especially on the long run. The crucial moment will come on October 29th, when Brussels will reject the draft budget, if Italy is not flexible. The issue of anti-democratic trends in Poland and Hungary (where Romania is more and more often added) will also be of high interest in Brussels, as the EU is decided to stop these evolutions.   

             

THE COMMUNITY OF INDEPENDENT STATES. UKRAINE complied with the requirement to increase the price of gas, which made the agreement with IMF possible. This bails out the country, but the social reaction is important to watch, as the presidential elections are coming soon, and Russia is waiting for them, as do its trolls. In ARMENIA, Nikol Pashinian, the reformist prime-minister resigned. This prompts early elections, and N. Pashinian needs the support of the country’s “first oligarch” to win. However, he holds a trump card: the popular support.

 

THE MIDDLE EAST. THE SAUDI ARABIA will continue its efforts to cover up the political assassination which occurred inside the building of its Consulate in Istanbul, and the stakes are high. Meanwhile, IRAN is bracing for the impact of the American sanctions and hopes that the agreement signed with Russia (acknowledged by the Europeans) will save it. How will the US react, as it expects results to follow the sanctions? We will see. 



[i] At a certain moment, it looked like Teresa May could not maintain even the support of her own Cabinet.

[ii] In the context of terrorist threats, the Minister of Interior holds a quite important position within the French Cabinet.

[iii] The main challenge would be the project of establishing a center liberal grouping in the European Parliament. This would consolidate the European Union, although it brings the danger of a “two-speed Europe”.

[iv] As a matter of fact, the divergence between Horst Seehofer and Markus Söder, the present CSU leader, revealed the inconsistency of the CSU electoral strategy. Weakening H. Seehofer’s position is the only good news for Angela Merkel, because she had to ask the EC for anti-immigration measures, being threatened by Seehofer with leaving the governing coalition. Markus Söder, who identified a governing solution at land level, along the right-wing conservatives (Freie Wähler Bayern), will seek to remove Horst Seehofer.

[v] China did not sign the INF and developed mostly missiles of this class for two reasons: 1) to create an A2AD system against the US (the first and the second maritime “line of defense”, marked by the western Pacific large islands); 2) to cover the whole Siberia plus Russia’s European areas.

[vi] Constantinople replied that Moscow had accepted the schism of part of the Ukrainian orthodox believers in 1991.

[vii] The Moscow Patriarchy’s decision has already been followed by other two orthodox churches: the minuscule Polish Orthodox Church, and the traditional one, the Antioch Patriarchy, headquartered in Damascus, in the “land of Bashar al-Assad”.

[viii] Sergei Lavrov went as far as describing the Constantinople’s Patriarchy’s decision as a western provocation.

[ix] Even the Serbian Orthodox Church, close to the Russian Orthodox Church, will hesitate to choose. Should it have to choose, it will probably look towards Russia.

[x] On the background of the US program to renew the nuclear armament systems, aiming to restore qualitative balance with Russia.

[xi] It is the Kh-47M2, in fact a land-to-land ISKANDER ballistic missile launched from air, from a MIG 31 aircraft.

[xii] China and Russia’s rapprochement is explained by the fact that they perceive the same enemy, an economically aggressive Trump Administration, which shows it is also determined in the military domain. The Russian Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoygu, visited Beijing, where he was welcomed by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, and has signed important cooperation agreements with his Chinese counterpart. By comparison, at the meeting with the US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, at the ministerial ASEAN meeting, the two only shook hands during a break (enough though for the sputnik.ro to mention as a remarkable fact).

[xiii] The EU would attack at the World Trade Organization the American sanctions on steel and aluminum, in an action separate from China. The EU knows where the danger comes from and does not mistake an economic competitor – the US, even aggressive under the Trump Administration, with a strategic adversary, who does not obey the economic rules, such as China. This is the reason for which the EU does not acknowledge China as a market economy.

[xiv] Elena Khusyaynova was indicted for running, since 2014, the Lakhta Project (“troll factory”) which worked to undermine the public trust in candidates. The project is financed by the Russian oligarch Evgeni Prigozin, a V. Putin’s associate.

[xv] The Flight Information Region (FIR) represents an air zone where the country is responsible for the air traffic security. Inside this zone, all airplanes, civilian and military, should fly with their transponders working, in order to be identified. They should also communicate with the air traffic controllers, in order to secure both the air traffic, and the facilities on the ground (after November 9, 2003). FIR includes the national air space (stretching above the Black Sea only over the territorial waters, i.e. 12 nautical miles from the shore), and it further stretches, in general, above the whole Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Russian aircraft developed the habit of entering NATO nations FIRs with transponders off, and not communicating with the FIR responsible air traffic controllers. Such behavior exposes the air traffic and the ground facilities to unknown dangers, not knowing the aircraft identity, capability and intentions. This is the reason for NATO’s decision to implement the Extended Air Policing program.