MAS Special ReportWeekly review

Weekly review NATO - UE LEVANT Western Balkans Black Sea Region

11 noiembrie 2018 - Special reports - Weekly review


Monitorul Apărării şi Securităţii

Sursă foto: Mediafax

I. US - RUSSIA. Steps towards quitting INF. At the NATO – Russia Council, a new call to Russia. Clarifying declarations by Jim Mattis, threatening statements by Sergei Shoygu, and pessimistic declarations by Sergei Lavrov.

II. RUSSIA. Aggressive reactions against NATO and Ukraine. Russia interferes into the NATO exercise “Trident Juncture 2018” by closing a maritime area for “missile testing”. The situation in Donbass is discussed at the UN, while Russia organizes elections in this separatist region.
III. GERMANY. Europe loses an important leader who… remains in power. Angela Merkel announced she would not run in the next elections for the leader of the Christian-Democrat Party. However, she continues to act as a European leader, in issues ranging from the dialogue with Africa to the dialogue with Poland.
IV. REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA. Igor Dodon courts Russia, the opposition remains divided, and the Ukrainian brass propose solutions to a problem that Chişinău does not care to hear about.
V. In the MIDDLE EAST, an ongoing crisis. The US enforces softened sanctions on Iran, who, by sponsoring terrorism, tenses its relations with Europe. The US presses Saudi Arabia to stop the war in Yemen and tests the situation in Syria and Turkey.
VI. Events to track this current Week 45

I.  US - RUSSIA. Preparing the negotiations on the future of INF. The NATO-Russia Council held Wednesday, October 31st, in Permanent Session, considered a last-ditch opportunity, did not bring anything new. The US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, clarified the US position and strategy. On the Russian side, threats were made by Sergei Shoygu , the Minister of Defense, who tried to open cracks among the allies: "It seems to us that not everybody in Europe understands that this decision will have serious consequences for Europe either, and to put it more accurately, for Europe in the first place". The pessimistic conclusion was drawn by the Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov.

At the NATO-Russia Council, the Alliance asked Russia once more to stop breaching the INF and show full transparency in the case of the SSC-8 missiles, about which the US claims they breach the treaty. The NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that "no arms-control arrangement can be effective if it is only respected by one side", and “for over five years, the United States has pursued diplomatic and technical avenues with Russia aimed at preserving the INF Treaty". J.Stoltenberg also said that Russia's reluctance to heed NATO's calls reinforced the belief that the cruise missile SSC-8 "poses a serious risk to the strategic stability of the Euro-Atlantic area". The alliance was "committed to take effective measures to continue to ensure the safety and security of all allies", the NATO chief added. 

Now the good news: the NATO statement said the participants at the NATO-Russia Council meeting had an "open exchange" of views on topics including Ukraine, Afghanistan , Russia's Vostok military exercises in September, and NATO's ongoing Trident Juncture drills. At least, it is good that discussions with Russia can be held, although Russia does not tell the truth... in crucial issues: INF, Ukraine, ”Zapad 2017”.

On October 28th, Jim Mattis has assured that the US is in permanent consultations with the European allies regarding INF, mentioning that the most important discussions are with his German counterpart. This is an obvious effort to calm the public and the European governments, as Jim Mattis added that the US is trying to persuade Russia to abide by the treaty, rather than preparing to quit the INF. He stressed that the point of no return will be the NATO Defense Ministerial NAC in December. The most likely course of action: the meeting of the American and Russian Presidents to be held in Paris, on November 11th, will be the last attempt to persuade Russia to observe INF, or to adapt it to the current strategic realities, i.e. to include China, meaning globalizing INF; Should Russia not agree, this would be followed by beginning the withdrawal procedures (supposed to take six months); So, the final decision is to be taken at the NAC in Defense Ministerial format in December, in Brussels. It is only after that when we can talk about the US / NATO response to Russia’s deployment of SSC-8 missiles.

The American strategy is to expose the European allies to a Russian fait accompli. More precisely, J. Mattis  disclosed that he had displayed the proofs of Russia’s breaching the INF during the last NATO Defense Ministerial, when he also invited the allies to offer options of response to this situation, other than withdrawal from INF and consequent measures. He didn’t get any alternative solution.

Russia is still in denial about the US / NATO accusations of breaching the INF. On November 2nd, S. Lavrov reiterated that Russia is interested to preserve the INF, but Moscow understood that the American decision is already taken, and the official announcement is to be made soon. On October 28th, S. Lavrov made public that Washington had tardily sent a list of questions regarding the INF. Probably it is precisely the Russian answers, all denying any INF breaching, that made S. Lavrov so pessimistic. Moscow is preparing for tough negotiations, not only regarding INF, but also regarding the nuclear arms control NEW START (to expire in 2021). Not surprisingly, the Russian mass media offered information about the operationalization of Avangard and Sarmat systems. Although Moscow was quick in its reaction, the Kremlin fears that, eventually, it would not achieve a result providing both security and the great power status.

This is the most dangerous issue: a state aggressive with the small nations, but afraid of the large nations. Most likely, Russia will not admit it has breached the INF, thus offering the US the motive to begin INF withdrawal procedures. However, this withdrawal will not mean the treaty simply disappears, but will just be renegotiated into a new treaty. Only the failure of those negotiations would eventually lead to a new arms race, and that we all should fear. Then, the American response would likely be cautious, with primary focus on countering the Russian missiles and launching capabilities, while the deployment of ICBMs will be probably limited, but supplemented with precise strike tactical nuclear weapons. First of all, though, the US should not accept the Russian ruse connecting the antiballistic installations at Deveselu with the INF, i.e. considering the American antiballistic systems as equals to the offensive nuclear weapons, in view of the future NEW START negotiations.   

II. RUSSIA. Aggressive reactions against NATO and Ukraine.

Russia interferes with NATO exercise “Trident Juncture 2018” by closing a maritime area for “missile testing”. After the NATO exercise “Trident Juncture 2018” began, Russia warned, through the NOTAM system, that it would close two aero-maritime areas close to the Norwegian littoral, during the very period when NATO conducts troop drills:
- the first area, closed November 1st to 3rd, overlaps the area closed by NATO, as notified well in advance by NATO, stretches inside the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone, near the Norwegian port Kristiansund, about 1000 kilometers from the Russian frontier ;
- the second area, closed November 6th to 9th, is “only” at 100 kilometers from the Russian borders.

The first area is specifically more problematic, because Russian missiles endanger NATO warships and aircraft, and vice versa. Let’s hope it is just a bluff, and the Russian missile launchings will be conducted only inside the second area, which does not overlap with the NATO exercise designated areas. This is an unprecedented challenge and, in the same time, a warning regarding Russia’s modus operandi mutations. Usually, Russia deployed warships and submarines in the closed exercise area, to collect intelligence without interfering with the exercise. Now, Russia already deployed several warships and civilian vessels to spy on the NATO exercise . NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, can only call upon the professionalism of Russian military, hoping to avoid regrettable incidents, which he did on October 30th, when he also mentioned that NATO "will not change the plan of (the) exercise", "we will conduct our exercise as planned" and "we will monitor them closely". 

The “Trident Juncture 2018” exercise, the largest since the fall of the USSR, has a defensive scenario – defending a NATO nation subjected to an armed aggression. Although it involves significant resources (50 000 soldiers, sailors and airmen, 10 000 vehicles, 250 aircraft, 65 warships from the 29 Member Nations, plus Sweden and Finland), it is still small when compared with the exercises conducted by Russia close to NATO borders. By comparison, the Russian last year “Zapad 2017” exercise involved over 100 000 militaries although Moscow only declared 12 500, for not being obliged to fulfill the OSCE rules regarding exercise transparency. This is not the case for NATO, which is quite transparent on exercises. It is true, Russia has reasons to be worried, if she envisions an aggression: the “Trident Juncture 2018” scenario is that Norway is defended in the case of an attack from the Arctic Ocean, but also from the Baltic Sea. This is exactly the would-be defense in response to the Russian “counteroffensive” stipulated in the probable scenario of the “Zapad 2017”.

The probable main strike direction of the “Zapad 2017” counteroffensive was crossing the Baltic States and Poland towards the Danish straits. Also, in the “Zapad 2017”, the so-called counteroffensive was supported by strikes from strategic bombers flying from the North, from the Sea of Norway and the North Sea. So, it is no surprise that two Russian Tu 160 bombers flew on October 31st through the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone. However, interestingly enough, Russia notified these flights in advance. Moscow likely uses “Trident Juncture 2018” to practice its own war plan. This speaks volumes about the dangerous relations between NATO and Russia: war preparations, regardless the posture – aggressor or victim of an aggression.

The situation in Donbass is discussed at the UN, while Russia organizes elections in this separatist region. On October 31st, Russia and the West confronted at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) session in New York on the issue of the elections to be organized in Donbass on November 11th. The UN Political Chief Rosemary DiCarlo supported the West position maintaining that these elections would be in violation of the Minsk Agreements. She also reiterated that these agreements are the only negotiation framework for the peace in Donbass, as they are approved by the UNSC. Russia has been isolated in the UNSC, and the West also blocked Moscow’s intention to bring a separatist representative to the debates .

Before the UNSC session, European Union nations (France, Germany, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Belgium and Sweden) issued a common declaration condemning the “illegitimate elections” which violate the Ukrainian laws, "contravene commitments" taken in Minsk, and "can only serve to undermine efforts to achieve peace in the region". The EU nations called upon the separatists to abandon plans for the elections, and upon Russia to use its ”considerable influence” to stop the so-called elections. "Russia must play its part by ending its financial and military support to the separatists and withdrawing its armed forces and military equipment from Ukrainian territory". In the same direction, the US representative, Johnatan Cohen declared that the "sham elections staged by Russia" would violate the Minsk agreements.

The Russian Ambassador to UN, Vasili Nebenzya, argued that the elections in Donbass have nothing to do with the Minsk agreements, as they are... municipal elections. He stated thet such elections are needed "to fill the vacuum in power" following the August 31st murder of Donetsk separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko, who was a signatory to the 2015 Minsk agreements. V. Nebenzya added that the elections are also necessary as a result of what he called "sabotage by Kyiv of its political commitments".

In his turn, the Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko repeated Ukraine's position that the results of what he called the "fake" November 11 elections will be "null and void" and accused Russia of waging a "disinformation campaign".

The result of the UNSC discussions is of major importance for the situation in Donbass, because Russia lost the chance to legitimate the separatists by elections, which was an important component of the Kremlin’s strategy to control Ukraine. The failure looks even bigger as Russia was the country which brought the Minsk Agreements to the UNSC, precisely aiming to gain international recognition of this capitulation-accord with Ukraine. Russia’s problem popped up in the moment when Moscow failed to persuade the West to press Kyiv into political concessions, while Moscow did not fulfill its military commitments (cease-fire and disengagement). The argument that the elections are at municipal level is ridiculous, because their goal is to legitimate a separatist leader, not to solve local issues. As a valuable agent, A. Zakharchenko fulfills his mission even after his death, which is used by Moscow .

In Donbass, the situation remains tense: an OSCE drone was downed after filming Russian trucks transporting anti-aircraft armament across the border into Ukraine. Germany and France issued a protest declaration against this aggression by the Russo-separatist side. The situation also remains tense in the Sea of Azov, where Russia holds naval and air supremacy.

In its turn, Ukraine executed anti-aircraft missile live fire exercises in the western Black Sea, where it closed a large area (150 km by 100 km) for the period November 1st to 4th, thus blocking the access of vessels from Crimea to the mouths of the Danube.
The practice of closing maritime zones becomes dangerous, as it might be used to escalate tensions, and this is happening just outside our doorspteps.

III. GERMANY. Europe loses an important leader who… remains in power.

The domestic political situation in Germany probably requires a change. However, Angela Merkel’s announcement that she would not run for a new position of head of its party, the CDU, but she would remain chancellor, was a surprise for the simple reasons that Germany is not yet ready to shed “Mutti”, and Europe lacks a leader of the same caliber to replace her. Leaving the lead position in the party raises two questions: first, how will A. Merkel govern Germany without being the leader of her own party? Second, can A. Merkel continue to act as “the leader of Europe” in this situation? Her record as Europe’s leader includes the economic and political stability of the EU, as well as the containment of the “rogue”, from the “little dictator’s” nationalism in Budapest to the financial mess promoted by the populists and the far right in Rome, but foremost Vladimir Putin’s military aggression in Ukraine. But wait, there is also the bail-out of Greece (where A. Merkel was portrayed in drawings wearing a Hitler moustache!) and the preparations for a pragmatic Brexit. The answer to both questions is… yes, but with certain limits.

Romania loses a “normal friend”, but the perspectives are not so dire, as Germany holds resources to remain Germany, even with a departing Angela Merkel. In the same time, Romania has the instinct to side with the stability brought by the truly great allies, rather than with errant adventures looking like opportunities.

While still at the helm, A. Merkel seems determined to lead Germany and Europe not so much with ambition, but “fairly”. On October 29th, A. Merkel announced she would not run to renew her position at the CDU congress in December. She also announced that this mandate as Germany’s Chancellor is the last one, but it would be completed as scheduled, in 2021. So, A. Merkel left the race for the presidency of her party, leaving the responsibility for the domestic orientation of the party to the future CDU president. However, she retains the right to govern with her “tolerant center” orientation, regardless of who oversees the CDU. This is a wager hard to win, as A. Merkel may leave the office of Chancellor in 2019, especially since the leadership of the party might go to Friedrich Merz, her political opponent who supports a more right-wing orientation for CDU, and a more pragmatic capitalism. F.Merz is linked to the finance groups and already has the support of the most important party personality, Wolfgang Schaeuble, speaker of the Parliament and former Minister of Finance. F. Merz has 49% chances, but there is also Jens Spahn, former Ministry of Health, with 6% chances to become the next CDU president. J.Spahn is also anti-Merkel and, should these two candidates come together, they might yank the party from the pragmatic but “non-Christian-Democrat color” stance where A. Merkel brought CDU.

The third candidate, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel protegee, who raised her to the position of party secretary general, has only 19% chances, as CDU does not wish to dwell in the Merkel era by electing a clone of the current leader. The tricky issue is that swaying the party to the right and towards its original Christian-Democrat ideology, considered necessary to win back the German voters , will be done by a CDU leader who will not cooperate with A. Merkel anymore. Actually, she chose to start the party reorientation by a kamikaze strategy where she saves the party while splitting her away from the party. Of course, there is the illusion that A. Kramp-Karrenbauer can win the party elections and keep A.Merkel chancellor. However, this would be a Pyrrhic victory because it would reduce the CDU chances in the future general elections in Germany. Angela Merkel even had stated that the positions of party president and federal chancellor should be held by the same person but now, under special circumstances, she changed her mind…

Nevertheless, the decision on A. Merkel’s future as chancellor might become the choice of another party – the social-democrat coalition partners (SPD). After huge losses in the recent land level elections, the social-democrats need to think about going into opposition and about internal reform, should they choose to remain significant. The SPD problem? They face an offensive by the center-left ecologists, who are, in the same time, pragmatic in measures and populist in ideology.

As for Angela Merkel herself, she is decided to solve the problems that might cast a shade upon her historical image as a top European leader. In this regard, she addressed the issue of migration, continuing the successful solution – money in exchange for stabilization and stopping migration. At the African leaders’ summit held in Berlin, on October 10th, Angela Merkel promised an increase in German investments in Africa, as well as a reduction of the unemployment amongst youths. The prerequisite asked from the African leaders, a decrease in corruption, is hard to achieve, considering that the political elite in underdeveloped countries is at war with the manipulated population, and corruption is the “ideological glue” which holds these elites together.

Angela Merkel is optimistic, as she holds the experience of the agreement with Turkey, but she also is pressed to delete the collective memory about the disastrous 2015 decision to open the borders to the wave of migrants. Finally, the soft measures promoted by A. Merkel, combined with the hard (read inhumane) measures of the Italian far-right (banning the NGOs which were rescuing migrants left astray at sea by Libyan traffickers) create the perspective of a solution to migration. Henceforth, it is left to the “ideologies without migrants” (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, joined by Austria) the privilege to reject the UN Global Compact for Migration, and open a new European position on this issue. 
In another file, during her visits to Warsaw and Kyiv, A. Merkel championed the common European agenda and calmed down the disputed problems (Nord Stream II, the Polish anti-democratic drift and the Ukrainian domestic failures). He focused on important issues instead:

in Kyiv, it was promising German support for Ukraine’s struggle to maintain its sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian aggression; and in Warsaw, it was providing what is needed, i.e. consulting by one of the six big nations of Europe regarding Brexit, bilateral cooperation, the financial-economic stability, migration. It is true, after the semi-failure at the local elections, the Polish conservatives toned down their crusade against the judicial system, and the measures they took show that Warsaw, a real winner of transition and break-away from communism, is able to pragmatically change course.

For Romania, the start of Angela Merkel’s departure is a negative development, as Bucharest loses a responsible friend, always in support of our efforts to overcome the European and… domestic difficulties. We will likely face more often oddities like the Hungarian bursts against Jean-Claude Juncker, who congratulated the Romanian people for a unification achieved one hundred years ago. Is this “immoral”?  Maybe it is sad for the Hungarian nationalists, but not immoral. Immoral, however, is Budapest’s position – which acts as adversary while being an ally, which all Europe knows.

Nevertheless, the events will follow the same direction, steered by a united and tolerant Europe, because Germany will be Germany even after the departure of Angela Merkel: Germany will remain a “Mutti” of European stability, again, even after the departure of Angela Merkel. On this background, let’s consider the warnings expressed this week by Emmanuel Macron, that the situation in Europe begins to resemble the picture of the 1930s. Maybe mentioning that the admirals and corporals disappeared and… the soccer players entered.


On October 31st, President Igor Dodon met the Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Igor Dodon declared that an agreement has been reached on economic issues: the cancellation of Russian tariffs for Moldovan vegetables, fruit and wine starting January 2019, and the amnesty for illegal Moldovan migrants working in Russia. Both achievements are simple electoral tricks meant to persuade the rural population and, respectively, the Moldovan workers emigrated to Russia, to vote for Dodon’s Socialist Party at the February 2019 parliamentary elections.

The rest of claimed results are just propagandistic, from attracting Russian investments for Moldovan infrastructure (bridges over the Nistru), to a mutual decision to declare 2019 “Moldova’s Year in Russia” – and 2020 “Russia’s Year in the Republic of Moldova”. Igor Dodon stated he has “assured V.Putin that the absolute majority of citizens support the continuity of the historical friendship relations with Russia and the consolidation of the Moldo-Russian strategic partnership”.

It might be so, but Dodon’s problem is that also a majority of Moldovans still want Romanian citizenship or have already obtained that status. Another problem is that the historical relations were nothing friendly, but occupant – colony relations. It is true, the Moldovan elites were bought by Moscow with privileges, and, currently, with big money. This is also the answer to I. Dodon’s rhetorical statement: “the ambassador of the Western state told me, «We don’t understand - in eight years we have invested $ 3 billion in Moldova, and you love Russia».

They will not understand that we have a connection that has developed over the centuries, that we have practically a common family and we value this”. In reality, I. Dodon’s and his socialists’ connection with Moscow was consolidated with suitcases full of money given by the Kremlin for a history of service with total obedience, while the western money was given to the state of Moldova. When the western money was not stolen by the mobbish elite, it went to infrastructure projects which still keep afloat a disenfranchised ”area” pilfered by its rulers.

Igor Dodon also explained his post-election plans, which include an absolute majority in the Parliament, built even with “independents”, or else early elections are to be organized. Same as the declarations by another socialist member of the Parliament, this reflects the socialist ideal – “the pro-Russian dictatorship in the Republic of Moldova”. However, this ideal dissimulates the practical scenario, the alliance, even forced, with Vlad Plahotniuc’s mafia, and the elimination of any democratic opposition. It is the only way I. Dodon can both implement Moscow’s orders and work to extend the sponsorship of the “area” by the West through the Vlad Plahotniuc connection.

As for the citizens living in the “area”, this is Romania’s job, as they become, little by little, Romanian citizens… in absolute majority. This is nothing to bother us, because we see that as our duty; the problem is that the “Republic of Moldova area” becomes a nuisance for its neighbors, especially if the «transnistrization plan» succeeds. And this is true not only for Romania, with so many citizens there, but also for Ukraine, if not for the whole Europe: 1,500 kg of drugs were captured in Spain on a tugboat registered in… Moldova.

The democratic opposition in Moldova remains weak and subjected to Plahotniuc’s mobbish bullying, as well as to I. Dodon’s red abuses, because it does not have many options: the two new parties, PAS and the DA Platform, announced they would run together in the next elections. However, they will also negotiate with PLDM, which will likely be included in the alliance, because the new PLDM leadership overcome the apprehension regarding the legacy of Vlad Filat (who was put in prison by V. Plahotniuc). On the other hand, Mihai Ghimpu’s (pro-Romanian) PL will not be accepted. This is the price PL is paying for its compromise made with V. Plahotniuc’s PD.  

It was about time to replace the ideologic Romanianism with a judicial one: we support the Romanian majority of Moldova’s citizens in a way that the Russian occupant never did in its colony – and this is for when Russia did not commit genocide in this Romanian territory. The most relevant evidence about “Chişinău’s geopolitical dismay” is the ”Ukrainian mirror”: subjected to the Russian aggression, Kyiv is decided to defend its borders, including by cooperating with R. of Moldova on the Transnistrian predicament.  So, the Ukrainian and Moldovan Chiefs of Defense, gen. Viktor Mujenko and gen. Igor Cutie respectively, met in Odessa to discuss, according to Ukrainian wording, ”the cooperation in case the situation in Transnistria escalates”. It is not difficult to imagine Igor Dodon’s panic when ”visiting family in Moscow”, or V. Plahotniuc government’s panic: although the government complains worldwide about Russia (the Prime-Minister Filip requested at the UN the withdrawal of Russian troops illegally deployed in Transnistria), the goal si not harassing Russia! No, the goal is to obtain the tolerance, even the financing by the West, without conditions, for the bigger problem – the mafia in Chişinău, because it has a geopolitical problem with the mafia in Tiraspol.

The show put up by the Moldovan government, to request the withdrawal of Russian troops, leads to the question: where do the Russian troops transit towards Transnistria anyway? Because Ukraine now certainly does not allow that to happen through its territory. Or maybe it is the Chişinău airport, still under the jurisdiction of the ”area obedient to V. Plahotniuc’s mafia”?  

V. In the MIDDLE EAST, an ongoing crisis.

This past week, important decisions have been taken in the Middle East, from Iran and Syria to Yemen and Turkey. The US has enforced complete sanctions on Iran, which are not so… complete; Turkey tested the ground in Syria; and the Saudi Arabia received an ultimatum from Washington to stop the war in Yemen.

The US announced long due complete sanctions on Iran, and Tehran’s oil exports take most of the blow. However, the US also announced that seven nations are exempt from these sanctions, the most important being India and Turkey. The exception is valid for six months, those nations having to gradually reduce their imports to a third of the current volume. The American sanctions also have other loopholes, like details on the imports by China, to the European project, and the Russian project, that is aiming to support the imports of Iranian oil bypassing the US sanctions. Washington has moderated its goal, aiming now to tweak Tehran’s international behavior and renegotiate a new nuclear disarmament agreement.

Iran’s hope that the price of oil would increase after it quit the market has not panned out. A new race begins, where Tehran hopes to cope with the upcoming very difficult economic sanctions, and the US will try to make the sanctions really complete. The American plan might be favored by the fact that Tehran recurred in organizing terrorism actions in Europe, this time in Denmark. Regardless their attitude in support of Iran for respecting the nuclear deal, the Europeans cannot ignore the support for terrorism by Iran. Finally, we have the same government in Tehran that claims it is responsible in the international relations, on one side, yet orders terrorist attacks in Europe, on the other side.

The first result of the US sanctions will likely be a reduction of the Iranian assertiveness in the Middle East, and Tehran’s domestic troubles will mitigate the foreign military adventures, albeit through middlemen.

In Syria, the truce in Idlib is a difficult birth, as the rebels respond, for the first time, to Bashar al-Assad’s artillery attacks. The Damascus government announced that the disarmament and demilitarization zone agreement does not work, because it is obstructed by… Russia, which expressed appreciation of the Turkish efforts (the only objection being that the terrorist organization Al-Nusra does not comply with the agreement). Moscow is working on attracting French and German financing for the reconstruction of Syria, but also for their recognition of the Russo-Turkish political solution. Perhaps Moscow considers this course of action more beneficial for keeping Bashar al-Assad in power than continuing the offensive.

In addition, having the back secured by the relative calm in Idlib, Ankara can focus against the Kurds, the allies of America. Thus, the Turkish artillery attacked Kurdish positions east of the Euphrates River. However, Ankara needs to pay attention to how much it can push against the Kurds, considering the positive trend of the US - Turkey relations: the mutual lifting of sanctions against officials, a telephone conversation between the two presidents, the exception offered to Turkey on the sanctions against Iran, the release of the American cleric, and Ankara’s honest attitude in the Khashoggi case. On the ground, combined Turkish-American patrols started to operate in Manbij, and the US responds by the “Arabization” of the Kurdish forces, which have now 50% Arabs.      

In southern Syria, Russia calmed down its ambitions, for the moment, and allowed the UN convoys to reach the refugee camps. These camps were used as a pressure tool against the US, to make the Pentagon withdraw its troops from the rebel base of At-Tanf, which is a crucial point for the corridor to Iraq, so much craved by Iran.

The US requested Saudi Arabia to end the war in Yemen within a month. The Saudi Arabia responded, for the beginning, with an… offensive having as objective the port of Hodeida, aiming to block the access of the Houthi rebels to Iranian support, but also to UN humanitarian relief.
Perhaps the Saudi Arabia and Iran will reach an agreement, with Pakistani mediation and the two parties involved. Such result is desired, especially since the Yemeni population, regardless which camp, is subjected to a gruesome war and suffers indiscriminate starvation, and killing by the most modern weapons.

VI. Events to track this current Week 45.

• THE UNITED STATES. The midterm election campaign in “America First” became more global than ever and the political fate of President Donald Trump is at stake. Most likely, the Democrats will gain the majority in the Congress. So, the impeachment procedures may begin in the Congress, but not in the Senate (where the judgement on impeachment is to occur). Consequently, the impeachment procedure cannot result in removing President Trump from the Oval Office. In this outcome, the Free World will be led by an aggressive Trump Administration in an America consumed by domestic struggles. Anyway, President D. Trump might come out of these midterm elections safe but weakened.
• NATO – RUSSIA. The ”Trident Juncture 2018” exercise will proceed to the command phase, and the risk of an incident will subside after November 9th. Until then though, all political and military authorities will pay attention to everything happening in those icy waters and above.
• RUSSIA, but also UKRAINE, will focus on the elections in Donbass, which are crucial for Moscow’s plans. Incidents must not be ruled out in Donbass or adjacent areas - the Sea of Azov, western Black Sea or the Crimean Peninsula. 
● The Presidents of RUSSIA and CHINA will prepare their agenda for the meetings with the US President, Donald Trump. Vladimir Putin will attempt to save the INF, although he does not comply with it, and Xi Jinping will attempt to find a solution for the trade war, although he wouldn’t refrain from stealing intellectual property. Both leaders have only few arguments to force the US into concessions. Additionally, Washington will be angered by the Russian meddling in the Afghan problem (the November 11th conference in Moscow), and also by the role of the two countries in bypassing the sanctions against Iran.
● EUROPEAN UNION. In European problems, from Brexit to the Italian budget deficit, progress is visible even there is less talk, and compromise solutions cannot be ruled out. The signal sent by Berlin, who wants such compromise, is relevant. A warning comes from Spain though, where the prosecutors requested harsh punishments for the Catalan separatist leaders.
• In the MIDDLE EAST, first signs of a de-escalation should appear. However, as usual, nothing can be ruled out in this region. So, if Hezbollah fails to respond to the warning issued by Israel on curbing the “production of rockets and missiles in Lebanese factories, with Iran’s help”, we might witness a new escalation in the area, beside the old Gaza crisis.  
● Regarding Israel, we might have a reaction from the European institutions to the declarations made by the Israeli Prime-Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, before the meeting with leaders of the “Craiova Group” countries. However, Romania and Bulgaria have little influence in the EU to leave their Goody Two-shoes behavior, in line with the EU policy. A recent report designated the two nations as having the least influence in the EU, being isolated from the decision-making groups of nations. Meanwhile, Serbia remains far from the EU and has its own specific interests. In addition, all three countries have a long history of keeping the balance between Israel and the Arab countries, the Palestinians respectively.  


1 These threats were made during a meeting with the Greek Minister of Defense, Panos Kammenos, the president of a minuscule, yet necessary, party of the governing coalition in Athens. He is also an admirer of Russia, even after the recent espionage operation conducted by Russia against Greece.
2  In Afghanistan, Russia meddles in the peace negotiations by inviting Afghan officials to Moscow behind the Kabul government’s back, thus undermining the peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban. This kind of interference is not meant to find a solution, but to secure a voice for Moscow in the future political establishment of Afghanistan. In the same time, by excluding the US from these contacts, Russia further undermines Trump Administration’s trust in Vladimir Putin, whatever leverage Putin might have over D. Trump. Russia announced a conference in Moscow, on November 9th, where the Afghan President, the Taliban and regional powers are invited. It looks like a step forward, but beware of the solution resulted from Russian mediation: our soldiers will cross dire straits in an Afghanistan “pacified” by Russia, let alone the end of the mission where so many Romanian soldiers were killed or wounded.
3  It is worth mentioning that Jim Mattis is not a hawk, but is strongly pragmatic, yet cautious and prone to compromise. For example, he opposed the decision to withdraw the US from the Iranian nuclear agreement, while in the Syria issue, he was the one to persuade President Trump that withdrawing the American troops is wrong, at least for the reason of “containing” Iran.
4  For an easier understanding from a Romanian point of view, it would mean that the Romanian warships conducted missile launching drills uninvited at… Poti, in Georgia! Of course, our ships have nothing to do there if they are not invited by the Georgian government. The same problem appears for the Russian action of interfering with a NATO exercise conducted not at all “in close vicinity of Russian frontiers”. The location selected for the “Trident Juncture 2018”, far from Russia, shows NATO intentions, as the Russian aggressive action shows Moscow’s intentions.
5  The Russian ships, especially the big ones, have a major vulnerability: being old, they risk running out of propulsion, therefore they are accompanied by tugboats, which must communicate their location through the satellite tracking system. Hence, the whole naval group is visible on… Internet. It happens that Russia suffered this very week an important loss: its only aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, was affected by a major damage (the deck is damaged after the fall of a crane) and it also lost the only floating deck formerly available for repairs (it sunk!). Indirectly, this will also affect the region of Romania: in absence of an aircraft carrier, the role of the Black Sea Fleet will increase significantly for naval deployments in the Mediterranean Sea.  
 6 The separatist representative, Olena Kravchenko, was prepared to present the would-be elections to the UNSC. The vote against that was overwhelming, with only one ballot aye, the Russian ballot, seven nays and seven abstentions. This vote shows itself Russia’s isolation within the UNSC.
7  However, the stalemate of the investigation on his murder indicates who ordered it.
 8 CDU was shocked by the loss in Hessen, where the economy is in full swing, yet the voters chose not to support the party which delivered economic growth. It seems that, in Germany, it is not the economy, but the identity which became the decisive election motivation, and that is even in the tolerant West, not only in the post-communist East.