MAS Special ReportWider Black Sea Region

Weekly review NATO - UE LEVANT Western Balkans Black Sea Region

DSM Special Report- Wider Black Sea Region- April 2019

Cristian Eremia

Summary I.Russia. Foreign policy’s innovations creates new pressures on Ukraine. II. Russia will finally have its own sovereign RuNet and guaranteed cyber security. III. The Nagorno Karabakh conflict - temperate optimism on high peace negotiations. V. EU-Azerbaijan cooperation priorities. V. S-400 Russian systems delivery for Turkey enters in straight line.

Sursă foto: Mediafax
  1. Russia. Foreign policy’s innovations creates new pressures on Ukraine

President Putin backtracked the previously launched project, last month, through a presidential decree, on granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainians living in the self-claimed popular republics territories from Donbass- that we also discussed in previous DSM articles, with another additional decree (01.05.2018). It extends the Ukrainians citizens’ categories that will have to right to ask for Russian citizenship. Putin reasoned his decision by claiming the protection of human and citizen’s rights and liberties, accordingly with the “accepted norms and principles of the international right”. Through this last decree, Moscow also aims at “trying to make moral amends” for deported citizens from Ukraine’s territories after the World War II.

Hence, citizens who are part of Moscow’s additional preferential list will also be able to ask for Russian citizenship, through a streamlined procedure. Ukrainians citizens who were born and lived in Crimea and Sevastopol and do not have a different citizenship, however they left the mentioned territories before 18th of March 2014, when the annexation of these territories took place, will also be eligible for the process. There are also included the next of kin of these citizens (husbands, children- even adopted ones).  People having no citizenship, but are eligible for the mentioned conditions, will also be able to apply for it. The streamlined procedure for a Russian passport applies also to foreign citizens and stateless people, who were subjected to illegal deportation from SS. Crimea Republic’s territory or those who were next of kin to someone who has been deported.

Moreover, Ukrainian citizens or stateless people who are temporary staying in Russia, who have Russian refugee, asylum or temporary status certificate in Russia, Ukrainian citizens or people with no citizenship who permanently live in Donetsk and Lugansk and already have certificates proving that they have volunteered across the Russian state program for Russian citizens’ relocation in Russia, between 7-27th of April 2014, are also included. This event is the harshest that has happened across the confrontation with separatists from Donbass.

Kiev’s authorities reaction- which is still dealing with the power transfer to the new elected president, was also quick, however, lacking from firmness, as the Ukrainian citizens were warned that if they will get Russia passports, the will “risk” losing their Ukrainian citizenship[1]. “The MFA of Ukraine resolutely demands from the Russian side to revoke immediately all unlawful decisions on “passportization” of the Ukrainian citizens and to remove their negative consequences.”- says the diplomatic protest Note transmitted on 1st of May to the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry.

At odds with this protest, the leaders of Donbas’s separatist republics are extremely excited, thanking president Putin for his “epochal and historical” decision to have streamlined procedures for the “passportization” of Russian population in this area.

However, Kremlin’s initiative creates some issues for the Kiev authorities regarding a national security problem, and the one to find a solution is the elected president, V. Zelensky, whose official takeover is planned for 28th of May. All the more so president Poroshenko will not have neither the time, nor Supreme Rada’s availability to pass the Parliament the promised law project on the complete Ukrainization of Ukrainian territories, a controversial project which was rejected by Russia, the neighbor countries and the West.

  1. Russia will finally have its own sovereign RuNet and guaranteed cyber security.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has set another interesting law (01.05.2019), on the establishment of the federal system RuNet, Russia’s sovereign option to Internet. He officially wants to create cyber and intelligence security for the Russian virtual space, concretely to ensure internet’s  “durable functioning” in Russia in case of a threat against its functioning- a possibility according to Moscow, which would come from abroad.

The document foresees the creation of a monitoring and intelligence systems communication center, including the Russian internet system across the Russian monitoring agency “Roskomnadzor”, which will also be responsible for RuNet’s functioning. This agency’s chief, A. Zharov, has stated that, from that moment on, Russia will be ready even for the “most sophisticated cyber-attacks” against Russia’s internet system, because RuNet will be able to counter such attacks.

This project will enjoy the participation of special agencies, the government and ministers, including the Russian special services. The government will approve the installation, functioning and modernization procedures of all technical equipment from the communication systems. The tasks on communication traffic hubs’ functioning will be approved by the Ministry of Digital, mass Communication and Intelligence Development. All the governmental decisions will be made strictly in coordination with the Federal Security Service (FSB) - federal authority in cyber and intelligence security.  

The most important objective is ensuring the functioning of the internal Russian system in case of any extreme security situation on Internet’s foreign system, with support coming from telecommunication operators, especially trained for unpreceded situations, and some adequate technical equipment. Before elaborating the law project, they made a series of experiments (which included the suspension of internet access for days, alarming the Russians), so that to eliminate any possibilities for the law to favor a possible breach of any technical procedures or to create technical conflicts for the technology operators, starting from the will to eliminate any negative interferences of operation procedures with technical equipment. In fact, for these things to be regulated, the legislator set 1st of November as the final date for experiments and, implicitly, the date the law will come into force.

After the Federation Council adopted the law, (FC is Russian Parliament’s superior chamber), the Russian parliamentarians have publicly underlined that RuNet’s purpose is “protecting Russia’s interests given West’s aggressive policies” and that will not restrict Russian users’ from freely browsing on the Internet (the chief of the International Federation Council Committee, K Kosachev).

Given these circumstances, FC’s president, V. Matvienko, mentioned that law’s objective is not isolating Russia, because it would be “useless and impossible”, but it is creating a feasible RuNet to prevent Russia be disconnected from digital technologies and internet, or be attacked from the outside[2]. They are offering political guarantees for Russia’s “global internet” users’ restrictions, to be introduced by the new RuNet. The payment system “Mir” will not be affected either.

There are some citizens and some organizations who do not agree with this law, which could censor Russia alike China. Russian politicians and experts are trying to convince people that the “RuNet Law’s” impact cannot be compared to China’s experience in the field. They are claiming that this law will have nothing to do with China’s internet rules. The Chinese departments are following the “White List” principle (“this is allowed, the rest of it not”), meanwhile Russia wants to created and make RuNet work following the “Black List” principle, which is restricting only what is foreseen by law. They also claim that the information that will go around RuNet and belong to state’s institutions and organization will be additionally encoded. The internal systems belonging to persons or juridical people who are not connected to RuNet are not subjected to this law.

  1. The Nagorno Karabakh conflict- temperate optimism on top peace negotiations.

In a previous DSM report, we have concluded that Armenia and Azerbaijani have reached the psychological level, getting to a common constructive approach on preparing the population and the political atmosphere for peace negotiations in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Indeed, at the end of March, there was a turning historical event in the Azerbaijani-Armenian relationships: the first high meeting, after years of frozen relations, dedicated to Karabakh’s peace process[3], which took place in Wien, between the new Armenian leader, prime-minister N. Pashinyan and the Azerbaijani president, I. Aliyev. The summit took place under OSCE’s Minsk Group aegis, having participants as the US, Russia and France’s political-military representatives, who permanently tried to ease the bilateral negotiations. OSCE called the meeting as being developed in a “positive and constructive” atmosphere, which allowed a mutual change of perspectives on the key problems which are blocking the negotiation process. It was seen as an extremely important political step, although both sides could not get to an agreement on some concrete initiatives and accords, besides the common commitment to make the high dialogue permanent and take measures to cool down the humanitarian situation.

Aliyev registered a small victory, mentioning that negotiation process’s format will remain the same, and foreign ministries will go to “substantial negotiations” (Nagorno-Karabakh leaders’ presence was not allowed, as the Armenian side asked). Armenian prime-minister also maintained the positive note, without showing any openness to serious and difficult negotiations. He stated that, although the meeting with Aliyev cannot be seen as “revolutionary”, it is important to know that it marked the beginning of a serious process, which will offer Armenia the opportunity to reveal its political agenda and its important problems.

In other words, the summit did not solve the critical problems, hence none of the sides won or lost anything. Both officials kept their promises hence, two weeks after the Wien moment, both states’ foreign ministers restarted the negotiations, within the same international format, in Moscow (15th of April), to regulate the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

However, the conclusions one can make after the months of meetings aiming at advancing the peace negotiations are that they did not registered any concrete progresses. Indeed, both sides have reaffirmed, in Moscow, their will in continuing to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict” through “political and diplomatic methods”. Both parts have agreed only over their “mutual interest to stabilize the armed conflict area’s situation”, particularly during this year’s agricultural season.

It is important to note also that foreign observers have recorded breaches’ significant decrease in terms of the cease-fire regime around Nagorno-Karabakh enclave and along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The word “decrease” was chosen wisely to describe the situation at that time. However, recently, hostilities restarted. Hence, on 1st of May, the Azerbaijani Minister of Defence was saying that Armenia’s military units dislocated in Karabakh have, again, broke the cease the fire regime. Therefore, at the last day reported at the mentioned date, Armenia has fired the Azerbaijani military position 24 times, on battlefield’s different directions, using huge caliber weapons.

Consequently, the Armenian and Azerbaijani political-diplomatic efforts described above are not promising too much, even if these efforts are bigger than the ones in the past years. What’s really important is that they have reduced last year’s bellicose rhetoric, which could have intensified the conflict, and that they concurrently took down the political tensions between both capitals. Even if guns’ rattling did not stop the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, these first steps towards a détente situation are quite visible and optimistic- a moderated optimism, on negotiations’ continuation following a positive key.

  1. EU-Azerbaijan cooperation priorities

Last month, in Brussels (4th of April), it took place the 16th reunion of the EU-Azerbaijan Cooperation Council. This event highlighted the special cooperation between Brussels and Baku. EU’s High Representative, Federica Mogherini, has confirmed that “Azerbaijan is a very important partner for the European Union, whose independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity the European Union fully supports” and wherewith EU has developed positive relations within the framework offered by the (Reviewed) European Neighborhood Policy[4].

Brussels thinks that Baku had, lately, a moderated, multi-vectorial foreign policy, building strong partnerships with many international states and organizations. Although this policy’s main objective is to get international support for a handy solution in respect of the Armenia conflict from Nagorno Karabakh, the approach led to establishing comfortable cooperation relations with regional countries or groups. There is a special cooperation with Turkey, Russia, Iran, Georgia, NATO, the Islamic Cooperation Organization, but also US, Israel and countries across the CSI. Although the “Convention on Caspian Sea’s juridical status”, adopted by all Caspian states presidents, last year, got approved by Azerbaijani in February 2019, issues on segments’ bilateral demarcation of the Caspian basin with Turkmenistan and Iran are still unsolved.

Azerbaijani has actively participated at the EaP Panel on security, across the Common Defence and Security Policy (CSDP), the CSDP civilian protection platform and Common Security and Foreign Policy (CFSP). Since 2018, Baku accessed the Prevention, planning and response program to natural and technological disasters – an EU coordinated and funded program, it accessed the EU Civil protection mechanism BALEX Delta 2018 (marine pollution exercise) and has participated at the Civil Protection Forum from Brussels.

The EU cooperation framework gets established by the “EU-Azerbaijani Partnership Priorities” document, adopted during last year by the EU-Azerbaijani Cooperation Council. The document established four key-areas for bilateral cooperation: 1) economic development and market opportunities; 2) institutions’ and well ruling’s consolidation; 3) connectivity, energy effectiveness, environment and climate; 4) mobility and interpersonal contacts. EU will ensure, until 2020, the necessary assistance for all these fields.

EU supports Azerbaijani in terms of justice, liberty, security and human rights’ dialogue. This is the reason why, during this year also, this state’s human rights issue, including political prisoners’ situations, were discussed across bilateral meetings with Baku leaders. It came out that Azerbaijan’s long-term security, stability and prosperity will depend on following human’s rights and fundamental liberties, as there are some serious concerns about that in Baku.

It also came out that there is an extremely difficult situation on ensuring the freedom of expression and association and ensuring a favorable legislation for the Azerbaijani civil society’s functioning. UE will offer assistance also for Azerbaijani experts’ training that fight against corruption.

Azerbaijan remains under UN’s aegis in the fight against international terrorism. In non-proliferation, disarmament and control of exports’ control field, Azerbaijani is not part of the Treaty on anti-personal mines prohibition, the Convention on conventional weapons or the Treaty on international guns commerce. EU encourages Baku to make the necessary accession process, but the Nagorno Karabakh conflict continuation will block the political will for any initiative.

  1. S-400 Russian systems delivery for Turkey enters in straight line.

Therefore, Russia’s state company for armament export, Rosoboronexport, has announced (24th of April) that the deliveries of the first S-400 Russian air defence system “Triumph”, to Turkey, starts in July 2019. The Russian president has stated, at his meeting in Moscow, with president Erdogan (8th of April), that the missile systems delivery is a priority for both Moscow and Ankara.

Many people have wrote about this Russian-Turkish strategic armament business and they will continue to do so in the West, sometimes using the toughest terms. System’s delivery planning have entered in straight line and, therefore, it seems that there is nothing left to do in allies’ camp to convince Turkey to give up the technical-military cooperation with West’s enemy state. However, in the international political-military and economic landscape from the past years, wherein Turkey’s relations with the Western powers suffered from serious turbulences (especially in respect of the US, Germany, Netherlands and France), the modern armament procurement from Russia should not have emerged as a completely surprising political element.

The S-400 air defence systems delivery contract was developed because Ankara thinks that through a military-technical cooperation with Russia it could stimulate the national defence industry. Some circles in Russia also think that Turkey’s defence industry tries to create its own air defence system by using the acquired Russian models and a technical-military cooperation with Russia to establish an integrated air defence system for the Turkish army.

Russia will definitely be opened to such an advantageous economic cooperation that also has strategic value, all the more so the export option of the S-400 missile system does not match, given the technical-tactical characteristics, with the option produced by Russia for their own armed forces. Furthermore, Moscow’s offer is more attractive than the offer made by China years ago and which has created more serious analyzes from Western allies. Also, when they realized that US and the Western powers will not play a major role in Turkey’s security, Ankara chose to diversify its strategic partners, to “conciliate” and approach Russia with a transactional policy, mutually accepted by both capitals.

The S-400 business has special and subtle connotations for the NATO military strategists. Military speaking, although it will affect the existent interoperability with the allied technical strategic systems from the same category, such Turkish option will hardly affect the allied military power. On the other hand, some specialists from Turkey state that no one should actually fictionalize a demarcation between Turkey and NATO. They offer as example Greece (a country that Turkey has conflicts with), which bought, years ago, the S-400 Russian system.

In fact, NATO is a strong organization, which has the ability to regulate its own system and adapt, politically and military speaking, to an exaggerated rhetoric of a state like Turkey, which makes some political or decisional turbulences. On the other hand, Ankara should be aware and consider, realistically and with maximum responsibility, the effect such deviation from the strategic alignment with the West would have over the Turkish state’s security. By distancing itself from some strong West allies it would lead to Turkey’s security vulnerability on other fields.

Indeed, the S-400 Russian systems acquisition is a strategic one, has a long-term impact and it is not a simple “buy and forget” military commercial action. Consequently, the great concerns within Western the political-military allies circles (that people barely write about) is that his acquisition will bring a more tied and long-term military cooperation between Turkey and Russia.

You can simply think that tens or hundreds of Turkish officers will be trained on their territory or in Russia by Russian militaries. Similar experiences are suggesting that Turkish officers will, most likely, take over some of the Russian technical-military and security elements. There will be other military cooperation opportunities with the Russian side in fields that are “included” to the S-400 system acquisition. Also, there will be created the necessary pre-conditions that could led to accessing a long-term operation between both defence industries. Anyhow, Erdogan’s plan revealed his new way of thinking and geostrategic practice, whose consequences could affect the allies’ cohesion and distance Turkey from the West, NATO and EU. Ankara wants to reestablish its foreign policy vectors, showing its allies that is has alternatives in terms of strategic partnerships and Western markets with modern military technique. President Erdogan’s paradoxical political gesture led to his state, a NATO member, to access a strategic collaboration with Russia, a country whose leader wants to destabilize the Eastern and Southern flanks of the European and Allied defence, to weaken the allied strategic enlargement and cohesion.

NATO does not have, for now, the proper political tools to amend the temporary or periodical deviation of an allied state and, consequently it cannot but hope for his North American and European allies to establish a more severe and concrete political conditions for Turkey, given that this state is really important for the Euro-Atlantic security. And the NATO member states could be sympathetic and have a proper bilateral policy coordination with Ankara, in order to get back Ankara’s maneuver freedom for its unpredictable and random movements to distance itself from the Euro-Atlantic space, to stop any tendency to deviate from its allied policies and to properly manage the new Turkish foreign policy actions’ negative effects.

Translated by Andreea Soare


[1] Ukraine’s Constitutions foresees that Ukrainian citizens can only have one citizenship, the Ukrainian citizenship” (https://news.rambler.ru/world/42125423-na-ukraine-hotyat-lishat-grazhdanstva-zhiteley-donbassa-s-pasportami)

[2] “I voted for the law, I am convinced by its ideological purity, the law being created as an answer to West’s more and more aggressive policy, which created obstacles for Russia’s development. From my point of view, the law is not repressive, but focuses on the threats that actually exist”- said Senator V. Matvienko. Furthermore, some politicians thinks that this law should have been adopted a long time ago, because the consequences of such foreign aggressive intervention or internet interdiction  for Russia could really make some extraordinary damages in economy, some of them irretrievable. (https://ria.ru/20190422/1552947745.html?in=t).

[3] Armenia and Azerbaijan got blocked in a conflict on territories around Nagorno Karabakh, which are internationally recognized since 1994 as Azerbaijani territories, however, never ceded by Armenia’s army. Across this state’s reunions between the foreign ministries, there were recorded some positive impulses, however, also resistance approaches. Both Armenians and Azerbaijani are taking small steps in promising serious concessions, which are so needed for a real peace process. The main concessions for the Armenians would be to give up the control over the territories they occupy around Karabakh enclave. For the Azerbaijani, the toughest concessions would be granting an official status for Nagorno-Karabakh, which would affect the Azerbaijani sovereignty (https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/6276580).