17 July 2018

Main political and military events - Week 28

Monitorul Apărării şi Securităţii

Image source: 123rf.com

NATO. The Summit Concluded Better than Expected

The NATO Summit held in Brussels, July 11-12, ended with a Communiqué stating the unity of the Alliance and with the commitment by member nations to earmark 2% of their GDP for defence, at various points in the future. NATO also identified Russia and terrorism as the main threats against the Alliance, and found a solution for NATO missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The North-Atlantic alliance made an important step towards stabilizing the Balkans, by inviting Macedonia to begin the talks for becoming a member.  Further to the East, NATO promised support to Ukraine and Georgia, and decided to continue its response to the Russian threat through the “Four 30s” initiative, and action in the cyber and informational domains. As previously announced, NATO command structure has been modified to adequately provide a balanced reaction to an already critical situation[1]. Romania obtained what it wanted, a three star corps level operational command; support for consolidating a multinational brigade; as well as the intention to continue the NATO naval presence in the Black Sea. However, all these do not save countries such as Romania from the advice that George Friedman bluntly put, that it they should build up their own military!  The NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, warned that what it really matters is not earmarking resources per se, but the capabilities resulting from fund allocation. He also mentioned that the Alliance would not deploy new forces to the East, but would increase the general readiness of NATO troops, to a level suitable for a rapid redeployment to the East, if necessary.

The work of the Summit was tense anyway, as result of the US attitude, previously communicated by President Trump’s Twitter messages. The American position is basically correct, i.e. the European NATO member nations, especially the large countries, should secure the money they theoretically promised for defence. However, Donald Trump went probably too far in distorting the reality, by saying that Germany is a “captive of Russia”, and it cannot take sovereign decisions anymore, since it is totally dependent of Russian gas[2].

President Trump put on the table the idea of setting aside 4% of GDP for defence, but this seems to be just bidding off to persuade the reluctant NATO members to go for the committed 2%. Even worse, the US president even threatened that, should the Europeans fail to secure the necessary funds for defence, America would go it alone, which some Europeans understood as meaning that the US might actually leave the Alliance. However, on short term, the Europeans have a bigger concern: what decisions would Trump take at his meeting with Putin in Helsinki, that might affect them? And this meeting would occur under bad auspices, after the American justice indicted twelve GRU officers for illegally interfering with the US elections. Worrisome for us is that the indictment documents stipulate that Romania was used by the Russian hackers as a cyber-path in their actions against the United States.

 

THE BALKANS. Macedonia Has Been Invited to Join NATO

During the NATO Summit in Brussels, on July 11th, the Alliance invited Macedonia[3] to begin accession talks in view to become a NATO member. The decision was taken quickly, after the dispute regarding the very name of this former Yougoslav republic had been solved with Greece. In the same day, Greece expelled two Russian diplomats, and forbad the entrance of other two, based on the accusation that they attempted to collect and disseminate intelligence which might have been used to compromise Greek officials, in the attempt to interfere in the issue of the country’s name. The invitation of Macedonia as a last ditch decision is an important step towards the integration of Western Balkans, thwarting Russia’s attempts to prevent that from happening. On the other hand, the expelling of the Russians diplomats by Greece marks a turning point in the bilateral relations, which used to be excelent hitherto. Athens, and particularly the governing party, Siriza, usually looking up to the Kremlin, found out that Russia has only cynical geostrategic plans, not friends and values, even about Greece, traditionally a friend of Russia.

The Macedonia Parliament had voted, for the second time, the change in the country’s name, as convened with the Greek government. This time, the President is due to accept the Parliament’s decision, and a referendum needs to be organized to get the aproval from the people for the new name. An important step towards this end was made in the nick of time, opening Macedonia’s path towards the Alliance, but also towards the EU. The West made an additional step forward towards stabilizing the Western Balkans, and Russia just lost a nation it used to toy with, in order to generate problems to the Europeans. Additionally, Russia just disappointed an old friend, Greece.   

 

REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA. The ”Legalization” of An Illegal Decision

The oligarchic power tries to respond to the EU warning by looking for a legal basis to support the abusive decision taken against the elected mayor of Chişinău.

On July 5th, the European Parliament voted a resolution expressing concern regarding the deterioration of democratic standards in the R. of Moldova: ”the decision of the judicial courts, which were several times accused for being politically influenced and controlled, is a proof of a captive state and of a profound crisis of the Moldovan institutions”. On July 4th, the EU decided to block the transfer of the first installment of the 100 million Euro macro-financial support earmarked by the EU for Chişinău. Thus, the EU quickly responded to an obvious state of play: the control of the Republic of Moldova by a mobster tycoon. It is not the accusations included in the EU Parliament resolution what really hurts the government, but stopping the money flow. Actually, the EU financial support is of paramount necessity for R. of Moldova, both for paying the government staff, and for financing the power “state and party, DPM and SPRM” pyramid.

In response, Vlad Plahotniuc ceased the attempts to provide “a legal basis” to the unfair decisions taken by the Moldovan Courts: after voiding the mayoral elections, the parliamentary majority voted, on July 12th, the decision to review the election legislation. Adrian Candu, the speaker of the Parliament, who is also Vlad Plahotniuc’s godson, started a storming offensive against the opposition, especially against the democratic parties – actually, against anybody who is not supporting Vlad Plahotniuc or Igor Dodon. Absent the European money, in order to keep Republic of Moldova afloat, the government made a new loan from the World Bank: 30 million dollars meant to “decrease the budgetary deficit”. Now it is time for Vlad Plahotniuc to use his tools in Brussels. If this does not work, he will play the geopolitical card, hoping that the US, under Trump administration, is less prone to promote democratic values abroad, and would rather play practical. And if this fails too, V. Plahotniuc has an additional geostrategic option – to join Igor Dodon, who would never say no to his master in Moscow, and agree the new Kozak plan in preparation at the Kremlin for the Republic of Moldova.

Moscow Initiated the Road Map towards a New Kozak Plan

On July 12th, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, appointed the Russian vice-president Dmitri Kozak as special representative for the economic and trade relations with the Republic of Moldova. He also relieved Dmitri Rogozin from his position of special representative for the breakaway region of Transnistria. Later, on July 14th, the President of Republic of Moldova, Igor Dodon, met Vladimir Putin in Moscow, and discussed the bilateral relations and the regional situation, especially the Transnistrian problem. Most likely, Moscow discretely launched the efforts to impose a new Kozak memorandum: D. Kozak will run the economic relations with Moldova while there is no representative for Transnistria. Obviously, D. Kozak will fill the void and will attempt to „solve” the Transnistrian problem by an old yet new Kozak memorandum. Dmitri Kozak is the mastermind of the 2003 „Kozak memorandum”, which failed in the last moment, when the United States found out about the secret annex stipulating the permanent deployment of Russian troops in R. Of Moldova, speciffically in Transnistria. The plan would lead to the „transnistrization”of Moldova, with Russia controlling this country through the control of Transnistria, in a typical „tail wagging its dog” situation: the government in Chişinău would not have any control of Transnistria, because of this region’s special status, but the authorities in Tiraspol would have the right of veto over R. of Moldova’s domestic and foreign policy.

After meeting Vladimir Putin, President Igor Dodon wrote about the recent UN resolution (asking for the withdrawal of Russian troops illegally deployed in the R. of Moldova), that “during the meeting, we assessed the recent weeks’ anti-Russian statements made in various international fora, and which referred to the pacification process in the Republic of Moldova. As head of state, I pointed to the totally politicized substance of these statements, which contradicts the real situation in the R. of Moldova. The unilateral declarations made from high tribunes do not match the state of facts regarding the pacification in the R. of Moldova and are part of the domestic struggle of political positioning before the future parliamentary elections in Moldova”.

Shocking: Igor Dodon is lying against the interest of his own country, just to please his master in Moscow: while the UN resolution refers to the Russian troops in the RTOG (The Russian Troop Operational Group) in Transnistria, illegally deployed on Moldovan territory, with NO peace mission whatsoever, Igor Dodon claims that RTOG are peace forces, intentionally mixing them up with the Russian peacekeeping forces legally deployed in Transnistria, according to the 1992 agreement. His statement, as well as his look during the meeting, speaks volumes: the Kremlin does not grant to Igor Dodon the role of influence agent (as Vladimir Voronin once had), but only the use of a mere tool, up to the level where Dodon acts against the interests of his own country, from the high position of president of the R. of Moldova! Mr. Igor Dodon certainly knew what this is called, since the very moment he started this journey, against the interests of his country and his people. Anyway, the key of a new Kozak plan lies in the hands of the other political actor in Chişinău, Vlad Plahotniuc, as Igor Dodon does not hold sovereignty, acting just as the Kremlin’s lever.

 

ISRAEL. Hamas Just Received a Tough Lesson from Israel

Israel and the militants in the Gaza Strip reached a cease-fire agreement on July 14th, after Israel responded to the mortar bombs and rocket attacks from Gaza with the strongest air attacks since 2014. The rocket attacks from Gaza were probably ordered by Iran, as a response to the recent Israeli air strikes which significantly damaged the Iranian military assets in Syria. The Israeli government, facing a three-way war against Iran at its very frontiers, reacted strongly, maybe disproportionate, to the rocket attacks, and reached the expected result. Most likely, this agreement is just temporary, and the attacks from Gaza, by Hamas and its allies, will resume.

An Agreement with Many Question Marks

On July 12th, the Israeli Prime-Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, met the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow, to discuss Iran’s withdrawal from Syria, just before this issue was about to be debated by the Russian president with his American counterpart, in Helsinki. Prime-Minister Netanyahu said that an agreement has been reached regarding the withdrawal of Iranian troops back to a distance of some dozen miles from the Israeli – Syrian demarcation line in the Golan Heights. However, it is not clear whether Russia can actually persuade Iran to do this. Israel likely offered Russia privileged economic relations (vital for a Russia which has no longer access to western technology), even limited access to Israeli military technology.

Forced by urgent security issues, the Israeli government is looking for a deal, albeit with Russia, to take the monkey off its back, i.e. to put a distance between Israel and Iranian forces, if not away from Syria, at least far enough from its borders, given that Bashar al-Assad just regained control of the southern territories of Syria, including Daraa, last Thursday. A worrisome signal was provided by British sources: The Times maintains that, during the Helsinki meeting, in exchange for Russia’s effort to put the Iranian troops away from the Israeli borders, the US president would offer concessions in Ukraine, speciffically regarding Crimea. This kind of geopolitical bargain is exactly what Moscow wants, and what jeopardizes the whole European security: while Syria is an issue where Russia can yield, having enough rope, the Kremlin is fundamentally interested to „retrieve” the former Soviet republics. Let’s hope that the American president does not make such haggle, which has nothing to do with the foreign policy of the first world power in history having a moral message: democracy, rule of law, human rights.     



[1] As an aggressor state, Russia is still attacking Ukraine, and threatens the Eastern nations of the Alliance. Russia is also offensive towards the Western democracies, starting with the US, by meddling into their domestic democratic processes, and undermining their statehood. Arguable, Russia is also committing murders on western countries’ territories: the Skripal case just wouldn’t end, as the Novichok gas stroke again, and made Britain look for a correct answer around the alleged culprit, Russia. The UK brought the Novichok case at the Brussels Summit.

[2] The basis is true, Germany preferred to profit from defence by the United States, and make fruitful business with an adversary or competitor, as Trump calls Russia, even when it becomes an aggressor. Trump’s view may seem comically overstated at that level, because, at a lower level, Germany’s decisions are quite sovereign, perhaps too sovereign, when, from the shade, Berlin took crucial decisions in the Balkans, or even in the Republic of Moldova.

[3] The new name of the country, Northern Macedonia, is not mentioned in the Constitution yet.