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Potential Threats For Europe On The Back Of Russian Offensive Politics

in POLITICS by

Events that have been occurring in recent months in Eastern Europe have brought this region back to the international agenda. The Belarusian migrants blackmail of Poland and Latvia, the Russian gas blackmail to ramNord Stream-2 down the EU’s throat on their own termsalong with an augmentation of 90,000 Russian troopsnear the eastern border of Ukraine should be considered with a comprehensive approach applied. In experts’ opinion, actions of the Belarusian and Russian regimes, which are headed by Bonnie and Clyde of post-Soviet politics, are clearly aimed at fixing the presence of the Kremlin’s interests in the region and claiming its turf in relations with the West. Concurrently, tensions that Russia creates in Eastern Europe have been taking place against the background of the ongoing aggression against Ukraine, which in itself is a prerequisite for a sharp increase in the boiling region.

Moscow’s actions give the idea that the logic of Russia’s foreign policy is to link supranational ambitions with its own potential to fulfil them. The Kremlin tries to countervail the power insufficiency by hybrid tools and concealment or distortion its own role in geopolitical adventures. It seems that without the latter, Moscow would risk to end up in an open confrontation with the West with corresponding consequences of it and, ultimately, the unequivocal marginalization of its position. It is notorious that Eastern Europe, and especially Ukraine, is a key region for Russia’s geopolitical positioning in terms of geographical, historical, cultural and economic factors. Therefore, to maintain the predominant influence is the Kremlin’s main task. The impression is that the strategy chosen to achieve this is not an export of “soft power”, but the”multiplicity of conflicts” providing creation of a belt of controlled chaos (Nagorno-Karabakh – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – LDNR – Transnistria). This is designated to form a buffer zone between Russian and Euro-Atlantic spheres of influence and precedes the former Soviet republics from Euro-Atlantic integration by definition.

Identification of these algorithms underlying inRussia’s foreign policy provokes thought that the Kremlin is not interested in a peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, inasmuch as puppet “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic” are considered only as levers of pressure on Kyiv. In the same context, Minsk-1 and Minsk-2 were only a platform where Russia have tried to squeeze as much concessions as possible from demoralized Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukraine has utilized it to stop the Russia`s and its pickpocket militants offensive in Donbas. The imposition of the Minsk Agreements on Kyiv and the coercion to fulfill obviously unacceptable demands, which could destroy pillars of its statehood, were accompanied with significant military pressure from Russia. Noteworthy is that the so-called “Debaltseveboiler” occurred after the signing of Minsk-2 in February 2015.

That fact that the Kremlin strives for keepingDonbass as a spot of controlled chaos, by analogy with Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria, is logically corresponded to Russia’s line not to incorporate these entities into the federation, as it did with Crimea. The Kremlin officially considers the occupied regions of Donbass as the Ukrainian territory, and misrepresents the war in Eastern Ukraine as an internal conflict. It would appear that Moscow`s motivation is to push the LDPR back into the federalized Ukraine under special conditions and to determine the domestic political agenda there, including its Euro-Atlantic course. Under such circumstances, Kyiv’s control over these territories would be nominal, for the Kremlin has significantly exhausted the possibility of returning Ukrainian identity to the occupied regions after 7 years of the aggressive anti-Ukrainian propaganda, demonization, administration from Moscow, and most importantly the LDPR passportization. In view of this, Putin will have almost unlimited opportunities to curb the sovereignty of Ukraine.

It is impossible to ignore Russia’s intention to maximize its geopolitical efficiency through hidden orchestration and distortion of its role in the Russian-Ukrainian war in the diplomatic sphere. According to the Geneva Conventions, the Minsk process itself cannot be construed a negotiation process, since any conflict ends with the signing of an agreement. That is why, the Minsk agreements, from an international legal point of view, are the result of armistice negotiations, both in terms of records and the context, namely the use or threat of use of force (Article 52 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties). Moreover, Russia has signed them along with Ukraine as a party to the conflict; therefore, it hascommitted itself to them. Attempts by top leaders of the Russian Federation to disown the record on paper by putting forward the DNR and LNR convince in aforementioned. The ambivalence of Moscow’s position is, by claiming that the LDPR and Ukraine, but not Russia and Ukraine, are parties to the conflict, the Kremlin also acknowledges that it has a direct influence on the militants. Since unrecognized “people’s republics” are not parties to the Geneva Conventions, nor are they represented in the Trilateral Contact Group, which isestablished in result of Minsk agreements, much less in the Normandy format, Russia is considered as the party to the conflict under international law.

Numerous international documents anticipatesRussia as a belligerent party in Donbas. On December 30, 2020, the same PACE, where the Kremlin triumphantly returned its delegation after blackmail bymembership fees on June 25, 2019, adopted Resolution №2325 on the state of the monitoring procedure, in which Russia is clearly called the party to the Minsk agreements and the party to the conflict in Donbass. Thus, it is obliged to cease the annexation of Crimea (paragraph 3.8) together with military intervention in eastern Ukraine and backup of the local paramilitary formations in any form (paragraph 4.9).

The rhetoric and diplomatic actions of the Russian authority suggest that the Kremlin stubbornly neglectsinternationally recognized rules and is not going to abide by the agreements, as this would probably mean curbing its interests. And Putin, in fact, has made it clear having established the primacy of national law over international one by amending Art. 79 of the Constitution. It seemsthat, Russia is trying to escape liability for its actions, in particular, for crashing MH17 performed by militants in the occupied territory. Evidently, the ongoing trial in this case will not end in favor of Russia. For these reasons, the Kremlin will continue the streak and control the escalation in eastern Ukraine through the LDPR. There is full of revelations that Moscow provides the “people`s republics” with appropriate weapons, ammunition and military equipment for this purpose. “Weapons of the War in Ukraine”, a three-year research performed byConflict Armament Research, provides profoundevidence that rifles, MANPADS, grenade launchers, ammunition and equipment have appropriate serial numbers pointing at Russian origin of them. Tracking Russian-made UAV components used by militants has revealed that their supply channels are independent Russian distributors of electronics and components serving Russian law enforcement and security entities.

The fact is that Russia’s destabilization in Ukraine and Eastern Europe is generally accompanied by political pressure and the imposition of its own will. As mentioned earlier, Russia hides behind LDPR to relinquish its role as the party to the conflict, and calls for a direct dialogue between Ukraine and “people`s republics.” Thus, the Kremlin is trying to legitimize pseudo-state formations and encapsulate them in Ukraine. Interestingly, the situation is similar in Belaruswith its rapidly fading subjectivity. Without exaggerationto say, Russia has been masterminding the currentmigration crisis in the eastern EU`s boarder throughMinsk. Applying Erdogan’s methods of pressure on the EU, the Kremlin is creating a new point of controlled chaos, but hiding behind Belarus this time. As for now,the Lukashenko regime has lost the last vestiges of legitimacy in the eyes of the civilized world after witch-hunt because of protests, and subsequently is falling pray of upcoming anschluss with Russia. It is therefore not surprising that Russia again calls on the EU to engage indirect dialogue with Minsk, and even offers to pay the latter for deterring migrants that Belavia purposefully transports from the poorer countries of the Middle East and North Africa through Russia. Needless to say thatafter the Protasevich case, European countries closed their airspace for this brainchild of Lukashenko.

It is not unreasonable to assume that the current destabilization of Ukraine and the EU’s eastern border is the Kremlin`s approbated modus operandi. Russia has been using time-tested methods of pressure to achieve its foreign policy goals. And the most important thing in the use of hybrid tools is the concealment or distortion of itsrole in destructive actions, ie the so-called “confrontational without being competitive” approach. Such Russia’s approaches to foreign policy obviously strengthen belief that there would be no reconciliation or stabilization of relations between the West and Russia on a consensual or compromise basis, given the fact that the Russian geopolitics is based on confrontation, not development through cooperation. The Ukrainian case examplifies it clearly.

Russian destructive impact on the economy of Ukraine

in ENERGY/EUROPE by

Starting from the date of Ukrainian-Russian conflict it is not secret for anyone, that the Russian Federation leverages every opportunity to wage its trade and economic war against Ukraine. Russia continues to use financial pressure, energy blackmail, transit and transport blockade, ousting Ukrainian producers from traditional markets, discrediting our companies on international markets, investment penetration into Ukrainian markets via front firms. There is data that the Russian Federation has developed a “register” of Ukraine’s so-called “pressure points”, the main purpose of which is to inflict the greatest possible damage to the economy of our country. The central place in the lists is occupied by the flagships of domestic industry, Ukrainian ports and transport infrastructure, fuel and energy companies, the defense industry. Continue reading “Russian destructive impact on the economy of Ukraine” »

Parade amid pandemic — geopolitics or international crime?

in DEFENCE by


Over the past 24 hours, from April 1 to 2, Russia officially reported 771 new coronavirus cases (although few still believe the official data released there), which brings the total count to 3,548 with 30 deaths. Meanwhile, preparations are ongoing for the May 9 Victory Parade on Red Square, with a large-scale rehearsal being part of it.
Despite the rapidly developing pandemic, the scale of which in Russia has been concealed for several months, as well as the lack of necessary equipment, medications and professionals to fight the coronavirus, Moscow is not suspending its propaganda projects. And it’s pretty clear that Victory Day parade is not about paying tribute to the Soviet soldiers killed in World War II but primarily the propaganda stunt to promote the “greatness” of the Russian army.
Video of a major rehearsal was posted on social networks (https://youtu.be/hiEzj_KizRU), shocking users.
The fact is that during the event involving several thousand Russian troops, not one was seen wearing personal protective gear. No face masks in sight, not to mention gloves to protect hands or goggles to protect a mucous membrane of the eyes.
On the other hand, it seems that the issue of holding a large-scale parade has already been agreed directly in the Kremlin. After all, today, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters that there have been no decisions to change plans for the Victory Parade in Moscow on May 9 because of the coronavirus!
It should be noted that the Red Square parade scheduled for May 9 is set to take place precisely at the time when the coronavirus epidemic in Russia will reach its peak, according to experts. As international organizations state that Russia isn’t effectively countering Covid-19, while hiding its failures through propaganda efforts and rigged stats on the epidemic scale, this peak period could lead to truly catastrophic consequences.

Russia attempts to avoid responsibility for the crash of MN 17

in DEFENCE by

The trial of four men accused of murder over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine in 2014 will be adjourned until June 8 to give defense lawyers more time to prepare, judges at the hearing in the Netherlands ruled on March 23. The MH17 criminal trial resumed at the District Court of The Hague on Monday, March 23, to prosecute four suspects over their alleged responsibility for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. While the public and the media was not allowed to attend due to coronavirus measures, the hearing was streamed online. Continue reading “Russia attempts to avoid responsibility for the crash of MN 17” »

Kremlin’s plan to “save” Italy, or a tombstone for another EU member state

in DEFENCE/Senza categoria by

As we know, Russia recently sent its aid to Italy, the country suffering from a raging coronavirus. The move raised plenty of questions — regarding the appropriateness of this “aid”, which won’t be critical in the fight against Covid-19, as well as the moral aspect, given the concealment of the epidemic in Russia, where experts and equipment, now deployed to a distant NATO Ally, would be of a much greater benefit. (By intercourier.com.ua)

Continue reading “Kremlin’s plan to “save” Italy, or a tombstone for another EU member state” »

Russian strategy in the Arctic

in DEFENCE by

March 2020. The world is facing the alarming and disruptive effects of the Coronavirus, proving that distant countries, such as Iran, Italy, China and South Korea, could be linked by the same threat, but also that countries are unprepared to face such a challenge. Governments reacted sluggishly, underestimating the emergency first and trying to recover later when the situation had already worsened. Eyes are all on COVID-19 and countries’ lockdown. However, COVID-19 is just one small piece of what is going on in the world. Continue reading “Russian strategy in the Arctic” »

Defender – Europe 20, combined exercise of the US Force and European defense, will take place normally

in DEFENCE by

The DEFENDER-Europa 20 exercise is the deployment of a divisional combat force directly from the United States to Europe, a set of men and means deployed in different training theaters in Europe. The exercise scheduled for April would have brought 20,000 American soldiers to Europe who, together with the armed forces of six European nations, would have simulated different scenarios of intervention in defense of the European community. Continue reading “Defender – Europe 20, combined exercise of the US Force and European defense, will take place normally” »

NATO Smart Energy Capable Logistician 2019: the Italian Air Force at the forefront

in DEFENCE/ENERGY by

Capable Logistician 2019 took place from 3- 13 June at Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area (DPTA) in Poland. The live field exercise was conducted by 12 units, “Multinational Integrated Logistic Units” (MILUs), and focused on command logistics and optimization of energy sources. It was an intensive multidisciplinary activity conducted according to NATO policies and standards. Smart Energy Unit is the most innovative between the units of this programme. Continue reading “NATO Smart Energy Capable Logistician 2019: the Italian Air Force at the forefront” »

PROJECTING POWER: THE SAUDI DESIGNS ON AFRICA

in AFRICA/MIDLE EAST/POLITICS by

Usually, when people talk about Saudi Arabia and its hegemonic policies, we tend to relate to the well-known rivalry between the monarchy and Iran, two capillary actors in the Middle East, who compete for the leadership in the region. Continue reading “PROJECTING POWER: THE SAUDI DESIGNS ON AFRICA” »

Pompeo’s tour in the Middle East

in MIDLE EAST/POLITICS/USA by

 

On Tuesday 8th January, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opens his tour in the Middle East visiting Jordan. The tour originally scheduled nine stops, including Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait. However, due to family reasons, Pompeo had to cancel the final leg in Kuwait.

This tour comes at a time when the US is changing his policy toward Middle Eastern issues and his allies are questioning the new approach.

After the President Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), the nuclear deal signed with Iran and other Western countries during Obama’s administration, on 19th December the US President announced with a video on Twitter that he was pulling US forces out of Syria “now”.

Pompeo’s tour in the Arab countries can, therefore, be seen as an opportunity and means to clarify US position regarding Syria but also more broadly to define US policy in the Middle East.

Here the main points on the table.

–    US withdrawal from Syria does not mean that the US is withdrawing from the fight against the Islamic State, which is still a top priority for the White House. US partnership with the Arab countries, indeed, is essential to achieve some shared objectives in the region: defeating Daesh, countering Islamic terrorism, protecting global energy resources and countering Iran’s aggressive behaviour.

–    Unity among the GCC(Gulf Cooperation Council) is vital to achieving security and stability in the region. As Pompeo stressed, the internal dispute among the Gulf monarchies has gone far too long. Since June 2017, indeed, the Arab Quartet (UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain) cut the diplomatic relations with Qatar, accusing the country of funding terrorist groups and fostering instability in the Middle East. As a matter of fact, this situation hampers the efforts of the GCC to achieve common goals in the region. The GCC is a capillary institution in the Middle East: hence, its internal cohesion is an essential factor for the stability, prosperity, security and peace in the area.

–    The US strongly promotes the institution of a Middle East Strategic Alliance, also nicknamed Arab NATO. This organisation would join the GCC militaries with the militaries of other Arab countries, such as Egypt and Jordan. This alliance would mainly counter Iran’s aggressive behaviour and protect the stability and security of the Arab countries.

–    US-Saudi relation is crucial for the stability in the region. In the Khashoggi issue –not clear if and how much Pompeo and the Saudi leader discussed it- President Trump stood by Saudi Arabia and this event –though clarification is still needed- has no hampered the relationship between the two countries. Saudi Arabia is a key actor in the anti-Iranian coalition. Moreover, the value of the arms purchases from Saudi Arabia is still a relevant fact for the US to consider.

–    Last but not least, Pompeo reiterates the need for peace in Yemen and call to boost effort in order to stop the bloody civil war that has been devastating the country for more than 3 years.

 

Trump administration approach in the Middle East has clearly moved away from Obama’s path in the past years, with the president not even trying to hide the criticism toward his predecessor. Indeed, Trump has repeatedly blamed Obama’s administration for his approach in the region, accusing of underestimating threats such as Daesh or Hezbollah.

In the past few months, Trump has withdrawn from the nuclear deal with Iran and announced the imminent withdrawal from Syria; however, this does not mean a less presence or US interest in the regional issues, but it is a signal of a different posture. If Obama opted for engagement rather than confrontation with a country like Iran, Trump is taking the opposite path.

Note to mention that Iran, however, is not the kind of player that stays still and watches. By contrast, Teheran is strengthening its position in the region, supporting groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. Moreover, it can count on some strategic allies, such as Syria, Russia and Turkey.

The risk is that the US might get engaged in a more complex and dangerous conflict that it could seem at first glance. Moreover, thought the US is working to align the Arab countries on the same path and join the effort toward the same goal -stability and security- there is still an important factor to consider. The Middle East is still sharply fragmented -ethnic division, religious schism, political rivalry, etc- and those countries that do not follow the US ideal of Middle East Strategic Alliance , like Iran, Syria, even Turkey or Yemen, play a peculiar role in the game, as their actions or the developments in their territories may considerably affect Washington’s project.

Hence, eyes on Trump and the Arab countries, as the withdrawal from Syria might not be the last twist of Trump’s policy in the Middle East. Moreover, the White House’s decisions may also trigger unexpected reactions of other players, as could be yesterday’s suicide bombing in Syria, the first one after Trump’s announcement, easy to relate to latest developments.

 

Paola Fratantoni

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Paola Fratantoni
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