Friday, November 27, 2009

Ashton Can Fix EU Foreign Policy

I have came accross an interesting peace of article on the new High Rep. position from the ACUS. Let's see the American point of view on a new so called foreign representative of Europe and on her new task:

Borut Grgic November 24, 2009

The new pair to lead Europe on the world stage has a tall order of business to attend to as soon as sworn into office. It is shameful that so many are wasting time and energy on wishing that the European leaders decided differently on these appointments.
European foreign policy is in disarray. It lacks focus, consistency and yes, leadership. Europe’s potential on the world stage is constantly being sabotaged by narrowly defined national interests, and by leaders who care more about their global profile than that of the EU. So finally a new team; at least they are humble enough to know the world doesn’t revolve around them, which means they may actually listen and work to promote ideas that are bigger than their egos.
The first order of business is the unfinished business in the Balkans. The EU is fully deployed in Kosovo with some 1800 police and civilian staff trying to make sure that the newly independent country becomes a fully functional part of the EU family, and not an outpost of radicalism, ethnic tension and crime.
Kosovo is not recognized by all member states, but that should not be the concern and priority for the new foreign policy chief. The government in Pristina can do that. Rather, Catherine Ashton needs to focus on making sure that the EU mission in Kosovo turns out to be a success. An immediate trip to Pristina would go a long way in convincing the leaders there, and the population, that EULEX is serious about making its mission a success, which in the end will only benefit the Kosovars. Lately, the relationship between the head of EULEX and the Kosovo Government has taken a turn for the worst. Supported by a public grown tired of foreign oversight, the Kosovo leaders are hinting that they may want the EU out of Kosovo. Ms. Ashdown needs to reinforce the point that our agendas are fully complementary, and what is good for Kosovo is also good for Europe and vice versa.
The other urgent problem in the region is Bosnia. The country is ripping along the seams stitched up at Dayton and needs a new Constitution that will make it functional. Without a basic degree of functionality Bosnia will fail to catch the EU train and be integrated into the European family along with the rest of the region. There is actually a new Constitutional proposal on the table, but the last time the Americans and the Europeans tried to get the Bosnians to agree, they all walked away after a few hours bitterly unhappy with each other. Ms. Ashton should make it her personal mission to get the constitutional reforms in Bosnia passed, and she could ask Paddy Ashdown for help. He is a living legend in Bosnia, and the only one on the long list of High Reps that actually got the Bosnians to move an agenda together.
Beyond the Balkans we need to strengthen security in the broader Black Sea region, where frozen conflicts, weak borders and a fierce competition for access to Caspian energy threaten the stability on Europe’s eastern flank.
The situation between Russia and Georgia, following last year’s August war is far from stable or normal. The Russian military threat continues to undermine the security and territorial integrity of sovereign Georgia. This is a threat that the EU cannot tolerate. It goes contrary to the very concept of the EU – a community built on laws, norms, mutual respect and dialogue. If the EU is unwilling and unable to uphold these norms in its immediate neighborhood then how can it do so globally, and who will take the EU seriously on the international stage?
Beyond Georgia there is another frozen conflict that needs Europe’s urgent attention – the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Although the EU is not directly involved in the Minsk peace process – lead by the co-chairs US, Russia and France – status quo there threatens not only stability of eastern EU, but also undermines Europe’s energy security. The situation between the two countries is particularly tense, with regular skirmishes along the line of contact.
Armenia’s patch-up of relations with Turkey has made Azerbaijan especially nervous, and understandably so. Turkey has been a traditional ally of Azerbaijan, and has maintained a closed border with Armenia partly also to pressure Yerevan into withdrawing its troops from Azerbaijan. Unless Azerbaijan can be reassured that Europe is serious about ending Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijan, Europe shouldn’t be surprised if Azerbaijan acts independently, even resorting to the use of force in order to liberate its land.
Another war in the South Caucasus is not in Europe’s interest, and particularly problematic would be a war that involves Azerbaijan, a key Caspian energy supplier and a future transit country for gas from Turkmenistan to Europe. Azerbaijan locked in a war with Armenia will not be a reliable energy provider, and it will not be a secure transit partner either. This means Europe, and Turkey, will lose access to Caspian energy, which could be redirected to Russia, China and Iran – all three big markets, offering European prices for the same gas. The EU’s new Foreign Minister Ashton should take an urgent trip to Baku and Yerevan, and on the way also stop in Ankara and Moscow to seek support for a lasting peace deal. Resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will unlock the Caucasus-Caspian region and offer Europe, and the countries of the region, an unprecedented opportunity to cooperate and integrate. This in turn would do more for EU’s long-term security of energy supplies than all the pipeline talk currently heard in Brussels.
Of course this is not the whole of EU’s foreign policy agenda, rather these are only some of the more immediate issue that can’t wait and that are in Europe’s back- (or in the case of the Balkans, front) yard. So before we go off fixing the world, let’s put our own house in order with the help of the team just appointed.

Speeches from Rome Atlantic Forum on youtube

Dear friends, I have just uploaded new speeches from Rome Atlantic Forum that took place on November 23 on Atlantic Youth youtube channel

President of the Italian Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly

President of the Military Committee of the Italian Atlantic Committee

Member of the NATO Group of Experts on the new Strategic Concept

Director of the NATO Defense College Research Division

More of them will be available in days to come.


Miroslav Mizera
YATA Vice- President

Thursday, November 26, 2009

America, NATO and eastern Europe Disquiet on the eastern front

Can a distracted America remain a bulwark for eastern Europe?
DAMAGE control is never as good as damage prevention. Despite repeated reassurances, the countries of eastern Europe are worried about security. Their biggest concern is NATO, where officials are meant to be drafting contingency plans to defend Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Barack Obama pushed this idea at the NATO summit in April. A recent big Russian military exercise, which officials say culminated in a dummy nuclear attack on Poland, highlights the region’s vulnerability.

Yet little is happening. NATO officials blame a “lack of consensus”. Western European countries, notably Germany and Italy, are against anything that is not first discussed with Russia. A likely outcome is a generic plan, to be presented privately to the Baltic three in December, that will not deal with specific threats.

Nobody really expects a military conflict. But if NATO even hints that it is no longer in the business of guaranteeing the defence of all its members, it may encourage Kremlin mischief-making over such issues as minority rights or transit to Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave. Eastern Europeans are also cross about the European Union’s recent carve-up of top jobs. Germany and France showed that they decide the EU’s foreign policy, and that easterners do not count, says one minister in the region.

The Americans admit to botching the announcement in September of a new missile-defence plan—upgraded, not cancelled, they now insist. Vice-President Joe Biden has visited America’s main central European allies, as well as Ukraine and Georgia, to dispel feelings of neglect. A formidable American warship toured the Baltic during the Russian exercises. Six senior generals have visited Latvia alone in the past 12 months; bilateral military exercises are planned next year. The administration has offered Poland exercises with Patriot missile batteries armed with live warheads, whereas previously it had offered only dummy drills.

Few people anywhere mourn the departure of George Bush and the strains he placed on America’s allies. But his team of hard-bitten officials who dealt with eastern Europe is still missed. The idealistic Mr Obama has brought a different lexicon to foreign policy: realpolitik is in, talk of common values is out. Some find this a refreshing change from the hectoring of the Bush administration. But eastern Europeans are distressed to hear so much talk of “partners” (bracketing countries as different as China and Poland) and so little of “allies”.

A further worry is the effect on NATO of the war in Afghanistan. The more that NATO’s success there is defined as crucial to the alliance’s credibility, the more eastern members fear the consequences if it fails. Proportionately, eastern European NATO members have helped most in Afghanistan. The American-backed security pledge at the heart of NATO matters most to them too. Western Europeans who privately see NATO as an anachronism are unbothered by American disengagement.

Admittedly, the Obama administration is preoccupied with domestic issues and with other pressing matters abroad. Europe as a whole, not just the eastern Europeans, cannot expect constant nannying. But even in Washington concern is mounting as well. “Why is the most popular man on the planet, leading the world’s strongest country, unable to get relations with America’s closest allies right?” fumes one (apolitical) former official.

Many explanations can be offered. Inexperience is one. European and American observers talk of disorganisation in the administration’s National Security Council. One European official speaks of a “black hole” there. Some note a tribal desire among Obamaites to be different from the Bushies: if they favoured eastern Europe, the new policy must be chillier. Others blame a habit of preferring a friendly atmosphere to tough decisions. “It is not irredeemable. But they have to redeem it,” says Kurt Volker, another former official.

Part of the problem is that the EU and NATO are so frustrating to deal with. The fault lies on both sides—but some of it reflects bad staff work that has made Mr Obama’s summits with the EU and NATO both boring and useless. Even where interests chime, progress is slow. A year after the EU first mooted its “eastern partnership” to boost western ties with six ex-Soviet countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), talks on American involvement are only just starting. A stronger Europe policy in Washington might make easterners less twitchy about America’s dealings with Russia.

Such worries have led Poland to push for a stronger bilateral security commitment from America. That is ambitious, but also risky. If it fails, it could heighten the sense of abandonment. If it succeeds, it could create a two-tier NATO in the east: a few countries with a direct relationship with America, and a vulnerable rump without. A senior Pole denies this is a danger, noting that Polish military plans already include defence of Lithuania. The stronger Poland is, the more it can protect its neighbours. “They are our West Berlin,” he says. Hardly a comforting thought.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cyberwarfare now a reality

Article from the Telegraph:

A wave of politically-motivated cyber offensives this year – such as attacks on the White House and the US Department of Homeland Security – show that the international arms race is now moving online, a study claims.

The report warns that cyber strikes could have a "devastating" impact on national infrastructure with power grids, water supplies and financial markets all at risk.

While the potential of online warfare has long been talked up, the Virtual Criminology Report released by the web security firm McAfee claims that it is now moving from science fiction to fact.

France, Israel and China are among the countries known to have cyber weapon programmes, according to Paul Kurtz, the former White House adviser who complied the study based on interviews with more than 20 experts.

“McAfee began to warn of the global cyber arms race more than two years ago, but now we’re seeing increasing evidence that it’s become real,” said Dave Dealt, president of McAfee.
“Now several nations around the world are actively engaged in cyber warlike preparations and attacks. Today, the weapons are not nuclear, but virtual, and everyone must adapt to these threats.”

The infrastructure of most developed nations is connected to the internet and vulnerable to hackers because of insufficient security controls, the report warns.

Companies will also be caught in the crossfire of future cyber wars between governments because so many essential services are privately run, it advises.

Last month a congressional advisory panel in the US warned that China appears to be using the growing technical abilities to collect US intelligence through a sophisticated and long-term computer attack campaign.

Georgia also accused Russian hackers linked to the government of forcing Georgian websites offline during the real-world conflict between the two nations in 2008.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A new balance in Europe

(Nov 19th 2009From The Economist print edition)

America is listening to Russia's call for new security arrangements in Europe

IN THEORY, Russian diplomats accredited to NATO are welcome friends: the reality is murkier. For more than a decade now, Russian officials have been trusted to roam the alliance’s maze-like headquarters in Brussels just like envoys from other “partner countries” such as Sweden, Finland or Malta. In practice, says a diplomat, everyone knows that “the entire Russian mission is [staffed by] spies”. This leads to cat-and-mouse games that range from the serious (in February, an Estonian official was jailed for more than 12 years for selling NATO secrets to Russia) to the comical (guards were posted at the doors of meetings reserved for full NATO members after Russian officials were found hiding their badges and sneaking inside).

Russia’s relations with the European Union are almost as ambiguous. The two sides have lots of mutual interests—the EU buys more than half of all Russian exports, and provides two-thirds of Russia’s foreign direct investment. Yet an odd mood of surly indifference surrounds Russia-EU ties. A formal summit between President Dmitry Medvedev and European Union bosses on November 18th achieved only a few technical agreements, though the two sides had much to discuss, not least gas supplies and Russia’s foot-dragging over climate change.
Part of the problem, diplomats suggest, is that the Kremlin’s interest in Europe has fallen after the “reset” of ties with America this year. Something bigger is going on, though. Since the end of the cold war, European and American policy towards Russia has been overshadowed by the process of enlargement—the expansion first of NATO and then of the EU deep into the former Soviet block. That alarmed Russia and got its attention.

In 2007 Russia’s then president, Vladimir Putin, called the expansion of NATO a “serious provocation”. Russian officials claim (their account is disputed) that at the end of the cold war they had been assured that foreign forces would not be stationed in the ex-communist states. And the Kremlin was particularly angry that a summit of alliance leaders in Bucharest in April 2008 agreed that one day Ukraine and Georgia “will become members of NATO”. A few months after the August 2008 conflict in Georgia, a senior German diplomat had no hesitation in referring to it as “a war over enlargement”.

Now that enlargement has greatly slowed, a new equilibrium between Europe, Russia and America may emerge. For the past year, Russia has talked vaguely but forcefully of creating a new “European security architecture”. That sounded to many like an attempt to subvert NATO. But these days America seems to be listening, if only to hear what Russia wants. The Obama administration has privately welcomed a new venture by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an American think-tank, which will ask a high-octane clutch of retired Russian, European and American politicians and diplomats to ponder an “inclusive Euro-Atlantic security system” that might answer Russia’s call.

What it may all mean in practice remains a mystery. Senior Russians talk of “legally binding” security guarantees for their country, or of a body like a United Nations Security Council for Europe, in which Russia would have a seat. They suggest a security treaty could be unveiled next year. That is a political non-starter. If Russia wants guarantees that NATO will never attack it, says an east European foreign minister, it can have that “signed and sealed on paper, because we have no intention of attacking them”; but if Russia wants a veto over the defence arrangements of its neighbours, such as the deployment of American bases or missile-defence systems, that would cross a red line.

In any case, it is hard to see how such a discussion can get far without exposing deep European divisions over Russia. One of the benefits of Article 5, the collective defence pledge that underpins NATO, is that it leaves unspoken the potential sources of danger for alliance members. For new members from the ex-communist block, Article 5 is mainly an insurance policy against Russia. For Germany or France, an attack from Russia is unthinkable—and the ambiguity of the pledge papers over that divide. A discussion about legally binding guarantees with Russia, even guarantees of non-aggression, would risk exposing such differences among the allies.
In truth, say European diplomats, the Russians may already have achieved much of what they want. A big Russian goal was to halt NATO enlargement, and to stop American plans to station a missile-defence radar in the Czech Republic along with interceptors in Poland. America now says the first phase of the system will be based on ships at sea, with a radar closer to Iran. And NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia is a distant prospect.

Much the same is true of EU enlargement. Russian leaders grumble about the EU’s “Eastern partnership” with six countries that Russia considers part of its sphere of influence: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. But Europe is not seeking a sphere of influence. The partnership is a sop for countries that the EU does not want to invite as full members (and, as a result, it may not give the EU much influence at all).
Better in America’s sphere than Russia’s

Twenty years after the cold war, and with America now past its “unipolar” moment, Europe is entering a new phase in its security. Some illusions need to be shed: starting with the idea that Europe, America and Russia are friends with shared values. Yet they need not be enemies (despite the spying, it remains sensible to have Russians at NATO, for example). Russia has the right to suggest new rules of coexistence. But Europe and America have the right to ask Russia to keep existing pledges, notably on the rule of law. Russia will not be a guarantor of security for Europe any time soon. For now, only America can credibly play that role.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine create a joint military brigade

The Lithuanian defence minister, Rasa Jukneviciene, and her Polish and Ukranian counterparts are to sign an accord on the sidelines of talks on Monday and Tuesday among European Nato members at the trans-Atlantic alliance’s Brussels headquarters.

“Lithuania supports this project which is expected to step up the strategic partnership of Lithuania and Poland,” the statement said.

“It is also expected that the engagement of Ukraine in the project would induce the country to intensify relations and cooperation with Nato,” it added.

Lithuania, a former Soviet republic, joined Nato in 2004, five years after ex-Communist Poland – a move that riled its Cold War-era master, Moscow.

They are among the staunchest supporters of ex-Soviet Ukraine, which is pushing to be let into Nato despite Moscow’s bitter opposition and jitters from several west European member states.

The three-way brigade will be known in army-speak as LITPOLUKRBRIG. The strength of a military brigade usually ranges from 2,000 to 5,000 combining several batallions of 600-1,500 troops, depending on the particular army’s tradition.

A spokesman for the ministry said that the brigade would include a multinational infantry unit, with shared costs, command and training, that could be deployed in multinational operations abroad.

It said that the fine details were still under negotiation, with Poland steering the planning.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine inherited a 780,000-strong military force on its territory, equipped with the third-largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world. But the country signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and declared itself a neutral state.

The country, which now has armed forces totalling 191,000, has had a limited military partnership with Russia and a partnership with Nato since 1994. Ukraine has been playing an increasing role in peacekeeping operations, with Ukranian troops having been deployed in Kosovo, Lebanon and Iraq.

James Sherr, head of the Russia and Eurasia programme at Chatham House, said the move announced this week was partly a political one.

“It is a signal from all three states that Ukraine is a country that should have prospects of membership in Nato.”

Mr Sherr went on to say that before the Orange Revolution in 2006 - a peaceful revolt that brought Viktor Yuschenko to power - Ukraine was very close to joining Nato.

But he added that the revolution, combined with the Russia/Georgia war of 2008, "torpedoed" Ukraine's chances of joining the alliance,

"The war reinforced view of Nato that further enlargement of Nato in the east could be very harmful to the relationship with Russia," he said.

As a result, the formation of a tri-nation military brigade was unlikely to do anything to boost Ukraine's membership chances, said Mr Sherr, as too many countries were "emphatically not in favour" of Ukraine joining.

He went on to say that opinion in Ukraine was divided over whether the country should join Nato at all, and said that the popularity of the alliance had decreased markedly following the Balkan wars and the Russia/Georgia war.

“About 20 per cent of people in Ukraine are firmly in favour of Ukraine joining Nato, but about 50 per cent are opposed," he said.

He said that said that reasons for Ukraine wanting to join Nato related to the country’s geographical locaton.

“There is an understanding that Ukraine is in a complex and potentially dangerous political setting. It sits on a vitally important energy corridor.

“Ukrainians are also aware of their economic problems and that it would be very difficult for them to entirely meet all of their security needs on their own.”

But he pointed out that Ukraine is wary that becoming more closely aligned with Nato could completely alienate Russia, to which the country is economically and culturally tied.

He said that Russia was not reconciled to Ukraine’s independence, adding that just this year Vladimir Putin had referred to Ukraine as “little Russia”.

“Most Russians do not acknowledge that Ukraine is different,” he said.

“For Ukraine to adopt a course as a nation that would be dramatically and diametrically different to Russia would be seen as disturbing and threatening."

A spokesperson for the Ukranian embassy in London said the reasons for the country wanting to join Nato were obvious.

"Nato is security," he said.

"But Ukraine considers Nato not just from the 'take' perspective," he added.

"We are a strong contributor to European and global security. Ukraine is the only non-member state which takes part in all the Nato-led operations.

"The creation of LITPOLUKRBRIG is another step in our common effort of securing peace and stability in trouble spots."

He said that Ukraine always emphasised that its intention to join Nato was not directed against other countries, "Russia in particular."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gordon Brown:"As a nation we have to be confident in our alliances."

BBC has brought interesting news just several hours ago: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is strondly defending UK presnce in Afghanistan despite the fact yeasterday number of British soldiers who perished in this country reached 96. casualties. As Prime Minister said, "al-Qaeda is the biggest threat to UK national security", but this year was the most successful in fighting it.

Gordon Brown will appear also at the Lord Mayor's banquet in the City of London on tonight where he will defend UK engagement in Afghanistan in fornt of 71% of Britons who want to see British troops withdrawn from Afghanistan in next 12 months.

Some of the most stirking dieas of his speech you can find at BBC web page,


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nato taskforce to form 'Afghan FBI' and root out high-level corruption

Clinton calls for 'major crimes tribunal' as west loses patience with Karzai government.

A taskforce being established by Nato in Kabul will consist of a small team of anti-corruption officers, as well as a criminal investigator and prosecutor who hope senior generals will be able to stop cases being derailed by opposition from the Afghan government.

Details of the body emerged as the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said Washington had called on Karzai to create a "major crimes tribunal" and an anti-corruption commission.

Her comments reflect growing impatience among Karzai's western backers at his apparent unwillingness to tackle corruption. Earlier this month, Gordon Brown warned the Afghan president that he would lose international support if he failed to improve its performance.

For the full article on how Karzai is trying or actually not trying to tackle corruption see here :

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Finnish defence minister alludes to Nato membership

Jyri Häkämies (cons), the Finnish defence minister, said Monday that Finland's dependence on international defence cooperation would grow in the 2010s.

Speaking at the opening of a national defence course, Mr Häkämies added that mere cooperation would not be sufficient.

"We must bear in mind that not one of these cooperation arrangements guarantees us direct support in a military crisis and yet we are dependent on said support," he said.

The minister urged his audience to draw lessons from the 1939-40 winter war and added that Finland should seek for "new solutions" in order to guarantee the country's security.

"To look for these new solutions when a crisis is already at the gate does not work. This was a key lesson from the time leading to the winter war and from the war itself."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Polish Foreign Minister requests U.S. military presence in his country

Poland’s recent appeal to Washington reads like something printed on the front pages of newspaper from 20 years ago: Poland Fears Russian Invasion – Asks U.S. for Soldiers.

Radek Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister, made the request for an American military presence after becoming “alarmed” by Russia’s recent military exercises conducted in Belarus, a former Soviet satellite that borders Poland. Sikorski minced no words in his entreaty: “We would like to see US troops stationed in Poland to serve as a shield against Russian aggression. If you can afford it, we need some strategic reassurance.” The appeal comes about a month after Vice President Joe Biden proclaimed America’s determination to continue providing support to Poland. It seems Mr. Sikorski is ready to put Biden’s sincerity to the test.

There are more than just distant Russian military maneuvers prompting Poland to make such a plea. Many in the Polish government feel that America’s resolve to aid its Central European ally is idle talk in light of what it sees as a pro-Russian bent in recent foreign policy decisions. Chiefly, the cancellation of the missile defense shield that was to be based in Poland has many of that nation’s leaders concerned that when it comes to conflicts of any sort with Moscow, the United States will leave Poland to its own devices.

To read the whole article, please go to:



UN withdraws personnel from Afghanistan?

After reports of the UN withdrawing half of its 1100 foreign personnel currently in Afghanistan, Ban Ki-moon has reaffirmed the commitment to stabilizing the country: “Let me be crystal clear: we are not evacuating. We will not, cannot and must not be deterred. Our work will continue,”

In order to stabilize Afghanistan, promote the country's development and fight terrorism, all partners must be committed to the comprehensive approach. The UN is a major partner in the operation and it certainly seems committed, at least from what one can understand from the rest of the article on Ban Ki-moon's visit to Kabul:

The world body announced yesterday that it is taking immediate steps to strengthen security for UN employees in Afghanistan, in light of the 28 October attack on a guest house in Kabul that killed five UN staff members and injured nine others as well as “further ongoing threats.”

The measures include the short-term relocation of some of the roughly 1,100 international staff to safer sites within Afghanistan, as well as to duty stations in the region. The UN has around 6,000 staff working across the country in total.

The Secretary-General, who visited Kabul on Monday in a show of solidarity, stated that no critical staff will be moved, and that the UN's work on humanitarian and development needs will continue as before.

“I was able to see for myself that the determination and commitment of our staff in Afghanistan remains strong,” he stated, while adding that colleagues there will have to manage, temporarily, with less administrative support.

Mr. Ban said he plans to provide the General Assembly in the coming days with specific proposals regarding additional resources for strengthening security for UN staff and premises.

While in Kabul, the Secretary-General also met with President Hamid Karzai and former presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah. Both Mr. Ban and his Special Representative, Kai Eide, have emphasized the need for the formation of new Government that is composed of competent, reform-oriented personalities that can move the country forward, he said.

In a statement read out to the press by Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting of Austria, which holds the rotating Council presidency for this month, Council members congratulated the Afghan people on their active engagement and participation in the elections and commended the efforts of those who worked to ensure a credible process.

“They called for the new Afghan Government to effectively address the issues facing the country, including security, good governance and the fight against corruption as well as economic recovery, improving the livelihood of its people, and the cross-cutting issue of counter-narcotics,” said the statement.

Friday, November 6, 2009 - The Fall of the Wall and American Grand Strategy - The Fall of the Wall and American Grand Strategy

Twenty years ago, the people of Berlin brought down the wall that had divided their city, not only ending the tragic chapter of Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, but also closing the book on post-war American grand strategy. For forty years, the strategy of containment guided American elites of both parties; two decades later, U.S. policymakers are still searching in vain for containment's replacement.

The development of coherent strategies for using American power remains a vital goal in what has become an increasingly complex world. The U.S. military is overstretched thanks to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the U.S. economy remains fragile. Transnational threats are abundant. It's no wonder that a misplaced nostalgia exists for the supposed simplicity of the Cold War, when the United States faced one major enemy.

Analyst: Russia pushing US out of Europe

US President Barack Obama "does not care very much" about security in Europe, Edward Lucas, who has been The Economist's Eastern Europe correspondent for more than 20 years, told EurActiv Slovakia in an interview.

Edward Lucas recently published a book entitled 'The New Cold War', which covers world affairs since Vladimir Putin became Russia's strongman. He was speaking to EurActiv Slovakia's Michal Hudec.

Your book, 'The New Cold War', was published in 2008. One year later, do you still find its title relevant?

I had written book in 2007 and the thing I was the most worried about then was a war in Georgia. And I think that war in August 2008 proved that I was in a way right to be worried about Russia, so I feel vindicated on that front. I also think that the main front of a new cold war is about finance and energy. And I think that's still very worrying, I think we've seen a continued use of energy as a weapon by Russia and we've also continued to see the use of Russian money in Western policies.

And as I always say that the old Cold War was a military confrontation, this one is much more of a confrontation of values; the Kremlin style of authoritarian credit capitalism against the Western system. And the reason why we are losing and doing badly in this is because the Western system is not working very well, and I think the financial crisis [showed this].

And the other problems we are seeing also underline that NATO is weaker than it was two years ago. It is clear that [the Obama] administration is not as engaged in Europe as the Bush administration was. So we have to be worried about that. As far as the changes in Russia were concerned, I think they are messy mainly because the media widened the possibility of discussion. In Russia you can talk about things at an official level that you couldn't talk about before.

But there are no real changes. We still have political prisoners and control of media is still almost total. The security services are still out of control, and constitutional supervision - the rule of law - is still not working. So I think the position of Russia has not improved at all.

You described the war in Georgia as the first step in a new Cold War. Commentator George Bovt wrote in an August column for the EU-Russia Centre that a war between Russia and Ukraine is likely. Would you share this observation, especially in the context of the expiry of the lease on the naval base harbouring Russia's Black Sea fleet in 2017?

I don't think there will be, if you like, a big war between Russia and Ukraine, because the Russian military is not in great shape, they can basically attack countries that are 1/30 of their size, which they can drive to, and this is a fairly short list of countries. I think that the most worrying thing is another war in Georgia; this is by far the most likely. I think that there is the danger of mischief-making and provocation in Crimea. But I think that the aim of the Russian pressure on Ukraine has been to consolidate Ukrainian identity and even the Russian speakers in Eastern Ukraine show no desire of wanting any kind of unification with Russia or anything like that. So Ukrainian statehood, I think, actually it looks more solid than it did ten years ago. But Crimea is a real problem; there are specific kinds of Russians in Crimea, who are quite anti-Ukraine and quite pro-Kremlin. And we have the naval base there, which Russia should be closing and doesn't seem to want to close.

Some commentators say that the war in Georgia marked the inauguration of President Dmitry Medvedev. What did it mean for EU-Russia and NATO-Russia relations?

Well, I think one of the dreadful consequences of the war in Georgia was that it showed how divided the EU and NATO are in their dealings with Russia. The EU imposed very light sanctions and then dropped them; NATO went back to business-as-usual quite quickly. And so I think it is very difficult for NATO, which used to have a united policy towards Russia on every conceivable issue where there might be a real conflict. I think the Germans and the Southern European countries will probably go one way and some of the North European countries will go another. So, there is a real division.

I don't really find Article 4 and Article 5 credible on their own. NATO needs to do real planning, it needs to revise its strategic concept and make clear that territorial defence is still absolutely central. And it needs to do for example some land exercises in Poland or in the Baltic states - and that is not happening.

I think that the problem with Obama is that he does not really care about Eastern Europe, that his advisers basically see Eastern Europe as a Bush administration project. I think they rather complacently feel the problem is basically solved and they have got lot of other things to worry about, they are worried about China, worried about Iran, worried about North Korea and the danger is that they look for Russian help on these issues, where they can get it, but they are not really interested in making it sort of strategic push back in Eastern Europe to counter growing Russian influence there.

President Medvedev has proposed the idea of a new security architecture in Europe. But there are no concrete details...

I think we already have a security architecture in Europe: it is called the OSCE. And for anyone to make a suggestion about changing it, they must have some credibility, and I think Russia has no credibility at the OSCE at this moment. It systematically blocks OSCE budgets; it's trying to stop the OSCE as an election monitoring body. I think any European security architecture has to be based on values and we do not have shared values with Russia at the moment. In 1992 under Yeltsin we did, and that was great, and we could really see that everybody was basically moving in the same direction. That is not the case any more.

And it is absolutely clear that the Russians nowadays - like the Soviet Union before - want to get America out of Europe. And this new security architecture, as far as I can see, is a plan to set up a kind of condominium in Europe between Russia and the big European countries, excluding the United States and also overriding the interest of small countries. I think it's very bad and we should speak about that. What we should be trying to do is to engage Russia within the existing security architecture to do things that would benefit everybody.

Moscow claims Russia is a free country with democratic values. You say Russian values are different from the ones of the West. How different are they?

Even if we have elections, we do not know who is going to win [laughter]. You can look at each individual thing we have in our system. We have courts, where powerful people in the country lose. So in Italy for example, even the very powerful Mr. Berlusconi is in trouble with the courts there. We didn't know who was going to win the general election; we didn't know who was going to win the next Slovak election. We do know who is going to win the next Russian election; anyway you look over to the guy who has the backing of the Kremlin.

How big a possibility is there that the gas crisis could be repeated this winter?

I think that Ukraine is going to act together, and it's going to be much more difficult to have a gas war this time round. I think corruption played a huge role in the gas war and I am not saying that either one side was 100% right or 100% wrong on this. There is obviously a huge amount of money in gas being stolen.

I think the real gas crisis is actually a shortage; because Russia's gas reserves and gas industry have been run extremely badly. Gazprom is an exceptionally wasteful, corrupt and incompetent company. Russia is very dependent on gas in Turkmenistan and it seems that there is not as much gas in Turkmenistan as we thought, and the gas industry itself is very badly run. The real problem is that there is not going to be enough gas to go round if European gas demand uncovers.

We should think about how to get gas out in some other way. We need to get hold of Iranian gas, we need to get hold perhaps of Iraqi gas, and all these other gas sources in the Middle East and South-West Asia. And for that, it is particularly important that we get Nabucco built. I think one quite good sign is that whereas Gazprom's North Stream does not seem to be going ahead - except on a political level but they are not laying any pipes yet - Nabucco which I was rather gloomy about in my book, seems to have moved on a bit.

And I think that indicates one quite important point, which is that Russia's tactics are often counterproductive and they have mucked around on the gas front so much that it has pushed energy security up the European agenda to the point that there are some serious efforts now going into building Nabucco. I am still not hopeful, but I am less gloomy then I was.

Where does Eastern Europe find itself in the Russian perspective?

In the Russian view, this is a sphere of privileged interest, as Mr. Medvedev so unpleasantly put it. I think there are three things that the ex-communist countries in Eastern Europe need to do. One is to make sure they keep their own systems working properly. So it is very important not to go down the route of corruption, authoritarianism, bad governance, etc. I see a bit of 'Putinism' appearing in all sorts of countries, which is one thing.

The second thing is to try and coordinate much better, and particularly to stress the need for the Baltic States and Poland to cooperate with the northern countries, which have their own existing security cooperation. You could create a kind of mini-NATO for the Baltic region: that would be very good.

And the third is for the Central European countries to do what they can to keep the Atlantic alliance going, because they are the Atlanticist countries in the region and it is very important for them to try and keep America engaged and show they can be good American allies.

How would you evaluate the main challenges in Eastern politics?

Obviously, we have a whole load of global problems like climate change, terrorism and so on, but on the regional front I think Russia is becoming weaker and nastier, and that is the general direction. And we all have to hope that Russia does not become a failed state and in this period of disastrous experimenting, authoritarian crony capitalism proves temporary - rather like the Meciar experiment in Slovakia proved temporary - so we have to hope for a Russian Dzurindas [Mikuláš Dzurinda, reformist prime minister of Slovakia, 1998–2006] to turn things round. I do hope in the long run that the Russian people will see that this is not a fantastically successful experiment on Putin [and that it is] a dead end.

Until that happens, what we need to do is to make sure that the bad tendencies in Russia don't damage us. We have to defend ourselves, we have to try and defend the countries slightly further to the East – so we need to try to give Ukraine a European perspective, continue to help Georgia, look after Moldova, which everybody forgets, engage Belarus as much as we can and hope that they can move a bit more in our direction. It is a very long to-do list and many of the items are very difficult.

In a nutshell, how would you answer the question you are asking in your book: How can the new Cold War be won?

I think we have wasted the financial crisis. The financial crisis was a great chance to address some of the big weaknesses in our system – both in terms of the way financial markets work, but also the openness of our banking system to people who have obtained their money in corrupt ways.

One of the things that most worries me is the ability to conceal the ultimate beneficial ownership of companies, so we have for example a company like RosUkrEnergo, which is becoming extremely successful in the gas business, in business with pipelines or gas storage or gas fields. It has billions and billions of dollars and we can't find out who owns it. And that is a real scandal. Until we get our act together we can't really expect the Russians to take us seriously while we preach values.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

1989 changed the world. But where now for Europe?

By Timothy Garton Ash

Nineteen eighty-nine was the biggest year in world history since 1945. In international politics, 1989 changed everything. It led to the end of communism in Europe, of the Soviet Union, the cold war and the short 20th century. It opened the door to German unification, a historically unprecedented European Union stretching from Lisbon to Tallinn, the enlargement of Nato, two decades of American supremacy, globalisation, and the rise of Asia. The one thing it did not change was human nature.

In 1989, Europeans proposed a new model of non-violent, velvet revolution, challenging the violent example of 1789, which for two centuries had been what most people thought of as "revolution". Instead of Jacobins and the guillotine, they offered people power and negotiations at a round table.

With Mikhail Gorbachev's breathtaking renunciation of the use of force (a luminous example of the importance of the individual in history), a nuclear-armed empire that had seemed to many Europeans as enduring and impregnable as the Alps, not least because it possessed those weapons of total annihilation, just softly and suddenly vanished. But then, as if this were all somehow too good to be true, 1989 also brought us Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa on Salman Rushdie – firing the starting gun for another long struggle in Europe, even before the last one was really over.

Such years come only once or twice in a long lifetime. 2001, the year of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was another big one, of course, above all because it transformed the priorities of the US in the world, but it did not change as much as 1989 did. As the cold war had affected even the smallest African state, making it a potential pawn in the great chess game between east and west, so the end of the cold war affected everyone too. And places like Afghanistan were forgotten, neglected by Washington since they no longer mattered in a global contest with the now ex-Soviet Union. The mujahid had done his work; the mujahid could go. Except that a mujahid called Osama bin Laden had other ideas.

The epicentre of 1989 was Europe between the Rhine and the Urals, and it's there that most has changed. Every single one of Poland's neighbours today is new, different from what it was in 1989. In fact, many of the states and quite a few of the frontiers in eastern Europe are now more recent than those in Africa. And the lived experience of every man, woman and child has been transformed out of all recognition: nowhere more so than in the former German Democratic Republic, whose death warrant was written 20 years ago next Monday night, with the breaching of the Berlin wall.

So, closest to the ground, we have the stories of those individual human lives: of the young Czechs, Hungarians and east Germans, born in 1989, who are seizing and enjoying the chances of freedom, and of the many older, less well-placed people, who have had a rough time since, and are angry and disillusioned.

At the other extreme, we have the global dance of old and new superpowers. Potentially, there are now three of them: the US, China and the EU. The US is still the only genuine, three-dimensional superpower. When former presidents Gorbachev and George H W Bush got together with former chancellor Helmut Kohl in Berlin last week, Bush senior paid fulsome tribute to his friend "Mikhail". He could afford to be generous; after all, America won.

More accurately, the US emerged the winner, thanks partly to its own policies but also to the work of others. But it would be hard to argue that the US has used its subsequent two decades of supremacy very well – least of all, under Bush, son of Bush. The country has lived high on the hog, running up a pile of both household and national debt. It has not created a durable new international order. Now it has a wonderful president who wills that end, but probably no longer has the means.

China is the most unexpected winner of them all. Remember that when Gorbachev visited Beijing in the early summer of 1989 he had to be smuggled into the communist party leaders' Zhongnanhai compound through a side entrance, because so many protesters were filling Tiananmen square. China seemed to be on the brink of some kind of a velvet revolution of its own. But then came the 4 June massacre. A shudder reverberated across Eurasia, from Beijing to Berlin. China and Europe dramatically parted ways.

Traumatised both by the Tiananmen protests and by the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, China's communist party leaders systematically learned the lessons in order to avoid their European comrades' fate. Seizing the economic opportunities offered by globalisation, which itself was decisively catalysed by the end of European communism, they marched further down the road on which Deng Xiaoping (an individual to rank with Gorbachev in his impact on history) had launched them.

The result: a hybrid that can crudely be summarised as Leninist capitalism – something we simply did not imagine in 1989. And an emerging superpower with $2 trillion of reserves, holding the US in a financial half-nelson.

This is a fragile superpower, to be sure, with many internal tensions and contradictions, and too little freedom, but still a formidable competitor for western-style liberal democratic capitalism. Far more formidable, incidentally, than backward-looking, militant Islamism, which is a real threat but not a serious ideological competitor.

And then there is us: old Europe, where it all began. I have suggested before that 1989 was the best year in European history. That's a bold claim, and readers are invited to point to a better year. But two decades later, and in my darker moments, 1989 sometimes seems to me like the last, late flowering of a very aged rose. To be sure, we have done some big things since. We have enlarged the EU. We (or at least, some of us) have a single European currency. We have the largest economy in the world. On paper, Europe looks good. But the political reality is very different.

This is not the big-hearted Europe of which visionaries like Vaclav Havel dreamed in 1989. It is the Europe of the other Vaclav – Vaclav Klaus – signing the Lisbon treaty with gnashing teeth, after exacting some small, provincial concessions. It is the Europe of David Cameron, who, in the defensive, national narrowness of his European vision, is actually a rather representative contemporary European. (Churchill! Thou shouldst be living at this hour: Europe hath need of thee.) Sunk in the narcissism of minor difference, only half awake to the world of giants emerging around them, your average politician in France, Germany or Poland is little better.

So, 20 years on, the question before us Europeans is this: can we recapture some of the strategic boldness and historical imagination of 1989? Or shall we now leave it to others to shape the world, while we snuggle down, Hobbit-like, in our national holes, and pretend there are no giants yomping overhead?

Monday, November 2, 2009

OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in one month

OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in Athens (December 1-2) is approaching, those who are interested in this broad security organisation counting 55- member states, stay tunned!

Eyes of Europe´s politicians and analysts are looking towards the summit that would bring some of the practical outcomes of the Corfu Process that started half a year ago in June in Greek island Corfu.

Except for the proposals of reform of OSCE (probably broadest since early 1990 - Budapest Summit in 1994), final statement of initiative of Russia´s President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to be concluded. President Medvedev unfolded the idea of his predecessor, Mr. Vladimir Putin, of reform of the security architecture in Europe, and introduced it in Berlin (June 2008) and Evian (October 2008)

To learn more pleasse go to, the latest press release of Greek Chairmanship you can find at



Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dear Collegues,

Here's one view for Afganistan operation

NATO-UAE Relations and the Way Forward in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative

NATO and United Arab Emirates has signed an agreement on security of information on the 29th of October.

On this occasion, a North Atlantic Council Session was set up at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, along with a Press Conference on NATO-UAE Relations and the Way Forward in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.

NATO Secretary General, Mr, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, addressed the Conference audience composed by the UAE Ministry of Foreing Affairs, Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayed al Nahyan, the NATO Deputy Secreaty General, the Chairman of the Military Committee and the 28 North Atlantic Council Permanente Representatives - among the others.

NATO Secreary General highlights importance of NATO’s dialogue and cooperation with the countries of the Gulf region, since "same risks and threats increasingly affect the security of all our nations -- extremism, terrorism, trans-national crime, and the most dangerous terrorists getting their hands on the most dangerous weapons".

According to NATO Secretary General, the guiding principle of the NATO-UAE relations, as much as with the other countries of the ICI, should be mutual respect, two way commitment and complementary with other international organization initiatives.

In Rasmussen speech the words " practical cooperation" have been often repeated, thus signaling NATO deside to move beyond the current level of cooperation and bring small and concrete issue of the ground. Following the signature of an Agreement of Security and Protection of Classified Information, indeed, the Secretary General affirmed that "we have also been discussing the possible conclusion of an Individual Cooperation Programme".
During his speech, Mr. Rasmussen recall the assistance that UAE troops gave to NATO mission in the Balkans and Afghanistan as well as "the shared interest in preventing countries like Somalia and Sudan from slipping deeper into chaos."
Finally, NATO Secretary General underlined that "establishing new patterns of security cooperation across age-old geographical, cultural and religious boundaries will take persistence as well as patience", but they will "be hampered by a lack of real progress in the Middle East peace process".


Cyberwarfare has recently been discussed at a panel in the "New Challenges, Better Capabilities" conference, which took place in Slovakia, as is nowadays regarded as a threat to take in consideration. A recent article on Foreign Affairs gives some insight on the issue, especially focusing on the US. You can find the full article (registered users) here.