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Russia vs. West: EU-Russia strained relations

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] W [/yt_dropcap]est continues to be anti-Russia even during the early reign of President Trump who claimed to try and drastically improve relations with its Cold War foe. End ideology in Russia and Eastern Europe has not helped the situation to improve. USA continues to control policy making processes in Europe and does not let Europe think for itself and EU does not want lose the US help. As such Russia’s efforts to bring EU out of US control mechanisms have not been successful for obvious reasons.

US hand in Ukraine

Russian ties with the western world have never been smooth though at times they are seen making some efforts to make up and even stop fighting each other. Mutual mistrust is the main cause for the conflictual situation and this mistrust is not without any base. The 9/11 that helped both to forget their differences and forge a common front against Islam on the promotion of media Islamophobia, could not sustain itself too long as the trust deficit between them is too strong.

USA influenced the government of Kiev (Ukraine), considered historically bound with Russia since its early formatary stages, to oppose Russia. That indeed annoyed Russian iron President Vladimir Putin who in order to redeem Russia’s lost prestige retook Crimea. Annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, now a part of Europe and EU, by Russia has cut its relations with both USA and Europe almost simultaneously.

Mutual sanctions hurt EU and Russia, economically. USA continues to press EU not to lift the sanctions on Russia. It is three years since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and began its covert invasion of eastern Ukraine. At the time, it seemed like the start of a more ambitious Israel-like land-grab. His rhetoric implied that Ukrainian and Belarusian independence was only a historical anomaly.

President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB boss working in Europe, first came to power in 2000 by killing Chechen Muslims in a well planned military attack on Chechnya; he has made all efforts to make Russia super power once again and he shrewdly managed the foreign policy, made Russia emerge as a super power. When Putin described Russians as “one of the biggest, if not the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders,” Russia’s neighbors — some of them homes to large Russian minorities — wondered whether he meant to erase those borders. Eastern Europe, dotted with frozen conflicts of Russia’s making, is stuck in transition to an uncertain future. Though he still holds Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine, Putin has alienated the rest of Ukraine. But the West also has little to congratulate itself on.

Putin’s pet project has been to bring in former Soviet states into Russian fold. Three years on, one is not quite sure if Putin’s project has made any headway. But the west says he has clearly failed. But Moscow’s willingness to use economic and military coercion in its neighborhood has alienated many who might otherwise have felt an affinity with Russia.

Conspiracy

With Superpower instinct, Vladimir Putin opposes the fall and disintegration of the mighty Soviet Union as a western conspiracy and said that Ukrainian and Belarusian independence was only a historical anomaly. When he described Russians as “one of the biggest, if not the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders,” Russia’s neighbors — some of them homes to large Russian minorities — wondered whether he meant to erase those borders.

Today, the USA and the EU remain extremely cautious about Russia’s imperial intentions and see a hidden agenda of the Kremlin to revive Soviet Union in another format. Russia is unhappy that most of the former Soviet Republics have been admitted into US led NATO and Germany led European Union (EU). The European Union has consistently dodged the issue of possible EU membership for any of the six former Soviet states that now lie in Europe (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). Russia has a clearer vision for the region than the West does. It has never treated the six states as fully sovereign. After Putin became president for the third time, in 2012, he stepped up efforts to keep former Soviet states inside what his predecessor, Dmitriy Medvedev, described as a “region of privileged interests”.

As USA guides European policies, Western leaders do admit that Russia has a veto on its neighbors’ foreign policies. But even a few want a fight with Russia even with US backing. They are scared of Russian military prowess. Eastern Europeans who want their countries (and Turkey that would join the EU) to meet European “standards” of governance and join Western institutions have become disillusioned by the West’s failure to offer full-throated support against the Kremlin.

Meanwhile, a After Kiev announced the travel ban on Samoylova from entering Ukraine for the next three years, the Russian TV network Vesti declared that Russian television will not broadcast this year’s Eurovision contest, though the broadcasting rights for the 2017 competition actually belong to a rival station in Russia, Channel One. It’s not yet clear if Channel One will agree to the EBU’s offer, having announced previously that it will send Samoylova as Russia’s contestant for Eurovision 2018, in light of Ukraine’s “unreasonable” decision.

Eastern Europeans who want their countries to meet European standards of governance and join Western institutions have become disillusioned by the West’s failure to offer full-throated support. Few Western leaders admit that Russia has a veto on its neighbors’ foreign policies. But even fewer want a fight with Russia.

So what can Eastern European countries do if they do not want to be in Russia’s orbit but cannot join Western institutions? Have they lost their independent capacity to decide their own matters?

Region of privileged interests

Russia has a clearer vision for the East European and former Soviet zone regions than the West does. It has never treated the former six Soviet states as fully sovereign. After Putin became president for the third time, in 2012, he stepped up efforts to keep former Soviet states inside what his predecessor, Dmitriy Medvedev, described as a “region of privileged interests”. But Moscow’s willingness to use economic and military coercion in its neighborhood has alienated many who might otherwise have felt an affinity with Russia.

The top priority of EU should be establishing the rule of law. Countries where courts work and laws are stable will be more attractive to foreign investors and less vulnerable to economic pressure. The West can help by making it harder for local elites to launder the proceeds of corruption through the EU or US. Denying Turkey its due place in EU as a European state just because of Islamic religion is not at all fair.

Meanwhile, Russia needs to treat all regions fairly. Geography and economics mean that the Eastern Partnership countries would benefit from good political and trade relations with Russia. They should not shy away from this, as long as relations are on the basis of sovereign equality, consistent rules and mutual benefit. Ensuring that minority ethnic groups are fairly treated is also vital. Disaffected minorities have been fertile soil for Russia to promote separatist conflicts — there is less scope for mischief if all communities have a stake in society.

The West should use the coming years to try to persuade Moscow that, whether or not more countries join Western institutions (and even the most advanced are decades away from membership), it is in everyone’s interests that they should be prosperous, stable and well-governed.

West tells Moscow that it is time to give up its nostalgia for empire. The biggest policy shift must come from both USA and Russia that continue to behave as though their prestige and fate depends on controlling Europe and neighbours. Europe’s other imperial powers have realized that it is better to create shared economic and other interests with former possessions than to try to coerce them.

Putin said US-Russia relations have touched the lowest level now as President Trump continues to behave erratically, especially with his bombing Syria, in order to   get special media coverage.

A major issue

The European Union has consistently dodged the issue of possible EU membership for any of the six former Soviet states that lie in Europe (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). NATO leaders agreed in 2008 that Georgia and Ukraine “will become members of NATO.” But after Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, NATO dragged its feet on fulfilling that promise.

Europeans have an important job at hand as they have the future of the fragile union in their own hands. As they strive to remain united because in unity lies their strength they Russia a disturbing or destabilizing factor.

Both USA and EU talk about ‘common values” and say Russians do not share their values. While, any genuine rapprochement with Russia is difficult to foresee in their differences in the near future, the EU would strive to engage Russia where possible and speak out when their views clash as they are too important to one another. But any engagement is firmly based on the grounds of the international rules-based system and its principles and values. The spirit of Eurovision’s values of inclusivity goes against any real truck with Russia.

Between Russia and the EU, Eastern Europe’s Future is Uncertain. Eastern Europe, dotted with frozen conflicts of Russia’s making, is stuck in transition to an uncertain future. It is three years since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and began its covert invasion of eastern Ukraine. At the time, it seemed like the start of a more ambitious land-grab.

Three years on, Putin’s project has clearly failed. Though he still holds Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine, he has alienated the rest of Ukraine. But the West also has little to congratulate itself on. Eastern Europe, dotted with frozen conflicts of Russia’s making, is stuck in transition to an uncertain future.

Will European Union survive?

Lighting or illumination is considered to be a happy expression for something that has happened well, the Tel Aviv city hall building in Israel was illuminated in “solidarity” with Russia after the blast in the St.Petersburg metro in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 3, 2017. As a terrorist nation, making terrorizing the besieged Palestinians as their major hobby, Israel is through about state terror operations and their needs.   Whether or not Israel was happy and over joyous about the terror attacks in Russia is not very clear, though.

The survival of European Union as multinational continental entity is a major theme of debates and media reports as the fate of survival depends on factors that seem to be intractable.

Obviously, Brexit has given a jolt to Germany’s efforts to strengthen the Union with further measures. Though many in Britain rethink the decision to quit EU for good, the decision of the people and parliament is final and only few formalities need to b completed to make UK a totally soverign nation.

In fact, the fate of EU had been the subject of heated debates even much before Britain opted out of EU. Over years of meticulous steps undertaken by the EU make it look a cohesive multi-nation, now it is much better than a few years ago.

Recently, European leaders came together to celebrate 60 years of the continent’s greatest peacetime project: the European Union. And today, 60 years later, the vision remains alive and we can be proud of our achievements. Europe has turned from a continent of war to a continent of peace. This project has brought together 28 European states, more than 500 million people speaking 24 languages in one union, the EU.

The EU today might symbolize peaceful cooperation, respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality and solidarity among European nations and peoples. It is the largest trade power and development and humanitarian aid donor. The world’s largest single market and the euro is the second most important global reserve currency.

Back on March 25, 1957, the Founding Fathers signed the Treaty of Rome – an act that resolutely put an end to the trend of devastating wars between neighbors on our continent. Fundamentally a people’s project, Europeans pledged “farewell to arms” and “never again war.” President Juncker stated that they are the heirs of those who first established Europe, of those men and women who in 1945 returned from the front and the concentration camps to towns and villages which had been destroyed. He added that putting behind them animosities among neighbors and reconciling the feeling of national identity with a commitment to the common good, Europeans vowed to work toward a vision of a peaceful, united and prosperous Europe.

EU today may be home to the largest union of democracies in the world and legally European citizens are free to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe. It is at the cutting edge of innovation. EU membership has resulted in increased and shared prosperity. This makes them a strong partner when they all together need to adapt and to face the new challenges of the world: effects of rapid globalization continued armed conflict and the rise of terror, poverty and migration, a degrading environment and resource depletion.

USA insists that Russia is a destabilizing factor in their ties and the term “challenge” is also used nowadays to describe the state of EU-Russia ties. As spelled out in the EU Global Strategy, “managing the relationship with Russia represents a key strategic challenge for the European Union.” For the last couple of decades, the EU and Russia had assumed a strategic partnership based on the convergence of values, economic integration, and modernisation of our societies.

Economic partners

However, the partnership faced a breakpoint in 2014 with the illegal annexation of Crimea and the destabilization in Eastern Ukraine. From that point forward and today, it is clear that Russia and the EU have some deep differences: they relate to the European security order, principles of pluralism and human rights, the need for an open market economy and a rules-based trading system. At the same time, Russia and the EU remain strategically important to each other.

The EU remains the largest trading partner for Russia, while Russia is the EU’s fourth largest. We also have a number of shared concerns, such as the threat of terrorism, climate change and the situation in the Middle East. The success of the joint efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran demonstrates that we can cooperate in the international arena.

Many see Europe’s long-term security in regime change in the Kremlin would welcome the opportunity to bring into question the incumbent’s assertions that Russians are alone and embattled. A few small-minded individuals somehow think St. Petersburg does not “deserve” sympathy because of Sevastopol, who assume that every terrible incident is some kind of “false flag” operation instigated by Putin to generate some kind of “rally-round-the-flag” sentiment, is not only wrong, it’s dangerous.

To move forward by shedding the US luggage, the EU would continue to undertake substantial and significant steps that provide a direct impetus to strengthening people to people contacts both within the Union and with Russia. From cooperation across our common border through student exchanges to support for civil society – those are the efforts that form the real glue between our peoples.

Observation

The West seeks to spread confusion, dismay, suspicion and uncertainty, globally. Everything is symbolic, and by not showing solidarity, Europe played into the hands of a Kremlin narrative that has been deployed again and again on far flimsier grounds. The Kremlin argues that the West is fundamentally Russophobic, and it delights in seeing woes of every kind besetting Russia.

Unlike the Cold War between superpowers, Europe wages a “hybrid war” or ‘political war’ against Russia engineering disinformation and political subversion. The corollary is that every time the European Court of Human Rights censures Moscow, every time an EU delegation calls for greater transparency, every time a Western observer notes flaws in electoral processes, it can neatly be discounted as European mischief-making at best, and at worst ‘hybrid war.’

World is in the midst of a renewed Cold War and there are all kinds of reasons for Europe to feel hostile toward Russia, from its annexation of Crimea, to its aggressive intelligence activity. Nonetheless, there is a higher calling of human sympathy, a sense that we are all united in the face of the unexpected and undiscriminating threat of terrorism.

Many in EU seek a ban their dirty-money oligarchs and their paranoid-patriot lawmakers, but they do welcome their students, tourists, artists and entrepreneurs. This supposedly denies the Kremlin’s propagandists easy opportunities. Indeed, it actively undermines their pernicious narrative that seeks to force Russians into an artificial choice between us and them, patriot or traitor.

NATO and EU do not want any truck between Russia and former Soviet republics most of them are now their own members NATO leaders agreed in 2008 that Georgia and Ukraine “will become members of NATO.” But after Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, NATO grew panicky and dragged its feet on fulfilling that promise.

Notwithstanding the US opposition to Russia and future of Euro-Russia relations, 60 years of experience since the signing of the Rome Treaty shows that a united EU is capable of strengthening and extending the wellbeing of European people. And a united EU will be a strong and reliable partner to countries around the world, including Russia.

Europe

China and US keep a close eye on Greenland

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Greenland is mulling independence. While enjoying wide autonomy within the Kingdom of Denmark with its own parliament since 2009,. Greenland still faces two serious economic problems standing on its way to full-fledged sovereignty, namely the need to make itself less dependent on financial assistance from Copenhagen ($620 million), and reduce its overdependence on revenues from shrimp and halibut fishing.

These two problems are closely intertwined. Greenland is a world leader in terms of per capita volume of marine resources, with 25 percent to 50 percent of its working-age population engaged in fish and seafood production, which account for at least 87 percent of the island’s exports, 89 percent of which go to Denmark.

Greenland’s lopsided economy is unable to fully ensure the islanders’ financial viability as almost half of the local government’s social expenses are subsidized by Denmark.

With the island’s foreign, defense and economic policy being steered by Copenhagen, the only way to diversify the local economy is to expand foreign economic activity and develop additional industries. The Greenlandic authorities believe that the involvement of foreign partners could help develop the local mining sector, but they are hamstrung by Denmark, which has a final say in choosing such partners.

The Greenlandic government in Nuuk (the capital of Greenland) sees the export of land resources as holding the economic key to the island’s future independence, with China viewed as the most promising partner willing to develop the local mining and transport sectors.

China sees itself as a “Near-Arctic State” and its experts believe that the emergence of an independent Greenland on the world map over the next decade is a likely prospect.

Nuuk and Beijing have reached an agreement on China upgrading the airports in Nuuk, Ilulissat and Qaqortoq and the development of the Kvanefjeld deposit with an estimated 200,000 tons of uranium ore.

However, this gives rise to a certain contradiction between the right to use land resources granted to Greenland by Copenhagen, and Denmark’s right to determine the island’s defense policy. Meanwhile, Nuuk and Copenhagen are trying to figure out whether proposed uranium mining and airport modernization by Chinese investors is economic or defense-related.

Greenland has a strategic importance as a source of rare earth metals and a gateway to the Arctic. Denmark remains an Arctic power as long as it owns Greenland. Therefore, in its effort to enlist US support, Copenhagen emphasizes that Greenland is part of the North American continent.

Greenland is built into Washington’s security architecture as an element of perimeter defense, which, besides Greenland proper, also includes Canada. Washington’s 1948 offer to buy Greenland for $100 million (declined by Denmark) underscores the island’s geopolitical significance for the United States.

Denmark’s sovereignty over Greenland ensures the security of the northeastern flank of the United States and Canada, while simultaneously allowing Canada to “break free” from US “encirclement,” which facilitates the US-Canadian dialogue on Arctic-related issues and strengthens Ottawa’s negotiating position. While officially favoring Denmark’s continued sovereignty over Greenland, Washington may still be mulling, albeit tacitly, the possibility of interacting with the authorities of the would-be independent Greenland. In the latter case, Washington hopes that, unable to establish full-fledged law enforcement agencies of its own, the local government in Nuuk would entrust its defense to the Pentagon.

Just like Iceland, whose defense capability is guaranteed by NATO, Greenland could eventually gravitate towards rapprochement with or even membership of NATO. This prospect will hardly sit well with Canada, which wants to expand its footprint in the Arctic and would hate to see the emergence of competitors building up ties with Greenland as a pretext for their presence in the region.

Advocates of Greenland’s independence favor the introduction of military conscription in the coast guard, rescue services and patrol units. However, even if, taking cue from Denmark where 0.43% of the population serves in the army, Greenland calls up a similar number of conscripts, its armed forces will still not exceed 250 people. Therefore, the lack of a defense-demographic potential is seen as a serious hurdle on the way to the island’s hypothetical independence.

That being said, the clock is still ticking in favor of Greenland’s eventual independence from Denmark, with global warming accelerating ice loss on the island, opening ice-free areas to potential mining projects.

Greenland is also important in terms of meteorological studies as the island’s climate impacts weather forecasting in Europe, the United States and Canada.

This means that foreign countries may want to use weather monitoring as well as the study of climate change and its impact on Arctic ecology, flora and fauna as a pretext for their presence on the island.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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Europe

Will the political face of France change?

Mohammad Ghaderi

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Political and social equations are wrapped up in France! Protests against President Emmanuel Macron continue. Most analysts from European affairs, however, believe that Macron will not have a chance to survive in the presidential race in the next presidential election.

On the other hand, many analysts believe the likelihood of a nationalist presence at the Elysees Palace is high! Le Pen is now trying to remove Macron from power through holding an early election; “It is necessary to implement proportional representation and dissolve the National Assembly in order to hold new proportional elections.”

Simultaneously, she attempts to attract the attention of French citizens to herself as France’s next president. “We believe that the way out of the crisis is essentially political. This decision excludes any use of violence that only adds chaos to adversity,” Le Pen said in a letter published on the party’s website.

Le Pen also emphasized that the political solution to the recent crisis depended on the French officials while uttering that French President Emmanuel Macron “is deprived of sympathy for the people, constrained by arrogance and indifference of the elites.”

As the French National Front can make its way to power, the EU and Euro area equilibrium will change: a matter that many European and French politicians have warned about.

In 2014, the President of the French National Rally political party, Marin Le Pen was able to shine exceptionally well in the European parliamentary elections and overcome other French political parties. In the 2017 general election, Le Pen was able to reach the final round of the presidential competitions for the first time since the establishment of the French National Rally. However, at that time, Le Pen couldn’t act against the broad opposition of the Socialist and Conservative parties. But the equation seems to have changed now!

The French president is not in good shape now! Polls conducted in France suggested a decline in the popularity of Emmanuel Macron as the country’s president. This is while only 21 months have passed since Macron’s presence at Elysee Palace. Under such circumstances, Le Pen and her companions will naturally try to change the French citizen’s mind to the benefit of the French National Rally. This is a very good time indeed, as many of the French citizens no longer trust Macron and his promises for making economic, social reforms in France.

The main question is whether the French National Front will succeed in achieving its goals? It is not clear, however, that Le Pen’s calculations would all come true. The French National Rally President opened a special account on Macron’s former supporters to change their minds, and as a result, their votes to her benefit! This is while some of these votes may turn into silent votes or white votes.

Also, it’s quite possible that France political atmosphere in 2017, would once again repeat in 2022, or during the country’s possible early elections. In this case, to right-wing extremists of French National Rally are going to lose the elections again. Therefore, Le Pen is really cautious about her positions right now, though she believes that Macron’s incapability provided the ground for her political and social success in Paris.

First published in our partner MNA

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Europe

Europe has changed its mask

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Face” of peaceful and friendly Europe has changed. Europe even does not try any more to wear a mask of past tolerance. Tensions are constantly increasing. Unrest like wildfire is sweeping across Europe. Though riots caused by different events and decisions, political convulsions make Europeans feel uncomfortable. People are tired of being unheard by the authorities.

Misunderstanding between ordinary people and authorities is more clearly visible, especially in the so-called “old Europe”. Once prosperous countries, France and Italy, actively resist the new world order. Social instability, deterioration of living standards on the background of militarization has led to unprecedented unrest. All attempts to reduce tensions have not brought about results.

Democracy has plaid a dirty trick with all of us. Freedom allows people to go on the streets and introduce their position. On the other hand, delegated powers give the authorities the possibility to “calm” the riots, to suspend the activities, to ban meetings, even using police.

French political movement for economic justice, the so-called “yellow vests”, went beyond the country and caused diplomatic crisis between France and Italy.

German workers also expressed solidarity with “yellow vest” protests in France. Workers in Germany share the same grievances and recognize they also confront policies that favour the rich.

Another irritating thing is militarization of the region, NATO expansion. Many Europeans link the fact of increasing national defence expenditures with deterioration of life. That is why anti-NATO and anti-war campaigns on the Internet gain momentum. Among them are: no-to-nato.network, notonato.org, no2nato2019.org, popularresistance.org/no-to-nato-spring-actions-in-washington-dc. The more so, “Stop Air Base Ramstein” campaign in Germany started October 5th, 2008, gains more popularity and organizes protests in Germany and abroad. It has its representatives in the US, Austria, Australia, Poland, Ireland, France, Japan and the UK. The international network No to War – No to NATO calls for broad actions against NATO in Washington DC and worldwide.

The next occasion for such organizations to become more active is the signing an agreement with Macedonia on February, 6 allowing the country to become the military alliance’s 30th member. This particular step could become the catalyzer for more violent protests and political disobedience. It brings chaos to Europe, raises tensions and leads to the loss of trust in Peace and Democracy.

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