After many years of not investing in the armed forces, Serbia began to invest more seriously in rebuilding its army. Serbia has spent close to € 830 million since December 2016 to acquire new war techniques and modernize its armed forces, including overhaul and maintenance of weapons and military equipment. This can be calculated from the final accounts of the budget for the period 2016 – 2018 and from the budget for this year. In the budget for the current year alone, according to the classification 512, a record € 182.6 million was approved for the military defense. The Government decision of 7 October increased the budget for arms procurement to around € 233.48 million from the budget surplus. When all expenditures are calculated, it is estimated that € 356.25 million will be spent this year. And in 2020, according to the budget proposal, it is foreseen to spend significantly less money compared to this year, around € 218.32 million.(1) From all of the above it is clear that the total funds for modernization will exceed one billion euros, which clearly indicates that the Serbian army is seriously modernizing.
Serbia’s position in the region is such that only a strong Serbian army can guarantee peace. A strong role in the modernization of the armed forces of Serbia plays Russia, which in addition to selling arms without conditions, also perform training for members of the Serbian Army. It is especially important to emphasize that Russian military technology is significantly cheaper than the Western one, and in many segments has much better quality.
Six MiG-29 jet fighter aircrafts donated by Russia to Serbia were put into operational use, and some of the main costs of activating them so far have included transportation, overhaul of one aircraft, minor overhaul of the remaining five aircrafts, life extension, bringing Russian jets to the level of existing ones (approximate level of MiG-29SD), procurement of spare parts, ground and other equipment.(2) Immediately after it was announced that Russia will donate six MiG- 29 fighter jets to Serbia, officials said that the entire arrangement would cost 185 million euros and that price would also apply to 4 Serbian MiG 29 fighter jets, a total of 10 jets. This should be spent in three phases, two of which have already been implemented, the third phase is already initiated and should be completed by the end of 2020. Also, in addition to the modernization package, it is inevitable to acquire a certain amount of aircraft weapons, which can be a major expense. Because the price of one R-77 air-to-air missile is around $ 1 million. When it comes to the four MiG-29 fighter jets donated by Belarus, they will be delivered in early 2021 and they will most likely arrive modernized. As the deadline for completion of the works is almost two years, it can be assumed that, apart from the general overhaul, it will also be a modernization, or will actually be something if not the same as phase three for the 10 existing Serbian Mig-29 fighter jets. Some real cost of these works in Belarus could be up to 10 million euros per plane.
In October, three additional medium transport multipurpose Mi-17V-5 helicopters arrived from Russia to Serbia, slightly better equipped than the first two purchased in 2016. The price of the Mi-17V-5 ranges from $ 14 million to $ 22 million, depending on the version and the entire package it contains for training, equipment, armament and logistics. Serbia has also acquired 4 Russian landing – Mi-35M assault helicopters, which can be expected to be delivered later this year or early next year. The price of this type of helicopter in the market ranges from $ 20 million to $ 30 million and in certain arrangements may exceed $ 30 million.
In addition to 6 fighter jets MiG-29, Russia also donated to Serbia 30 T-72 tanks and 30 BRDM-2 armored reconnaissance vehicles. It is still not clear which version of the T-72 tanks Serbia will get. Although it was said to be a donation, the modernization of the armor, as well as everything else that goes with them, will be paid by Serbia. As for the BRDM-2, 10 armored personnel carriers have arrived in Serbia so far, and the rest is expected to come in the near future. The purchase of medium – range surface to air missile systems Panstir–S1 has been officially confirmed. This system is not cheap at all, for only one vehicle it is necessary to allocate about $ 15 million, but then there are the costs of training, logistics, spare parts, additional combat missile kits, so the price can be over $ 20 million.
All of these weapons, which come from Russia and Belarus, and which have been confirmed to have been purchased from the highest level and even by the Serbian president himself, could end up costing around $ 600 million.
However, the Serbian purchase of weapons from Russia did not go unnoticed by the United States of America. United States special representative for the Western Balkans Matthew Palmer in an interview with Macedonian media expressed concern that Serbia could acquire Russian weapons:
“I feel concerned not only about the deployment of Russian weapons, but also about the possibility of Serbia acquiring important Russian military systems,” the US diplomat told Macedonian media. And if the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic has repeatedly said that Serbia has no money for the S-400 and that Serbia wisely chooses which weapons to buy, Matthew Palmer “advised” Belgrade to be careful with such acquisitions. He made it clear that “the US could revise the sanctions regime against Serbia.”
The military exercises of the Serbian and Russian armies have been taking place in the territory of Russia and Serbia for the last five years. A recent exercise that has attracted much attention due to the arrival of modern long – range surface to air missile system S-400 and medium – range surface to air missile systems Panstir–S1, represented the second phase of the “Slavic Shield 2019” and the first phase was conducted in September near Astrakhan in Russia. Then Serbian army underwent training on the S-400 Triumph system, which is the most powerful long-range air defense system in the world. It is also important to note that long – range surface to air missile system S-500 has already been developed in Russia and is expected to enter the operational use of the Russian military next year.
Without a doubt, Serbia needs the S-400 Triumph system. Belgrade needs an S-400 system that would deter the possibility of aggression against Serbia. In today’s world, nothing can so good guarantee the security of the state as strong air defense. Experiences from aggression against Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria teach us that only countries with strong air defense systems are states that can run an independent or neutral policy. But it is a misconception that one S-400 battery, as it is presented by the significant part of the Serbian analysts, is sufficient to protect the sky of Serbia. Serbia needs two S-400 missile batteries which would cost around one billion euros. Also S-400 has never been designed to operate as stand-alone system and is most effective as part of a much wider integrated air defense systems. An effective air defense consists of layers of different types of surface to air missile systems – from the very short range to the very long range. It also incorporates many different radars and other sensors for the detection of different types of enemy targets. For Serbia, that means that in addition to the S-400, which is a long-range system and the Pantsir S1, which is a short-range system, a medium-range surface to air missile system is required. And for Serbia, the Buk-M3 would be ideal. But, all of these surface to air missile systems are very expensive.
However, bearing in mind that the Government of Serbia and international financial institutions predicts that Serbia will have a GDP growth of about 4% in the years ahead, then there is a real possibility that Serbia will complete its air defense systems by purchasing Russian short, medium and long-range surface to air missile systems. This conclusion is also imposed in the fact that Serbian army has been trained to manage the S-400 system. It is important to note that members of the Serbian Army are regular participants of the “International Military Games” and members of the Serbian Army even won bronze in the “Military Rally” competition in August and also its important to point out that Serbian military personnel study at Russian military universities. All of the above clearly indicates that there is strong cooperation between the Russian and Serbian military, which will only be stronger in the years ahead.
From our partner International Affairs
After MSC: A New EU and a New Strategic NATO concept?
There are many reactions to the Munich Security Conference and the speeches of Macron, Pompeo, Laschet and Steinmeier. Two are documented here. Firstly, the more pro-Russian perspective in the person of Dr. Alexander Rahr, who calls for a reinvention of the EU and proposes a Franco-German working group that, based on the eroding power and cohesion of the West, has a more European orientation along Macron’s proposals, wants compromises in adhering to liberal values and seeks a balance with Russia.
The conclusion of this year’s Munich Security Conference is that the US is ruthlessly fighting to maintain its global monopoly on power and the status of the only world order power. The EU-Europeans cling desperately to the idea of the liberal order of values under Western leadership, which is waning every year. China and Russia enjoy their power roles, but are still too weak to put their sole stamp on the new world order.
The EU complains about the lack of multilateralism. But what does the EU mean by this: the sole power of the West? Russians and Chinese complain that the EU only hopes for America’s appreciation, but does not want Russia and China to shape the new world order. Meanwhile, the United States is demanding that Germany and other Europeans mercilessly ostracize Russia and China as opponents and stop all technology and gas deals with them. The American Secretary of State Pompeo spoke of the permanent victory of the West, but meant only „America first“.
The helplessness of the EU results in the fact that it continues to lose its role in shaping world politics. Steinmeier, Kramp-Karrenbauer, Maas – they all complained and complained. But today the EU is militarily weak, meanwhile also economically battered and weakened by internal conflicts. Despite constant calls from French President Macron, it lacks the will to take control of the action itself.
Macron tried to wake up the EU at the Munich Security Conference. He envisions a new European architecture that also includes Russia. But the other EU countries do not follow him; if they move closer to Russia, they fear the weakening of the transatlantic community and the sell-off of their beloved liberal values.
The liberal European elites, the powerful media and the business world lack the imagination to emancipate themselves from America. This reveals what the sovereignty of the EU actually was in the post-war years and the 30 years after the turnaround. The pressure to act is not yet strong enough for the EU. The transatlantic navel show of a western elite at the Munich Security Conference, which is convinced that it is not doomed, reminds outsiders of the warning words of the late Foreign Minister Westerwelle about late Roman decadence.
France and Germany should quickly set up an informal working group to develop the concept of a future European architecture. The prerequisite is that the group is not dominated by transatlantic think tanks or representatives of Soros foundations. After a lively exchange with Russians, Britons and Central Eastern Europeans, the results would then be presented to the heads of state for further use. Time is short: the EU has to learn to think outside the box, even if it has to cut back on its liberal focus on values. “
The second major contribution is from General ret. Wittmann in the Tagesspiegel, who criticizes the speechlessness of the EU and NATO and calls for a new strategic NATO concept in the tradition of the Harmel report:
„President Macron’s description of NATO as“ brain dead „was certainly unsuccessful. But, critical reference to inadequate consultation and coordination in the alliance was justified. This does not only apply to specific occasions, such as the uncoordinated withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria and their invasion by Turkey. There has always been a debate culture in NATO that spares many sensitive issues. On existentially important questions such as Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions or China’s rise there have never been any serious consultations in the NATO Council. The reason appears to be twofold To be concerned: Disagreement leads in public to the assumption that NATO stands before the breaking up or dealing with a region outside of NATO territory creates suspicion that NATO wants to intervene militarily there, and the alliance must free itself from such inhibitions. It should raise „consultation“ on a new core function of NATO – in addition to the three core functions defined in the strategic concept of 2010: collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security.
That would be an explicit revaluation and activation of Article 4 of the Washington NATO Treaty. Already in the short “London Declaration” of the heads of state and government after its meeting on the 70th anniversary of NATO in December 2019, there was twice talk of „consultation“: It was reaffirmed that NATO is the essential forum for security consultations and decisions. And the Secretary General was asked to put forward the proposal for a „forward-looking process of reflection“ to further strengthen „the political dimension of NATO, including the consultations“. This is an emaciated version of the proposal, the president Macron and Secretary of State Maas had done. They wanted a more fundamental strategy debate. So it is to be hoped that the “reflection process” leads to the decision leads to renew the strategic concept of NATO .
This is the basic document of NATO, which has so far been decided about every ten years as the decisive specification of the NATO Treaty. The current one dates from 2010 – long before the Russian aggression against Ukraine, which catapulted NATO „back into the Article 5 world“ to the question of the alliance case. The pendulum moved for more than two decades priorities for NATO and member states‘ armed forces towards foreign missions. Defense of the country and the alliance no longer seemed to be necessary. In 2014, given the concerns particularly in Poland and the Baltic States, it had to be demonstrated convincingly: If NATO could not help its partner Ukraine militarily, every square meter of NATO territory is taboo for Russia. With the Wales Summit in 2014, NATO’s greatest reorientation began since the fall of the Berlin Wall: once again towards national and alliance defense.
The consequences affected aspects such as operational readiness, reinforcement planning, exercise, leadership, air surveillance – up to the „improved front presence“ with multinational NATO battalions in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. All of this and the new look at Russia is not reflected in the current strategic concept, nor is the development of the past ten years in terms of threats, such as new weapon technology, cyber threats, security-related consequences of climate change, militarization of space and “hybrid warfare”. The latter is not a completely new phenomenon, but it is a new challenge: a method that combines open and covert military and non-military resources and that can (and should) make it difficult for the Alliance to respond collectively. In the Ukraine conflict, Russia demonstrated the seamless orchestration of military and non-military instruments: military threats beyond the Ukrainian border, use of paramilitary units without sovereignty badges, cyberattacks against Ukrainian infrastructure and the support of „separatists“ with military equipment.
The threats mentioned are to be countered increasingly by strengthening the “resilience” of societies, military structures and critical infrastructure. This keyword, borrowed from psychology, means resilience and flexible responsiveness. This task of NATO is so crucial that it should also be included as an additional core function in a new strategic concept. Why are you not yet in the process of designing a new strategic concept? Like over ten years ago, there is a fear that this work will be a “divisive process”. Secondly, one wants to avoid a debate on the political and strategic foundations of NATO during Trump’s presidency. On the military side of the headquarters, in the responsibility of the military committee, at least the military strategy policy document MC 400 was revised.
But it cannot remain there, not least because this document is classified as „NATO-confidential“. With the decision at the time to publish the strategic concept of 1991, NATO opted for transparency and confidence-building the public. She owes the world her right to exist, discloses the threats and skills required under the circumstances that have changed since 2010. It is time for a new strategic concept for the transatlantic alliance. This was also intended to counter the nonsensical talk about an „identity crisis“ of NATO. The new strategic concept must analyze the changed conditions in the field of security policy, represent the interaction between institutions and actors, and convincingly explain the continuing importance of the transatlantic link and the growing responsibility of Europe for its own security. „Consultation“ and „Resilience (Development)“ should finally be understood as core functions.
Also needed is a new strategic concept that substantiates the role of the “European pillar” in NATO, based on the “Common Security and Defense Policy” of the EU, which can only be successful, complementary, not competitive with NATO. The strategic challenge should also face up to the challenge posed by China and Russia’s place in the European security order. A Dedicate concept – provided that Russia ends the violation of the rules agreed for them. The range of dialogues offered by NATO based on the harmony philosophy (defense and relaxation, firmness and willingness to talk) should be specified.“
Brigadegeneral Retired Dr. Klaus Wittmann is a senior fellow of the Aspen Institute Germany and teaches contemporary history at the University Potsdam.
A new NATO concept expanded to include the functions of consultation and resilience is certainly necessary, as well as paired with a new version of the Harmel report (the latter has also been suggested by General ret. Kujat). In my opinion, however, this will not happen while Trump is still in office, as the transatlantic relationship after him will no longer be the status quo ante. In addition, the suggestion of Prof. Alexander Rahr is interesting no longer to wait, but to set up a Franco-German working group that at least design an architecture of the European pillar that was in line with Macron’s proposals, so that one finally has a basis for discussion. This is no longer expected under Merkel, but hopefully the next black- green government will tackle this question. Armin Laschet accused the current Merkel government of inactivity in Europe on the MSC, while, despite being invited, Spahn and Merz never even came to the MSC.
However, Merz who is considered to be more transatlantic than Laschet due to his former position as chief of the Atlantic Bridge and member of Blackrock also pointed out that Germany and the EU should now actively react to Macron´s proposal as in the future there won´t be a better and more pro-European French president and Marine Le Pen was just waiting for her chance in the next presidential elections. And Merz is now also a supporter of a China Bridge, a new organization pushed by former CSU minister Friedrichs. At the MSC Laschet and Baerbrock had a panel together, but Baerbrock has no concrete ideas except the normal phrases that she was for „more Europe“ and for human rights. While the Greens would have with Omnid Omnipour or even with Cem Özdemir an excellent foreign minister, their time is over at the Greens. Hopefully, Laschet or Merz as next chancellor will make foreign and security policy a chief issue and not delegate it to green idealists.
Remember the last green foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, who made no significant contributions except for the Yugoslavia war and the Iraq war, and Schröder made clear to him who was the waiter and who was the chief and cook, especially in relations with China and Russia, in which Eurasianist Schröder had even the Eurasiazisation of the G7 to a G9 with Russia and China in mind. The Green Fischer was more the liberal human rights transatlantic and had a strong ally in Madeline Albright, who later included him in her consulting firm and as a lobbyist for the Nabucco pipeline, while Schröder accepted positions with Putin, Gazprom and Rosneft as well as Rothschild, whereby Macron was also employed by Rothschild before he started En Marche.
AKK, which had already unsuccessfully wanted EU or NATO missions in northern Syria, was also speaking at the MSC and their suggestion of an EU mission in the Persian Gulf with German participation was gratefully received by Macron as France is already there with the first warships and Macron proposed a vote in the EU about such a joint mission to get a picture of the mood, as well as sending a Coalition of the Willing as the first European mission to set a precedent. However, the Europeans do not want to participate in the US mission in the Persian Gulf, since they do not share Trump’s maximum pressure policy and the termination of the Iran deal and do not want to be drawn into a U.S.-Iranian war, but first only to secure the international trade routes and their own ships Which position a Brexit-Gb under Johnson will take remains to be seen.
Three comments on General Wittmann’s contribution to a new strategic NATO concept in the Tagesspiegel. The Harmel report proposed a new NATO strategy based on the transition from Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) to flexible response and the willingness to engage in dialogue with the Eastern Bloc. Similarly, one might also have to expand the flexible response, also based on the new weapon systems and new international players
Furthermore, the question arises to what extent a new strategic NATO concept also takes into account the questions that Michael O Hannon raises in his recently published book „The Senkaku Paradox“ – that is, how NATO will react to a limited hybrid warfare of Russia, be it in the Baltic Gaps or on the part of China around Taiwan, the South China Sea or the East China Sea- whether NATO and the USA respond massively to this or contain the local aggression of small stakes and respond with massive economic warfare, as he outlines in his book:
America needs better options for resolving potential crises
In recent years, the Pentagon has elevated its concerns about Russia and China as potential military threats to the United States and its allies. But what issues could provoke actual conflict between the United States and either country? And how could such a conflict be contained before it took the world to the brink of thermonuclear catastrophe, as was feared during the cold war?
Defense expert Michael O’Hanlon wrestles with these questions in this insightful book, setting them within the broader context of hegemonic change and today’s version of great-power competition.
The book examines how a local crisis could escalate into a broader and much more dangerous threat to peace. What if, for example, Russia’s “little green men” seized control of a community, like Narva or an even smaller town in Estonia, now a NATO ally? Or, what if China seized one of the uninhabited Senkaku islands now claimed and administered by Japan, or imposed a partial blockade of Taiwan?
Such threats are not necessarily imminent, but they are far from inconceivable. Washington could be forced to choose, in these and similar cases, between risking major war to reverse the aggression, and appeasing China or Russia in ways that could jeopardize the broader global order.
O’Hanlon argues that the United States needs a better range of options for dealing with such risks to peace. He advocates “integrated deterrence,” which combines military elements with economic warfare. The military components would feature strengthened forward defenses as well as, possibly, limited military options against Russian or Chinese assets in other theaters. Economic warfare would include offensive elements, notably sanctions, as well as measures to ensure the resilience of the United States and allies against possible enemy reprisal.
The goal is to deter war through a credible set of responses that are more commensurate than existing policy with the stakes involved in such scenarios.“
The third question is to what extent such a new Harmel report also considers the possibility of diplomatic solutions in the sense of a New Eastern Policy with Russia, as well as arms control agreements after the terminated INF contract, the possible termination of START and other new weapon systems for which there are still no arms restrictions as cyber or space weapons. At the moment, all the militaries in the world are currently busy modernizing their weapon systems and China has announced that, on the one hand, it wants to increase the scope and, on the other hand, it will only be ready for armaments agreements once the modernization has been completed and negotiations should take place on this new basis.
From our partner RIAC
“Westlessness” of the West, and debates on China during Munich Security Conference
The Munich Security Conference, which traditionally brings together heads of state and government, foreign and defense ministers in February, is usually expected to bring some kind of intrigue. This time round, the role was claimed by the conference report, titled “Westlessness,” whose main message was the loss by Western countries of their global leadership and, as a consequence, the growth of nationalist sentiment in Western countries and the loss of their monopoly on resolving international conflicts.
Expectably enough, Russia and China were blamed for the world and the West itself becoming “less Western.” The organizers of the Munich Conference urged China to responsibly handle its role as the world’s new non-Western center of power, and expressed hope that China would over time “adopt liberal values and become a “responsible stakeholder” in a liberal world led by the West.”
A pretty unlikely scenario though. A separate chapter in the report’s “Actors” section is devoted to China. Describing China as the “Meddle Kingdom” (similar to the Middle Kingdom), the authors view the country’s growing economic might and political sway as a potential threat to the world order that exists today.
The authors are concerned about looming Chinese superiority in foundational emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and connectivity technology, as well as surveillance technology and “know-how” in the field of internet regulation. In the case of 5G, they write about an intense debate over how to balance close economic ties with China amid growing security concerns. And, in a truly Freudian slip, they write about “the growing concern that the future holds a technological segregation of the world into those countries operating on Western technologies and norms and those running on Chinese ones.”
The section of the report on China is chock-full of graphs, charts and diagrams reflecting European fears of Chinese technology and investments. However, when carefully examined, these charts show that despite strong opposition from Washington and Brussels, more than half of “respondents” perceive technologies and investments from China positively.
The participants in the Munich Conference also spent a lot of time trying to present the coronavirus epidemic as a “Chinese threat,” even though China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Munich that his country would soon be able to check the spread of COVID-19.
Speaking at the conference, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized: “We are prepared to join efforts on other pressing issues of the global agenda, including epidemiological threats. We are ready to work together on other pressing issues on the world agenda, including epidemiological threats. In this regard, I would like to note China’s open and responsible approach to international cooperation in combating the spread of the coronavirus.”
The Munich conference never found a cure to the problem of “Westlessness” though. Well, maybe they should look at themselves instead of faulting China, Russia and others? At least, Russian and Chinese representatives reaffirmed their readiness to engage in a constructive and inclusive dialogue.
From our partner International Affairs
Does NATO respond positively to the Turkish supererogation?
Turkey is once again turning to the West, while over the past two years, it had been distancing from the West and trying to collaborate with Russia due the success of the Astana peace process on the Syrian conflict.
Damascus’s strategic patience is over because Ankara has failed to fulfill its commitments regarding retaking the areas captured by terrorists backed by Turkey. The Syrian army’s widespread advances over the last two weeks in areas occupied by terrorist forces in the northwest have led to Ankara’s reaction and increased tensions between Syria and Turkey. Along with wresting control over the strategic Damascus-Aleppo highway, the Syrian army carried out successful operations in recapturing 1500 km2 of Syrian territory and about 100 towns and villages in west and south Aleppo, especially key towns of Khan Tuman and Saraqib. Following the Syrian army’s operations, the Turkish government has sent thousands of troops and military equipment to the outskirts of Idlib to prevent the continued advance of the Syrian forces.
Turkey’s moves were due to greenlight by the U.S., NATO, and the EU, which have so far not been in Ankara’s favor; rather they have resulted in massive casualties and the loss of six military bases in Syria’s territory.
Recently, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar called on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to support the Turkish military in order to halt the Syrian army’s offensive against Idlib, the stronghold of the latest Turkish-backed terrorist elements.
Obviously, the move by Turkey has broken the commitments to the Sochi agreement and the Astana process, with the aim of holding its place in NATO. This is a wish that seems unlikely to come true, given the chaotic situation of NATO and the West’s distrust of Turkey.
Accordingly, it is certain that Idlib and its outskirts will soon be completely liberated because of the high motivation and ability of the Syrian army. The liberation will definitely thwart all hostile policies that Turkey has adopted in Syria for many years and will bring heavy defeat for Ankara.
The developments in Syria in recent days shows that Turkey is no longer trustworthy as it has explicitly violated Syria’s sovereignty as an independent state. There have been some accords on Syria, such as the Sochi agreement, regarding the establishment of a safe zone in Idlib, while Turkey has not considered the slightest value for the agreements.
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