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Russia–Germany: Crisis of Political Confidence as a Factor in Asymmetrical Relations

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In 2020, Germany and Russia celebrate several important anniversaries in their bilateral relations, marking events that did much to lay the foundations of the two states’ current cooperation: 65 years since diplomatic relations were established between the Federative Republic of Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 50 years since the Treaty of Moscow was signed, 30 years since the reunification of Germany and the signing of the founding agreements related to this, including Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany and Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on Good-Neighbourliness, Partnership and Cooperation. They were signed in August–November. In these months of the anniversary year, the bilateral relations are facing major tests.

Officially, the stages in Russia–Germany relations are measured not in anniversaries but in legislative periods of Germany’s governmental coalitions that formulate their own four-year foreign political agenda. Traditionally, Russia is part of this agenda and Germany’s programme in relation to Russia is determined by the factional makeup of the German Government, the current international situation and the domestic political processes in Russia. The latest coalition agreement between the CDU/CSU bloc and the SPD was concluded for the period between March 2018 and September 2021. It contains statements about Russia violating the European world order (“annexation” of Crimea, intervention in the east of Ukraine), about there being great potential for civil and public dialogue and economic cooperation, about Germany’s commitment to the idea of a common space from Lisbon to Vladivostok. The coalition members believe that “Germany is sincerely interested in good relations with Russia and in close cooperation with a view to ensuring peace and resolving important international problems” though “Russia’s current politics compel us to be particularly careful and flexibly stable. … The goal of our Russian policy remains: a return to relations based on mutual confidence and a peaceful balance of interests allowing the parties to once again achieve close cooperation.”

Moscow’s relations with Germany are determined by Russia’s foreign policy concepts, the latest of which was adopted on November 30, 2016. Among the EU states, Germany has traditionally been assigned the place of the leading partner and a revitalization of mutually advantageous bilateral relations with that partner is viewed as an important resource for “promoting Russia’s national interests in European and global affairs.”

The first two and a half years of the current German coalition government’s legislative period were marked by a series of events that had a major effect on the political backdrop for the bilateral cooperation. The Salisbury incident of March 4, 2018 (“the Skripal affair”) resulted in the “collective West” states, including Germany, expelling Russian diplomats, adopting new sanctions, with Berlin, particularly the Aussenamt, and developing negative sentiments toward Moscow. This all coincided with the new governmental coalition starting its work on March 14 and Russia’s “new old” president being elected on March 18. Under such difficult circumstances, Russian and German leaders continued their constructive communication largely based in a mostly closed-door meeting held in Sochi in early May 2017. Details of another meeting between Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel held in the same city in May 2018, as well as the working discussion of topical questions in Meseberg, were also not revealed to the public, yet they shaped generally positive sentiments that contributed significantly to smoothing out the influence the March events had had on shaping the anti-Russian sentiments in Germany’s political community and media. Regular meetings held in 2018 between heads of various agencies (primarily foreign ministries) were also conducive to positivity.

On August 23, 2019, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Georgian citizen of Chechen origin, was killed in Berlin. This also engendered negativity as it resulted in further exacerbation of diplomatic relations and in the expulsion of two Russian diplomats in December 2019. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reciprocated.

On January 11, 2020, Angela Merkel made an unexpected visit to Moscow and discussed topical problems in international relations with Vladimir Putin. At the same time, the two states’ foreign ministers also held a meeting. The German politicians’ visit confirmed that Berlin was ready to continue the constructive dialogue. The coronavirus pandemic that broke out in March pushed most bilateral issues into the background somewhat.

In mid-May, Angela Merkel expressed her highly negative personal opinion concerning the cyberattack on the Bundestag in the spring of 2015, which German special services believed to have been organized by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Ministry of Defence. Even though the experts at the Federal Criminal Police Office confined themselves to stating that “this fact is highly likely,” without providing incontrovertible proof, Berlin adopted this version as “final and incontrovertible.”

On July 1, 2020, Germany assumed the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Its Presidency Programme has only one paragraph on Russia, stating that relations with Russia need to be actively formed on the basis of the EU’s five principles (the 2016 Mogherini principles) and that their implementation needs to be analyzed. On May 27, 2020, the Federal Chancellor delivered a speech at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Berlin focusing a lot on Russia. While emphasizing the objective importance their bilateral relations have for both states, the Chancellor reminded her audience that she had, from the outset, had a critical constructive attitude to the bilateral dialogue and to the importance of respecting the values and recognized international rules that, in her opinion, Russia “has repeatedly violated.” Consequently, Berlin will “speak out” against subsequent breaches of these by Moscow. Simultaneously, within the framework of its value-based approach, Germany sees opportunities for new impetus in the development of bilateral relations, including such areas as climate protection and global healthcare.

The August 20 incident with Alexei Navalny was a litmus test for the true level of anti-Russian sentiments in some parts of Germany’s political community. This time, the paper turned dark purple. “The Salisbury spirit” made a comeback to the public discourse with active support from some EU capitals. There were insistent voices calling for “punishing the Kremlin” by imposing sanctions on, among other things, Nord Stream II, up to and including shutting the project down. Moscow has no success in its attempts to transform those unfounded and harshly formulated demands and accusations into a constructive discussion: Berlin saw a clear violation of its values and legal rules that, in her May speech, the Chancellor referred to as being possible. At the same time, in his message of greetings to Angela Merkel and Frank-Walter Steinmeier on the 30th anniversary of Germany’s reunification, Vladimir Putin confirmed “Russia’s invariable commitment to dialogue and interaction with German partners on the pressing issues on the bilateral and international agenda.”

Against the backdrop of clearly dubious proof of “the Russian authorities once again using chemical weapons” to eliminate undesirable persons, the ”collective West” continued to apply unprecedented pressure; in October 2013, it prompted Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to make several harsh statements to the effect that Russia could stop communicating with the European Union. Let us note that, officially, the EU put a freeze on the top-level dialogue from the spring of 2014. The same applies to Russia–EU summits and intergovernmental consultations with EU states. Yet, Russia’s working consultations with individual states, primarily Germany and France, continue. The inter-parliamentary dialogue has never stopped. Moreover, the Russian-German High-level Working Group on strategic economic and financial cooperation resumed its meetings in June 2016, while the inter-agency High-Level Working Group on Security Policy resumed its meetings in November 2018. Clearly, neither party is interested in having their communications come to a halt.

Both Brussels and Berlin heard Sergey Lavrov, but it did not prevent them, on October 15, 2020, from imposing EU sanctions on six high-ranking Russian officials and on a research institution. These sanctions had been proposed by the France–Germany tandem. On October 15 2018, the Council of the EU adopted a mechanism for imposing restrictions as part of combating use and proliferation of chemical weapons. This mechanism served as the legal grounds for the sanctions: the EU celebrated the second anniversary of this mechanism in style. On October 22, Brussels imposed sanctions on two Russian citizens for having allegedly participated in organizing a cyberattack on the Bundestag.

On October 17, Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas noted that the EU had adopted appropriate sanctions, that Brussels was ready to respond henceforth to “Russia’s unacceptable actions,” while also admitting that no one was interested in cutting off the dialogue with Moscow as this dialogue is required for resolving conflicts, including those in Libya, Ukraine, Nagorno-Karabakh and elsewhere. Nonetheless, on October 26, Andrea Sasse, a German Foreign Ministry spokesperson, responded negatively to Vladimir Putin’s suggestion that a moratorium be imposed on deploying land-based intermediate- and short-range missiles in Europe. Agreeing with NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, she believed this initiative did not inspire confidence. On October 27, in an interview with the Croatian newspaper Vecernji List, Sergey Lavrov confirmed his previous statements, saying, “I hope our European colleagues will have the wisdom, vision and pure common sense, so that our dialogue with the European Union and its member states is fully restored on the basis of the principles of neighbourly relations, good faith, predictability and openness.” On October 28, Russia’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs commented on Andrea Sasse’s remarks, pointing out, in particular, that this was “a typical example of a biased and, in fact, knee-jerk reaction, no effort being made to understand what the Russian proposal is about.”

In the year that marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War and the Second World War, the European Union and its member states have begun distorting history, including the role of the Soviet Union in the victory over Nazism. For instance, the resolution the Bundestag adopted on October 9 on bolstering the memory of war victims stipulates creating a new historical and memorial centre about Nazi crimes. The text of the resolution suggests the likelihood of distorting the historical memory and using the centre to instrumentalize insinuations “equating the Soviet Union with the Third Reich when it comes to unleashing the war,” which, from Russia’s point of view, is absolutely impermissible.

As of early November 2020, relations between Russia, Germany and the EU are still based on the “selective engagement” principle, with the European participants having no clearly defined strategic approach to the development of these relations. Germany apparently has no conceptual framework for working in this area and, in its presidency of the Council of the EU, Germany has essentially abandoned its opportunity to spearhead a discussion of the contents of future interaction to which there are no alternatives.

Clearly, Moscow and Berlin will continue their working contacts on political matters, although these contacts will have as their backdrop a profound crisis of confidence crisis and a minimal level of understanding on a series of controversial issues (cyberattacks, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, Alexei Navalny). Yet, that circumstance will not significantly affect the Normandy format or the cooperation on the Syrian, Libyan, Iranian and other tracks.

The paradox of today’s crisis of relations is that it is taking place against the background of decent (despite the effect of the coronavirus pandemic) relations in other areas, such as the economy, culture, science and education. In recent years, these have received an additional impetus to development.

Back in 2014, Russia and Germany’s foreign ministries launched a new format, a Russian-German Cross Year, which was intended to boost bilateral cooperation in specific areas. The first years were dedicated to language and literature, youth exchanges, and regional and municipal cooperation.

The Russian-German Year of Scientific and Educational Partnerships was held in 2018–2020. The events that year bolstered cooperation in inter-university interactions, cutting-edge research and support for young scientists and innovations. Currently, about 1,000 joint university partnerships are functioning, involving 203 German and 233 Russian universities, as well as 33 organizations with other status, and their numbers are constantly rising. Russia is Germany’s ninth-largest partner in this area.

Since July 2017, the German Government has been protecting the principles of European energy security and sovereignty and attempting, for that purpose, to counter the consistent steps taken by the US Administration (and their EU supporters) against Nord Stream II. Yet, that opposition has thus far not been particularly effective. In early 2020, Washington first succeeded in having the construction of the gas pipelines suspended; subsequently, threatening extra-territorial sanctions against the current and future project partners, the US put a question mark over the project being completed/ the pipeline being put into operation. In early August 2020, EU Ambassador to Russia Markus Ederer said that the EU was designing a mechanism that would “also ensure that the EU becomes more resilient to exterritorial sanctions by third countries,” including Washington’s possible economic restrictions against Nord Stream II. The “Communication on Strengthening the EU’s Financial and Economic Sovereignty” is to be ready by the end of 2020.

In June 2019, the economic ministers of both states signed a Memorandum on Partnership for Efficiency based on provisions from the position paper of the Eastern Committee of the German Economy (January 2019) intended for developing cooperation in principal economic areas such as energy, climate protection, nuclear security, outer space, healthcare, support for small- and medium-sized enterprises, further professional training, digitization, agriculture, visa liberalization, etc. In February 2020, in Berlin, Germany’s Minister for Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier and Russia’s Minister for Industry and Trade Denis Manturov agreed to form a joint energy group.

In December 2019, the EU adopted the European Green Deal mandating a transition to a climate-neutral economy for EU member states by 2050; this deal became a challenge for Russia–Germany cooperation. Interaction with Germany on hydrogen energy could be a promising area for cooperation. Even though Germany and the EU’s hydrogen strategies do not mention Russia, there is every objective reason for Russia to find a niche in that sphere. The Eastern Committee of the German Economy and the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce (GRCC) deserve credit for bringing this matter up in their reports in early July 2020. On September 17, the GRCC formed a Hydrogen Initiative Group with a view to determining and promoting Russian and German companies’ pilot projects. On October 12, the Russian Government approved a “roadmap” for developing Russian hydrogen energy, which envisages active involvement by Russia in international cooperation.

The obvious challenges entailed by the Green Deal include introducing carbon tariffs intended to bar imported goods manufacture of which produces considerable СО2 emissions. Many Russian businesses had prepared in advance for this contingency by investing heavily in reducing their emissions, in waste treatment facilities and in circular technologies. Even so, they face an uphill battle as they attempt to convince EU officials that their products meet the European requirements. Today, Brussels mostly believes that all Russia-made goods leave a large carbon footprint.

Actually, Russia is arriving at comprehending, at all levels, that there are no alternatives to environmental thinking and conduct. For several years running, there have been successful Russian-German projects for introducing the most accessible technologies, primarily in the sectors that produce the biggest amounts of СО2. Despite certain difficulties, cooperation has been launched in environmentally friendly waste disposal and processing. Individual regions are becoming increasingly interested in environmental protection measures, building sustainable energy sources, in particular wind farms. Energy-saving technologies are being used in constructing new buildings and facilities. German companies have good opportunities for participating in Russia’s “green” modernization, though this has only just been launched.

Falling global energy prices and the rigid restrictions Germany and Russia have imposed on the movement of capital, services, and manpower have resulted in a decline in mutual trade estimated at up to 25% at the end of 2020. Drops in Russian exports to Germany are several times greater than drops in German exports to Russia since the two states’ economic cooperation is still largely tied to the energy sector, whose economic agents determine a significant part of foreign trade flows and mutual investment flows. Foreign trade is being restructured at a very slow rate owing, among other things, to the inadequate pace of Russian economic reforms and creation of a critical mass of competitive small- and medium-sized businesses. The state is taking steps to support the economic agents’ exports performance and incentive mechanisms are becoming more effective, but this is clearly not enough to achieve a qualitative breakthrough.

Even though the number of German businesses in Russia has fallen by about a third, the German business community remains the biggest and best organized among all foreign communities as it is continuing to invest and lobby its members’ interests. They name bureaucracy and protectionism on the part of the Russian authorities among the most prominent negative factors. In recent months, visa restrictions imposed in connection with the pandemic have become a significant obstacle. The GRCC obtains exceptions and charters special flights, but this does not solve the mobility problem for German top managers and for skilled professionals that assemble and service German-made equipment. The situation will clearly not improve during the second wave of the pandemic.

Russian companies in Germany have recently also faced frequent non-market problems but, unlike their German partners, they do not have such powerful support as that provided by the Eastern Committee and the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce, which can set up a direct dialogue between the country’s leaders and major entrepreneurs.

In conclusion, it is important to remind our readers that the year of Germany in Russia was officially inaugurated in late September. It will feature various events intended to introduce Russians to the culture and cutting-edge economic, educational and scientific achievements of Russia’s principal European partner. This year, Germany itself will experience difficult societal, economic and political developments that will shape electoral sentiment at the 2021 elections to the Bundestag, Landtags and local councils. The elections to the Bundestag will bring a new governmental coalition and a new chancellor and officially introduce a new period in Russia-Germany relations. On the one hand, Germany’s new leadership will assume a harder stance towards the Kremlin. On the other hand, following the initial interaction between the states’ leaders, there will be an opportunity for a joint search for a common denominator in both states’ interests and for ways of gradually emerging from the current crisis of confidence and achieving an understanding on the critical points on strategic issues and areas. Both sides already need to be preparing for this.

From our partner RIAC

Ph.D in Economics, Deputy Director of the RAS Institute for Europe, Head of the Country and Regional Researches Department, Head of the German Research Center

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Disconnecting From SWIFT? No, We Did Not Hear About It

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Photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

The European Parliament has adopted another resolution on Russia. It reflects the key political claims against Moscow which have recently been on the Union’s official agenda. These include the aggravation of the situation in Ukraine, the “Navalny case”, the diplomatic scandal between Russia and the Czech Republic concerning the explosion of a military warehouse in 2014. The resolution contained radical proposals. Disconnect Russia from SWIFT and stop imports of energy resources in the event of an aggravation of the conflict in Donbass, reconsider relations between Russia and the EU, develop new sanctions regimes, etc. These proposals generated headlines in the media. However, the stock markets ignored them. The resolution did not cause any fluctuations of the ruble or Russian blue chips. Why did this happen and should the resolution be taken seriously?

At first glance, the resolution confirms that high consensus of one of the key (along with the EU Council) legislative bodies of the EU. It was adopted by 569 votes in favour, 67 against, and with 46 abstentions. Kiev and Prague welcome the resolution. Their political positions are uncompromisingly reflected in the document, although, for example, in the case of the explosion at a Czech military depot, there is no consensus, even in the Czech Republic itself. Not to mention the situation around Donbass, where the military build-up was carried out on both sides. According to an already established tradition, Russia is declared guilty of all obvious and perceived problems. Naturally, the document also reflects the “Navalny case”. Earlier, the European Parliament had already issued two resolutions. One in connection with the alleged poisoning, and the other after the arrest of the Russian opposition YouTuber Navalny. Tough measures against Moscow were proposed in previous resolutions as well. In some ways, their intention is consistent with American bills on “draconian sanctions”, such as DASKA: to designate a “lowest denominator” and possible measures that the European Union could potentially take. The threat of disconnection from SWIFT was the “icing on the cake”, which, as expected, was popular in the media success.

However, the markets ignored the resolution of the European Parliament. There are several reasons for this.

First, the period of aggravation of the situation in Donbass is clearly over. Yes, the problem itself has not been resolved. The conflict will smoulder for a long time, and new rounds of escalation will be still felt. There are no prospects for the implementation of the Minsk agreements. However, the prospect of an open military clash, which loomed on the horizon a month ago, has receded into the background. Ukrainian diplomacy was unable to achieve progress towards the revision of the Minsk agreements, although it temporarily returned the topic of Donbass to the political and media mainstream. Russia has shown that it is ready to balance the military build-up in Donbass without hesitation and to respond to a possible attempted military solution. The next round of exacerbation has so far fizzled out without leading to qualitative changes in the sanctions regime against Russia, or in the political positions of the parties.

Second, the radical proposals of the European Parliament are unlikely to find a response in the European Commission and the EU Council. The head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, has already noted that decisions on restrictions on SWIFT and Nord Stream 2 are not within the competence of the European Union. It is obvious that disconnecting Russia from SWIFT will lead to colossal losses for both Russian business and EU companies doing business with Russia. The refusal to purchase Russian energy resources will also lead to significant costs. The Nord Stream 2 project remains in the interests of the European Union and Germany. Moreover, the disconnection from SWIFT, taking into account its consequences for the Russian economy, can simply be perceived by Moscow as an act of aggression with all the ensuing political consequences. The EU is losing the opportunity to strengthen and promote the role of the euro as a more desirable instrument for international payments. In particular, the share of the euro is likely to grow in trade between Russia and the PRC, ousting the US dollar. Manipulation with SWIFT will hurt Brussels’ plans to promote the euro globally.

Finally, thirdly, the real magnitude of the political contradictions between Moscow and Brussels is clearly not up to such radical steps. Yes, relations between Russia and the EU are in a deplorable state. The political dialogue periodically breaks down amid mutual accusations. There are no ways to resolve the most serious contradictions so far. However, the “level of support” of the existing, albeit bad, relations is still strong and its “breakdown to the bottom” has not yet taken place, even despite a number of recent local shocks. The “warehouse case” in the Czech Republic has not generated a pan-European chain reaction and has mostly damaged bilateral relations between Moscow and Prague. Most of the EU members are not eager to get involved in this scandal. The Navalny case will remain a toxic asset for a long time to come. But it, too, has not yet led to fundamental shifts. As for Ukraine, Moscow is clearly not eager to get involved in a military conflict, although it has demonstrated its force. To a certain extent, such demonstrations even reduce the likelihood of a violent scenario in the resolution of the conflict. At the same time, they do not bring political solutions closer. In general, the existing problems are large-scale. Their cumulative effect will increase. But its weight for the measures proposed in the European Parliament resolution is clearly not enough.

The only innovation that currently has a political perspective is the proposal for a new sanctions mechanism on corruption. A similar mechanism has recently been established in the UK. It involves freezing the assets of persons suspected having ties to corruption. The European Commission may well develop proposals for such a mechanism and submit it to the EU Council for consideration. The chances of its approval are very high. However, even if it is used against Russian individuals, its impact on economic ties between the EU and Russia will be extremely low. This may be the reason for the possible success of such an idea. The European Commission and the EU Council will show that they are loyal to at least some of the requirements of the European Parliament. At the same time, the use of the mechanism will remain in their hands, and the risks for the business will be minimal.

Moscow will also draw its conclusions from the rhetorical exercises of the European Parliament. Despite the fact that the risks of it implementing the recommendations of parliamentarians are negligible, this is another incentive for the Russian authorities to continue working on an alternative financial infrastructure in partnership with their foreign partners, who are also the target of unilateral restrictive measures.

From our partner RIAC

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When diplomacy cannot get the best of geopolitics: Cyprus’s lack of a way forward

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The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) controls the buffer zone between the opposing sides. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

On April 24, people from both sides gather in proximity of the demarcation line splitting the capital, Nicosia, in two. Near this highly-contest frontier, Turk and Greek Cypriots alike demanded their leaders achieved the hoary aim of a united Cyprus. The most common motto protestors had written on their placards was a call for peace and unity across ethnic divides: We are Cypriots. This hopeful, determined appeal was addressed to the then-upcoming UN-sponsored meeting between the leaders of the two communities in Geneve. Three international guarantors partook also in the meeting: the UK as the former coloniser and, obviously enough, Greece and Turkey.

Introduction

Four years have passed since the UN hosted in Geneve peace talks on the future of Cyprus — and their collapse. Failed mediations are also due, in part, to the great power imbalance between the two sides. The so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’s only ally and supporter is Turkey, on which it is “almost completely dependent”. On the other hand, the Greek-Cypriot government is internationally recognised and a member of the European Union since 2003. Yet, Secretary General Antonio Guterres is putting renewed energies in the long-standing issue that thorns the region. But, according to many commentators there were little to no hopes that anything concrete would be achieved. Actually, the positions at the negotiating table seem more divergent they have ever been and peaceful unification farthest than ever.

The Cypriot question is highly internationalised, which makes its resolution easier and harder at the same time. History can reveal why this is the case. and, hopefully, shed a light on the way forward.

A long-standing issue

Commentators and diplomats began talking compulsively about the island of Cyprus as a hotspot in the Eastern Mediterranean in 1974. Yet, any solution must account for the fact that Cyprus’s problematic history goes back well before that year.

The way to independence (1960)

In the modern and early-contemporary period (16th–19th century), the Ottoman Empire’s wider frame of ethnic coexistence guaranteed Cyprus’s stability. Turks and Greek were actually just Rum Christians and Muslims, and the Sultan vied for their diversified rights and obligations. The Porte experienced a deep crisis in the runup to the Great War, accepting to cede many peripheral territories. Thus, the British Empire administered the island of Cyprus from 1878 to the island’s formal annexation during in the 1910s. Nevertheless, the two communities still cohabited peacefully for several decades. If anything, Greek Cypriots started fighting against the Brits using terroristic methods.

Cohabitation started to be a problem when Cyprus became independent in 1960. In order to ensure that the region would not descend into utter chaos, there was the need for an agreement. Hence, Britain sat down with Greece and Turkey to establish the framework within which to establish the Republic of Cyprus. Athens had to backtrack on many of its requests on behalf the Greek Cypriot majority. Eventually, principles of bi-national independence, political equality and administrative partnership the two communities prevailed and became part of the constitution.

More importantly, the three signed a controversial Treaty of Guarantee reminiscent of colonial mandates. According to this agreement, each of the signatories could intervene militarily to defend Cyprus’s status from any sort of threats.

Ethnic conflicts (1963–1974)

Tensions escalated immediately after, with Greek Cypriot leaders making pressing attempts to erode their neighbour’s representation and rights. Finally, in 1963’s Bloody Christmas, Greek elites staged the expulsion of Turkish Cypriot representatives from all levels of government. As a result, about 25% of all Turkish Cypriots had to leave their villages for safer Turkish “enclaves”. That year inaugurated a season of inter-ethnic strife and conflict on the Mediterranean island. The situation was so dire that the UN stationed its blue helmets on a peace-keeping mission in December 1963.

The turning point of Cyprus’s recent history is 1974, when the Greek government organised and carried out an artless golpe. Back then, the colonels who animated the military junta sitting in Athens felt that power was slipping away from them. Clearly, the economy was in ruinous conditions and people started to grow unresponsive to the colonels’ efforts to repress discontent. Thus, they thought Greek nationalist fractions’ victorious insurrection in Cyprus and the island’s annexation would have raised morale.

But the situation evolved for the worse as Athens’s actions violated of 1960 agreement with Ankara and London. In a swift counter-manoeuvre, the Turkish army occupied the island invoking its right of interference under the Treaty of Guarantee. For determined it could be, the Greek junta could not afford the risk of a full-scale confrontation with Turkey. Not least, because they are both formally member of NATO, a cornerstone of the Cold War’s bipolar system of alliances. Therefore, the Turkish-majority northern half of the island was able to seceded from the Greek-dominated south thanks to Ankara’s support.

State of the art

The brief war of 1974 marked the pike in Greek-Turkish tensions and determined the current status quo on the island. Fortunately, both sides have been taking steps towards the normalisation of South-North relations. For instance, since 2003 it is possible to cross the frontier roughly established almost half a century ago. Moreover, the situation has stabilised and the number of inter-ethnic clashes diminished in the last 50 years. Thus, the international contingent in the ‘buffer zone’ dividing the capital Nicosia in two is now thinner than ever before.

Nevertheless, Cyprus is still divided into two parts which find it difficult to talk to one another. Thus, there are not a lot of reasons to be optimistic for those who aspire to the Cyprus’s reunification. In 2004, on the eve of Greek Cyprus’s accession to the EU, two contemporaneous referendums took place on the island. The question voters had to answer regarded the so-called Annan Plan, named after then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The Plan foresaw joining the two current entities in a State federal in name, but de facto confederal.  Cypriots went to the polls en masse: 87.83% of registered voters went to the polls across the island. Of them, about 65% of Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of the Plan, which they approved. Yet, over 75% of Greek Cypriots who voted were against the proposal, which both communities had to approve.

In the last few years, the North has also retrenched in its positions, possibly in response to the Greeks’ ‘No’. Last in order of time, Northern Cypriot elected as head of State Ersin Tatar, a protégé of Erdogan, Turkey’s President.

Conclusion — Peace talks won’t solve the issue

Against this background, Greek and Turkish Cypriot authorities’ approach to these renewed peace talks is unexpected. The Greek Cypriot foreign minister, Nicos Christoduidis, declared that the negotiations’ aimed at “Cyprus’ reunification as a bizonal bicommunal federation.” At the same time, Greek Cypriot President, Nicos Anastasiades, has started to acknowledge the need for a “decentralised federation”. That is, the sort of surreptitious confederal project laid out in the Annan Plan.

On the other hand, Northern Cyprus’s foreign minister Tachsin Ertugruloglu, argued that the “solution is: one island, two states.” President Tatar echoed these remarks arguing that there are two “separate regions and peoples in Cyprus.”Symbolically, Tatar stopped in Ankara to meet President Erdogan before reaching Geneve for the UN’s three-day talks.

Figure 5 Turkey’s planned pipelines in the Eastern Mediterranean cross Greek and Cypriot waters. © Steven Bernard via Financial Times

After several days of fruitless negotiations, Guterres declared that despite “all our efforts, we have not yet found enough points of contact to allow the resumption of formal negotiations.” But he has also proposed a new meeting in the same format “probably in two or three months.”  Yet, these endeavours will fail again unless the situation on the ground changes drastically in or around Cyrus. As a matter of fact, the real power broker in this game in now Turkey’s Erdogan. When he first became Prime Minister, Erdogan looked for a peaceful resolution to the Cypriot issue and accession to the EU. However, since 2011 he has undergone a change of heart turning more illiberal at home and reckless abroad. Most recently, Erdogan’s Turkey has irresponsibly reignited the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, by claiming gas fields located in Cyprus’s and Greece’s economic areas.

Thus, Cyprus may have ceased to be a piece of the larger puzzle called ‘Cold War’. But the island’s division has found a new raison d’être in this complex, quasi-multipolar 21st century. A new geo-political and geo-economic confrontation has started and Turkish Cypriot authorities are playing their part.

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Covid-19-Policy Contest Between Libertarianism v. Socialism: The Latest Results

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Early in the “coronavirus-19” — subsequently called “Covid-19” — pandemic, Denmark and Sweden were often being compared with one-another because both are Scandinavian countries, but on 13 March 2020, Denmark had started a lockdown and imposed strict recommendations for businesses and personal behavior, whereas Sweden did nothing of the sort, and so the two countries were considered to be especially suitable to serve as being an almost controlled experiment in what the results would be of socialism versus libertarianism in social policy (regulations) regarding a communicable disease.

On 26 March 2020, EuroNews headlined “Neighbours Denmark and Sweden miles apart on coronavirus confinement”. Whereas both countries had socialized healthcare, and were also otherwise generally considered to be similar, Sweden was pursuing Europe’s most libertarian policies on coronavirus or Covid-19, and yet Denmark had a 15% higher percentage of its population who had come down with that disease. On 29 June 2020, I headlined “‘Herd Immunity’ Is a Failed Response to Coronavirus: Comparing Denmark versus Sweden on Coronavirus,” and reported that in early April Sweden’s population-percentage who had the disease had switched (increased so fast as) to become 14% higher there than Denmark’s population-percentage who had Covid-19, and that Sweden’s percentage was also increasing much more quickly than Denmark’s. And, so, at that time, as of 28 June 2020, Sweden had 2.5 times as high a percentage of its population who had contracted the disease, as compared with Denmark’s percentage. There were 131 reader-comments to that news-report, at Reddit, and they were overwhelmingly in denial, and pro-libertarian, anti-socialist, though each comment had a different excuse for their reality-denial.

CNN headlined on 28 May 2020 “Sweden says its coronavirus approach has worked. The numbers suggest a different story” and made clear that, at least up till that moment in time, Sweden’s approach was a failure, not only in competition as compared to Denmark’s, but globally.

Then, on 12 May 2020, Foreign Affairs, the prestigious journal of America’s Council on Foreign Relations, bannered “Sweden’s Coronavirus Strategy Will Soon Be the World’s: Herd Immunity Is the Only Realistic Option—the Question Is How to Get There Safely”, and presented the standard libertarian argument: “There are good reasons for countries to begin easing their restrictions. It will take several years to tally the total number of deaths, bankruptcies, layoffs, suicides, mental health problems, losses to GDP and investments, and other costs attributable not just to the virus but to the measures used to fight it. It should already be obvious, however, that the economic and social costs of lockdowns are enormous.” In other words: the best “regulation” is to let nature rule, not to impose any human-imposed regulations, but just “the free market” should reign.

On 7 January 2021, the Scandinavian Journal of Public health headlined “A comparison of COVID-19 epidemiological indicators in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland” and reported that:

Compared with its Nordic peers, Sweden had a higher incidence rate across all ages, a higher COVID-19-related death rate only partially explained by population demographics, a higher death rate in seniors’ care, and higher all-cause mortality. Sweden had approximately half as much mobility change as its Nordic neighbours until April and followed similar rates as its neighbours from April to July. Denmark led its Nordic peers in testing rates, while Sweden had the highest cumulative test-positivity rate continuously from mid-March. …

Looser government restrictions at the beginning of the outbreak are likely to have played a role in the impact of COVID-19 in Sweden. In an effort to improve epidemic control, Sweden has increased testing rates, implemented more restrictive prevention measures, and increased their intensive care unit bed capacity.

Here are the figures as-of 30 April 2021:

Denmark cases per million = 43,282

Sweden cases per million = 95,909

Denmark deaths per million = 428

Sweden deaths per million = 1,384

Denmark March unemployment rate = 4.5%

Sweden unemployment rate = 10.0%

But Denmark versus Sweden aren’t, by any means, the only indicators that libertarianism was failing on Covid-19.

On 1 August 2020, I headlined “India and Brazil Are Now the Global Worst Coronavirus Nations”, and that statement was forward-looking, predictive, and not referring only to the numbers at that time but to where the various nations were heading, and it was referring only to medium-sized and large nations (for example, not to the worst performer of all, Andorra, which currently has 171,029 cases per million and a population of only 77,367 people). (Andorra has had a total of 13,232 cases, which is 17.1% of its entire population. The only country that has a population of over 10 million and which is among the 9 worst — and America scores as being absolutely the world’s 10th-worst — is Czechia, the Czech Republic, which has 152,046 cases per million. At the end of this article, Czechia will be discussed.)

As-of 30 April 2021, the following are the world’s only nations that have had more than 6,000,000,000 Covid-19 cases:

USA = 33,044,872

India = 18,881,587

Brazil = 14,592,886.

Those are now the Covid-19 giants (the worst-performing major countries), which, back on August 1st, is what I was expecting them to be, by the present time. Ultimately, I expect Brazil and India to be scoring even worse than the United States. All three countries have been exceedingly lax in their anti-Covid-19 policies, extraordinarily libertarian regarding this.

On 20 September 2020, I headlined “All 8 of America’s Worst-Hit Coronavirus States Are Now in the South.” That reported “the worst 11 states … are: Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Iowa, Arkansas, and Texas” — and all 11 of them had voted for Donald Trump, the more-libertarian (and losing) candidate, in 2020. The United States therefore provides overwhelming evidence of the failure of libertarianism regarding coronavirus-policies.

On 14 March 2021, I headlined “Republican States Have Higher Covid Rates than Democratic States” and — ranking all from the best (#1) to the worst (#51) — reported that the average state which had voted for Trump scored 33.3 or two-thirds of the way down the list of the 51 states + DC, and that the average state which had voted for Biden scored 19.5 out of the 51.

The more corrupt a country is, the more libertarian it is, and on 5 May 2020, I headlined “America’s Design Causes It to Fail the COVID-19 Challenge” and reported that because America is an extraordinarily corrupt country (very libertarian, as compared to other nations), “America is designed so as to fail the coronavirus-19 challenge. The power of big-money (concentrated wealth) is destroying this country. It controls both Parties and their respective media, so the public don’t know (and certainly cannot understand) the types of realities that are being reported (and linked-to) here.”

India and Brazil are nipping at America’s heels on this, but, still, the record up till the present moment shows America as still retaining its title as being the worst of all major nations on coronavirus-performance.

Finally, here, will be considered what might be the strongest exception to the general principle that libertarian policies are inferior to socialistic policies in order to control and limit a pandemic: Czechia. Wikipedia’s article “COVID-19 pandemic in the Czech Republic” says:

The Czech Republic was the first[11] European country to make the wearing of face masks mandatory from 19 March onwards.[12]COVID-19 testing was made widely available with drive-through locations from 14 March,[13] and from 27 March anyone with a fever, dry cough or shortness of breath was eligible for a free test.[14] From 13 April onwards, COVID-19 testing capacity significantly surpassed demand.[15] Contact tracing in the country also included voluntary disclosure of mobile phone position and debit card payments data for previous days and the quarantining of identified contacts.[16] By 1 May 2020, altogether 257 COVID-19-related deaths were identified in the Czech Republic compared to 2,719 in similarly populous Sweden, which did not impose a full lockdown. However, Belgium, also with a similar population, had suffered 7,866 deaths at that time, despite having implemented an early and strict lockdown. …

By April 2021, the Czech Republic has recorded the highest confirmed death rate in the world after Hungary. There are some root causes speculated.

None of those proposed explanations of this is any sort of scientific explanation for it. A great deal remains that is important to know but that is currently unknown about Covid-19. Obviously, Czechia is the most challenging case, not because it is the worst, but because it has been a leader in adherence to international guidelines but has nonetheless disastrously failed on this virus. If that’s not a warning for the world to do lots more research on the Covid-19 problem, then nothing is.

NOTICE TO LIBERTARIANS: Libertarian ‘news’-media often try to obfuscate the importance of the Covid-19 results in the various countries by pretending that a Covid-19 “case” means merely someone who has tested positive for having become infected by the virus, but that is very definitely NOT TRUE. Like virtually all libertarian beliefs, that belieff is based upon wishful thinking in order to dismiss and discredit scientific findings which are inconsistent with those beliefs. In fact, the “2020 Interim Case Definition, Approved April 5, 2020” (and still in force as-of 2 May 2020) makes crystal clear that the definition of a Covid-19 “case” is VERY DIFFERENT FROM AND FAR MORE RESTRICTIVE THAN merely having the infection. Libertarians want to be deceived, because they want to continue believing the myths that they cling to, but news-media try to exploit those ‘free market’ myths in order to build their own following (and to please the ‘free market’ winners — the billionaires — who benefit by having as large a percentage of the public as possible be deceived into believing the ‘free market’ myth (that they became so wealthy by virtue of their virtue and genius, instead of by their cunning and psychopathy). Justice in this world is the opposite of natural: it is un-natural and can be imposed only by careful skepticism and scientific human planning, not by any ‘invisible hand’ of anyone, or any group of people, who constitute an actual Deep State. They own and control the mainstream ‘news’-media and many of the non-mainstream ‘news’-media, and also the vast majority of members of Congress and other key government officials, but that’s the opposite of justice; it is, instead, institutionalized injustice. Libertarianism and corruption go hand-in-hand, and always will. (Outside the United States, libertarianism is more commonly called “neoliberalism”, but it’s the same thing.)

Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture

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