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A Clear View Eastwards: Russia and Germany

Source: regnum.ru

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Politik ist, wenn man Gottes Schritt durch die Weltgeschichte hört, dann zuspringt und versucht, einen Zipfel seines Mantels zu fassen.”[1]Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898)

Specialist in geopolitical issues, doctorate from Sorbonne Nouvelle University;

speaker and guest lecturer on geopolitical, economic and political issues related to China, the EU and the United States, focusing on Jacques Ancel’s geopolitical vision of “the identity of the heart”.

Author of articles published on moderndiplomacy.eu and worldscientific.com, and author of the book Les relations Chine-Europe à croisées des chemins, published by L’Harmattan, Paris.

Katjais the descendant of ancestors who lived inEast and West Prussia. Her family on her mother’s side had to flee from Königsberg in East Prussia in January 1945 and, on her father’s side, from Schneidemühl in West Prussia. She increasingly connects the topics of identities and bordersin her geopolitical views.

A very personal view: seeing Prussia without complexes – family roots and core identity

Roots, earth and homeland – these are difficult topics for my parents’ and grandparents’ generations, but I and other members of my generation are much more relaxed about our family histories. Experiencing home and family roots on my trip to my parents’ birthplaces in Prussia – and thus my return to my own family roots – made me realise that identity is more than what is written in my passport. Identity is complex and has many layers that need to be uncovered. As a result, revealing family roots, protecting them and living one’s identity of the heart without prejudice is the source of life’s harmony – a harmony that is needed now more than ever.

My Prussian roots are the core of my identity. Walking through the streets of my parents’ hometowns –Schneidemühl and Königsberg– I discovered the vastness, openness and beauty of my homeland in East and West Prussia. I unearthed the deepest part of my family history and, at the same time, German history. With that uninhibited view of my Prussian roots, new perspectives for seeing the world have finally been revealed.

National players versus transnational players

Our world is going through a decisive moment in its history. Not only are relations between China and the rest of the world disrupting the geopolitical order, but numerous economic, political and social crises are causing a widespread feeling of insecurity and powerlessness in light of current events and their complexity. The world and therefore we, humankind, have lost our compass.

Beyond the relations, whether cooperative or conflictual, between the European Union (EU), China and Russia, we should question the durability of power –values versus mercantilism, democracy versus dictatorship, capitalism versus communism, and the growing geopolitical clout of transnational players, whose sphere of influence is increasingly gaining ground against national players, the nation-states. Neither the EU, China, the US nor Russia is an isolated paradise, and no country can claim to know the absolute truth. Violence, increased global competition (for natural resources, food, water, etc.) and, above all, international terrorism are forcing us to face up to current realities, to abandon any ideology driving various ideas, such as the European project, socialism with Chinese characteristics, the Russian state order, and the ideology prevalent in the United States, which styles itself leader of the free world (Banik 2016, 2019).

In fact, the conflict between different ideologies distracts our attention from the real battle that has been going on for a long time. The battle for world domination is not the one between different states, e.g. the US and China, or between different political systems, democracy and dictatorship, but the struggle between national players–the nation-states –and the transnational players– the international organisations, such as the EU institutions; the World Trade Organisation (WTO);groups and associations representing various interests and industries; lobbyists; and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Due to globalisation, these transnational players often act across borders and beyond any national legal framework, and are thus conquering geopolitical space without waging war in the traditional sense. We have to reconcile all our differences, ideologies and clichés and move towards a new and more humane global governance, living our identities, creating “nations of the heart” in keeping with the geopolitical vision of Jacques Ancel (Ancel 1938; Banik 2016).

Everything is geopolitical

Geopolitics is the study of the relationship between space and power. It is a multidisciplinary reflection that encompasses economic, political, cultural, historical and social dimensions. The term “space” refers to land, sea and cyberspace (Banik 2016). Jacques Ancel’s geopolitics provide a vision that complements German geopolitics, specifically that of Friedrich Ratzel (1869–1904), who sees states as organisms “determined by the people and the territory”, “kein Staatohne Boden”(Ratzel 1941).

Klaus Haushofer (1869–1946) added the topics of living space and pan-ideas to this German geopolitical concept. In other words, he emphasised the potential solidarity of a population scattered around the world in order to justify the extension of a people’s living space. Complementary and not in opposition to Ratzel’s perception of the world, Jacques Ancel focused on the human being as creator – of global governance and identities and, subsequently, of borders.

More precisely, this means “human groups that reach a harmonious balance and end up recognising borders due to a common memory, history, culture and language”. It is a“nation of the heart in itself, not rational(Ancel 1938, Gauchon 2011, Banik 2020).

Man creates borders. Today, this human dimension and the use of human values and identities are decisive elements in our ever changing world. According to Ancel, the concept of nation-ideas or a nation of the heart is the crucial element for achieving a more humane and harmonious global governance in the future. It is therefore imperative that we revitalise Ancel’s geopolitical views. The world is not rational. Human beings are guided by their feelings. Consequently, we are all either victims or perpetrators of propaganda.

According to Ancel, internal factors, i.e. human factors, must also be taken into account. The process of transnationalisation and deterritorialisation inevitably brings us back to the issues of borders, identities and nationalities. Nationality is defined as the legal bond that connects an individual to a country or territory (Gauchon 2011, Banik 2020). As with the return to my family roots, we should be aware that every identity is made up of various layers and primarily determined by human factors.

The cruel question today is how to ensure a peaceful return to our roots, to our sources and to achieving a balance of power. How to create a new governance based on cooperation, one that is more equitable and stable, more in harmony. How can we be unique and identity-based within unity?

According to Ancel, “human groups (that) reach a balance in harmony thus end up recognising borders deriving from a common memory, history, culture and language. It is therefore important to create strategic alliances, alliances of proximity, and overcome ideologies by leaving propaganda behind.

One answer – which would be in Germany’s interest in particular, but also in the EU’s – is the peaceful integration of Russia by creating a great pan-European space, while at the same time taking advantage of China’s BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) as a link encompassing the Eurasian region.

But first, let us accept the following realities:

No change in political system through trade

China has never given up communism. The “red forces” are still shaping the strategy behind its domestic and foreign policy. The communist identity is the source and thus the root that determines the solidity and solidarity of Chinese society and, subsequently, its economic strength. China continues to pursue its “China first” strategy, which includes its determination to have more economic independence.

“Les États n’ont pas d’amis, ils n’ont que des intérêts”[2]

We need to break out of the EU’s post-war narrative. There are no real common European policies, no single voice is possible for the EU, which is a union of shared interests. Economic intersections and interests exist, shared by some member countries. The important thing is to recognise the presence of these different political, economic and strategic interests, to respect and cultivate them. The future of Europe lies in the strength it derives from being a union of European nation-states.

No global supremacy by one country, no rivalry of political systems

The world’s various ideological propagandas are fuelling the conflicts and thus diverting us from the real source of struggle. That is, the competition for world supremacy between nation-states and transnational forces, including international institutions and organisations, all of which stem from the post-war narrative. It is a narrative that makes us believe that only the nation and identity arethe unique cause of all wars.

Nothing is unlimited and nothing can be controlled

Our prosperity and global economic growth are neither linear nor unlimited. Thus, our planet’s natural resources are limited. Although globalisation has created prosperity for a very large part of the world’s population, it has, at the same time, created regions of winners and losers. Poverty and inequity persist; injustice is growing as a result. Transnational forces are increasing their spheres of influence, often acting beyond national laws and consequently increasing injustice.

No enemies, no rivals

The illusion of having enemies must be overcome. Neither China nor Russia is an enemy or ideological rival. All political, economic and social challenges are global. Strategic cooperation is the only solution.

Globalisation reinforces the need to return to one’s roots

The flows of globalization do not erase borders, countries, regions, territories or places” (Zajec 2016). On the contrary, the more the world is linked, the more the debate about identities and borders plays a key role in any geopolitical concept. In the whirlwind of globalisation, we need to remain ourselves, to have roots and a cultural base in order to ensure a harmonious societal solidity.

Let’s stay vigilant

We must stop propaganda based on ideology and disseminated through media, along with political moralism, political correctness and the purging of language. We are all unique. We all have deep within us an identity of the heart that is unique toeach of us. And this identity is free and beyond all judgements.

The cruel challenge is how to ensure a peaceful return to our roots, to our sources and the logic of geography. How to create a more equitable and stable governance based on cooperation – how to be unique and identity-based within unity without being divisive. The solution is to allow the strength of geographical proximity to prevail, the creation of strategic alliances in order to achieve “a balance in harmony, due to a common memory, history, culture and language”, in keeping with Ancel.

Russia and the big pan-European house

According to this logic, the priority for Europe should be the reintegration of Russia into the big Pan-European house. Especially for Europe, Russia is an important link for connecting the Eurasian region with China in order to create a new global political order.

Germany holds the key to integrating Russia. According to Ancels logic of “regained harmony, the fixed national consciousness, and, even without borders, the Nation [that] exists”. The path to this harmony leads us to an uninhibited view of our own history and thus a reconciliation of the past. A path that I have chosen by uncovering my family roots.

Russians, Poles and Germans have a common history. This history is a strength and not a weakness. According to Jacques Ancel’s vision, these three countries are at the crossroads of arbitrary borders and borders of civilisation.

Ancel differentiates mainly between two characteristics. On the one hand, there are so-called arbitrary borders. These are more tense, more strategic borders stemming from military pretensions. Treaties draw these borders, which are temporal and purely based on the national interests of the different states.

The borders of civilisations, on the other hand, are more permanent. These borders are based on a common memory, history and language created by a human group in balance. The borders of civilisations are “nevertheless more complicated because they are subject to numerous political and commercial interpretations”. Even if the commercial justifications are aimed at “clearing a path” and not “enclosing” as the military justifications do (Ancel 1938, Banik 2020), for Russia, Poland and Germany, reconciliation of the past means “clearing a path in harmony” towards the strength offered by their common history.

The balance of power

And what are the tools for establishing this new policy of global cooperation and peace based on the principle of non-interference? For the most part, we already have them at our disposal. At the human level: listening, communicating, respecting the interests of others without judging them and, above all, building trust.

At the institutional level, we simply need to reactivate the spirit of trust that led to the Helsinki Accords of 1975, the Charter of Paris for a New Europe of November 1990 and, finally, the NATO-Russia Council of 2002 (Teltschik, 2019), thereby avoiding any re-creation of two blocs but pursuing instead the path towards a new multipolar global governance.

The window of opportunity has been wide open since the Charter of Paris was signed on 21 November 1990 (Teltschik, 2019). Indeed, in the spirit of cooperation, this charter was endorsed by 34 countries, including the Warsaw Pact countries. In the context of German reunification and the fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, Helmut Kohl and Mikhail Gorbachev thoroughly supported this vision of the “common European home”.  Yet this opportunity was not seized, as mistrust prevailed.

Ultimately, it is the Russians and Chinese who share the same vision of “a strategic balance of power in which no country interferes in the internal affairs of other countries”(Habahbeh, 2020). According to Russia, the US is acting outside its own sphere of influence. However, the geopolitical approach of the US is still reflective of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s vision, meaning it does not accept that a region will be dominated by a single country (Brzezinski, 1998).

The US is still pursuing its containment strategy mainly in Europe and Asia in order to hinder the spread of communism. The propaganda around “democratisation” and “defence of the liberal world order” are used to justify the US’s extension of its sphere of influence, particularly in the Eurasian region. On the other hand, Russians are exercising control over their sphere of influence through “the desire to protect Russian identity and broader Slavic identity through their belief that they have the right to regional dominance for divine and ethnic purposes”. (Habahbeh, 2020). Thus, the geopolitical conflict between these two powers is a conflict between the “ideology of the liberal world” and the “moral ideology”.

Oblast Kaliningrad-Königsberg: at the heart of German-Russian cooperation

The BRI is a spatial security device that can be used as a means of strategic cooperation between Germany, Europe, Russia and China.

Although the BRI is, according to China, a “geostrategic-military” initiative, since it combines civilian and military interests under the topic of “security”, it is a vehicle that conceptually encompasses the intertwined interests of political and economic actors in China, but also in all the other participating countries (Banik, Lüdert 2020). The BRI vision thus mobilises the Chinese nation by safeguarding China’s unity, stability and harmony at the national level and beyond (Banik, 2019). It is an ideology for maintaining internal order.

This undoubtedly “China first” approach,  however, should not hinder Europe and especially Germany from using the infrastructure project to strengthen economic relations and the geopolitical link between Russia and Germany. Eurasia is a region of high importance, both economically and geopolitically. Moreover, it is precisely the Kaliningrad enclave, formerly Königsberg, that is at the heart of German-Russian cooperation. The oblast Kaliningrad lies between Poland and Lithuania and has an important port of strategic interest in the Baltic Sea, since it is accessible even in winter. This is a key hub for goods arriving by rail via the BRI, destined for shipment by sea to Germany and Scandinavia.

Since 2011, the EU and Russia have signed agreements to facilitate border movements and exempt goods in transit between Kaliningrad and Lithuania from customs duties. Basically, the oblast is a highly significant link between Russia and the EU.

BRI: Trans-Eurasian Railway Routes

Source: http://rtsb.group/belt-and-road-initiative/

Although resources transiting through the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad are relatively new, the number of trains and thus the volume of freight is constantly increasing. The big advantage is that the busy border crossing between Poland and Belarus at Brest is avoided.

As a result, RZD, the Russian railway company, has recorded a strong increase in the flow of intermodal freight between China and Europe since 2019. Intermodal traffic amounted to 387,900 TEU between January and September 2020, “more than of 1.6 times the same period in 2019” (Railway Journal 2020). In particular, maritime transport from the port of Kaliningrad has increased more than tenfold compared to 2019, reaching about 6,900 TEU in September 2020 alone (Railfreight, 2019).In this context, it is important to highlight the regular maritime service between the port of Kaliningrad and the port of Hamburg.

Revealing roots and back to our origins

Returning to one’s family roots is not a dead end in the past, but, on the contrary, a valuable opportunity for considering future cooperation between Russia and Germany, cooperation that goes beyond ideologies and judgements.

A border is, according to Ancel, “a political isobar which fixes, for a certain time, the balance between two pressures: mass balance and balance of forces” (Ancel 1938).The real problem is not related to the question of borders. Borders will always exist, even in the globalised world. “There are no border problems. There are only problems of Nation”(Ancel 1938).

The world is at a crossroads. It is therefore necessary to lay aside ideologies and preconceived ideas. It is up to us, humankind, to think “out of the box” by living up to our identities while respecting the uniqueness of countries, cultures and identities.

As we have already seen, Jacques Ancel focuses on the human being as creator. The important thing is to recognise and calmly accept the feeling of belonging to a country, to a region– that is, the need for identity. And identity is much more complex than what is written in a passport. The identity of the heart goes beyond any ideology. The identity of the heart has deep roots and requires no justification or explanation.

Ancel’s geopolitical vision should be revitalised since “one does not revise borders, except by force, one changes minds”(Ancel 1938; Lomnica 1938 foreword).

Thus, with my uninhibited view of my Prussian roots, new perspectives are being created, especially for the strengthening of German-Russian cooperation.

                                                                          Back to the roots

 ………to be continued

Author’s Note: The paper was previously published by the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC)

References (selected works)

  • Acte final d’Helsinki (1975): OSCE, www.osce.org
  • Ancel, Jacques (1938):  Géographies des frontières, Gallimard, Paris
  • préface de André Siegfried, avant-propos de Tatranská Lomnica.
  • Banik, Katja (2016): Les relations Chine-Europe: à la croisée des chemins,L’Harmattan, Paris.
  • Banik, Katja (2019):  Europe, China and the G-zero world, China and the World: Ancient and Modern Silk Road, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1–9, World Scientific Publishing Company.
  • Banik, Katja (2019):  Europe and China in a globalized world. The geopolitical impacts of Beltand Road, www.worldsientific.com 
  • Banik, Katja, Jan Lüdert (2020): Assessing Securization: China’s Belt and Road Initiative, E-International Relations, www.e-ir.info
  • Boniface, Pascal (2017): La Géopolitique, Eyrolles, Paris.
  • Brown, Kerry (2019): China’s rise: The three key things everyone needs to know, TEDx Thessaloniki.
  • Brzezinski, Zbigniew (1998): The Grand Chess Board, Paperback.
  • Charte de Paris (1990): www.osce.org
  • Conseil OTAN-Russie (2002): NATO, www.nato.int
  • Eurotransport.de (2020): https://www.eurotransport.de/artikel/mukran-als-drehkreuz-nach-china-neue-seidenstrasse-startet-in-ruegen-russland-rotterdam-schiene-gueterbahn-11172438.html
  • Foucher, Michel (2019) : L’Europe doit venir au monde,www.diploweb.com
  • Gauchon, Huissoud (2008): Les 100 mots de la géopolitique, Presse Universitaires de France, Paris.
  • Habahbeh, Lawrence (2020): A state of flux in the World Order, https://diplomatist.com/2020/05/07/a-state-of-flux-in-the-world-order/, dipolomatist.com
  • Marshall, Tim (2015):  Prisoners of Geography, Elliot and Thompson Ldt., London.
  • Nida-Rümelin (2017): Über Grenzen Denken: Eine Ethik der Migration, Körber-Stiftung, Hamburg.
  • Overholt, William (2018): China and America: The Age of Geoeconomics.
  • Railfreight(2019):
  • https://www.railfreight.com/beltandroad/2018/06/27/utlc-celebrates-1000th-train-on-new-silk-road-in-kaliningrad/
  • Rail Journal (2020) https://www.railjournal.com/freight/rzd-exceeds-2019-china-europe-freight-figures/
  • Ratzel, Friedrich (1941): Erdenmacht und Völkerschicksal, Alfred Kröner Verlag, Stuttgart.
  • Teltschik, Horst (2019): Russisches Roulette: vom kalten Krieg zum kalten Frieden, CH Beck, München.
  • Zajec, Olivier (2016) : Introduction à l’analyse géopolitique, Éditions du Rocher, Monaco.

[1]“Politics is hearing God striding through history and leaping to grasp a corner of his cloak”inTeltschik (2019).

[2]States have no friends, they only have interests”, Charles de Gaulle (1967).

Dr. Katja Banik, since 2017, has been a speaker/guest lecturer on geopolitical and economic issues related to China, Europe and the USA and on different global governance scenarios. She is Membre Associé à Titre Secondaire at Intégration et Coopération dans l’Espace Européen — Etudes Européennes (ICEE), Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3, and a Member of GIS Réseau Asie et Pacifique/GIS Études Asiatiques in Paris. Katja Banik is the author of Les Relations Chine-Europe: À la Croisée des Chemins published by L’Harmattan (Paris) in 2016. Further, she is the Editor-in-Chief of PwC’s China Compass. Katja Banik has senior management expertise in the logistics (Shanghai and Hong Kong) and she is the founding member of ilkmade.com. http://www.katjabanik.com/

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NATO’s Cypriot Trick

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UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Warsaw Pact died, there was much speculation that NATO would consider itself redundant and either disappear or at least transmogrify into a less aggressive body.

Failing that, Moscow at least felt assured that NATO would not include Germany, let alone expand eastwards. Even the NATO Review, NATO’s PR organ, wrote self-apologetically twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin wall: “Thus, the debate about the enlargement of NATO evolved solely in the context of German reunification. In these negotiations Bonn and Washington managed to allay Soviet reservations about a reunited Germany remaining in NATO. This was achieved by generous financial aid, and by the ‘2+4 Treaty’ ruling out the stationing of foreign NATO forces on the territory of the former East Germany. However, it was also achieved through countless personal conversations in which Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders were assured that the West would not take advantage of the Soviet Union’s weakness and willingness to withdraw militarily from Central and Eastern Europe.”

Whatever the polemics about Russia’s claim that NATO broke its promises, the facts of what happened following the fall of the Berlin wall and the negotiations about German re-unification strongly demonstrate that Moscow felt cheated and that the NATO business and military machine, driven by a jingoistic Cold War Britain, a selfish U.S. military-industrial-congressional complex and an atavistic Russia-hating Poland, saw an opportunity to become a world policeman.

This helps to explain why, in contrast to Berlin, NATO decided to keep Nicosia as the world’s last divided city. For Cyprus is in fact NATO’s southernmost point, de facto. And to have resolved Cyprus’ problem by heeding UN resolutions and getting rid of all foreign forces and re-unifying the country would have meant that NATO would have ‘lost’ Cyprus: hardly helpful to the idea of making NATO the world policeman. Let us look a little more closely at the history behind this.

Following the Suez debacle in 1956, Britain had already moved its Middle East Headquarters from Aden to Cyprus, while the U.S. was taking over from the UK and France in the Middle East. Although, to some extent under U.S. pressure, Britain was forced to bring Makarios out of exile and begin negotiating with Greece and Turkey to give up its colony, the U.S. opted for a NATO solution. It would not do to have a truly sovereign Cyprus, but only one which accepted the existence of the Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) as part and parcel of any settlement; and so it has remained, whatever the sophistic semantics about a bizonal settlement and a double-headed government. The set of twisted and oft-contradictory treaties that have bedevilled the island since 1960 are still afflicting the part-occupied island which has been a de facto NATO base since 1949. Let us look at some more history.

When Cyprus obtained its qualified independence in 1960, Greece and Turkey had already signed, on 11 February 1959, a so called ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’, agreeing that they would support Cyprus’ entry into NATO.1 This was, however, mere posture diplomacy, since Britain—and the U.S. for that matter—did not trust Cyprus, given the strength of the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) and the latter’s links to Moscow. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) wrote: ‘Membership of NATO might make it easier for the Republic of Cyprus and possibly for the Greeks and Turks to cause political embarrassment should the United Kingdom wish to use the bases […] for national ends outside Cyprus […] The access of the Cypriot Government to NATO plans and documents would present a serious security risk, particularly in view of the strength of the Cypriot Communist Party. […] The Chiefs of Staff, therefore, feel most strongly that, from the military point of view, it would be a grave disadvantage to admit Cyprus to NATO.’2 In short, Cyprus was considered unreliable.

As is well known, the unworkable constitution (described as such by the Foreign Office and even by David Hannay, the Annan reunification plan’s PR man), resulted in chaos and civil strife: in January 1964, during the chaos caused by the Foreign Office’s help and encouragement to President Makarios to introduce a ‘thirteen point plan’ to solve Cyprus’ problems, British Prime Minister Douglas-Home told the Cabinet: ‘If the Turks invade or if we are seriously prevented from fulfilling our political role, we have made it quite clear that we will retire into base.’3 Put more simply, Britain had never had any intention of upholding the Treaty of Guarantee.

In July of the same year, the Foreign Office wrote: ‘The Americans have made it quite clear that there would be no question of using the 6th Fleet to prevent any possible Turkish invasion […] We have all along made it clear to the United Nations that we could not agree to UNFICYP’s being used for the purpose of repelling external intervention, and the standing orders to our troops outside UNFYCYP are to withdraw to the sovereign base areas immediately any such intervention takes place.’4

It was mainly thanks to Moscow and President Makarios that in 1964 a Turkish invasion and/or the island being divided between Greece and Turkey was prevented. Such a solution would have strengthened NATO, since Cyprus would no longer exist other than as a part of NATO members Greece and Turkey. Moscow had issued the following statement: ‘The Soviet Government hereby states that if there is an armed foreign invasion of Cypriot territory, the Soviet Union will help the Republic of Cyprus to defend its freedom and independence against foreign intervention.’5

Privately, Britain, realising the unworkability of the 1960 treaties, was embarrassed, and wished to relieve itself of the whole problem. The following gives us the backstage truth: ‘The bases and retained sites, and their usefulness to us, depend in large measure on Greek Cypriot co-operation and at least acquiescence. A ‘Guantanamo’6 position is out of the question. Their future therefore must depend on the extent to which we can retain Greek and/or Cypriot goodwill and counter USSR and UAR pressures. There seems little doubt, however, that in the long term, our sovereign rights in the SBA’s will be considered increasingly irksome by the Greek Cypriots and will be regarded as increasingly anachronistic by world public opinion.7

Following the Turkish invasion ten years later, Britain tried to give up its bases: ‘British strategic interests in Cyprus are now minimal. Cyprus has never figured in NATO strategy and our bases there have no direct NATO role. The strategic value of Cyprus to us has declined sharply since our virtual withdrawal from east of Suez. This will remain the case when the Suez Canal has reopened.8

A Cabinet paper concluded: ‘Our policy should continue to be one of complete withdrawal of our military presence on Cyprus as soon as feasible. […] In the circumstances I think that we should make the Americans aware of our growing difficulty in continuing to provide a military presence in Cyprus while sustaining our main contribution to NATO. […]9

Britain kept trying to give up the bases, but the enabler of the Turkish invasion, Henry Kissinger, did not allow Britain to give up its bases and listening posts, since that would have weakened NATO, and since Kissinger needed the bases because of the Arab-Israel dispute.10

Thus, by the end of 1980, in a private about-turn, Britain had completely succumbed to American pressure: ‘The benefits which we derive from the SBAs are of major significance and virtually irreplaceable. They are an essential contribution to the Anglo-American relationship. The Department have regularly considered with those concerned which circumstances in Cyprus are most conducive to our retaining unfettered use of our SBA facilities. On balance, the conclusion is that an early ‘solution’ might not help (since pressures against the SBAs might then build up), just as breakdown and return to strife would not, and that our interests are best served by continuing movement towards a solution – without the early prospect of arrival [author’s italics]11.

And so it is today: Cyprus is a de facto NATO territory. A truly independent, sovereign and united Cyprus is an anathema to the U.S. and Britain, since such a scenario would afford Russia the hypothetical opportunity to increase its influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.

From our partner RIAC

[1] Ministry of Defence paper JP (59) 163, I January 1960, BNA DEFE 13/99/MO/5/1/5, in Mallinson, William, Cyprus, a Modern History, I.B. Tauris (now Bloomsbury), London and New York, 2005, 2009, 2012, p.49.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Memorandum by Prime Minister, 2 January 1964, BNA CAB/129/116, in ibid, Mallinson, William, p.37.

[4] British Embassy, Washington, to Foreign Office, 7 July 1964, telegram 8541, BNA FO 371/174766, file C1205/2/G, in ibid.’, Mallinson, William, p. 37.

[5] Joseph, Joseph S., Cyprus, Ethnic Conflict and International Politics, St Martin’s Press, London and New York, 1997, p. 66.

[6] In 1964, Cuba cut off supplies to the American base at Guantanamo Bay, since the US refused to return it to Cuba, as a result of which the US took measures to make it self-sufficient.

[7] Briefing paper, 18 June 1964, BNA-DO/220/170, file MED 193/105/2, part A. Mallinson,William, Kissinger and the Invasion of Cyprus, p. 127.

[8] ‘British Interests in the Eastern Mediterranean’, draft paper, 11 April 1975, BNA-FCO 46/1248, file DPI/515/1.

[9] Cabinet paper, 29 September 1976, in op. cit. Mallinson, William, Kissinger and the Invasion of Cyprus, p.134.

[10] Mallinson, William, Britain and Cyprus: Key Themes and Documents, I.B. Tauris, London and New York, 2011, and Bloomsbury, London and New York, 2020, pp. 87-121.

[11] Fergusson to Foreign Minister’s Private Secretary, minute, 8 December 1980, BNA-FCO 9/2949, file WSC/023/1, part C.

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Belarus divorces from the Eastern Partnership: A new challenge for the EU Neighborhood Policy

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The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is the Eastern dimension of the EU Neighborhood Policy adopted back in 2009 aimed at deepening relations between Brussels and six Eastern European partners – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The EaP has been regarded as a strategic initiative based on mutual interests and common values with a goal of strengthening political and economic relations with those countries, helping them enhance their institutional capacity through sustainable reforms. While increasing stability and paving the way for the sustainable development of those societies, the EU’s overall goal has been to secure its Eastern borders.

Since the very beginning the EaP has been suspiciously viewed by Russia as an attempt of expansion of the sphere of influence and as a first step of EU membership of these countries. Russians point to the EU and NATO ambitious expansion eastward as the main reason for complicated relations and in this context the EaP has been regarded with traditional fears and paranoic perceptions. The Russian hard power approach causes serious problems for the EaP which fails to mitigate security concerns of partner countries and to come up with serious initiatives for conflict settlement. Being a laggard in terms of soft power, the Russian ruling elite has continuously used all hard power foreign policy instruments at its disposal trying to undermine the coherence of the initiative. And the very recent démarche of Belarus to withdraw from the EaP should be seen in this context of confrontation.

On 28th of June, the ministry of foreign affairs of Belarus announced a decision to halt its membership in the EaP as a response to the EU sanctions imposed on Minsk accompanied by the recalling ambassadors from both sides. Actually, this isn’t the first case of the EaP walkout blackmailed by Lukashenko. The first escape was attempted in September-October 2011, but the difficulties were soon resolved and Lukashenko revised his decision. This time situation seems very complicated and these far-reaching tensions may have tough consequences for Lukashenko’s regime. This new group of sectoral sanctions which target banking, oil, telecommunication spheres and also ban the export of potash, is a harsh response from the EU against Lukashneko’s scandalous hijacking activity in May to detain a Belarusian opposition journalist and blogger Roman Protasevich.

Lukashenko’s administration not only challenges the EU Neighborhood Policy and shows no retreat, but also goes forward escalating the situation. Minsk takes high risks freezing the Readmission Agreement signed by the EU. This document is a legal basis for bilateral cooperation aimed at struggling against irregular migration flows. It’s not a secret that the territory of Belarus has been used for illegal migration for the groups from the Middle East to penetrate into neighboring EU member states such as Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Moreover, Belarus territory has served as a transit route for smuggling circles going from East to West and vice versa.  And now closing eyes on all these channels, Minsk hopes to increase the bargaining power vis-à-vis Brussels. However, given the Western reactions, it seems that this time the EU is resolute.

Despite the fact that Charles Michel, the President of the EU Council, described this withdrawal as “another step backwards” and even threatened that “this will escalate tensions having clear negative impacts”, the EU wants to continue working with the Belarusian society  as Josep Borrel stated. The EU’s determination to keep the bridges alive with the Belarusian people, in spite of Lukashneko’s radical stance, is aimed at preventing further isolationism of Minsk which would benefit only Russia.

In contrast to the increasing level of tensions with the EU, the Russian authorities continue to support Lukasheno’s administration, thus trying to deepen the gap and to bring Belarus under their total influence. Russia uses Belarus in its chessboard with the EU and the USA in Eastern Europe. Last year’s fraud elections and brutal crackdown by Lukashenko left him alone with the only source of power stemming from the Kremlin. Thus the withdrawal from the EaP should be understood not only as a convulsion of the Belarusian authorities in response to the sanctions, but also Russia’s employment of the Belarus card to respond to the recent joint statement of the EU-US summit in Brussels, when both parties declared their intention to stand with the people of Belarus, supporting their demands for human rights and democracy simultaneously criticising Lukashenko’s regime and his reckless political behavior and also criticising Russian’s unacceptable behavior.

So, Lukashenko’s step to quit the EaP can be seen as a well-calculated adulatory sign towards Moscow sacrificing the last remnants of sovereignty in order to receive financial and political lifebuoy amid the increasing crisis in the result of sanctions.  And the recent visit of N. Patrushev, the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, to Minsk right after the withdrawal decision shows Russian inclination to strike while the iron is hot and to abuse the vulnerable situation of Belarus. Patrushev stated that the ultimate goal of foreign powers is to change the power in Belarus and he suggested instead of focusing on internal issues, to bring their forces together against external threats as their influence affects internal developments. For this reason, deeper integration of security and military services of both countries are on the table.

The reaction of opposition leader S. Tikhanovskaya was very rough, stating that this suspension will cut the opportunities of ordinary citizens who benefit from the political and economic outcomes of the EaP. Moreover, she claims that Lukashenko doesn’t have a right to represent Belarus since August 2020 and his decisions don’t have legal consequences for Belarus. This kind of approach is shared by the leadership of Lithuania too, whose president and minister of foreign affairs not only refuse to recognize Lukashenko as a legitimate president, but also highlight the role of the Kremlin in supporting the dictatorial power of Lukashenko in exchange for decreasing sovereignty.

The blackmail of Lukashenko to challenge the EU Eastern Neighborhood Policy  in order to have the sanctions lifted may bring about such kind of precedents with other partnering countries as well. First of all, this concerns Azerbaijan which continues to face serious problems related with human rights, freedom of expression, the problem of Prisoners of War and other traits of authoritarian power. It’s well-known that  human rights issues have been the underwater stones in the EU and Azerbaijan relations and they continue to pose new challenges for Aliyev’s non-democratice regime. Another weak ring of the EaP chain is Armenia. Even though reelected N. Pashinyan is eager to pursue a balanced foreign policy, post-war Armenia still faces serious limitations given its vulnerable dependence on Russia. Besides, Pashinyan’s main rival and the former President R. Kocharyan, whose alliance will be the second largest faction in the newly elected Parliament has recently stated that this new parliament can last up to one and half years and nobody can exclude the possibility of new snap elections. His pro-Russian attitude and anti-Western stance are well-known and in case he becomes a prime-minister, there is no guarantee that he will follow the path of Lukashenko. 

Therefore  the statement of the Austrian MFA, that ”we cannot leave South Caucasus to others” during the  recent official visit of the Austrian, Romanian and Latvian MFA under the mandate of the EU High Representative to the South Caucasus, reminds  about the EU presence in the region and also the fact that the ‘normative power’ can be a source of balance and a status quo changer.

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Europe

Anti-Macron protests underline classism, as corona protesters and gilets jaune join forces

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photo: Alaattin Doğru - Anadolu Agency

I get it. People in France are fed up with the Covid lockdowns and that’s why they are protesting against the new tightening of the Covid rules. But there is much more to the story.

The new anti-Covid rules by French President Macron came in the middle of the Cannes Film Festival where the rich and famous come out to play for 10 days at the French Reviera. I was there, too, in fact when the new set of rules angered so many ordinary French people. But guess what — the rules didn’t apply to us, those gathered for the Cannes red carpets and parties. Celebrities did not have to wear masks on the red carpet. I did not have to put on a mask at the red carpets. I was not checked even once on the mandatory Covid tests which we took every 2 days anyways. No one at the Cannes red carpets, parties or fashion shows was looking at Covid tests at the entrance, and I attended not one or two things. That’s at the time when the rest of France was boiling. Yes, we were treated differently as the Cannes crowd. That was obvious.

Don’t get me wrong — spending tens of thousands of euros to drink champaigne, walk red carpets and hang out with actors, models, designers and influencers is great. But I couldn’t help but notice that the Cannes elite was being held to a very different standard in comparisson to the ordinary French public. Macron exempted the Cannes crowd from the new rules and that smells of classism and elitism. I can see why the gillets gaune, which I wrote about in my book Trump, European security and Turkey (2020), are angry and want to resume their protests which were put an end to with the Covid lockdowns.

In fact, as soon as you move one or two streets away from the craze and snobbery of the Cannes Festival, you see a very different French picture. Actually, the most pleasant conversations I had in Cannes were with the guy that made my pizza at 2am, a couple of gillets jaune on the street, and the taxi driver who lives in Cannes. These were the pleasant, hard-working French people that represent France so much better than the snotty Cannes Film Festival organizers, the French police or the so-overrated snobbery at the Chopard events. 

From the pizza guy in Mozarella Street I learned that he works two jobs and sleeps 3 hours per night. That’s the reality for many normal French people. Yet, he was the nicest and coolest person I met in Cannes. Somehow I wished that he could trade places with some of the rest I met in Cannes who probably don’t deserve to have an easy life and should be taught a lesson. So I get it. I get the struggle of the gillets gaune and all those that are opposed to Macron’s policies. He is increasingly playing with the far right and that might as well mean that he is looking at his sunset. 

I also get the classism that persists in French society — it’s important to be aware of it even if you’re on the receiving end of a lot of glamor, bemefits and good things. All I can tell you is that next time I am in France, I am joining the gillet jaune protests. Now I really get it. 

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