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Who Called Angela Merkel?

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Image source: polishnews.co.uk

An unusual scene was recorded by cameras during Angela Merkel’s recent meeting with Vladimir Putin in Moscow. It was the last in a long series of meetings between the two statesmen and at the same time a farewell visit of the German Chancellor, who will remain in office until the parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of September. Sometime in the first minutes of the meeting (it is so common to allow cameramen to stay in the room where the meeting is being held), a cell phone rang in the pocket of the head of the German government. It is not remembered when something similar happened at the time of the official talks. Any, anywhere and anytime. Angela Merkel reached into her pocket a little awkwardly, took out her mobile phone and interrupted the call at the touch of a button, and Putin continued to speak and with a somewhat ironic smile said: “We will definitely continue our contacts, even by phone.”

              The event was registered in the world, not everywhere, but only on the margins, as something ‘interesting’. We did not notice that anyone wondered: what really happened and how it is possible that it happened. And that is exactly the question that needs to be asked. Because if in the midst of talks with Russian President the phone rings in the pocket of the German Chancellor, it is not by accident. This simply cannot be accidental. And here’s why.

              The rules of good behavior, let’s call it that way, during official conversations, even conversations that necessarily have a note of confidentiality, dictate that mobile phones should not be brought into the room where the conversation is taking place. The reason is very clear: these tiny devices without which, so today’s generations think, life is not imaginable, very easily – and without the knowledge, much less consent of their owners – are transformed into listening/spying devices (in addition to giving the exact position at any time of persons carrying them). Since a few years ago it is known that US intelligence agency NSA (National Security Agency) is eavesdropping, and monitors electronic communications of literally countless multitude of people around the world. NSA also tapped the German chancellor’s cell phone. She reacted rather lukewarmly to the discovery, saying, “If that’s true, then it’s not right.” It was true, there is no doubt about it, and to say that it is not right, it is the mildest possible formulation, chosen obviously only because it was the Americans. Had it been established by any chance that the Russians or the Chinese are engaged in this work (whom the West is today accusing of waging a cyber war, even trying to prevent the Chinese company Huawei from marketing its products in the West , precisely under the accusation that the company’s mobile phones allow Chinese intelligence to monitor not only the movements but also the communication of their owners), reactions would have ranged from a protest note to the withdrawal of the ambassador for consultations. But, the reaction was lukewarm. It is to be assumed that German experts in the meantime ‘did their best’ (it is very ‘in’ to use that phrase today) to protect the chancellor’s cell phone. It is no less likely that they failed to do so. So it can be assumed that Angela Merkel’s mobile can even today serve as a device for eavesdropping.

              The Russians are certainly not searching members of foreign delegations who come to talk to Putin to find out if they have cell phones with them. However, this author knows from his own experience (when he accompanied Croatian President Mesic on his meetings with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin) that members of foreign delegations are asked to put their mobile phones in a small locker with compartments before entering the meeting room. Angela Merkel has been with Putin many times , even in the Kremlin. There is no reason to assume that her delegation was treated differently from other delegations and politicians who come to meet with the Russian president. And even if the chancellor could forget that detail, her protocol could not and should not forget something like that. It is herefore to be assumed that the German protocol consciously let Chancellor to come to talk with Putin with a cell phone in her pocket .

              Let’s move on: only a limited number of people, and not just any people, have the German chancellor’s cell phone number. Likewise, it is certainly known, at least to those who must know such things, who these persons are. The Chancellor’s daily schedule, including the programs of her stays abroad, is again known only to a limited number of people. Once again: not any people. And that someone who has her number and who knows the plan of her movement consciously calls her just at the time she is talking to the Russian president is impossible. Just as it is impossible that her mobile phone was accidentally activated (although this can happen with so-called smartphones). The call, therefore, was intentional. Had to be.

              And for what purpose? Only one: to embarrass the German chancellor on the occasion of her farewell meeting with Putin, to portray her – perhaps – in his eyes as someone who knowingly comes with the phone in her pocket to talk to him, so that American (or at least: German) intelligence services could follow every word. Which would make her appear an untrustworthy partner, raising even the question: for how many years is she like this and can she be trusted in anything she says (or said in the past)? From this necessarily the next question emerges: who could have the ability and interest to do such a thing?

              Theoretically it is possible that it was even the Russians themselves. Just to show her that they know what she was doing, that she brought her cell phone, this potentially tapping device on a conversation with Putin. But apart from making her funny in the eyes of the public (because, let us remember, everything happened in front of tv cameraa) and thus ‘repaying the debt’ for her agreeing to US sanctions on Russia, though not always enthusiastic, there was no serious reason for such a ‘joke’. And because Moscow takes politics seriously, that possibility, although theoretically existent, can be forgotten.

Of the actors on the German political scene, there is no one who would have the need to compromise Angela Merkel in the last weeks of her political career. Namely, she does not run in the September elections and withdraws from active politics after them, so she is no longer dangerous to anyone as a possible competitor. This eliminates the Germans. However, there remain those who resented Angela Merkel as the Prime Minister of Germany and one of the most prominent, but also the most influential figures in European and even world politics. Two countries come immediately in mind, but basically one. These are the United States and Ukraine and that is why we say that it comes in fact only to one country, because Ukraine without American help could have not (should have not) staged something like this.

Washington will not and cannot forgive the German chancellor for not giving in to pressure and stopping work on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will provide not only Germany but also Western Europe with natural gas from Russia. It started in the Trump era, with Donald Trump threatening in his own rude way with sanctions every German and European companies that participated in the realization of this project (and accusing falsely Germany of being totally dependent on Russian gas ). Joe Biden, however, gave up sanctions on Germany, but provided for an American-German agreement that – if only on paper – leaves to Ukraine its privileged position as a country that charges for the transit of Russian gas to Europe through a pipeline which runs on the Ukrainian territory (and sometimes steal gas intended for Europe, when the Russians halt supplies to Ukraine because of unpaid bills). North Stream 2 is nearing completion and obviously nothing can stop it. What ‘hurts’ And the Americans not only for political reasons (someone resisted them, potentially depriving their ‘player’ – Ukraine), but also for economic ones. With natural gas provided from Russia (which, at least until now, has never used energy as a means of pressure or political blackmail), there will hardly be anyone in Europe who will agree to buy more expensive liquefied American gas. Enough  reasons to at least make a mockery of Angela Merkel at the end of her political career, especially during her meeting with Putin, so disliked by the US.

Ukraine, on the other hand, has two reasons to take revenge on the German chancellor. The first is the mentioned Nord Stream 2, against which Ukraine, together with several other countries, the so-called new Europe, all of them former Soviet satellites, cried havoc. With no results! A second is that, although Angela Merkel persistently reiterates that Germany will not recognize “the annexation of the Crimea”, she insists on agreement from Minsk which the Ukrainian side does not even thing about of fulfilling (because it would mean that Kiev has to practically give up some key aspects of its anti-Russian policy, at least in Ukraine). So, Ukraine has enough reasons, the only question is: does it have the knowledge to do something like that? On their own – probably. But as Kiev is becoming  increasingly an ‘American player’ in Eastern Europe and on the border with Russia, it is to be assumed that organizing the ringing of German Chancellor’s cell phone in the midst of her talks with the Russian could not have been staged without American approval, and it is even more realistic to say: without American help.

Will the enigma with the ringing of the cell phone of German Chancellor during her meeting with Russian President ever to be resolved, for now remains an open issue. But even if it apparently will be lifted, there will be, at least for the public, no answers to key questions: who was calling and why. The public should treat this as one pretty little story from the sphere of high politics. And nothing more.

Because that’s what the public is allowed to do: have fun with stories. A thinking public is not desirable, at least in the world we live in. The thinking is reserved for those who eavesdrop.

Europe

Europe tells Biden “no way” to Cold War with China

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Amidst the first big transatlantic tensions for the Biden Administration, a new poll shows that the majority of Europeans see a new Cold War happening between the United States and China, but they don’t see themselves as a part of it.

Overwhelmingly, 62% of Europeans believe that the US is engaged in a new Cold War against China, a new poll just released by the European Council on Foreign Relations found. Just yesterday US President Joe Biden claimed before the UN General Assembly that there is no such thing and the US is not engaging in a new Cold War. So, Europeans see Biden’s bluff and call him on it.

The study was released on Wednesday by Mark Leonard and Ivan Krastev at the European Council on Foreign Relations and found that Europeans don’t see themselves as direct participants in the US-China Cold War. This viewpoint is most pronounced in Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Portugal and Italy, according to the study. The prevailing view, in each of the 12 surveyed EU member states, is one of irrelevance – with respondents in Hungary (91%), Bulgaria (80%), Portugal (79%), and Austria (78%) saying that their country is not in a conflict with Beijing.

Only 15% of Europeans believe that the EU is engaged in a Cold War against China. The percentage is so low that one wonders if there should even be such a question. It is not only not a priority, it is not even a question on the agenda for Europeans. Even at the highest point of EU “hawkishness”, only 33% of Swedes hold the view that their country is currently in a Cold War with China.  Leonard and Krastev warn that if Washington and Brussels are preparing for an all-in generational struggle against China, this runs against the grain of opinion in Europe, and leaders in Washington and Brussels will quickly discover that they “do not have a societal consensus behind them”.

“The European public thinks there is a new cold war – but they don’t want to have anything to do with it. Our polling reveals that a “cold war” framing risks alienating European voters”, Mark Leonard said.

The EU doesn’t have the backing of its citizens to follow the US in its new Cold War pursuit. But unlike the views of the authors of the study, my view is that this is not a transatlantic rift that we actually have to be trying to fix. Biden’s China policy won’t be Europe’s China policy, and that’s that, despite US efforts to persuade Europe to follow, as I’ve argued months ago for the Brussels Report and in Modern Diplomacy.

In March this year, Gallup released a poll that showed that 45% of Americans see China as the greatest US enemy. The poll did not frame the question as Cold War but it can be argued that Joe Biden has some mandate derived from the opinion of American people. That is not the case for Europe at all, to the extent that most of us don’t see “China as an enemy” even as a relevant question.

The US’s China pursuit is already giving horrible for the US results in Europe, as French President Macron withdrew the French Ambassador to the US. The US made a deal already in June, as a part of the trilateral partnership with the UK and Australia, and stabbed France in the back months ago to Macron’s last-minute surprise last week. Max Boot at the Council on Foreign Relations argues that it is Macron that is actually arrogant to expect that commitments and deals should mean something: “Back in February, Macron rejected the idea of a U.S.-E.U. common front against China. Now he complains when America pursues its own strategy against China. What’s French for chutzpah?” What Boot does get right is that indeed, there won’t be a joint US-EU front on China, and European citizens also don’t want this, as the recent poll has made clear.

The US saying Europe should follow the US into a Cold War with China over human rights is the same thing as China saying that Europe should start a Cold War with the US over the bad US human rights record. It’s not going to happen. You have to understand that this is how ridiculous the proposition sounds to us, Europeans. Leonard and Krastev urge the EU leadership to “make the case for more assertive policies” towards China around European and national interests rather than a Cold War logic, so that they can sell a strong, united, and compelling case for the future of the Atlantic alliance to European citizens.

I am not sure that I agree, as “more assertive policies” and “cold war” is probably the same thing in the mind of most Europeans and I don’t think that the nuance helps here or matters at all. Leaders like Biden argue anyway that the US is not really pursuing a Cold War. The authors caution EU leaders against adopting a “cold war” framing. You say “framing”, I say “spin”. Should we be in engaging in spins at all to sell unnecessary conflict to EU citizens only to please the US?

Unlike during the first cold war, [Europeans] do not see an immediate, existential threat”, Leonard clarified. European politicians can no longer rely on tensions with China to convince the electorate of the value of transatlantic relations. “Instead, they need to make the case from European interests, showing how a rebalanced alliance can empower and restore sovereignty to European citizens in a dangerous world”, Mark Leonard added. The study shows that there is a growing “disconnect” between the policy ambitions of those in Brussels and how Europeans think. EU citizens should stick to their sentiments and not be convinced to look for conflict where it doesn’t exist, or change what they see and hear with their own eyes and ears in favor of elusive things like the transatlantic partnership, which the US itself doesn’t believe in anyways. And the last thing that should be done is to scare Europeans by convincing them they live in a “dangerous world” and China is the biggest threat or concern.

What the study makes clear is that a Cold War framing against China is likely to repel more EU voters than it attracts, and if there is one thing that politicians know it is that you have to listen to the polls in what your people are telling you instead of engaging in spins. Those that don’t listen in advance get the signs eventually. At the end of the day it’s not important what Biden wants.

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Europe

Germany and its Neo-imperial quest

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In January 2021, eight months ago, when rumours about the possibility of appointment of Christian Schmidt as the High Representative in Bosnia occurred for the first time, I published the text under the title ‘Has Germany Lost Its NATO Compass?’. In this text I announced that Schmidt was appointed to help Dragan Čović, the leader of the Croatian HDZ party, to disrupt the constitutional structure of Bosnia-Herzegovina and create precoditions for secession of the Serb- and Croatian-held territories in Bosnia and the country’s final dissolution. I can hardly add anything new to it, except for the fact that Schmidt’s recent statements at the conference of Deutsche Atlantische Gesellschaft have fully confirmed my claims that his role in Bosnia is to act as Čović’s ally in the latter’s attempts to carve up the Bosnian Constitution.

Schmidt is a person with a heavy burden, the burden of a man who has continuously been promoting Croatian interests, for which the Croatian state decorated him with the medal of “Ante Starčević”, which, in his own words, he “proudly wears” and shares with several Croatian convicted war criminals who participated in the 1992-1995 aggression on Bosnia, whom Schmidt obviously perceives as his ideological brethren. The question is, then, why Germany appointed him as the High Representative in Bosnia? 

Germany’s policy towards Bosnia, exercised mostly through the institutions of the European Union, has continuously been based on the concept of Bosnia’s ethnic partition. The phrases that we can occassionaly hear from the EU, on inviolability of state boundaries in the Balkans, is just a rhetoric adapted to the demands by the United States to keep these boundaries intact. So far, these boundaries have remained intact mainly due to the US efforts to preserve them. However, from the notorious Lisbon Conference in February 1992 to the present day, the European Union has always officially stood behind the idea that Bosnia-Herzegovina should be partitioned along ethnic lines. At the Lisbon Conference, Lord Carrington and Jose Cutileiro, the official representatives of the then European Community, which has in the meantime been rebranded as the European Union, drew the maps with lines of ethnic partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina, along which the ethnic cleansing was committed, with 100.000 killed and 1,000.000 expelled, so as to make its territory compatible with their maps. Neither Germany nor the European Union have ever distanced themselves from the idea they promoted and imposed at the Lisbon Conference as ‘the only possible solution’ for Bosnia, despite the grave consequences that followed. Nor has this idea ever stopped being a must within their foreign policy circles, as it has recently been demonstrated by the so-called Janša Non-Paper, launched a couple of months ago, which also advocates the final partition and dissolution of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Such a plan is probably a product of the powerful right-wing circles in the European institutions, such as Schmidt’s CSU, rather than a homework of Janez Janša, the current Prime Minister of Slovenia, whose party is a part of these circles, albeit a minor one. To be sure, Germany is not the original author of the idea of Bosnia’s partition, this author is Great Britain, which launched it directly through Lord Carrington at the Lisbon Conference. Yet, Germany has never shown a will to distance itself from this idea, nor has it done the European Union. Moreover, the appointment of Schmidt, as a member of those political circles which promote ethnic partition as the only solution for multiethnic countries, testifies to the fact that Germany has decided to fully apply this idea and act as its chief promoter.

In this process, the neighbouring countries, Serbia and Croatia, with their extreme nationalist policies, can only act as the EU’s proxies, in charge for the physical implemenation of Bosnia’s pre-meditated disappearance. All the crimes that Serbia and Croatia committed on the Bosnian soil – from the military aggression, over war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide, up to the 30 year-long efforts to undermine Bosnia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – have always had a direct approval and absolute support of the leading EU countries. During the war and in its aftermath, Great Britain and France were the leaders of the initiatives to impose ethnic partition on the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and now Germany has taken up their role. In such a context, the increasing aggressiveness of Serbia and Croatia can only be interpreted as a consequence of the EU’s intention to finish with Bosnia for good, and Schmidt has arrived to Bosnia to facilitate that process. Therefore, it is high time for the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina to abandon any ilussions about the true intentions of the European Union and reject its Trojan Horse in the form of the current High Representative.  

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Europe

Should there be an age limit to be President?

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The presidential elections in Bulgaria are nearing in November 2021 and I would like to run for President of Bulgaria, but the issue is the age limit.

To run for President in Bulgaria a candidate needs to be at least 40 years old and I am 37. I am not the first to raise the question: should there be an age limit to run for President, and generally for office, and isn’t an age limit actually age discrimination?

Under the international human rights law standard, putting an age limit is allowed in the context of political participation under the right to vote and the right to run to be elected. Human Rights Committee General Comment No.25 interpreting the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that an age limit has to be based on objective and reasonable criteria, adding that it is reasonable to have a higher age requirement for certain offices. As it stands, the law says that having an age limit for president is not age discrimination, but is 40 actually a reasonable cut-off? National legislations can change. We need to lower the age limit and rethink what’s a reasonable age for President, and not do away with all age limits.

We have seen strong leaders emerge as heads of state and government who are below 40 years of age. Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland, became Prime Minister at 34. Sebastrian Kurz, the Prime Minister of Austria, was elected at 31. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, assumed her position at 37. So perhaps it is time to rethink age limits for the highest offices.

The US has plenty of examples where elected Senators and Congressmen actually beat the age limit and made it despite the convention. The age limit for Senator in the US is 30 years old. Rush Holt was elected to the US Senate at 29. In South Carolina, two State Senators were elected at 24 years old and they were seated anyways. The age limit for US president is 35 years old.

In Argentina, the age cut-off is 30. In India, it is 35. In Pakistan, it is 45 years old. In Turkey, it is 40 years old. Iceland says 35 years old. In France, it is 18.

Generally, democracies set lower age limits. More conservative countries set the age limit higher in line with stereotypes rather than any real world evidence that a 45 year-old or 55 year-old person would be more effective and better suited to the job. Liberal countries tend to set lower age limits.

40 years old to be a President of Bulgaria seems to be an arbitrary line drawn. And while it is legal to have some age limits, 40 years old seems to be last century. Changing the age limit for president of Bulgaria could be a task for the next Bulgarian Parliament for which Bulgarians will also vote on the same date as they vote for President.

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