Their Eastern Approaches

I systematically follow Edward Lucas’s blog “Eastern Approaches” at The Economist. Yestarday I read an interesting post about EU-Russia visa liberalization. Lucas published this particular article at The Economist’s sister publication in Brussels, European Voice, that carries a weekly column called “Wil(d)er Europe”. Excerpt from article:

Leaving rhetoric aside, the issue is really about two things. One is fairness. Should Russia get a deal that is better (perhaps dramatically better) than what is on offer to the countries of the ‘Eastern Partnership’, such as Ukraine, Georgia or Moldova? The EU has repeatedly criticised the Russian policy of “passportisation” in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway regions of Georgia where ties with Moscow have been bolstered by the generous provision of Russian passports. If visa liberalisation now made it easier for such Russian passport-holders to get to the EU, it would be outrageously unfair. It would also undermine the attractiveness (and thus sovereignty) of the countries that we are trying to help.

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NATO: “Enlargement? Georgia? Really?”

On 17 May, the Group of Experts appointed by Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to lay the groundwork for a new Strategic Concept for NATO presented its analysis and recommendations to the North Atlantic Council (NAC). The draft document says NATO for the first time must be ready for counter-insurgencies outside the territory of its 28 member-states.

NATO must win the war in Afghanistan, expand ties with Russia, counter the threat posed by Iran’s missiles, and assure the security of its 28 members, according to its new mission statement for the next decade. Not much is said about enlargement and Georgia-Ukraine. Although the report reiterates Nato’s “open door” policy, it says only that the allies “should make regular use of the Nato-Ukraine and Nato-Georgia commissions to discuss mutual security concerns and to foster practical co-operation”.

One of the major failures of NATO’s partnership structure was the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia, in which two Alliance partners engaged in hostilities over issues that remain unresolved.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will use the recommendations from the experts to draft a new Strategic Concept, or mission statement, for approval by leaders of NATO states at a summit in Lisbon in November.

You can download the full report here: nato report

Maintaining the Open Door. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO’s membership has expanded from sixteen members to twenty-eight. This open door policy has been an engine of progress towards a Europe whole and free and has contributed much to the collective security of Alliance members. Further enlargement has been under consideration in the western Balkans and with respect to Georgia and Ukraine. Consistent with Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty and the principles for enlargement, the process for states that have expressed their desire for membership should move forward as each state fulfils the requirements for membership. It should go without saying that NATO is an entirely voluntary organisation.

Reccomendations for further cooperation with Georgia and Ukraine:

1.    The Allies should make regular use of the NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia commissions to discuss mutual security concerns and to foster practical cooperation, including on defence reforms. The clearer NATO articulates its position to the partners and the more accurately it can assess their perceptions, the more adept the Allies will be at defusing crises and building trust.

2.    The Allies should also employ NATO’s crisis management mechanisms, in association with the partnership commissions, to assess and monitor security developments affecting these two countries.

NATO states must reverse a steep decline in defense spending despite economic constraints if the alliance is to meet the security threats it faces. Experts said only six of NATO’s 26 European members were meeting their defense spending target of two percent of GDP.

In the coming decade, NATO would not only have to meet its main goal of collective defense of its 28 members, but deploy forces further afield and guard against unconventional threats such as terrorism and cyber attack, the experts said. Secretary Albright explained the report’s two underlying conclusions: “First, the Alliance has an ongoing duty to guarantee the safety and security of its members. Second, it can achieve that objective only if it engages dynamically with countries and organizations that are outside its boundaries.”

The previous strategic concept focused mainly on NATO’s peacekeeping role in places like Bosnia and Kosovo. It was adopted in 1999, soon after the end of the Cold War and before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States forced the alliance to take on missions such as counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan.

Reading the following quotation I finally got to believe that NATO isn’t convinced enough and determined enough to confront Russia and not make compromises over the sovereign decisions of independent states that are seeking NATO accession. NATO instead is designing an Alliance equivalent of the EU’s European Neighborhood Policy that will offer close links and assistance but without the prospect of actual membership.

In addition, NATO’s diplomatic efforts with Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and the other countries of the Caucasus, and other nonmember states show that nations do not have to be part of the Alliance to join with NATO on projects that benefit all.

So tired of Wests “open Door” policies…!

Can the West trust Viktor Yanukovych?

Joining NATO is clearly not at the top of Yanukovych’s agenda, as it was for his predecessor, however good NATO-Ukraine relations do need to be on the agenda, argues Damon Wilson of Foreign Policy. He goes further and states that though the window has closed on rapid movement toward NATO, both sides should ensure there is substance to underpin NATO-Ukraine cooperation. So far, unfortunately, the signals from Kiev are not promising, as Yanukovych has disbanded the committee intended to coordinate work across all ministries to advance Euro-Atlantic integration and tasked the Foreign Ministry to formulate a new national security law that codifies Ukraine’s "non-bloc" status. There is no need to close doors today to tomorrow’s options, says the author.
"Ukraine should not have to choose between Europe and Russia. As neighbors with intertwined culture and common history, it is only natural to expect Russia and Ukraine to have close, good relations. Over time, a stable Ukraine, tethered firmly to the transatlantic community, can help ensure equal relations between Moscow and Kiev and ensure that history does not repeat itself," – an article reads.
So what can Washington expect from Yanukovych? Foreign Policy asks. As engagement between the United States and Ukraine restarts (relations have been on hold since Obama’s election and pending Ukraine’s election), there are a number of key issues on which the future of the relationship will hinge, argues Wilson. Read the full article that gives a very good analyses of what ectually west can expect from the newly elected Ukrainian President.
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Black Sea Fleet: Russia until 2042

The Ukrainian constitution does not permit the establishment of foreign military bases in Ukraine, with the temporary exception of Russia’s current Black Sea naval base, the lease for which runs out in 2017.
However!
On Wednesday, Russia paid off Ukraine with cheaper natural gas to extend the lease of its Black Sea fleet  for another 25 years and to keep a strategic toehold on the Crimea. Upon expiry, this term will be eligible to extension by five more years. The agreement is the main product of a Kharkiv summit between Presidents Dmitri Medvedev and Viktor Yanukovich. The same day, Moscow announced plans to buy Mistral-class amphibious assault ships from France.
I suddenly remembered my last year when I was working on my thesis that was dedicated to Ukraine’s and Georgia’s relationship towards NATO. I wrote a huge chapter (Ukraine and Russia – Neighbors, Brothers or rivals?) about the Ukrainian-Russian relationship with the main focus on economic, military, cultural and historical ties. Black sea fleet was of a central interest when talking about military ties. Interestingly enough I had summerised comments by field experts who predicted that: "Viktor Yanukovych, the leader of the Party of the Regions, will in all probability benefit most and be elected president… With a possible debt of over $10 billion by late 2009, the new Ukrainian government might be forced to sell the pipeline to Gazprom, as well as a substantial part of its industrial base, maintain the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol and renounce its intention to join NATO.”  Almost all the points are in progress!
The following picture was made by me when I visited Sevastopol and the Black Sea Fleet in 2008.

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A wake-up call for Georgia, Ukraine – and the West

                I wonder why it always needs an escalations of conflict in post-soviet area in order the west to pay attention, without Ukraine and Georgia afterward telling them"but we have warned you" and the west responding "did you?".

It is important to note that Ukraine and Georgia represent a somewhat different cases than the Baltic Republics or other Eastern European countries. With the exception of the Baltic states, the countries seeking NATO and EU membership in the 1990s had not been part of the Soviet Union. Moreover, they benefited from historical traditions of democratic governance and their “Europeanness” was never in doubt. Even the Baltic States, that were administered by the USSR, were perceived internationally as having certain legitimate claims to statehood throughout the Soviet period.

Ukraine and Georgia, in contradistinction to this, had to invent a modern statehood after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. These countries are weaker, poorer, and more politically problematic than the central and eastern European states. Georgia, for instance experiences much more serious security threats than any of those countries, including the Baltic states, ever did. More importantly, Ukraine and Georgia enjoy much less Western support in terms of membership prospects in the EU and NATO, than those countries did. Additionally to this we should take into consideration another important change that occurred in the 21 century: Russia has changed. In the 90s, it was a post-collapsed, weak state trying to figure out its new orientations. Now, a more powerful, nationalist, courageous and aggressive Russia is challenging the West.       

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EU Eastern Partnership – Promises vs Realities

The European Union extended its hand to six former Soviet republics: Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia on Thursday at a summit meant to draw them closer into the EU orbit despite Russia’s deep misgivings. Presidents, premiers and their deputies from 33 nations are signing an agreement meant to extend the EU’s political and economic ties.
Read further for EUOBSERVER article from  Brussels .

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