January 17, 2014

Distinctive Features of the Development of the Geopolitical Situation in the World in 2013. Part 2

Peculiarities of the development of the situation in other regions of the world

Europe

The situation in Europe is directly dependent on European countries, which gradually began to overcome the lingering financial crisis, thereby contributing to the resumption of positive dynamics of development of the EU and NATO.

The EU economic growth was resuming, thanks to the leadership of the European Union having taken a complex of certain measures, including, in particular, the structural reform of economic, energy and banking spheres, the EU labor market, enhancing trade and economic cooperation with other countries (USA, China, Africa, and Latin America). Besides, the governing bodies of the European Union were leading an aggressive policy of budgetary savings. For example, the EU budget in 2014, compared with 2013 has been reduced by 9%. Some European countries have expressed their discontent, demanding greater autonomy for themselves in the financial sector.

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Kept going on the implementation of the main programs of the European Union, including EU Enlargement, the “Eastern Partnership”, Common Security and Defence, Energy Security of Europe. Fulfilling the EU Enlargement program, the European Union, was paying attention to issues of European integration of the countries of the Western Balkans — Macedonia, Albania, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. The important achievements of the EU program “Eastern Partnership” include initialing the Association Agreements between the EU and Moldova and Georgia (at Vilnius Summit in November 2013). However, Ukraine and Armenia's refusal to sign such an Agreement can be interpreted as an actual failure of the program.

Caring about increasing of security of the European Union, its leadership was trying to effectively use military capabilities of member countries of the EU (similarly to the NATO's “Smart Defence” concept), expanded its cooperation with NATO, took part both, in the settlement of crises and conflicts (including within EULEX-Kosovo, the training mission in Mali, the observation mission in Georgia, etc.), and in the neutralization of piracy in the Indian Ocean, was developing and strengthening the EU forces for reliable protection of national territories and crisis response (in particular, tactical combat groups were improving and brought to bearing permanent duty). November 25, 2013 the EU Council adopted a decision on the implementation of selected priority programs to establish a multinational fleet of refueling aircrafts, unmanned aerial vehicles, to make a government satellite communication system.

Strengthening its energy security, the EU has identified the main route for transporting Azerbaijani gas to Europe, giving priority to the project “Trans-Anatolian” gas pipeline (Turkey — Greece — Albania — Italy).

In the context of dynamic changes in the geopolitical situation in the world, as well as new challenges and threats to global and regional security, the Commandment of the NATO has determined its core activities. Namely: securing national territories of the NATO member-countries, settlement of crises and conflicts (primarily in Afghanistan and Kosovo), struggle against piracy, development of relations with partner countries.

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Implementing the concept of “Smart Defence”, the NATO leadership was deepening specialization of the NATO's member-countries in military construction and defence industries, attracting partner countries to multinational projects, optimizing the organizational structure of NATO working bodies. At this, priorities were the following objectives: creation of new automated systems of management, information security, communications and intelligence; building up capabilities of the Coalition's air and sea transport; improving protection of personnel and vehicles from improvised explosive devices; creation of the European Missile Defence System; cyber security and improving logistics.

NATO’s military activities were focused on completion of the operation in Afghanistan and transferring the responsibility for the security situation in the country to the Afghani Security Forces. This can be considered a prerequisite for withdrawal of International ISAF forces from Afghanistan before the end of 2014 and creation in their place of a new training and support mission. However, to solve this problem a new agreement between the USA, NATO and Afghanistan's leadership has to be signed, and that is problematic.

Due to the fact that the situation in Northern Kosovo municipalities has somewhat got stabilized, NATO's Commandment decided to reorganize the structure of KFOR and to gradually reduce their numbers. Since September 2013 has begun the phased withdrawal of subunits of KFOR from checkpoints on the border between Kosovo and Serbia. Besides, the Commandment of the Allied Forces in Europe has developed guidelines to clarify the plans for KFOR mission for 2014-2018 and identified key stages of preparation for the final phase of the operation “Deterrent Presence.”

The situation in the European region has been significantly affected by the situation in some European countries.

First of all here is meant Germany. It is one of the most influential and economically developed countries of the European Union. After all, due to the accelerated rates of economic growth of Germany, the positive dynamics of development of the EU has resumed. Besides, Germany, as a major financial donor of the European Union, in fact, was determining the financial policy of the governing bodies of the EU on saving credit and budget means.

According to most experts, to further strengthening of Germany's leadership positions will contribute the creation of a new governing coalition (by the results of the Parliamentary elections in September 2013) of the CDU /CSU and the Social Democratic Party of Germany, as well as the appointing by this coalition in December 2013 of the new government of the country. Angela Merkel got the position of the Federal Chancellor of Germany for the third time in a raw.

The Program of the new government of Germany provides for greater attention to socio-economic problems of the country with simultaneous strengthening of Germany's positions in the European Union. We must assume that Germany is activating its steps to implementation of national interests both, inside the country and in the international arena. In particular, the Federal Republic of Germany will be defending the tight financial policy of the EU, strengthening resistance to the expansionist policy of Russia in Europe (which already has had a negative impact on German-Russian relations), and will also support democratic forces in Ukraine.

An important role in the EU is assigned also to France. According to the concept document of the country — “White Paper — 2013” — the country's leadership, leading foreign policy and caring about security, was trying to strengthen the unity of the EU Member States to properly identify their positions in joint decision-making; was caring about the full use of the existing capabilities and potential of the European Commission in governing the European Union; was seeking to improve the work of other governing bodies of the EU, including European External Action Service and the European Defence Agency; was paying attention to strengthening defence capabilities of the European Union. It should be noted that quite a serious problem in France, including in the affairs of the implementation of its foreign and defence policy, was a difficult financial and economic situation in the country.

The same problem was also observed in Great Britain, the rate of economic development of which were very low. Besides, the British leadership in a certain way was keeping a distance between itself and the EU, speaking for the preservation of the right to solve their economic and other problems independently. Another problem for the UK was separatist sentiments in Scotland, the regional authority of which initiated a referendum on secession of the region from the British state.

In the region of Central and Eastern Europe the leading role belonged to Poland. Strengthening its international positions and defending its own national interests, the Polish leadership has clearly determined the major questions of the foreign policy: strengthening the role of Poland in the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance; deepening the strategic partnership with the United States (including in military and military-technical spheres); development of relations with the CEE countries on a bilateral basis as well as within the framework of international organizations (primarily the EU, NATO and the “Vishegrad Group”); assisting in the European integration of the countries of the former Soviet Union under the “Eastern Partnership” program; creation of favorable conditions for the activity of the Polish business abroad. Priority of these directions was confirmed by the new National Security Strategy of Poland, adopted in October 2013.

Despite the difficult economic situation, the leadership of Poland was actively developing and modernizing the national Armed Forces. The Polish government adopted the “Priorities for technical modernization of the Armed Forces of Poland for the period up to 2022”, and the “Support Program for development of the Polish defence industry for 2013-2022”, providing for consolidation of the defence industry within the framework of core holdings and concerns.

In autumn of 2013 protests of the Polish population made the situation in the country more complicated. Poles were demanding improvement of social protection and resignation of Donald Tusk's government. As a result, in November 2013, the Polish government was changed, and determined new priorities of its activities that can raise the level of wages, job creation, and development of urban infrastructure.

An active role in the region of South-Eastern Europe is trying to play Romania, striving to reach the level of one of the regional leaders. During the year, Romania's leadership was strengthening its positions in the Black Sea region, in which are interested the United States, NATO and the EU, and was strengthening its influence in Moldova with a view to its further reintegration into the “big Romanian state”.

In particular, according to the previously concluded Agreements, in October 2013 at the Romanian territory, began the deployment of anti-missile systems “Aegis” of Missile Defence System of the USA/NATO in Europe. Besides, it was decided to provide the USA with the Romanian air base in Kogilnichanu for the deployment of the Transit Center, which will supply International Forces in Afghanistan (after closing in 2014 of the Center in Kyrgyzstan).

As compared with previous years, it should be noted that due to the complicated domestic situation, the activity of Romania's foreign policy has somewhat decreased. Thus, neither the early Parliamentary elections in December 2012, nor the appointment of a new government in January 2013, did not manage to prevent confrontation between the presidential and governmental branches, to pacify caused by socio-economic problems mass protests of the Romanian population.

One of the major factors that influenced the development of the situation in the Black Sea region was the events in Turkey. Thus, the Turkish leadership tried to stick to the policy of strengthening its leadership positions in the Black Sea, Caucasus and Middle East regions. The priority issues in the foreign policy of Ankara were as follows: achieving regional parity with Russia and Iran; overthrowing of Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria; deepening cooperation with leading countries of the world, as well as of the Middle East, the Caucasus, Western Balkans, Central Asia and Africa. For Turkey it was important to restart negotiations on the country's joining the EU.

Internal policy of the Turkish government was aimed at maintaining the positive dynamics of the economic development, achieving stability at the Turkish territory by creating conditions for terminating extremist activities of radical Kurdish organizations. In particular, an agreement was reached on the pullback of Kurdish militias to Northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan) in exchange for recognition of the rights of Kurds in Turkey.

Yet the internal situation remained difficult due to the deepening confrontation between different political forces, leading the preparation for the Presidential elections in 2014 (primarily between supporters and opponents of Prime Minister T. Erdogan as the main candidate for the post of president of the country), as well as due to the complicated socio-economic situation caused by external factors (first of all by the conflict in Syria). The cause was mass demonstrations of the Turkish population against the government in the summer of last year (they were protesting against the reconstruction of the Gezi Park), a political scandal in late 2013, caused by the arrest of relatives of a number of senior representatives of the Turkish government accused of corruption, as well as the actual breakdown of the process of settling the Kurdish problem.

Post-Soviet territories

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Last year, Russia was seeking to increase its influence in the former Soviet countries, pursuing the strategy of resuming Russia's role of a “great world state.”

To the above-mentioned activities can be added such actions of Russians as strengthening integration structures at the post-Soviet territories, primarily the Customs Union (CU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). In particular, in 2013 actually was completed the process of developing and adopting the internal legal basis of the CU. Besides, fundamental decisions on joining the Customs Union were taken by Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. It should be noted also that the work of the CU was accompanied by serious problems. Here we mean trade conflicts between member countries of the organization, Russia's attempts to use the Customs Union for political purposes, which provoked a negative reaction from other countries. Besides, during the year there was an overall reduction in the volume of trade within the CU.

In parallel, measures were taken for the development of the military component of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. For example, was formed the CSTO Information Center (prototype of an intelligence structure), was agreed upon the establishment of the aviation component of the Organization. Great attention was also paid by the CSTO's leadership to strengthening the protection of the Tajik-Afghan border and security in Central Asia in connection with the alleged aggravation of the situation in the region after the withdrawal of International Forces from Afghanistan.

The CU member-state Belarus and Russia itself kept building up the military component, especially in terms of increased Russian military presence at the territory of Belarus. In particular, in Belarus were deployed Russian Air Force fighter units, which will be on combat duty in the Belarusian airspace.

Testing of the joint military capabilities of Russia and Belarus was carried out within the framework of strategic trainings of the Armed Forces of both countries “West-2013” in September 2013. At the same time in Belarus were taking place trainings of the United Rapid Reaction Forces of the CSTO “Interaction-2013”, with the participation of troops from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. According to the stated scenarios during these trainings were studied localization and suppression of riots, in which participated Belarusian population. It should be noted that, according to some estimates, the true purpose of the trainings was demonstration of force to NATO within the general Russia's policy to strengthen resistance to the West.

Against this background, the development of the situation in the CIS countries was characterized by local features that depended on national priorities, disposition of political forces and economic situation.

Despite the close relationship with Russia, as well as Belarus' participation in the Customs Union, in 2013 the situation in the country was affected by the continuing deterioration of the Belarusian economy. For example, during the year production in virtually all economic sectors, including industry, agriculture, construction and transport, decreased. Automatically were growing prices for most basic commodities, the rate of the national currency was falling, gold reserves of the country was decreasing (by more than 1.5 billion US dollars) and unemployment was growing.

In such circumstances, the Belarusian government was trying to solve economic problems with the help of the Russian Federation, asking it for more financial loans and trade concessions. However, due to the fact that relations with Russia once again got sharpened due to pressure from the Russians (including the use of energy, trade and economic factors), the Belarusian side was seeking other ways to solve its economic problems. In particular, the Belarusian leadership resorted to measures to diversify its foreign economic relations (primarily, on the count of China and the Middle East), authorized the privatization of some objects of the national economy, increased taxes.

Belarusian authorities actively sought to establish relations with Western countries and international organizations in order to gain access to their markets, credits and investments. To do this, it used the tactics of individual concessions to the EU, in particular, the release of imprisoned Belarusian opposition leaders.

Complexity of the situation in Moldova could be explained by the confrontation between the pro-European leadership of the country and the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) and other left-wing and pro-Russian forces. But, despite the worsening of political and economic problems, PCRM's attempts to provoke riots, massive pressure from Russia, the leadership of Moldova managed to regroup the ruling coalition to prevent social unrests in the country and to initial the Association Agreement with the EU.

At this, changes did not actually touch the situation around the Trans-Dniester conflict. The leadership of the Trans-Dniester Moldavian Republic, as a rule, refused to discuss the political aspects of the Trans-Dniester conflict settlement and agreed to cooperate with Moldova only in certain economic issues. Trans-Dniester Moldavian Republic's leaders approved the policy of Russia's pressure on Moldova in its European integration issue, threatening to withdraw from the negotiation process in the “5+2” format (in particular, because of Moldova's deployment of border and customs posts on the Trans-Dniester's border, as required by the EU to improve the protection of the state). On the part of Trans-Dniester there were attempts to provoke tension in the Security Zone on the border with Moldova.

As for the role of Russia, it provided comprehensive assistance to the breakaway republic, simultaneously enhancing its military presence in the region by rearming the Operative Group of Russian Forces in Trans-Dniester.

The development of the situation in Georgia was complicated and dynamic. The main event in the country was the Presidential elections, which were won by the representative of the new ruling coalition “Georgian Dream” — G. Margvelashvili. Even though there was a change of the leadership of the Georgia and the new government was making attempts to improve relations with the Russian Federation, Georgia has not abandoned the chosen course to join NATO and the EU. Active cooperation of Georgia with the Atlantic Alliance continues the Association Agreement with the European Union has been paraphed.

The situation in the conflict zones in Georgia has remained relatively stable. However, no positive progress in resolving the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-Ossetian problems happened. A major destabilizing factor in the situation around Abkhazia and South Ossetia remained Russia's position which was politically and economically supporting the breakaway republics, and refused to sign a Nonaggression Agreement with Georgia. Besides, the international community was negatively impressed by Russia's provocative actions to build up Russian military presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the construction on their borders of the system of engineering obstacles with simultaneous violation of the Georgian territory.

Old and serious source of tension in the Caucasus remains ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagornyi-Karabakh. Neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia ceased to increase the power of their Armed Forces, were imposing mutual threats, promising to use military force to defend their interests, which could provoke a large-scale armed conflict in the region. At this, the work the OSCE Minsk Group was practically useless, which was explained by the intransigence of Armenia, who refused to leave the occupied Azerbaijani territories.

The Russian Federation used this to maintain its military presence and influence in the region. Thus, on the one hand Russia was putting pressure on Armenia and Azerbaijan and on the other — it was offering various forms of economic preferences and military-technical assistance in exchange for support of Russian interests in the Caucasus.

In fact, this was the reason for Armenia's refusal to sign an Association Agreement with the EU and its having agreed to join the Customs Union with the expansion of the Russian military bases at its territory.

On the other hand, even getting a lot of weapons from Russia (worth about 2 billion US dollars) and deepening cooperation with Russia in the energy sector, Azerbaijan has always maintained its independent position and has developed relationships with the EU, including participation in the implementation of European projects for creation of new energy transportation corridors in the region. Azerbaijan's position in this matter strengthened after I. Aliyev's reelection to the presidency in the elections in September 2013.

Rather complicated was the situation in the countries of Central Asia. During the year, the security situation around Tajikistan has become even more complicated, as it is affected by Afghanistan's Islamic extremism, increased the number of public protests in Kyrgyzstan due to the fall of its economy, contradictions between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan got aggravated, due to the distribution of water resources in the region, opposition in Kazakhstan got activated due to deterioration of the health of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The most stable country in this situation remained Turkmenistan which has chosen a neutral position in relations with its neighbors and was trying to diversify its export routes and energy resources.