March 25, 2014

Underestimation of the Situation. Things to Think About

Sudden for the world community Russia's annexation of a part of the territory of a sovereign state–founder of the UN, has put before political elites and analytical centers a very specific question: who, whom and what and also why underestimated (or scared?). Here is our point of view.

If we do not take into consideration the certain euphoria caused by the signing March 21 by Ukraine of the political part of the Association Agreement with the EU and announcement of similar intentions concerning, after the presidential elections in our country, the economic part of this Agreement, we must admit that in the context of the anti-Ukrainian Russian aggression the ruling establishment and anti-crisis management of Europe (except, perhaps, the UK) including Ukraine underestimated the following things:

1) Vladimir Putin, his unpredictability, irrationality... (let's leave for the thinking reader to continue this series of logic), and the mood of the Russian army, especially special operations soldiers, the growth in the Russian society of chauvinistic sentiments, “the whole people” and elite's (“collective Putin’s”) support of the Kremlin ruler's actions;

2) “energy weapon” of the Kremlin. Here we mean, in particular, the critical, or 100 percent dependence of a number of EU member states (Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic) on Russian oil and Germany, France and Italy's 20 to 40 percent gas dependence on the “Gazprom”. Must admit here that some EU member states have not completed measures for diversification of sources of supply of oil and gas, while the European Commission does not have a preventive and operational plan to ensure security of supplies of natural gas. The operational plan, on the basis of provided by EU member states, updated risk assessments, will be worked out by the Directorate General for Energy of the EC only in late 2014.

In particular, possible termination by official Moscow of Russian oil supplies to European countries (in order to get leverage on the official Brussels and national governments on the issue of the possible application of the third package of the EU sanctions against Russia in connection with the annexation of the Crimea) creates challenges and threats to the safe functioning of the fuel energy complexes in Central and Eastern Europe.

At this, dependence of Hungary and Slovakia on imports of crude oil through the pipeline “Druzhba” (southern branch of which transports 15 million tons a year) is 100 %, of Poland and Czech Republic — at least 60-80 %, of Germany — 25 %.

If supplies to these countries cease, the biggest losses may be in the Czech Republic, the operating oil reserves of which are enough for 2-3 weeks. Russian oil can be compensated by untouchable reserves (enough for a short period), purchases at the refineries in Austria, Germany and Poland and increasing supplies through the pipeline “Adria” to Hungarian and Slovakian refinery.

However, Russia has a large surplus of export capacities: such capacities in oil exports (more than 6 million barrels/day) significantly exceed possible export volumes (4.2-4.5 million barrels/day). Experts believe that oil flows passing through Ukraine, can be easily directed to other export routes, particularly to the ports of the Baltic and Black Seas.

The main gas pipelines from Russia to EuropeThe main gas pipelines from Russia to Europe

Note that according to the International Energy Agency's estimations, Ukraine is the largest gas corridor through which gas is supplied to Europe: last year were transported 167 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas, which is about half of its total imported to Europe volume. The loss of about 6.5 billion cubic meters of gas in case of termination of Russian gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine in March or April of this year, can be compensated by consumers by gas supplies via alternative routes (up to 6.1 billion cubic meters), therefore, the shortage of natural gas will be 0.4 billion cubic meters. At the same time, giving up the pipeline “Nabucco” has significantly weakened diversification capacities of some countries of South-Eastern Europe and increased the importance of Russian Gazprom's “Northern” and “Southern” flows;

3) interests of their own business. Most European and national business associations and units do not support tougher sanctions of the third level, because they are sure that the European institutions are not able to predict the long-term losses of companies (primarily of national ones) and to compensate from their common funds or mechanisms. We mean countries such as, for example, Germany, Finland, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Cyprus, Malta, Greece and Spain;

4) approaching of the election cycle that is, the European Parliament elections (May 22-25 this year) and the following re-election of the new leadership and staff of the EU institutions. In this context, and taking into consideration the balance of political forces and tendencies of development of the political situation in the EU countries, currently the governing structures of the European Union are seriously concerned about the possibility of strengthening positions of “Euro-sceptics”, who, according to the results of the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament, may receive at least one third of all parliamentary seats.

In this regard, there are forecasts that the current composition of the European Parliament in the final period of its work (the last meeting of the EP will be held April 14-16) will try to adopt those laws which strengthen the supranational role of the EU. In particular, on establishment of the unified reorganization of troubled banks (important law to implement the idea of the Banking Union of the EU), on the EU single market, as well as on a Long-Term Program of Financial Development of the EU. After the elections of the new EP, it can happen that representatives of factions of the European People's Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats will try to agree on withdrawal of any other political factions (including Liberals and the Green) from the control system in the future composition of the European Parliament and to distribute between their representatives leading positions in all parliamentary committees.

Russian diplomats, in their turn, point out possible significant increase in anti-American sentiment in the newly elected European Parliament due to expanding presence in it of “Euro-sceptics” (primarily, representatives of France and the Netherlands). Moreover, possible strengthening of positions of “Euro-sceptics” in the EU institutions, taking into account the priorities set forth during Greek and Italian Presidency in the EU, will obviously have a negative impact on further implementation of the EU Initiative on “Eastern Partnership” and the EU's relations with Ukraine (due to giving our state the prospect of EU membership).

Let's consider thanks to what/why such a situation emerged:

A. Decrease of the effectiveness of existing systems of collective security. At the present stage there are trends of confrontation between the traditional and new power centers, primarily in adapting existing collective institutions of common (political, economic, military) security to geopolitical realities with highlighting NATO and the EU and lessening of the role of those international organizations that are authorized to provide mandates for military operations on an international scale (UN, OSCE), and a member of which is Ukraine.

B. Inadequacy of the existing international guarantees of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Membership in the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, CIS, partnerships with NATO and the EU do not guarantee our country strong mechanisms by which to eliminate the threat to national security. Security guarantees promised to Ukraine at the time of its renunciation of nuclear weapons in 1994, do not have the necessary institutional formalization and are not being fulfilled. Nuclear countries that are permanent members of the UN Security Council, interpret these guarantees as non-committal political statements, not enjoining on response.

Now there is no justification for the position of Moscow which ignores the provisions of the Budapest Memorandum, guarantees of which to our country have been repeatedly confirmed (in particular, by the Agreement with the Russian Federation on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership, Charter on Ukrainian-US strategic partnership, the statement of the Presidents of Russia and the U.S. December 4, 2009, the Foreign Ministry of the PRC's Note dated December 15, 2009 and the statement of the leaders of Ukraine and China from September 2, 2010, the letter by the British Prime Minister on January 5, 2010). So, Russia's demonstrative and blatant disregard of the guarantees of this Memorandum will certainly destroy the tenuous progress in the emerging international negotiations with those countries, which mean nuclear weapons as the instrument for the implementation of their sovereign policy and with suspicion take the calls to abandon this view in favor of a “legally not binding guarantees regarding their territorial integrity and sovereignty”.

C. Miscalculations in strategic planning and strategic intelligence, unpreparedness of governments, intelligence agencies and the military to the military operation of the Russian Federation in the Crimea, or at least to its “demonstration of force”. We mean, in particular, the underestimation of V. Putin's reaction to Ukraine's rapprochement with the EU and NATO (“now or never”, “after the Olympics in Sochi”, “before the elections of a pro-European President and Parliament of Ukraine”, “in the situation of the weakened Ukrainian central government”, presence of the “legitimately elected Ukrainian president in exile”).

The Russian President quickly realized that on the agenda there was the last chance for the reanimation of the Kremlin's dominance in the post-Soviet space, implementation of plans for transition to a multi-polar world order and return of Russia 's superpower status.

At this, the Kremlin was sure that the leading countries of the European Union, interested in minimizing political and economic presence of the USA in the European space, consider Russia as an effective tool in neutralizing Washington's politics in Europe. And so they will not oppose the expansion of the area of ​​responsibility of the Russian Federation in the CIS' territories. In their turn, some strategists in the White House believed that there was a window of opportunity to prevent Russian rapprochement with Germany and France.

Brief conclusions.

1. In these circumstances, a danger for Ukraine is that it can be in the role of the subject to which are taken these or other measures, and to turn, in spite of its national interests, into a “bargaining chip” in the distribution of spheres of geopolitical influence between large global players.

2. Ukrainian authorities urgently should create a professional and respectable state apparatus, to establish equal relations of the Centre with regions, to slow down the movement of rapprochement with NATO, to give up sweeping criticism of the CIS, and, having started real system reforms, to begin a real offensive against corruption. It is necessary also to take the necessary personnel decisions concerning the Defence Department, reforming the Army, optimizing power structures.

3. The platform for letting know the international community about the unlawfulness of the actions of Russia as a country-signatory of the Budapest Memorandum “On guarantees of security in connection with the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” from 05.12.1994, actually scoring out the achieved ​​in the field of nuclear safety progress, must become the Third Hague Nuclear Security Summit (March 24-25). The annexation of the Crimea has considerably shaken (if not already destroyed) confidence in the international community's initiatives to establish a nuclear-free zones in the world. Without restoring such confidence, the next Nuclear Security Summit in the USA in 2016 can be a failure.

4. Obviously, the most important element of restoring the confidence in the global and regional security systems should be strengthening of international security guarantees to Ukraine in the format of “international legal instrument” (re-signing the Memorandum on Security Assurances in the format of a multilateral international agreement of Ukraine, the USA, Russia, Great Britain, France, China).

P.S. Don't forget that the true purpose of the Kremlin's policy in the Ukrainian direction is to spread instability and to split our country, which will change its political system (federalization) and will be re-established Ukrainian-Russian borders.

All interested in the “appeasement” international (and not only) players should be aware of the accelerated — time count in today's militarized enough twenty-first century, and not forget that in the previous twentieth century, it took the aggressor 534 days (from the Anschluss and the annexation of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to the outbreak of World War II).