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The Brief - Too much sabre-rattling

Friday, 5 October 2018, 4:00 pm

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Too much sabre-rattling

By Georgi Gotev

Relations between Russia and the West are reaching a frighteningly low point. A recent statement by the US Ambassador to NATO reminded many of the 1961 Cuban missile crisis.
Kay Bailey Hutchison said Washington was prepared to consider a military strike if Russia continued developing a ground-based cruise medium-range missile unit.
She later tweeted  to say she didn’t mean “pre-emptively striking Russia”. Russia called the statement “dangerous”.
The two sides keep trading blame. Washington says Moscow is violating the 1987 Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF).
Russia counters that the US started it, by deploying in Romania and Poland installations for the so-called missile shield, which can launch Tomahawk cruise missiles. Which are, by the way, also nuclear-capable.
The two sides also play dangerous war games close to each other’s borders. Russia conducted last month the biggest military manoeuvres in its history. Possibly in response, later this month, NATO will conduct its largest military exercises since the end of the Cold War .
To add insult to injury, hybrid warfare is taking place already, with a low-intensity conflict in eastern Ukraine and alleged Russian cyber-attacks targeting the most sensitive Western installations and companies.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has mentioned invoking Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which outlines the principle of collective defence.
Article 5 states that an “armed attack” against one member of NATO “shall be considered an armed attack against them all” and opens the way for members to take defensive action to restore security.
Are we almost at war? And what is the EU doing to defuse these tensions? Austrian PM Sebastian Kurz, whose country holds the rotating Presidency of the EU, met Vladimir Putin on Wednesday for a fourth meeting this year.
He says his main concern was to keep dialogue channels with Russia open. And he has been doing good business, as a lobbyist for the Nord Steam 2 pipeline, in which Austria’s OMV is a stakeholder.
Actually, quite a few are doing good business, with impoverished Eastern European countries spending on expensive fighter jets, Donald Trump making sure that the European allies buy American, and Russia, as always, unable to produce a decent passenger car, making its only significant industry work.
Too much monkey business? Maybe, but there is nothing better than sabre-rattling to make the global industrial-military complex happy.


The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

Germany’s grand coalition wants to introduce a 2% threshold to prevent small political parties from entering the European Parliament. No way, the German Federal Constitutional Court has repeatedly ruled.

Viktor Orbán’s offensive against the Central European University is at the core of the worsening relationship between Hungary and the EU institutions. Tibor Navracsics, insists that he is “deeply interested” in keeping the university in Budapest.

Hungary and Poland go lethal and challenge EU’s posted workers reform in the European Court of Justice.

Council President Tusk sharply criticised what he called “emotional” and “insulting” statements about the EU by British ministers and urged London to accept an offer of very close post-Brexit ties. EU negotiators meanwhile see a Brexit deal ‘very close’.

If Bosnia, Albania, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo do not feel the EU is serious about offering them future membership, the spectre of a new Balkans war lies in the air, said Commission chief Juncker.

Turkish President Erdoğan, meanwhile, is considering putting a long-stalled bid to join the EU to referendum.

Look out for...

Romanians will vote on the definition of marriage and whether to change the country’s constitution. Election weekend: In the light of growing Russian disinformation campaigns, we should watch the parliamentary elections in Latvia tomorrow (6 October) closely, writes Harry Nedelcu. As Bosnians prepare to vote on Sunday (7 October), some lament being ‘second-class citizens’.
It’s also the first round of Brazil’s presidential election. The frontrunner is Jair Bolsonaro, a former army commander who was stabbed a few weeks ago, wants to allow the exploitation of the Amazon and may drag Brazil out of the Paris Agreement.
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