De week-end: To The Right Honourable David Cameron, His Excellency Martin Harris 1

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Dear Mr Cameron,

Dear Mr Harris,

Rumours have it that your government plans to run a series of ads discouraging Romanian (and Bulgarian) nationals from going to UK. While some fellow Romanians are slightly annoyed by this I welcome this opportunity and encourage you to go on with your plans. You see, we are a rather sarcastic lot. A famous literature critic put it this way: frustrated with his wife’s prolonged labour, Nae mocks and denies the entire Romanian civilization. We would be more than willing to mock your civilizations also, if a proper incentive is provided. And your plan does provide a fine incentive indeed.

Secondly, living in a post-communist country, even after 20 years, we still maintain a discreet occasional smugness regarding those in the West who have never experienced “true evil”. This is most likely shared with Bulgarians also; it is a regional thing. More…

Reclame

In Central Asia, It Is Better to Speak of Confrontation than of War 1

Map Central Asia

On December 28th, 2012, Arielle Thedrel published in the French newspaper Le Figaro an article entitled Une Guerre de l’Eau Menace l’Asie Centrale, alluding to the uneasy situation of water-management in Central Asia, at the several occasions of (past and future) confrontation and at the political acrimony among the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. For the purpose of clarity, by Central Asia here is meant as formed by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. There is indeed a lot of talk about “water wars” in Central Asia, about a possible collapse of the region, about the likely unravelling of the stability of the area due to clashes over hydro resources.

To me, what we observe in Central Asia is more a confrontation than a war in perspective, a confrontation kept as such by diplomatic efforts made by the state leaders, by the role of international organisations, by the systemic and prospective danger of Afghanistan spilling over and by the presence of Russia, albeit weaker than in the past. There is acrimony, there is conflict, but there are also attempts to scale down risky behaviours, sharp statements and disruptive actions. While weak and perhaps superficial, these attempts should be considered in a thorough analysis of water problems in Central Asia from a political-diplomatic perspective. What I am suggesting, therefore, is not foolish or naïve optimism, but a more thorough and less emotional assessment of the overall regional balance of interests in the region. A proof of this is that a water war in Central Asia has been claimed for at least ten years if not more, and still these states not only have avoided it, but have been able to reach a legal agreement as that of 2008, then abandoned. The hope for the future, therefore, is not that war will be avoided, but rather that these diplomatic and political stalemates will develop in concrete action to make water management in the region better in the interest of all parts concerned. More…

Ronald Asmus: The Little War that Shook the World Răspunde

In March 2010 I interviewed the late Ronald Asmus about his last book published in 2010, A Little War that Shook the World: Georgia, Russia and the future of the West. The book discusses the circumstances that lead to the 2008 South Ossetia War which pitted Georgia against Russia, and its implications for European security.

Which was the message and aim that Russia intended to send to NATO and to the West more generally using as leverage the war with Georgia from August 2008? More…

Strategic Thinking and Foreign Policy in the European Union 6

Catherine Ashton visiting war-thorn Benghazi

What EUrope is today increasingly depends on where one sits and assesses the situation.  I’m afraid this is quite a prosaic thing to say; an American will surely see a different thing in the EU than a Sub-Saharan African or an Asian. However dull this may sound Europe should consider applying this approach every time the question of a common European Union strategy in world affairs comes up.  What I mean by this can be considered to be a double-edged sword, as too much concern on how one sees you and what one wants from you may lead you to have doubts about your own identity.  But still, EU has enough doubts in this respect already, so maybe it is high time to try a thorough process of self-assessment through the eyes of others.

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Honoring the Mindset of A Generation: In Memory of Ronald Asmus Răspunde

Richard C. Hollbrooke (1941-2010) și Ronald D. Asmus (1957-2011)

Ronald Asmus was definitely, as Ivan Krastev highlighted in an article for opendemocracy.com, part of a generation “that emerged on the stage in the last days of the Cold War, it was baptized by the fall of the Berlin Wall, inspired by the thinking of dissidents and it never lost its belief in the transformative nature of democracy. It was a generation shaped by the end of the Cold War, the dilemmas of the Balkan wars and the success of the enlargement policy. It is a generation that came to importance at the moment when American power was at its height and American leadership was taken for granted”.

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NATO’s developments 1

In my opinion, one of the most interesting developments in the international politics scenario will be a massive change in the role, the identity and the purposes of NATO. Moreover, as the need for a new strategic plan becomes clearer, I suggest that this development will be both welcomed and inevitable, especially for the reasons I outlined below.

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The blue-print of the future NATO strategic concept: future missions and capabilities Răspunde

I continue the presentation and analysis of the experts’ report on the future NATO strategic concept, an endeavor which I have began in May, with the section dedicated to the future missions and military affairs. The final section of the experts’ report deals with NATO’s future missions and the development of future military capabilities required to fulfill them.  Section five of the report provides an analysis of the current needs and capabilities and makes recommendations on what missions and capabilities should be provided in the future strategic concept of the Alliance.

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The blue-print of the future NATO Strategic Concept: Some comments and views 2

NATO has released last week a report containing the outline of the future NATO Strategic Concept that will be adopted at the Alliance summit this year in Lisbon. Although this is not even a draft of the new Strategic Concept, it is a blue print that offers a glimpse of NATO’s strategic thinking. Following its publication  consultations and heated negotiations between member states will follow in order to draft the NATO’s new Strategic Concept. This article is first in a series dedicated to analyzing the outline of the Alliance’s future strategy. In this part I will summarize and analyze the chapters dedicated to the threat environment, core tasks of NATO and partnerships.

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Amnesty laws in Spain and Brazil. Double standards and a judge without friends 2

Brazil and Spain are two countries that share a curiously similar dilemma these days. One may be tempted to think this has to do with their economies in these times of crisis, or maybe with the high visibility of their leaders. Time 100 has just chosen Brazil’s President Lula da Silva as the world’s most influential politician of the year (Obama reached only the fifth place) and he is a truly beloved leader preparing his succession in a booming country on the global scene. Spain is also on the front pages as it represents EU’s rotating Presidency with a very ambitious program. However, their dilemma is not one about the present or the future, but about their past. More…

Turkey’s democratization dilemmas 3

Turkey is a democracy, but not yet a liberal regime. It is a Muslim democracy but in a secular state built on strong republican principles very much wary of any religious, ethnic or any other “particularistic” identity. However, its ruling party since 2002, the Justice and Development AK party is a moderate Islamist party and promises to further democratize the regime and bring Turkey into the EU and in order to accomplish this, its leaders and supporters seem determined to reform some key principles and institutions of this system. The Kemalist republican model seems to have generated its likely demolisher and the latter has made a long way in a very short time in its transformation of the bureaucracy, the universities and the state institutions. More…

The perils of arming Russia Răspunde

Mistral (L9013) at anchor in Brest harbor courtesy of Wikipedia

The last week’s visit to France of Russian president Dmitry Medvedev  has further strengthen Franco-Russian relations, while at the same time endangering European security. During this visit France and Russia concluded a series of economic agreements concerning the energy market (GDF Suez wil participate  in the Nord Stream pipeline project), a partnership between the French rail company Alstom and its Russian counterpart TMH and opened exclusive talks on buying four Mistral class amphibious assault ships (LHD). Although France has not yet decided to sell the ships, this military deal seems almost certain and the bilateral talks between France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev seem to confirm that few details remain to be settled before the green light is given.

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Romania will host elements of the US missile shield 3

Courtesy of Ria Novosti

Romania’s President, Traian Băsescu has announced yesterday the willingness of his country to host parts of US the ballistic missile defense system on its territory. The decision to allow the United States to deploy anti-ballistic missiles in Romania was taken in a meeting of the Supreme Defense Council (CSAT). According to Traian Băsescu Mrs. Ellen Tauscher the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security has formally proposed on behalf of the United States of America that Romania should host on its territory an anti-ballistic missile system. The US State Department has confirmed the agreement while the US embassy in Bucharest has saluted president Băsescu’s decision. Following the CSAT decision bilateral negotiations will be started, however the final approval for the deployment of the missiles must come from the Romanian parliament. The Romanian president has stated that the missile shield is not directed against Russia, but is designed to protect against other threats.

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