Tag Archives: Arab World

„No one knows how the power structure will ultimately shift in the Middle East“ – interview with Steve LeVine

– Usually (especially after the success of „Putin’s Labyrinth“ book) people tend to associate your name to Russia. However, your experience as correspondent in the Central Asia and Middle East, makes me to focus the discussion on the events in Egypt and Arab world. For Egyptians still is a moment of euphoria. But political analysts are reticent. What would be the major concerns and challenges for world powers and zonal actors? And what should worry Egyptian people?

Steve LeVine

– Analysts are reticent because no one knows what type of governmental system will result from the uprising, and how Egypt will interact with its nei­g­hbors. So that generates a whole series of questions for which unfortu­na­tely there are no answers, and very few clues. They include: Will the Army organize elections that end up reflec­ting the true will of voters, or will they reflect the leadership that its generals believe is „best“ for Egypt, regardless of their popularity? Whatever govern­ment is formed, how will it manage to satisfy the much-raised expectations of the Egyptian people? On foreign mat­ters, will Egypt continue to be a proactive intermediary in Middle East conflicts? Specifically regarding its respective relationships with Israel and the Palestinians – will it continue to be an honest broker between these antagonist parts?
– Most journalists are asking: Who’s next? There will be a domino effect throughout the Arab world? Sure, perhaps with not the same speed of propagation …
– I think it gets more difficult from here. After Egypt, the remaining despots of the region know that Tunisia was not a one-off event – they are all potentially in danger. Mubarak seems not to have thought he was vulnerable. Now they all know they are, and they are preparing. Yet none of that shifts the reality, which is that popular change really has happened in the Arab world. As I write this, the grip of the leaders of Bahrain and Yemen is in jeopardy. The situation in Libya is quite different.
– How interpret in this context the statement of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israeli army is prepared for anything, depending on how events will unfold in next time? What option has Israel at this point?
– The events in Egypt potentially shake up geopolitics and security for Israel. The Palestinians could arise in a far more aggressive way, with the help of allies in Lebanon and elsewhere, for example. Israel no doubt has its lines of communication open with the Egyptian Army for this very reason. It wants Egypt to continue serving as a mediator with the Palestinians.
– Behind the media uproar of unrest in North Africa, at the Munich Security Conference was put the last piece of the new treaty START 2. Fairly quietly, I would say, given that was a top priority for both presidents – Obama and Medvedev. So, beyond the official rhetoric, there will be a real change in approach to global nuclear programs for military purposes?
– If what you mean is whether the key nuclear states – Russia and the United States – are going to do away with their nuclear arsenals, the answer is No. The first reason is that, even if they do, so many other countries have capability and are gaining it that it would be fruitless. Another reason is that it is a perceived fount of power in both countries that neither will surren­der. (Full text)

Romanian language version – can be read here

Published in Cadran Politic Review, April 2011

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Monitor European Agenda 6/12 March 2011

Certainly, the theme of this week is the rise of far right in France. The results of a new French poll about potential 2012 presidential candidates offers quantitative support to the emerging consensus that under Marine Le Pen, the French far right is a force to be reckoned with. The new poll has shocked French and European political circles and Western media analysts by showing a far right candidate coming in first place (23 percent of voting intentions). But, according to Jean-Yves Camus, a specialist on France’s far right, the poll’s biggest flaw is the absence of International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn – or DSK, as the French call him — as the likely Socialist candidate.

Estonia’s centre-right coalition government won out Sunday in the Baltic state’s general election after winning a clear majority in parliament with a total of 56 seats, according to results from the national electoral commission.

Predictably, Ramzan Kadyrov was elected for the second consecutive mandat, the president of Chechnya, an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation. Itar-Tass agency reports that Chechen MPs voted unanimously for Kadyrov’s candidacy. The president said that Chechen Republic is part of the Russian Federation and the Chechen people is its defender.

Faithful to a discrete policy like the ostrich with head in the sand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania on March 8 will have a new round of US bilateral negotiations on anti-missile shield. According to an announcement posted on the website of the institution, the Romanian delegation will be headed by Bogdan Aurescu Secretary of State for Strategic Affairs in the Foreign Ministry, and will have an inter-institutional structure. The U.S. delegation will be headed by Frank Rose, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for arms control.
The two delegations will continue, given the positive results of previous rounds, the negotiation of the legal framework which will regulate bilateral cooperation in missile defense. The program will include a meeting between the heads of two delegations to discuss security issues of common interest.

The Political Quarterly 2011 Annual Lecture – David Miliband – Why is the European Left Losing Elections?
8 March 2011, 6.30pm, Old Theatre, London School of Economics and Political Science; “For the first time since the First World War, governments in Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and Italy come from the centre-right. Is this just an accidental quirk of fate or is it more serious?” An interesting debate in full accord with the theme of the week.

Also, Serbia and Kosovo on March 8 have first round of direct negotiations, mediated by the EU.

A leading expert on contemporary Egypt, the historian and writer Tewfik Aclimandos, as well as Egypt’s ambassador to France Nasser Kamel will be among those taking part in an exchange of views on the situation in Egypt at a meeting of the Sub-Committee on the Middle East of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Paris on 8 March 2011 – 3 p.m. Council of Europe office in Paris (55 Avenue Kléber, Paris 16ème, métro: Boissière).

A current affairs debate on co-operation between the Council of Europe and emerging democracies in the Arab World will be a highlight of a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Paris on 11 March 2011. Other topics to be debated include an opinion on the Draft Council of Europe Convention to Prevent and Combat Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, preserving the environment in the Mediterranean, the need for a global consideration of the human rights implications of biometrics, and “Genetically modified organisms: a solution for the future?”

The parliamentarians will also discuss social measures, education and rehabilition for young offenders as well as the situation of the inhabitants of Rhodes and Kos with a Turkish cultural background. There will also be a report on a code of conduct for rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly.

About European Summit in Brussels on 11, 24 and 25 March 2011 I will write a separate post.

Munich Security Conference – the 47th edition/ February 2011

The 47th Munich Security Conference (MSC) takes place from 4 to 6 February 2011 and again bring together senior figures from around the world to engage in European and transatlantic security. The traditional meeting includes a record number of international delegations this year. Agenda of meetings of world security leaders are dominated by the upheaval in Egypt, but also include discussions dedicated to “Implications of the Financial Crisis for Global Stability and Security”, “Nonproliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament: What’s Next ?”, “Cyber Security”, “NATO and Afghanistan: A Regional Approach ?”. On Sunday (February, 6) agenda of MSC includes a special panel dedicated “A Tribute to Richard Holbrooke”.

At the beginning of the Security Conference, German Defense Minister  – Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, NATO Secretary General – Anders Fogh Rasmussen and British Foreign Secretary – William Hague pointed out the need for security cooperation in times of shrinking defense budgets. The German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg detailed how the German army is becoming smaller, more professional and more capable. He outlined the difficulties of responding to financial concerns whilst maintaining the national interest. Also, he noted the importance on foreign policy consensus among the North-Atlantic Alliance. The Strategic Concept is a “solid base” for accomplishing defence tasks, he said.

In his speech “Building security in an age of austerity”, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen reminded that: “What is less good news is that we continue to face the effects of the financial crisis.  And this years’ conference focuses on dealing with a major challenge – how to build security in an age of austerity.  Despite signs of a recovery, not

Dr. Angela Merkel (le), Federal Chancellor, Germany, David Cameron (mi), Prime Minister, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Wolfgang Ischinger (ri), Chairman, Munich Security

least here in Germany, the effects of the financial crisis will be felt for some time in all our nations.  And governments face tough decisions to bring their economies back into balance”. Full speech of Mr. Rasmussen can be read here.

Secretary of United State Hillary Clinton’s agenda at the 47th Munich Security Conference include (February 5) an exchange of documents with Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, that will put into force a nuclear weapons treaty START 2 between their countries. Clinton also will meetings with UK Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, according to the State Department.

Responding to allegations that by holding a Strategic Defence and Security Review, Britain is somehow retreating from an activist role in the world, Prime Minister David Cameron wanted to remind that “Britain will continue to meet the NATO two per cent target for defence spending. We still have the fourth largest military budget in the world. And at the same time, we are putting that money to better use, focusing on conflict prevention and building a much more flexible army”. Also, Cameron has delivered a speech setting out his view on radicalisation and Islamic extremism. “We need to be absolutely clear on where the origins of these terrorist attacks lie – and that is the existence of an ideology, ‘Islamist extremism’. And we should be equally clear what we mean by this term, distinguishing it from Islam. Islam is a religion, observed peacefully and devoutly by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a political ideology, supported by a minority. We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing. (…) The root lies in the existence of this extremist ideology. What we see is now a process of radicalisation.”.

I will return in a future post on discussion between Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Ministry, Moscow 
 and John McCain, U.S. Senator, Washington D.C..  Also we take a look at panel discussions «Nonproliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament: What’s Next ?»  where attended Ahmet Davutoğlu, the Foreign Ministry – Ankara, Toomas Ilves, President of the Republic of Estonia,(Chairman & Moderator), 
 Sergei Ivanov, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Jon Kyl, U.S. Senator – Washington D.C., Frank-Walter Steinmeier, SPD Chairman of the Group Parlamentary – Berlin and Ellen Tauscher, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security – Washington DC.

Although MSC is considered too close and opaque , a meeting where are deciding in secret world politics, about the public accessibility of the Munich Security Conference, conference organizer Wolfgang Ischinger explains that: “The Munich Security Conference operates with a maximum degree of transparency and does not take place behind closed doors. Not only are there several hundred journalists who prepare detailed reports about the conference – with the live stream, we offer the interested public an additional opportunity to follow the conference live on the internet, too.”

What’s happening in the Arab World ?

The participants to the discussion of this topic have been: Ahmet Davutoğlu, Foreign Minister of Turkye, Uzi Arad, National Security Advisor of Israel, Javier Solana, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (ret.), Volker Perthes, Director, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) from Berlin, Frank Wisner, Special Envoy, Washington D.C. (via live conference).
Discussion was moderated by: Nik Gowing, BBC, London

The main conclusion of the discussion focused on the importance of time required to achieve orderly transition. Moreover, this view was reflected in recent days in most of the statements of political leaders from EU, US, Russia, Israel. Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, along with the premiers of Italy and Spain, called upon Mubarak to step down and facilitate a “quick and orderly transition to a broad-based government” on Feb. 3. A similar message came from the Kremlin after a telephone conversation between President Dmitry Medvedev and President Hosni Mubarak. So nothing new in that regard. But it is worth noting some aspects of the discussion.

According to Volker Perthes, difference between the approach suggested by the international community and chaos of the uprising in Egypt comes from the fact that politicians see things in terms of political strategy for the Middle East, by contrast, the population is not interested in these issues, people want economic prosperity, living standards decent. He called on Europeans to quickly initiate specific steps helping the Tunisians in particular. While the United States was especially involved in Egypt, the Tunisians were primarily looking north. The EU, for example, could remove trade barriers for food, or ease visa requirements.

Javier Solana noted that what is happening now in Egypt and how this crisis will be resolved may dictate the future policies that will be constructed toward Islam. Frank Wisner said that the movements in the Middle East and in North Africa are further indicators for a period of major upheaval in the intertwining dynamics of an increasingly globalized world. He agreed that democracy is not limited to holding free and fair elections. Jasmine Revolution is not a revolution made on Facebook, but is a revolution of the young generation in the Arab world who socialize on FB and Twitter, which informs and which have common ideals and aspirations. They aren’t attracted to Islam moderate of Muslim Brotherhood, as they are not interested in Mubarak’s nationalism. They want opportunities, jobs, a better life than their parents. One aspect that politicians should take into account when they design their strategies.

Update: 2011 February 6

NATO and Afghanistan: A Regional Approach ?

The topic for the final day of the conference was Afghanistan, where the withdrawal of international combat forces could begin this year. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was present in Munich for the discussions. In his speech, president Karzai noted that he is “determined to demonstrate Afghan leadership and ownership of the transition process” as Afghanistan prepares to take full responsibility for its security by 2014. Karzai has told that US spend more than 100 billion dollars a year for Afghanistan, and nearby 8 billion goes on financing of national forces of a security. But…he also spoke about “parallel structures” such as private security firms, the NATO-led international force’s provincial reconstruction teams and direct support to provincial offices.”They don’t produce the desired result” Karzai said. “Rather, they are contributing to weakened Afghan government and to impediments to the growth of the Afghan state structures and good governance”. Oh, yes ! it is exactly that aspect because I fear that the fight against corruption of Karzai government will remain unattainable goal stage.