Tag Archives: interview

“It cannot be ignored the experience of the West nor potential of the East”

– about  security, geopolitics and history lessons in the Black Sea area in an exciting dialogue with Dr. Florin C. Stan, head of the Department of History, Romanian Navy Museum, Associate Lecturer of University “Ovidius” Constanta – Faculty of History and Political Science and expert of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in “Contemporary History”

Versiunea în limba română poate fi accesată pe site-ul powerpolitics.ro

 – All significant (geo) political events – evolutions or stagnations – developed around the Black Sea have been influenced by movements in global geopolitics. The interest for the Black Sea region was, it is and will remain also in the future geopolitical resetting one of the same level. Of course, we talk about the internationalization of factors in the last decade for the geopolitical and security importance to the region. But that would be a major player here in this moment?

– Geopolitical of the Black Sea region has always been a major interest on the part of key political actors at a time in an era or another. Without recourse to examples of past events emphasize that now being undertaken in this region can be decrypted using the keys provided by the main security options which are obvious now. On the one hand we have the Euro-Atlantic  vision, which states internationalization of Pontic space, an option supported by the United States and all EU states. On the other hand, we view the Russian Federation vision, which promotes the region as attribute of regional powers. We can speak here a specific case. Although a member of NATO, Turkey is somewhat closer to Russia’s security vision, promoting interest in the Black Sea and in accordance with the wide expanse of their Pontic coast. Ankara remains loyal Euro-Atlantic values​​, not challenge EU enlargement policies or NATO. Given the geopolitical developments of the last decade, the political decisions taken in the wider Black Sea, we can say that now, in present, here is not one major player, but two main players: the Russian Federation and NATO, the whose interests are identical with those of the European Union. Unfortunately, the EU has not yet formulated a policy unit, common to the Black Sea. Turkey remains one specific case, the policy of the authorities of Ankara that takes place follow the its interests, but according to NATO interests in the region.

– Then what about the Black Sea – “Russian lake” ?

– Before spreading the idea of​​ Russian lake for the Black Sea, this area was actually a “Ottoman lake”. Gradually, the region has lost this connotation to the late eighteenth century, because the Ottoman Empire capitulation in the front of  England, France and Russia, the latter power taking the initiative power in the Black Sea from the time the Peace Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji of 1774, by which Russia received direct access to the Black Sea. Despite St. Petersburg’s ambitions circumpontic expansion, this region has never been a so-called “Russian lake”, the Paris Peace Treaty of 1856 which ended the Crimean War, the Black Sea region was declared open and non-committal. Remember that the 1936 Montreux Convention, in force today, provides freedom navigation at sea, giving Turkey the right to militarize straits in case of armed conflict. Of course, over time, Tsarist Russia and Soviet Union focused mainly on imposing their authority in the region. After the Second World War, only Washington’s firm policy on line “impoundment” (containment) Soviet expansion to the Straits made ​​the Moscow authorities do not extend, given that the subjugation of countries in the region through clientelistic regimes imposed in Sofia and Bucharest, the Soviets dominated the west coast of the Black Sea. Creation of NATO in 1949 and accession Turkey and Greece in 1952 to the political-military alliance has limited expansion Kremlin’s authority in the region. After the “Cold War” and the implosion of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the Black Sea region has entered in a new historical stage, in which diplomacy plays a significant role in affirming the strategic interests of coastal States.

It is worth mentioning that at the end of the “Cold War”, the first cooperation project in the Black Sea region was initiated by Turkey, which was in 1990 only real market economy in this area. In taking in Istanbul on June 25, 1992, of the Declaration on economic cooperation in the Black Sea area, Russia was among the signatory, along with Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Turkey. Without coming up with additional arguments, we believe that this moment has marked the end of the idea of ​Black Sea like “Russian lake“. According to some specialists have approached contemporary Russia, now it was detached from conception imperial, authoritarian, in international relations, following the partnership with countries like China, India, Japan and U.S. and European Union, to restore the superpower status, especially political and economic means. To mention that to the European area of the former Soviet Union, Moscow shows a dynamic expectation, also in the corridor in Central Asia Islam an attitude of collaboration. These are essential parameters that must be considered when analyzing today’s Russia policy. However, as noted right the Romanian Intelligence Service Director, Mr. George Maior, in an interview in December 2010, we are at “the border of multiple interests and we need to know to navigate in such a situation”.

– How does Romania and Moldova in present at this space? There are necessary strategies designed for political and economic exploitation of this asset?

– Romania are reported at Black Sea in the naturally way, as a nation, part of this space, chasing any project promoted in the region in the context of the specific security challenges. The region is, without any doubt, a priority in the foreign policy approach of parts – and not just for Romania but for any coastal State – with particular potential in the regional. The diplomatic track pursued by the Bucharest on the Black Sea region remains not only a geographical point of confluence, but also a meeting point of the strategies promoted here. Obviously, every actor in this region promotes its national interest and this interest should be respected.

Republic of Moldova at present relates to an open policy towards the European Union and prospects in the region, given the diplomatic attitude of all major states in the region. Not incidentally, the new President of the Republic, Mr. Nicholas Timofti took the very first stage of his mandate of the visits to Bucharest, Kiev, Moscow and Istanbul, and was well received everywhere.

Sure, it would have been different under the situation in which, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, would have turned the process of reunification of Moldova with Romania. Leaving aside the weakness of political actors in Bucharest, here we can remember the  problems that prevented this process, according to an independent report of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group, published in London in March 1992. First of all, the economic weakness of both States and ethnic composition of the Republic of Moldova changed, with a rate of 63% Romanians and 14%, Russians, 12% Ukrainians and others. And, of course, not ultimately, the existence of the Transdniester issue and the presence of the Fourteenth Army of the USSR (and then of Russia Federation) in the region.

However, fact that there are two Romanian states with common borders, remains an anomaly in the contemporary world, and also manifested pro-Chisinau authorities in Bucharest undoubtedly upset Moscow. To be very accurate I stressed that in the present world context, for Romania does not a question “annexation” of Moldova Republic, but only to support the access of this old Romanian territory, to the European Union. We can mention only that the ,,Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership for the XXI century between the United States of America and Romania”, the text adopted onSeptember 31, 2011, in Washington, by the Presidents Barack Obama and Traian Basescu, one of the areas in which one Romanian-American cooperation can to strengthen is the affirmation of democracy and the rule of law, by “firm support of these values ​​in the region”, including the Republic of Moldova, State also mentioned in this statement. And it is not small matter in perspective of affirming political and economic strategies needed both capitalization advantage of states from the generous Black Sea area and the states of the eastern border of the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance.

 – And also in this context, I would like if you (as the historian which carefully studied the Chronicles that range) can to say us if along thetimes has changed something essential in vision, mind and approach of other countries ascribed Black Sea area?

– A perspective about vision, mind and approach of states around the Black Sea,  in the direction of affirming their own interests in the region involve a more ample space that exceeds the limits of a simple dialog. Pointing, we can estimate that if Romania was placed (from the first decades after its inception as a modern State in law to contemporary times) on the vision area defined by the great politician Mihail Kogalniceanu, appreciated Minister of Foreign Affairs, with the following words: ” The key of our salvation is the way of Danube towards the wide Black Sea open to all “- other countries also had a somewhat linear in promoting their aims in the Black Sea area.

As I mentioned, Russia has moved from Black Sea like a “Russian lake” stage to the vision of Sea like an attribute of the regional powers, and Turkey still maintains on the position from the start of his affirming as the secular state,  position given by the geographical determinations, that can to control the Straits, a status confirmed by the Montreux Convention of 1936. Contemporary Turkish position is strengthened by the fact that country is NATO member and therefore optimal partner of Western democracies, at the borders of Europe and Asia. Bulgaria has maintained her interest in the Pontic area, but without a performance of economy, any project of Sofia government in this area is less sustainable. Regarding the other littoral states established with the dismantling of the Soviet Union, Ukraine and Georgia, they were required by their appearance 21 years ago redefining the geopolitical map of the Black Sea. Disappearance of the state who dictated the geopolitical, imposed practically 90 years, an initial equation of a trilateral leadership as Russia – Ukraine – Turkey. Respect given Ukraine after the Cold War period was due to its size and population boundaries, major geopolitical features. But this elements were not converted in effectively benefits of the Kiev priority to the Black Sea, in situation of the sinuous terms of political life and slow growth economy. So far, Ukraine has remained in the region an “introverted” actor. About Georgia, it is known that its economy is major dependent on the Russia, expressing, however, its option for the assignation to the North Atlantic Alliance. Note that the main State which supports effective the opening to the West of the Georgian policy is Turkey, the most important ally of Washington in the region and the largest investor in the Georgian economy, and also the main supplier of military assistance.

 – The security in the Black Sea region need also, of course, a settlement of “frozen conflicts” across North-East arch and access to large commercial rivers flowing into the Black Sea: Danube, Dnieper and Dniester. How do you think that would be the compromise solution in the case of Transdniester ?

  – Recently, on you site powerpolitics.ro was published an interview with the President of Moldova Republic, Mr Nicholas Timofti, in which he said that Chisinau authorities agree to grant for Transdniester, “a wide range, from the principle of sovereignty of Moldova”. We can say that this is a fair compromise solution. However, the continued presence of the Russian military arsenals and the 14th Army in the region, inconsistent with international commitments, such as the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, concluded under the auspices of the OSCE, as well as Russia’s commitments within the framework of the Ministerial Council of the OSCE in Istanbul and Porto, disturb the balance of security in this area, and has been a barrier to any compromise in the case of Transdniester.

– Consider that a possible extension of NATO’s borders by including Moldova, Georgia, will change the security options? Such a scenario would increase security in the area or the contrary?

 – A possible expansion of NATO to the East borders cannot be discussed without understanding the options that are coming from the East, options that must be respected. Now, obviously, the discussion can remain only one hypothetical. As is well known, the priority for any NATO member state is, beyond the effective principled affirmation, the building the rule of law, of democracy, of a market economy, creating an institutional set able to conduct and support political and economic projects which to assist their citizens. Providing security in the North-Atlantic Alliance is based on the capability of new including member states. No one State in the Alliance is not a  simple customer or consumer security, each having the capacity in specific forms of being provider security too. Or, while the States that you mention does not claim to provide minimum security elements in a hypothetical status of NATO member countries, it‘s obvious that we could hardly speak of an increase of security in the region.

 –Learning from the past, but looking to the future, what should we must to consider as a priority ?

– Learning from the “lessons” of the past, we need to appreciate Pontic space after his connection to the values shared by the peoples of the region, who recognize the experience and continued European civilization, but also the spiritual diversity of the Orient. Only in this way we can build the future projects in the general interest of states from the Black Sea area as the important region in the grand circuit of the global economy. It cannot be ignored the experience of the West nor potential of the East. In view of this aspect, we can note that adversity in the Black Sea region may not represent a solution which to employ an optimistic future. Dialogue and cooperation are the real solutions that can bring real benefits to all riparian States, diplomacy, first of all, being called to show in the context the real values in support affirmation of national interests. The only acceptable confrontation must be that of economic competitiveness.

                                                  Interview made by Gabriela Ionita

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Russian Federation – an old tycoon of the new times (part II)

The second part of the interview argues about the dynamics of the internal politics of Russia and the regional problems at the borders are brought into discussion through the viewpoint of their influence over the internal economic and political environment.

Varianta în limba românăaici.

Interview made by Marius Lefter

Marius Lefter: – At the internal level, the economy of Russia started having systemic problems because of the emphasis and the dependence on the revenues from oil trade. On the other hand, at the external level, Russia plays the game for more than it can afford, comparing with its major competitors. In this case, what could be the reasons of the Russian people to vote for a united country?

Gabriela Ioniţă: – The willing to vote of the Russian people can be seen as a reaction towards the short-term economic reforms with objectives affecting the day-to-day life rather than long-term projects with uncertain timeline. A brief glance at the numerous calls made by President Medvedev to the Russian elite or to the investors to support Russia’s modernization program shows that the lack of trust in politics generates huge gaps in economic reforms.

Moreover, the construction of the vertical power meant control of political growth which resulted in a period of stability, but also a great catch – nothing new and representative grew under the shade of the old hierarchies. After the recent meeting with Prime Minister Putin in Valdai Club meeting, the political scientist Nikolai Zlobin pointed out the absence of guidelines that will form the basis of its future return to Kremlin from the speech of the most powerful man in Russia. This can be explained by the simple fact that Russian Prime Minister acknowledged the lack of new people and ideologies that bring public consensus. In fact, the main problem and the cause of the declining popularity Russia has to face is exactly this one: a rigid political framework, hard to shape, conservative and reluctant to the new events happening in Russia.

So you’re asking what could possibly make the Russian people to vote for a party that they call themselves a party of thieves and crooks (julikov i vorov parti). The answer is the lack of a better option combined with the lack of trust in politicians, no matter what their political beliefs are, given that nothing is allowed in Russia’s politics without the consent of Kremlin.

The scandal in the Right Cause party and the rapid end of Mihail Prokhorov’s political career as a result of the serious accusations made with the interference of the Kremlin (i.e. the number two of the presidential administration, Vladislav Surkov) showed voters once again that the political independence is pure rhetoric.

M.L.: – Going more into detail, which are the civic movements and political parties that will support or enter into alliance with the United Russia, and their reasons?

G.I.: – Russia is not just the country with a famous political tandem. There would be no political tandem without an alternative to the electorate or perspective of political parties, all for the sake of a political stability that Prime Minister Putin doesn’t fail to claim and impose at all costs.

But before analyzing the Russian political scene nowadays, I would like to mention that experts from the Center for Strategic Research in Moscow warned that “in the present socio-political climate, a tactical success can lead to strategic failure”, making reference to the 70% of the votes that are envisaged by the “United Russia” in December elections and also making reference to the machine of the party that would do anything to fulfill the orders from the center.

Experts also argued that a victory in the elections will be seen by most of the people not as an indicator of the popularity of the party, but as a proof that the elections were rigged. The study was made especially because there were suspicions that the level of electoral fraud exceeded all expectations. This is how I could describe the context immediately after the political confrontations of the elections. In this context, the traditional parties make their presence felt – LDPR, the party of Jirinovski, the Communist Party of Ziuganov, the Socialist party of Mironov and the Iabloko Social Liberal party led by Sergey Mitrohin (each with their loyal voters who didn’t change too much over the elections). In addition, there were other small parties faithful and belonging to the Kremlin. And we also have a puppet opposition that is more present at international meetings than at home, where arrests and releases have become ironically a source of amusement. (…)

Interview full can be read here.

The Russian Federation, an old heritage of the new times (I)

First part of interview with Marius Lefter from Geopolitics.ro. The first part of the interview relates on the foreign policies and the future challenges of this state.

  • Varianta în limba română poate fi citită aici.

Marius Lefter (M.L.): – What is Moscow’s position regarding the Policy of Neighbourhood of UE?

 Gabriela Ionita (G.I.): – According to the European Commission of Economic and Financial Affairs, European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) – launched in 2003 , this matter provides for the gradual development of trade relations and for traditional cooperation, thus achieving a higher degree of integration between EU and neighbourhood countries. In fact, economically ENP  offers to these states preferential trade relations, participation in the EU internal market, a better relation with the EU ( for the example on transport, telecommunication and energy sector ), none the less the benefit to participate in certain EU programs and some substantial financial support and technical assistance. Although Russia does not fit in this equation, we can easily see that many of the objectives set out in the action plans of partner countries are found in the draft between Russia and EU – Strategic Partnership for Modernization of the Russian Federation and European Union. Moreover, Russia had demonstrated that it has sufficient leverage to influence other countries from its neighbourhood, and the existence in its area of influence of countries that share fundamental values and objectives of EU, countries that have a profound cooperation with member countries, assuming a high level of economic and political integration, which would be a benefit for the Russian economy. Unfortunately, the same levers of power , have demolished neighbourhood states like Belarus and Ukraine. The president of the Russian state , Medvedev recalled that Russian needs the EU technology, economic diversification and new standards to be competitive on a common market. In theory, self-regulation market based on supply and demand. When in the reality is more collared. If we’re speaking of a common economic space between Russia and Europe, we believe that the Russian state will be forced to modernize, if they are looking to be competitive. Normally this should work upon the new markets in the new area. Ukraine and Belarus are not the best references regarding foreign policies for their own interest. About Romania’s role as EU’s border country , the relation with Moldova but also with states like Ukraine or Georgia, and how we could benefit from this context is yet already another story.

ML: – Because you mentioned about Moscow’s leverage on their own interests … how would be seen in this context the problematic of the missile shield and what would be the evolution in this direction ?

 G.I.: – Although no one officially admitted, the security strategy promoted by the President Medvedev seems to have been a failure ( and the return of Vladimir Putin’s to Kremlin, would replace the soft speech of the current president, with a tough and pragmatic discourse famous to the international opinion)  The failure hasn’t come from the wrong strategy, but rather from the perpetuation of mistrust and reluctance between EU chancelleries to Russia, when it comes to security and strategic alliances. In addition,we must not overlook that so controversial, yet only on a theoretical level reformed , blamed for the U.S. influence, Nato brings together top of EU countries. Countries that are trying to get out of the economic crisis since 2008, so limited to security policy proposals that would require even more than do the facts that are already involved. On the other hand,  the restart in the Rusia and U.S. relations has continued to be hunted by the ghosts of the Cold War, in spite of the officials declarations. The refusal of US officials to accept the sectoral responsibility of the anti-rocket shield as it was seen by Moscow, the official issue to put the shield in Romania ( without the discussion with the Russian partners of Nato’s Council ) . The strategic alliance between Romania and U.S. has eroded what was restart. Soon after the election that took place in the Russian Federation , Obama was invited in Kremlin. Many specialists asked themselves, what would both presidents say about the shield issue, one of them is finishing his mandate – Medvedev and another does not knows if he will obtain the second mandate – Obama. Nobody seems to know. All the more Obama, seems busy with the internal situation than the foreign policy. But we must remember that president Medvedev warn regarding the failure of the shield negotiations and the termination of the Second Start Treaty – main objective during the mandates of both presidents. One thing is sure – during the summit that will take place in 2012 in Chicago, the meeting it will be between Obama and the new installed leader of Kremlin – Vladimir Putin.

M.L. : What is the difference between Eurasiatic Union and the Community of Independent States ?

G.I.: The announcement that it will be established a Eurasiatic Union , was received by the occidental media as a headline news, is spite that Kremlin worked very much for the crystallization of it. In this case we face a difference not a vision that has subordinated medium and long-term objectives, theoretically. The reality, the case is not optimistic for the constitution of the Euroasiatic Union, being considered by the Russian economists as a subject for election campaign. Recent, in a interview realized by main television channel in Russia, Vladimir Putin said the reunion of the five economies will create a pole so strong that will be a bridge between European Union and the regional dynamics that all the spotlights of this decade are – Asia. In response, the economist Vladislav Inozemtsev asked rhetorically in a article published by Washington Post, what kind of bridge can be build with the exceeded infrastructure of Russia.  (Full text can be read here)