Thursday, September 22, 2011

The strong do what they can the weak suffer what they must

On September 13, the Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi signed an agreement with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the construction of a ballistic missile system in the Eastern European country under a program the US says will provide protection for NATO’s European areas and would “augment” the US defense. And even if the position of the Unites Stated is quite clearly “a deepening of the bilateral strategic relationship between the countries” and said greater cooperation in this area would add to “NATO's collective security and defense[1]”, the Russian view on the situation (as it could be expected) is quite different.

Even if some officials are stating that there are no reasons to dramatize the situation,[2] a short review of the public speeches on the latest events by Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, can suggest the idea that there is place for future worsening of the Russian - US relations or, what is even more probable, that this will affect third countries like Romania and Moldova.

First: Russian demand on a guarantee from US/NATO that the missile defense shield will not be directed at Russia. This quite legitimate demand however wasn’t yet met[3] because of US resistance to assure Russia that there is not threat for the country. Instead US pledged that this will not harm Russia in anyway.

Second: Russians are very disappointed that US agreed with Romania on the missile defense program based on unilateral negotiations, ignoring thus the talks on the European missile defense (agreed during the Lisbon Conference in November 2010), which implied cooperation and exchange of information between NATO and Russia.

Third: There are more pessimistic voices in Russia which state that the deployment of the missile defense in Romania has only one goal - to encircle Russia. "If you look at the map of the region, the Romanian base can be used for only one goal: to keep southern regions of Russia at gunpoint and enable hitting our cruise missiles”[4], said Konstantin Sivkov, a military expert and Senior Vice President of the Academy of Geopolitical Issues.

Taking all these into account, it is only natural to ask ourselves how this event may change the relations between Russia and US. As it has been said during the class, probably for US this is more of a gesture of courtesy towards Romania and implicitly NATO.

However, there could be explanations of a more strategic nature as to why US is interested to spend money (during a crisis) for a non-profit cause. One of these explanations is the anticipation of unrest in the potential "hot spots" of Russia border - Crimea, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Americans are arming Georgia and pulling together the forces to the region - quite probably in anticipation of worsening of the situation in this part of the world.

At this point the skeptical voices are right: this minor event will not affect very much US- Russian relations. It will affect much more Romanian – Russians relations. According to Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the National Defense Magazine, "Russia must warn Romania that if the elements of the U.S. missile shield are placed in the country they will become a target of Russia's preventive missile strikes”. For Russia, an alternative response to US and NATO would be to deploy its Iskander system in the region – namely in Transnitria, or to simply try to annoy Romania by refusing to continue the negotiations on Transnitria. So the frozen conflict will not unfreeze soon and the Moldova’s plan to become a member of the EU will repeat the Turkish scenario.

So nothing new under the sun: the strong do what they can the weak suffer what they must.

1 comment:

Josh Lyman said...

Very insightful md. It will be interesting to see how events develop with Putin soon to be Russia's president. Putin desire to form a Eurasian Union as an institution similar to NATO will serve as a counter balancing power to NATO's influence in the region.
Hopefully countries in the region like Moldova and Georgia will be free to choose which institution they wish to have membership in and support by allowing that institution to place missile batteries, etc. without negative consequences from the institution they do not choose. I will say I have doubts on that though.