Realpolitik “ flash” No. 10
18 – 31 MAY 2021
EXCLUSIVELY at ARGUMENTUM, the renowned diplomat& analyst, “ dots the i’s and crosses the t’s” on 6 major events in only 1000 words Dr. Jorgji KOTE
1. “Talk & Eating” was practically the Informal Meeting of 6 Western Balkan leaders in Brussels on 18 May invited by Josep Borrell, the EU Foregn Policy Chief. A friendly dinner without protocol with the prevailing Brussels delicacies. Nothing else to be noted. Not due to lack of topics; on the contrary, they are plenty, burning and explosive; but the current political setting did not promise more than “ talk and eating” One cannot call that dinner even a “waming up” exercice, as Ms. Mogherini had originally conceived it; just a post -Covid Meeting, an introduction to the upcoming political menu and a pleasant appetiser!
2.“ Black Card” is the softest term referring to the proclamation of former President&PM Sali Berisha and his family “ non – grata” in the USA. It was Secretary of State Antony Blinken that “dropped” such an “ atomic bomb” in the Albanian politics; although Berisha’s “ evils” have occurred with the knowledge of the USA, this belated “ Black Card” was correct. Now one expects that such democratic exposing practice would continue, but on time and not after the “ spilt milk”; and why not coupled with an analysis of mistakes and delays by US all mighty ambassadors in Washington and Tirana; although they have seen and heard a lot about Berisha’s “deeds”, they have kept silent or overpassed them by even labelling him a “ statesman” Likewise, it is wiser to issue these “ black cards” by and in Tirana. Otherwise, they would lose their momentum, echo and effects.
3. C- 5 or B-27? On 22 May, the C – 5 Foreign Ministers ( Austria, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia) were in Tirana and Skopje to show their support for the opening of accession negotiations in June. However, such frequent positive news from most of EU Member States, including the German Minister for European Affairs, M. Roth who was also on a visit in Tirana on 27 May create the impression that the opening of these negotiations is taken for granted as a mere formality. However, the EU has 27 Member States; so, nothing is certain, because it is the EU Council that has the final word, i.e. all 27 member states; particularly sceptical France, the Netherlands and Denmark that have not uttered a single word on this issue lately! To make matters even worse, Bulgaria has blocked Northern Macedonia, which does also affect Albania. Therefore, before going to Tirana and Skopje, the EU envoys should first go to Sofia, to the Hague, Paris and Copenhagen. Let us hope for a “miracle” by Sofia until the Summit on 24 June. Otherwise, we have to wait at least until October!
4. Euro-Atlantic vis à vis Arctic! The 8 Foreign Ministers of the Actic Council met on 19 May in Reykjavik. It includes 5 Nordic countries, USA, Canada and Russia. Established in 1996, it intends to protecti&promote the environment, abundant natural resources and fishing there. The highlight of this event was certainly the first face to face meeting Blinken-Lavrov and their conciliatory tones on US-Russian cooperation. They also agreed on the first Summit Biden – Putin in Geneva on 16 June. It shows that despite growing tensions and major divergencies, USA and Russia are “condemned” to work together in many defining Arctic is a clear confirmation for this MUST. A good reminder of this reality is also the time when the five Nordic states left the negotiating table with Russia, as a protest against its annexation of Crimea in 2014. But, 5 years later, they returned in the table, realizing that it was impossible to proceed without Russia, which is very present and active there, even in military terms.
5. The prevailing Realpolitik! Finally, USA withdrew from their sanctions against the gaspipeline Nord Stream II. Thus, before his tour in Europe in mid- june, President Biden ended the big quarrel within the Transatlantic Alliance. This decision is logic, since as President Biden emphasized it, sanctions are counterproductive now in the last ditches of the 1200 km long gaspipeline. Besides, despite all, Nord Stream II is also seen as the last major binding bridge between the West and Russia. Moreover, the German government has accomodated the problems and suspicions, avoiding any obstacle for Ukraine gas supply; it has also provided opportunities for the US exporting companies in Europe.
True, the most recent events with Russia are a source of grave concern for the West which is forced to refer to sanctions. Yet, albeit the importance of ethic diplomacy in protecting the democratic values and principles, the latter cannot run against Realpolitik, i.e. the strategic interests. Practically, noone can provide any assurance that even if Nord Stream is interrupted, Russia would not continue and escalate its challenging actions, using Nord Stream case as a political alibi. Therefore, despite unjustified critical attitudes, the US decision is correct and welcome.
6. Brussels for&against Belarus: This occurred in the EU Summit on 24 – 25 May in Brussels after a passenger plane of Ryanair was landed by force in Minsk and the arrest of two strong regime opponents there. The EU did very well to establish sanctions and block its airspace for the Belarus airlines. However, with its impotence shown after mass protests last August in Minsk, this case showed more clearly the lack of a EU comprehensive strategy vis à vis the Minsk regime on one hand and the people of Belarus on the other in the last 30 years. Therefore, it does not feel strong enough in the face of Lukashenko and Russia; as it occurred in the Summit Putin – Lukashenko on 28 May, Russia considers Belarus its exclusive sphere of influence. Actually, the EU is very late in realizing its geopolitical mistake; only a few days ago the EU Commission announced a plan of support, including a future package of 3 billion Euro for a democratic Belarus. However, this is too little as experts say; among others, it should open its labour markets to Belarus. Thus, domestic pressure against regime would grow and be much more effective. Because the EU embargo on Belarus flights affects mostly ordinary people who use them as the last remaining links with West.