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Friday 10/10/2014

This week’s developments regarding the allegations of fraud and money laundering against Lukoil’s operations in Romania are an excellent case-study of EU politicians’ positions towards Russia. It highlights the difference between the EPP-affiliated, pro-European President Traian Basescu, and the Socialist, pro-Russian Prime Minister, Victor Ponta. We now see who walks the walk and who just talks the talk. It also shows a powerful Russian company trying to threaten and blackmail an EU member state; it just happens that in this case, the company’s position is very weak.

On 6 October 2014 Romanian prosecutors seized assets of a Lukoil refinery in Romania for allegations of fraud and money laundering amounting to 230 mil EUR. The Russian oil giant reacted by threatening to close down its operations in Romania and lay off 3500 people. Centre-left Prime Minister Ponta reacted by threatening prosecutors for jeopardizing the Romanian economy.

Centre-right President Traian Basescu explained in clear words that the Russian company has to respect Romanian laws and EU standards, if it wants to operate in Romania. He said that “Putin-style laws” do not apply in Romania; the Russian company should leave for Moscow, if it wants to operate according to “Putin-style laws”. “Leave the country, if you are not ready to obey Romanian law”, he said.

Wednesday 08/10/2014

What about the war in the east and what about politics? Well, there were echoes of both, but not as intensively as you might imagine when you follow the news on TV.

Ukrainian patriotism was palpable in both Kiev and Lviv. One could see the yellow and blue colours on public buildings, bridge railings and other places. On the streets, volunteers even collected money for those yellow and blue paints. What was also noticeable was that not a single building featured the Russian flag, although flags of other countries were freely flown. The EU flag could be seen everywhere on public buildings.

Lviv seemed more religious in its patriotic commitment. One car proudly featured a flag with Christ’s head over yellow and blue, proclaiming ‘God and Ukraine Above All’:

Monday 06/10/2014

What have the following in common?

+ The Scottish 45% YES to break up the UK....
+ The Growth of National Front in France....
+ English anti EU sentiment and support for UKIP....
+ The strength of Tea Party  and the polarisation of politics in the  USA and
+ The growing support for anti immigrant parties in Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands

They have this in common: all these parties want to withdraw from some international commitment or other and shut the doors of their nation to outside influences.

What support for these parties shows is that an introverted and recessive Nationalism is on the rise again. This is a reaction against globalisation by those who have benefited less from it than others did. It should be noted that all have benefited from globalisation through cheaper food, clothes, and cheaper communications. But some have benefited much more than others, and the “others” are expressing their disgruntlement through votes for these populist parties.

Tuesday 30/09/2014

Ukraine is passing through a civilisation change. Ukraine has made a fundamental strategic decision: UKRAINE DECIDED TO BELONG TO THE WEST. Similarly to how we in Slovakia decided in 1998. Russia’s reaction represents its response to this fundamental Ukrainian decision. This is no action organised by the United States, no CIA conspiracy against Russia – this is the free choice expressed by the Ukrainian people not only on Maidan, but also by electing a clearly pro-European President Poroshenko and ratifying the Association Agreement in Parliament by overwhelming majority on 16 September.

Monday 29/09/2014

The abduction of Estonian Secret Service Official Eston Kohver was an extraordinary event, even by the standards of the Cold War. It was yet another episode in the series of moves which Russia has been making recently to put pressure on NATO. Russian nuclear bombers have made incursions into US and Canadian air defence identification zones, Russia has seized the Lithuanian flagship vessel in international waters and Russian aircrafts have been violating NATO airspace with an increased frequency.

This is why Kohver is neither an Estonian-Russian problem, nor an isolated incident in a security operation gone off track. It is part of Russia’s attempt to undermine the system of Euro-Atlantic security.

Russia is pushing NATO to its extremes, testing its unity. In a run-up to the latest NATO Summit, a number of NATO members worried that Moscow would view NATO’s resolve to strengthen security and defence capabilities on its Eastern frontiers as a provocation. The Russians now are making it clear that they do. If the Kremlin has its way, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will enjoy NATO’s collective defence guarantees only formally, without having the needed military capabilities. If there are attempts to change this, there will be costs. The abduction of Kohver, for instance.

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