March 14, 2008

Some news from the German press

10.03.08

Serbia
The Serbian government under Kostunica has failed writes the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The fact that Kostunica with his nationalist rhetoric has failed to coerce his coalition partner, president Tadic’s pro-European party, into accepting his credo no EU without Kosovo has led to the disbandment of the government and the call for new elections. In light of the deeply polarized Serbian society it is however unclear where those will lead. It is obvious that the request to have the Kosovo returned is unrealistic after 16 EU states have recognized its independence. New elections might well lead to a resurfacing of the ultra-nationalists under Nikolic, who was narrowly defeated by Tadic (100,000 votes) in the last elections. So the new government could well consist of Kostunica and Nikolic, which would surely cause a Serbian shift towards Russia.

10.03.08

Serbia
The Serbian government under Kostunica has failed writes the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The fact that Kostunica with his nationalist rhetoric has failed to coerce his coalition partner, president Tadic’s pro-European party, into accepting his credo no EU without Kosovo has led to the disbandment of the government and the call for new elections. In light of the deeply polarized Serbian society it is however unclear where those will lead. It is obvious that the request to have the Kosovo returned is unrealistic after 16 EU states have recognized its independence. New elections might well lead to a resurfacing of the ultra-nationalists under Nikolic, who was narrowly defeated by Tadic (100,000 votes) in the last elections. So the new government could well consist of Kostunica and Nikolic, which would surely cause a Serbian shift towards Russia.

Only four years ago, so reports the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on the same issue, Kostunica said that “the road to Europe has no alternative for Serbia and Montenegro.” His priorities then were the strengthening of the Serbian-Montenegrin bonds and the inclusion of Kosovo as a semi-autonomous province. Now, four years later, it is apparent that he has failed utterly. Montenegro is long since independent and Kosovo lost, for ever most likely.

11.03.08

NATO
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, as well as the Seuddeutsche Zeitung report that chancellor Merkel has spoken vehemently against an Ukrainian and Georgian NATO membership at leadership meeting of the German armed forces. According to her the Ukraine shouldn’t be accepted because a majority of the population is opposed to that idea, while Georgia is involved in regional conflicts, which, if it were to join, NATO would be drawn into. On the matter of Afghanistan de Hoop Scheffer, who also spoke at that meeting, opposed Merkel’s view about the division of responsibilities openly, saying that victory could only be achieved in all of Afghanistan.

Serbia/Kosovo
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung speculates on the consequences of the disbandment of the Kostunica-led Serbian government, which, in case the pro-western forces win the elections planned for May, might lead to a new chance of deepening relations with the state in the heart of the Balkans. This turn of events could push the dispute over Kosovo into the background much faster than even the biggest optimists in the EU have suspected. The situation in Kosovo itself is progressing well for the EU. Considered especially fortuitous is the fact that the trick of leaving question of recognition to the individual member-state, intended to console members that could not accept the solution for internal reasons, but involving all in the EULEX mission has worked so well with little collateral damage for intra-EU-relations.

12.03.08

NATO/Afghanistan
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that the General Inspector of the German Armed Forces Schneiderhan has criticised NATO’s insistence on abolishing the division of areas of responsibility in Afghanistan. With that he contradicted Jan de Hoop Scheffer, who has said that the division into North, East, West, South and Centre was no longer maintainable. Schneiderhan said that this division was not a German invention in the first place, but was decided by the alliance for a reason. It is the only feasible strategic way to approach, because Afghanistan is physically divided by the Hindu Kush and not a “sand box”, a fact which even NATO cannot abrogate.

Transatlantic Relations
The US has agreed to give Poland Patriot SAM’s in exchange for the planned stationing of US missile defence components on Polish soil reports the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. This comes as part of negotiation between Poland and the US about additional security for Poland, which apparently fears Russian recriminations for allowing the missile defence system on its turf. Poland certainly tries to get as much for its military out of the deal as possible.

13.03.08

EU
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung contains an interesting opinion piace on the issue of European integration. It notes that the EU appears to be crumbling on its eastern edges. While the fact that the Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia are pushing for a bilateral visa relief with the US can be considered of small harm, but it is representative of a trend. The fact that Poland agrees to have the US station missile defence components on its territory without consulting the other members is of much bigger importance, for it alters the security sphere of all of Europe and dampens the hope to find a contractual basis for relations with Russia. It is, however not only the edges that are crumbling, but also the EU heartland. It began with Blair’s support for the US war on Iraq against the wishes and without consent of its European allies. Blair was followed by Schroeder-led Germany, which gave bilateral energy relations with Russia, in form of the Baltic Sea pipeline, precedence over an integrated European approach to energy security. Finally Sarkozy’s France topped it off with its push for the Mediterranean union.

These fractures are gladly exploited and fostered by the US and Russia who much prefer to deal with individual states rather than the EU as a whole, for opponents divided are opponents more easily cowed and defeated.

14.03.08

Russia
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung takes last week’s capture of Russian arms-dealer Bout by US secret service as a peg for a story on Russian weapons sales to rogue-states and terrorist organizations. Bout was caught when he tried to sell hundreds of portable Sigla-anti-aircraft missiles to supposed FARC guerrillas, who, in reality, were US secret service agents. Though no official protest or comment has been made by Russia, Bout’s arrest is embarrassing for the Kremlin. The Russian weapons export monopoly Rosoboronexport is suspected of supplying laser-guided Kornet and RPG-29 rockets to the Hezbollah. It also openly supplied Syria with Strelet and Pantsyr rockets and delivered 29 TOR-M1 Arial Defence Systems to Iran. Though so far denied by Moscow, Iran has also commented on the acquiring of S-300 long range SAMs, which could pose a threat to US airborne units in the region. These sales were banned by a UNSC resolution, which Russia supported, but all this is an attempt to balance against US influence in the middle-east. By supplying modern weapons-systems to US opponents Russia limits US military operations and secures influence for itself.

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