Last week, US officials began talks in Moscow regarding Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The agreement bans the testing or deployment of intermediate range cruise and ballistic missiles, those with a range between 500km and 5500 km. In its annual 2014 arms control Compliance Report, the Department of State noted that Russia had violated the pact when it deployed a ground-launched cruise missile, whose unique Iskandar system can fire both cruise and ballistic missiles and a system Russia plans to deploy to Crimea. This cruise missile is not a new development; it was first tested in 2007 and has been deployed in the banned ground-launched configuration since 2009. Nor is it Russia’s only INF violation. Moscow also has converted a single-warhead ICBM into a three-warhead intermediate-range ballistic missile, a violation missing from the 2014 Compliance Report. » More
Given the intensity of media focus on a series of crises this year—Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Ebola, and the South China Sea to name just a few—readers may be forgiven for having failed to notice that another important, though more incremental, development has also occurred. With each passing month it becomes clearer that a mood of nuclear realism is unfolding in US strategic policy. While President Obama is still remembered most clearly in the public mind for the anti-nuclear language in his Prague speech of 2009, a string of events in 2013–14 suggest that a shift of emphasis is occurring in relation to nuclear weapons. » More
About two and a half years ago, while spending a few months in Ukraine, I left Kiev to take a trip through the Baltic states. On a cold winter day in the middle of October, I flew into Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. From there I would travel exclusively by bus from Tallinn on the Baltic Sea to Tartu in southern Estonia, then on to Riga, Latvia, and finally to Vilnius in southern Lithuania. » More
By avoiding blatant aggression, Putin’s ostensibly deniable tactics use Europe’s rules-based interconnected international system against it, even as he circumvents Russia’s own treaty commitments to Ukraine. But perhaps the longer term threat is not that a declining Russia’s actions will go unpunished, but that as with Germany, Italy and Japan in the 1930s, states who are also dissatisfied with their neighborhood’s geopolitical status quo will copy the Kremlin’s lead.
The non-invasion invasion of Ukrainian territory by little green men, or “self-defense groups” as President Putin calls them, has been a masterful demonstration of Russian asymmetric warfare, electronic disinformation and lawfare techniques. Alarm is now heard that if Russian attempts to undermine Ukrainian territorial integrity are successful it will feed Moscow’s appetite for more. But while the attention of the world is riveted on the Kremlin, what about other regional powers? If a great power conflict can be avoided (as in Ukraine so far), would another state emulate Russia’s behavior in the future? » More
Speeding up Association after Ukraine
If just a year ago Moldova’s reputation as a front runner in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) was endangered by a months-long domestic political crisis, the new Pro-European Coalition (PEC), in place since 30 May 2013, has so far demonstrated relative stability and an ability to withstand Russian pressure. Yet such political determination would not have been sufficient had it not been for the developments in Ukraine—first the EuroMaidan protests and then the crisis in Crimea—which made the EU understand the threats to the association process if prolonged further. As such, an Association Agreement (AA) with Moldova was initialled at the Vilnius Summit in November 2013 and is planned to be signed as soon as in June. Visa liberalisation was also accelerated and finalised: in mid-November the European Commission announced completion of the implementation of the visa liberalisation action plan, and visa requirements will be abolished for Moldovans (holding a biometric passport) from 28th April. The technical progress of association is also accompanied by more financial support and a visible intensification of political backing from the West, translated into frequent high-level visits to Chisinau. » More