Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Syria and Russian repositioning on April 10 2018

Here is another collection of quick thoughts to a question posed by James Sherr, from Chattam House (Royal Institute of International Affairs, UK) on purposes of Russian redislocations & threats on Syria.

1. I'm not going to say something new, but Russian interest to protect its sattelite Syrian regime is still valid 
- it needs to protect its naval base, 
- block potential gas routes (see gen. Ivashov), 
- let's not forget обкатка/training of its military in war situation, as well of its (new&old) equipment & military sales to Syria&Iraq&Iran (otherwise to whom?), 
- playing "danger close" with (or testing) USA on the ground - as if it's an "equal" player. 

2. Which brings me to a very mportant matter from a Russian perspective - face saving. It needs sabre rattling to show its might to its own public (power=internal legitimacy), as well as to some, rather naive, leaders in the world. Consequently, Sputnik already published the standard article of next World War again, a theme so readily picked up by certain media, a fact known to Russians.

3. Their game on nuclear aggravation (starting WW3) can only theoretically happen if they themselves use a tactical nuclear strike. This is quite unlikely, as they would only use it against a country that cannot retaliate. However, the international community will have to respond, and the current sanctions would seem a minor issue compared to that response. The fact that Russians didn't dare to move a finger when Israel destroyed an important part of Syrian Air Defences, simply annihilated the "argument" if WW3 & also of "impissibility" of no-flight zone in Syria (both Obama & Trump administrations seemed to have been careful about). So, the probability is low.

4. Thus, Russians lay the ground for a standard either-or scenario they are so "good" at:

- either detter USA from hitting certain critical infrastructure (to later present themselves as mighty saviours & continue their Syria is ours game)

- or to have an "honorable" excuse for being pushed out of Syria & their hands untied for another intervention, weapons sale & (v.importantly too) propaganda+intervention elsewhere. Ukraine is a "reserve" option for intervention all the time, but there is always something more "in reserve" around the corner: 
• Bosnia is tested for some time, for example! 
• And where do we have elections coming in some strategic location? 
(Danemark's interests abroad (inexistant) would be too far stretched, even in NS2 context, but you get my point, I am sure:)

5. In short Russians do their standard and less known in the West to the public & some decision makers chess-like "Вилка"... ("fork" - when one figure threatens two) This lays the ground for either their "save&stay" or "leave&follow up" scenarious that cannot be avoided.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Why "free" Russians abroad voted for Putin

Another quick/ad-hoc collection of thoughts on why "free" Russians abroad came massively to vote & many probably voted for Putin? If you are familiar with the following Russian narratives, you'll understand:

- Putin restored the "might" of Russia by responding to enemies of Russia/Russian people/Russian speakers (see the concept expansion) & invading the "fascists" (who all happen to be most of the people around the world Russia disagrees with & of course those all "deserve" it - true or not is another story), 

- Wagner commanders say they fight (back) against US in local wars... 
(who's mentality they reflect, do you think? See Project Meatgrinder/RL interview)

- He ordered poisoning of "traitors" (who happened to be threats to his system) #Skripal #Litvinenko (the list is very long though & includes people inside Russia systematically as well, but, of course is unknown to the large public - yet, there are Russians who know and reply something like "they got what they deserve". Mentality...)

- he raised the economy (together with his & his cronies personal incomes - but he gives people something!!!right? - the concept of crumbs from king's table?), 

- he said he'd change/abolish USSR dissolution, as most of the Russians are dreaming about it (post imperial syndrome - see Levada polls, he just responded to their main gripe, he knows his public/voters, they "get" him, he "gets" them),

 - his KGB/FSB, Electoral Commission, Judges do "order" according to his instructions (law can wait? For the sake of "order"?), 

- try not to vote for him... Would you vote in a USSR Embassy against the Communist party in the past? No way! (all travel records/passport controls are still, now, in FSB(KGB) control, consular registration is supervised too & I'd speculate about cameras at polling, but there is just no need to put them and speculate about them - people are afraid enough, even without all that, just like in USSR times. Common, we lived those times.) 

- he builds roads over Radio, not everywhere though... (do your google search - & you ask what is populism???) 

- "not his" and not Gazprom (NordStream2) et Co TVs tell people all of the above "successes" every single day - he even keeps one "opposition" TV alive to prove how democratic he is & he is shirtless!!! Oh, and he is a tough guy who would fix or reject that "Gayropa" (Gay-Europe! All of Europe being shown as gay to backward and conservative people. As if Russian TV concerts are not full of them? No? And US is included in Gayropa concept, if you didn't know, for free. As a matter of importance or tolerance, probably)

- After the "chaos" of democracy by Yeltsin, what's not to "understand"?! ("strong hand" concept came in... handy, pun intended, well placed over local mentalities, but never left, so no one ever saw what democracy is. But who cares, because...)

Not by itself, manipulated mentality, but...

P.S. Also read about Chingiz Aitmatov Epic of Manas "mankurt" concept. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Rookie & UK

Very quickly about UK & Novichok - a collection of Eastern European style questions, plus old & new thoughts.

1. Looking at today's statement of PM May - there is always a lingering thought about her anti-pro Brexit position. Seemingly nothing to do with today's discussion, until one remembers about Russian involvement in Brexit, among other things. Not the best intro, yet...

2. Wasn't it PM May's party led Government, before her leadership, still her party (&Government) that issued the infamous memo during Ukraine war "keep the Russian money flowing to the City"? 

Somehow it reminded me today about UK+France+Poland joint defence agreement (that's not the exact name) before WWII, by which UK&France would step in if anyone invaded Poland. Correct me if my memory is failling me on that one. Well, USSR&Nazi invaded and had a joint(!) parade together, UK declared war, but stopped short of any other action, except the formal statement of war. The 1939 was a world of complicated situations, of course, but some Central&Eastern Europeans had a certain level of carefulness towards this case. And the Memo on Russian money raised some eyebrows even more.

3. If that wasn't enough UK managed to quite obviously "not-see" the 14 cases of Russian killings etc on their own soil!!! Here is the article on that:
Aside from job&paiment for research, why Christopher Steele had to go to US to tell that story and not UK?

4. And PM May recognized publicly that Russians meddled in Brexit too, as I recall.

5. Well, on the matter of nerve agent the PM specifically said the nerve agent was "military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia" (Novichok - in English "Rookie" or BBC suggests Newcomer, well, to my mind Rookie is a better translation:) 

Though I was a desk officer for OPCW matters, I have to rely on BBC, which stated that Novichok was made mainly undetectable, and some variants are made of two non-banned substances that will become Novichok after being mixed. These substances are easy to transport separately and can be even solid, powder and liquid. 

Yet... Moscow never declared having it to OPCW! 

6. I am surprised in a way that PM May even attempts to give Russia time to present evidence to the contrary. Russians don't play such games. The simply don't! Even when they are not guilty, they are not going to justify themselves in front of anyone, let alone what they'd privately call "some" UK.

7. In fact, today was supposed to be the day when PM Theresa May will go beyong belicose statements and actually limited sanctions, which are rightly ridiculed by Russian super-rich leadership. Their mega-rich leaders with enough money home & unlimited domestic power don't care about sanctions that(!) much.

8. Perhaps PM May uses that to show the Western world a fair aporoach, or she plays the internal political game (more likely?), but the Russians simply don't see it that way. There are a few real decision makers in Kremlin plus in FSB/GRU/SVR, who knew what happened, all the others are voices in Mr. Putin's chorus. And they will sign the same song - that the Brits were unable to prove any hard proof, since Russians don't even have such Nerve Agents anymore (maybe some will even "lower" themselves to say that UK used circumstancial evidence), and that they attempt to make Russia look guilty and shift the burden of proof over Russia, instead of determining who is the real perpetrator (not Russia, of course) - the "forever" President Putin already stated something like "maybe some Tartars did it, maybe some Ukrainians and maybe even some jews with Russian citizenship did it" And what a selection of ethnicities/countries, by the way! 

9. Pretty much nothing will change, unless concrete Russians would feel some real heat, quietly, but clearly. Even then, they will only dial down. 

There are ways to deal with that.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The testing ground of fake news – it’s in Eastern Europe

The testing ground of fake news – it’s in Eastern Europe
by Vlad Lupan, February 8, 2018

Russian Ambassador to OSCE just complained to the Freedom of the Media Representative about Moldova’s anti-propaganda law that limits the use of fake news by Russia.

Many voters around the world seemed to fall for populist agendas and Russian propaganda campaigns during last years. Where these campaigns are tested and what are the implications?

The Republic of Moldova, a small country in Eastern Europe, remains unknown to the large public. In fact, a company in UK developed a board game called "Where is Moldova?" that was praised by the British newspaper The Telegraph[1]. As I often call Moldova a testing ground for Russian political interference in my tweets, the Moldovan Parliament finally adopted an Anti-Propaganda Law in July 2017, in response to the Russian disinformation campaigns. [2]

I have warned about such a development in 2010 and, as the representative of the civil society in the Inter-Governmental Working Group on drafting the National Security Strategy, included the Information Security chapter in that document that was finally adopted in 2011.[3] However, the adoption of the 2017 anti-propaganda law, while welcoming, also sent ambiguous signals.

The Government led by the so-called "Governing Alliance Coordinator", the Chairman of the Moldovan Democratic Party (social-democratic) and oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, attempted to play a "Pro-Western" card, while voting in the Parliament with the pro-Russia Socialists, led by the President of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Dodon, Putin's protege. Transparency International Moldova branch issued a statement on this worrisome power sharing.[4]

While some observers already called this partnership "the binom" (a sum of two components)[5], very few outside Moldova seem to publicly notice that Mr. Plahotniuc plays, in coordination with Dodon, a pro-Western card, while Dodon does vice versa. Their purpose is to continue sharing power, as Transparency International notes. I would add that the “bad cop – good cop” is meant to confuse their foreign "partners", US including. It seems I am not the only one to notice – as while I started to write this opinion on January 25, several days after another article reflecting these issues was published on the Opendemocracy.net “Why Moldova’s battle against Russian propaganda isn’t what it seems”.[6]

This dual approach did ensure Mr. Plahotniuc at least partial support of the EU, including funding and some acceptance of the US, after his visits to Washington DC. Russia supported Mr. Dodon in turn with massive propaganda, after previous public appearances with Putin, ahead of upcoming 2018 elections. It is worth remembering that Dodon appeared with President Putin at their joint press conference one year ago and later was invited at St. Petersburg Economic Forum panel with Vladimir Putin, moderated by Megan Kelly of NBC.[7] Putin was asked at St. Petersburg about Russia's interference in electoral affairs of other countries and referred with a sarcastic smile to Dodon for an answer – the sarcasm had its meaning. I had an unexpected personal experience with that, when my Manhattan based Russian speaking barber asked me in autumn of 2016 if the Moldovan pro-Western, US educated candidate promised to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to take in 30.000 Syrians to Moldova. When I asked him where he heard that – he replied on TV, Russian TV. This was fake news. It is worth noting that similar fake news about taking Syrians in were heard in Czech Presidential elections recently.[8]

Upon adoption by the Moldovan Parliament of the 2017 anti-propaganda law aiming at Russian interference, some opposition MPs voted for it, but criticized Moldovan Democrats leader Plahotniuc for using his wide media empire to discredit the opposition and use similar technique as Russia does.[9] What they seemingly failed to bring up is that, in reality, the Democratic party leader was actually rebroadcasting Russian channels with news inserts of his own. Thus, he was in fact partly perpetuating and spreading Russian propaganda in Moldova, while adopting laws to curb Kremlin's propaganda on paper. 

While this ambiguous play continues, the Russian Duma plays its part, also seemingly unaware of the real political and media positioning of the Moldovan oligarch and President. Duma adopted on January 24th 2018 a statement in response to the anti-propaganda law, condemning it and promising to bring Russian media to the home of every Moldovan by other means.[10] And yesterday Moldovan media posted an article called “Russia protects its propaganda”[11], reporting that that Russian Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe used his Facebook account to call the international body Freedom of the Media Representative to react promptly to the law.[12]

A news site, Report.md, published on January 25 a comment in Romanian to describe Russian Duma reaction and the actual realities of Plahotniuc's Russian media embrace: "Democratic Party MPs sign a draft statement to denounce Russia's attacks on national informational security - while their boss' TV stations disseminated Russian propaganda for years, rebroadcasting Russian TVs"[13]

And although in its reaction Duma recommends to consider termination of Russian broadcast contracts with Mr. Plahotniuc, there is apparently no one else who could broadcast those channels in the Republic of Moldova and the oligarch is known to control both the Moldovan Audio-Visual Broadcast Council overseeing the distribution of TV licenses, and the judiciary.[14]

It would seem that all involved actors, including EU and US, continue their business as usual ahead of 2018 Moldovan general elections. It would be helpful, however, for USA and the European Union to understand the contradictions in Moldovan realities. Moldova is not just a country, where people need to deal with its own issues - such an approach can be understood “the West abandons pro-democracy voters”. About half of its population continues to struggle against Russian influence and far more against corruption, as even the last Presidential elections of 2016 and opinion polls indicate. The unprepared and inexperienced pro-Western and anti-corruption candidate, Maia Sandu got 47 per cent of the 2016 votes in Presidential elections, compared to 52 for Igor Dodon, who benefited from a coordinated media campaign, including widespread use of fake news between Russia, Moldovan socialist affiliated media and the TVs of Mr. Plahotniuc himself.

The West is still the beacon of hope, emanating the attraction of democracy and rule of law. If one wants to see democracy, rule of law and anti-corruption work in every part of the world where people struggle to be free, then the pro-democracy supporters should not feel alone in the face of external and internal pressures that made Moldova a testing ground for other countries in fake news and political interference. This is how long terms alliances and loyalties between democracies are built. With the rise of anti-democratic populism, the West needs to wake up and start stepping in or risk remaining alone and under siege.


Friday, April 8, 2016

Natalia Gherman - The candidate of the Republic of Moldova to the position of the Secretary General of the United Nations

In accordance with the Article 97 of the United Nations Charter and the joint letter of the President of the General Assembly and President of the Security Council dated 15th of December 2015, the Republic of Moldova has the honor to presents the candidature of Her Excellency Ambassador Natalia Gherman, who held the position of the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova, for the post of the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Right of education in separatist eastern region of Moldova at UN

by H.E. Vlad Lupan, Ambassador,
Permanent Representative of the Republic of Moldova to the United Nations
during the general discussions under the agenda item 68 (b) and (c),
Third Committee, 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly

M Chair,

The Republic of Moldova is fully committed to the protection of human rights and commends the intense work of the United Nations bodies involved in the promotion and respect of human rights all over the world.

My country remains fully supportive to the Secretary General’s Strategic Framework for 2014-2015, involving thematic priorities such as combat discrimination, promoting rule of law and accountability, fighting violence, inequality and continuing efforts to improve international human rights mechanisms, and widening the democratic space. We share these priorities and bring our national contributions, as well best regional practices, to these priorities.

Thus, being an active member of the Council of Europe (CoE) and in the European Union-Republic of Moldova human rights dialogue, we have steadily contributed to further enhancing the coordination and increasing synergies among international and regional mechanisms. We firmly believe that such an approach brings more efficiency and further consolidates results in fulfillment and promotion of human rights.

As an example of regional commitments taken at the CoE, EU and relevant for the United Nations, the Republic of Moldova took the decision to abolish the death penalty in 1995, four years after its independence. Since adopting this decision the Republic of Moldova has consistently supported and promoted the abolition of death penalty in all relevant international fora, including CoE, EU and the UN. Accordingly, the Republic of Moldova became a core group co-sponsor of the HRC resolution on the abolition of death penalty now, and uses this opportunity to call on all states to join a global moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition. This example of national, regional and international joint approach proves how this multi-layered approach can strengthen our coordination and synergies in respect of human rights.

Speaking about universal mechanisms, as a candidate to the Human Rights Council for the term 2020-2022, the Republic of Moldova stresses that the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) has proved to be an important tool to promote the implementation of the human rights nationally and internationally. We are glad that this mechanism reconfirmed its usefulness yet again this year. The Republic of Moldova is attaching great importance to this exercise and, for example, organized the 4th French-speaking seminar on the UPR together with IOF and the OHCHR on 11-12 April 2014, in Chisinau. This event offered a good experience sharing platform in implementation of the UPR recommendations and finding best ways to improve UPR durability. In this context, we share the view that greater priority should be given to implementation and follow-up to the recommendations made by the UPR, Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures for real impact of human rights on the ground. As a country that has streamlined the recommendations of the UPR, Treaty Bodies and regional organizations in the National Human Rights Action Plan, we can confirm that this is, indeed, an efficient tool for systematic implementation of human rights and can be a useful example for other UN member states.

M Chair,

Promotion and, particularly, protection of human rights is a justified and moral priority around the world today. Violations of human rights may be indeed a serious indicator not only of ongoing, but also of potential crises. We believe that the promotion of the Rights Up Front Initiative, with a growing number of Member States and intergovernmental bodies, as well as the determination within the United Nations to anchor human rights throughout the work of the Organization, should help strengthening the ability of the United Nations to respond in a timely and effective manner to human rights situations of concern and might help prevent crises as well.

As there is a shift in the security developments around the world, so does the pattern of attention to the human rights needs to include these developments. Human rights related problems are rising in conjunction to security developments inside the states. Some of these concerns are not new, however, and show the need to keep our attention to such problems as frozen conflicts. We continue to be concerned about the human rights situation in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova. Due to the unresolved conflict the region remains outside the monitoring process of the national and international human rights mechanisms. In terms of ensuring outreach, dissemination and compliance with the international standards on human rights, the region remains an unexploited territory. While the Republic of Moldova devotes extensive efforts to ensure respect of the rights of individuals in accordance with the national and international legal framework, the human rights represents one of the priorities on the agenda of negotiation process aimed at resolving this protracted conflict. One of the human rights topics which are constantly on the agenda of Moldovan Government is the situation around functioning of the Moldova-administered Latin Script Schools situated in the Transnistrian region. Throughout the years, the schools experienced various forms of pressure and intimidation from different Transnistrian structures. Currently these schools are operating in an environment of uncertainty and insecurity and confront with a number of challenges including discriminatory policies. The Government of the Republic of Moldova is committed to identify solutions through dialogue. In parallel central authorities are constantly appealing to the Transnistrian side to refrain from any unilateral actions that could lead to the deterioration of conditions in which schools are operating. Permanent attention by our international partners to this issue is still much needed.

M Chair,

In a year from now, the new development agenda with the SDGs at its core will come to complement the existing Millennium Development Goals. We need to stress the relevance of strengthening the linkages between the three dimensions of the sustainable development. We know there is an inseparable relationship between sustainable development and human rights, because the respect for human rights means empowerment, and empowerment is as a prerequisite for development. A human rights-based approach is essential to development progress.

Therefore, M Chair, in conclusion, I want to assure you of the Republic of Moldova’s commitment to further engage in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.

I thank you!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Withdrawal of Russian forces from Moldova is requested & concerns in and around Ukraine

by Ambassador Vlad Lupan, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Moldova to UN, at the thematic debate of the UN General Assembly First Committee,
69th session, on Conventional Weapons
New York, 22 October 2014
Mr. Chairman,

Since this is my first opportunity to address the 1st Committee, it is my honor to congratulate you on your assumption of the chairmanship of the First Committee and other Bureau members on their election as well. We pledge to support your leadership and the work of this Committee.

I would also like to avail myself of the opportunity to express my appreciations to Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, Permanent Representative of Libya, for his efforts as the Chair of First Committee during the previous session.

Mr. Chair,

The Republic of Moldova aligns itself with the statement delivered by the European Union on Conventional Weapons, while I would like to add in my national capacity some remarks of importance to my country.

We welcome the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty in December 2014. The Republic of Moldova started the ratification process, and expects to be able to conclude this procedure as soon as possible. We are committed to go ahead with the implementation of the ATT’s provisions and call other state-parties for the global, wide, transparent and effective implementation of the Treaty upon the entry into force of the document. And of course, in anticipation, we also wish success to The First Conference of States Parties of the ATT to take place in 2015.

In particular let me reiterate an important element of the Treaty that we have underlined forcefully during its adoption – there is a strong and repeatedly expressed believe by the Republic of Moldova that this Treaty should not only ensure the transparency and accountability in transfers of conventional weapons per se, it should also help preventing illicit trafficking of such arms, particularly to separatist unrecognized entities. This is of vital importance to my country and in the current dangerous and complex regional security context.

In this context, we stress again that our aim is to develop and strengthen national capacities of weapons control and adjust them to international standards, in particular improve national legislation on trade, and also practices for arms and military equipment trade, with the support of our traditional partners. We call for new partners and donors to step in these important projects.

The Republic of Moldova also remains committed to the implementation the UN Programme of Action (PoA) on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and expresses its satisfaction with the outcome of the 5th Biennial Meeting on SALW. We also welcome the UNSC resolution 2117 of 26 September 2013 on small arms and light weapons. At the same time, we recall again the security developments in the region and remind about the need for an effective SALW control mechanism in these circumstances.

Mr. Chair,

The Republic of Moldova stresses yet again that today more than ever we should focus on a combination of global and regional conventional arms control arrangements, as our particular situation in Europe shows. A genuine security, progress in arms controls and disarmament, could be achieved if a complex set of measures is taken at all levels – international, regional and national.

That is why we underline that we would welcome an early progress and result on conventional arms control agreement in Europe. My country highly values the contribution of both cornerstone documents – the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe and the Vienna Document on CSBMs, in ensuring military balance, security and transparency on the continent. However, legally binding provisions of a Treaty, in this particular case of the CFE Treaty regime, cannot be replaced by any politically binding commitments. Any future control regime in this respect is to be based on a legally binding system of verifiable equipment limits, include information exchange and verification measures, as well as take full account of other relevant elements of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty). Such a regional regime should be in conformity with, in our case, the OSCE Helsinki Final Act principles, leaving no place for misinterpretation. Moreover, such a conventional arms control arrangement shall only strengthen the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states-parties. We firmly believe that among other important elements, a new Euro-Atlantic arrangement should reinforce the principle of host-nation consent to the stationing of foreign military forces.

As an example of positive results that we would have expected from such regional arms controls regime would be the reality in which the revitalization and full operationalization of the CFE regime would have provided as a result the fulfillment of all related commitments undertaken at the OSCE Istanbul Summit in 1999 particularly, the withdrawal of foreign military presence from Moldova, which does not enjoy the consent of the host country. And this would mean the remaining stockpiles of conventional ammunitions from Colbasna and the so-called Operative Group of Russian Forces, which guards these stockpiles. Regional arms control regimes, thus, do matter.

Moreover, the existing developments, particularly, the crisis in and around Ukraine poses a serious test for the arms control instruments and toolboxes of the UN and regional organizations under Chapter VIII of the UN. Our efforts, therefore, should focus on the implementation and strengthening of the existing commitments adopted at the UN and regional organizations. Thus, for example, a functional CFE regime would have been a valuable asset, if appropriate political will would have been displayed, to dispel concerns and defuse tensions, contributing to stabilization of the situation in and around Ukraine. Hence, UN could consider sending a political message of encouragement of the development of appropriate regional arms control tools, as a part of the global arms control effort.

Mr. Chair,

In conclusion, I am reaffirming the commitment of the Republic of Moldova to continue its engagement in the issues associated with the conventional weapons control.

Thank you.