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November 9, 2019 will mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – an event that signaled the end of the Cold War that had split Europe into two camps, and divided Germany into two separate countries. History will remember this event as a triumph over Soviet Russia’s centuries-long practice of determining how the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe were governed, and also as the subsequent acceleration of efforts towards a Europe of free peoples, in charge of their own destinies. The collapse of the Soviet Union and of its dominance over Eastern Europe in December 1991 restored sovereignty to several nations that became free democratic countries.

Today, as if history was repeating itself, we are observing a similar pattern of sly and malicious political and military activity aimed at destabilizing the long achieved peaceful, free and democratic systems that Europe has established during these decades.

In recent years, Europe has seen several aggressive, political and military offensives against sovereign states such as Georgia and Ukraine.

With our new era’s high-tech revolution, these offensives have also taken on a new dimension by using modern techniques that were not available during those long, Cold War years.

These include cyber war, computer hackings and social media use, to mention just a few.

Reestablishing Russian influence

After all, Vladimir Putin who served as a KGB officer in Dresden when the Berlin Wall fell, views the collapse of the Soviet Union as a great tragedy, contrary to advocates of a free Europe. One would be either blind or totally naïve as to not realise that he is seeking to re-establish Russian influence, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, by sowing the seeds of discord in Western societies, meddling in foreign elections and corrupting foreign political elites.

Among this array of malign means also figure the old Soviet disinformation tools.

It is quite obvious from his remarks and speeches how he feels about our Western democratic systems. In an interview given to the Financial Times on the eve of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan in June 2019, President Putin said: ”The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”

Donald Tusk, the then European Council president strongly disagreed and remarked sharply: “What I find really obsolete is authoritarianism, personality cults and the rule of oligarchs”.

Russia’s ongoing efforts to meddle in elections and inflict chaos and division within Europe represent Russia’s attempt to implement its ancient policy of controlling other nations’ destinies using modern methods and to restore, symbolically if not physically, the same sorts of barriers to freedom represented by the former Wall.

Russia has only two friends in the world: its Army and its Navy” (Tsar Alexander III)

One of the areas in which Russia is demonstrating a ‘come-back’ to the strategic war-game is its renewed military power. The extent of modernization of the Russian armed forces has been witnessed during recent conflicts worldwide. (The Russian defense budget grew from $24.6 bil­lion in 2008 to $45.6 billion in 2017).

As of now, the Red Army can cover a large field of military operations and therefore use pressure and influence on a number of weak European nations.

This bring us to a much more sensitive military issue threatening Europe’s security: nuclear weapons proliferation.

On August 2, 2019 the United States formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), after giving Russia six months to return to full and verifiable compliance with the treaty provisions. For over a decade, Moscow has gradually eroded this cornerstone of arms control by secretly developing multiple, non-compliant weapon systems that can target the European continent – America remains outside their operating range. These include the Tsirkon, Rubezh, and Kalibr-K missiles.

This Russian effort is part of a broader campaign to drive a wedge between the United States and its European allies over its arms control policy. Russia clearly violated the Treaty. It has never provided credible evidence to support its denials. President Putin and other senior Russian officials have openly and consistently criticized the INF Treaty for nearly two decades, going so far as to say that his predecessors were ‘naïve’. Russia publicly contemplated withdrawing from the Treaty but seems to have finally opted for cheating in order to change the circumstances around the INF Treaty. It has spent the last decade rebuilding its intermediate-range missile forces in order to enhance its ability to target Europe; many of these weapons are Treaty-compliant.

UN Secretary General António Guterres, addressing the expiry of a cold war-era arms control treaty remarked: “The world has lost an invaluable brake on nuclear war”.

Expiration of the New START Treaty

We shall soon be facing another important deadline; one that makes the Russian nuclear threat more ominous. And that is the New Start Treaty which is set to expire in February 2021 but which – if both parties agree – can be extended in its present form for a period of up to five years.

Russia wants to extend the Treaty without changes since Russia is well ahead of the US in terms of nuclear modernization, resulting in troublesome new weapons and doctrines that are unconstrained by arms control. 

According to many European politicians, it seems obvious that Russia has found ways to manipulate or circumvent the Cold War-era arms control security architecture in order to threaten and destabilize Europe. According to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg:

”Russia showed no willingness and took no steps to comply with its international obligations”

Russia does not seem genuinely interested in an arms control protocol that places rules on this type of behavior.

According to European military experts, Russia has a blossoming and non-transparent inventory of unconstrained Non Strategic Nuclear Weapons and is prepared to use them in a conventional conflict, raising the risk of a nuclear battleground in Europe to its highest levels since the Cold War. Russia has at least a ten-to-one advantage in non-strategic nuclear weapons which it is increasing both in number and diversity.

The NATO nuclear force, in contrast, has remained small and transparent. 

Those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” said Winston Churchill.

The Editor-in-Chief

Trajan Dereville

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