Few winners in diplomatic crisis with Qatar
Number of Middle Eastern countries have cut off all ties with Qatar last Monday (5 June). The decision was mostly driven by Saudi Arabia along with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen. They stated Qatar’s support of terrorism as the main reason for the blockade. Moreover, Doha had relatively open relations with Iran in recent years and its popular TV station Al Jazeera was increasingly critical of Saudi and Egyptian leaderships. U.S President Trump backed the Saudi move, even though Qatar is a critical ally of the U.S. hosting its largest air base in the region al-Udeid, and U.S. forward Central Command.
Meanwhile, Turkey demands an end to the blockade and is sending troops. Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, has already begun sending shipments of food to relief the isolated country. The blockade is shattering traditionally good ties between countries of the Arabian Peninsula and ‘breaking up families’ according to Doha.
Montenegro joins the Alliance; Moscow warns of ‘anti-Russian hysteria’
Montenegro became NATO’s newest member on Monday (5 June). It joined the alliance after turbulent months following the attempted coup d’etat in October 2016, likely orchestrated by Moscow. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg underlined that Montenegro’s accession to the Alliance contributes to international peace and security. Montenegro’ military forces are only two thousand strong, but they are fully professional and have proved capable of contributing to the Alliance in its mission in Afghanistan. More importantly, this enlargement signals to other states that doors to NATO are still open. Russia warned of retaliation against Montenegro’s “hostile course” and condemned the country’s “anti-Russian hysteria.” The new member should bring more stability into the region, which in turn may provide greater security for other members of the Alliance. South, Central and Eastern Europe states should be the most benefiting from the enhanced security.
No more migrants for Czech Republic
The Czech Republic will halt taking in migrants under an EU scheme to share asylum seekers who arrived in Greece and Italy. Citing security concerns, the government agreed on this on Monday (5 June). The decision is based on the analysis of security challenges associated with migration. Opposition parties support this decision. In fast reaction, the European Commission warned on Tuesday it could sanction member states that do not follow EU quota rules for asylum seekers by opening infringement proceedings against them as early as next week. The Czech Republic has only taken in a dozen migrants out of a quota of some 2,600. Poland, Hungary and Slovakia have also refused to take part in the scheme. Under a plan agreed in 2015, the European Commission wants member states to each admit a quota from a total of 160,000 asylum seekers stuck in the two Mediterranean countries.
Ukrainians travel to EU visa-free; NATO claim likely symbolic
The Ukrainian parliament has defined joining NATO as its strategic priority. At the same time, president Poroshenko said “a final goodbye” to the Russian empire in connection with freshly implemented visa-free travel to EU for Ukrainian citizens. Joining the Alliance is now at historical high in public opinion polls while less than 10 years ago, it was the least popular option. Optimism about Ukraine’s future with NATO and EU is now more justified than ever.
But the war in Ukraine is still far from over and some voices warn that the recently approved Ukrainian bill could be nothing more than a PR campaign. Russia would most likely show its opposition to any Ukrainian courtship with Western institutions. Ukraine’s membership would bring NATO forces to the Russian border. The Alliance will, arguably, be very cautious since it has learned its lesson in this regard, most notably in Georgia.
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a biweekly basis provides short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into broader context.
Responsible editor Ondřej Zacha.
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