European Defence Enters the Era of PESCO
After years of heavy military reliance on the United States through the NATO alliance, European Union members are set to initiate a closer regional cooperation.
— EU External Action (@eu_eeas) October 20, 2017
On November 13 the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) was signed by 23 EU defence ministers. It could be the biggest leap in EU defence policy in decades and may go some way towards matching the bloc’s military with its economic and trade powers. New cooperation should enable the development of joint capabilities and thus ensure more flexible defence policy of European community, but it will not endanger the cohesion of existing NATO structures. NATO will continue to focus on collective defence, while PESCO aims to ensure a quicker and more efficient EU response to possible regional crises.
It has been known for a long time that Britain is opposed to similar proposals, but with looming Brexit, there is a higher chance of successful negotiations.
Shock in the Saudi Royal Family, The Crown Prince is Consolidating Power
Several princes, businessmen, ministers and tens of former ministers were detained and had their assets frozen in Saudi Arabia. This was a result of an anti-corruption purge led by the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman who became the head of a new anti-corruption committee. The purge targeted the kingdom’s political and business elite, including the head of the National Guard, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah and the billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal.
The motives of Prince Mohammed bin Salman are not entirely selfless, as many analysts note that the goal of the purge is to secure his power and remove all opposition. The prince now has a free hand to pursue his reform agenda which began earlier this year by lifting the ban on women driving and is expected to continue breaking other conservative Islamic traditions. On the other hand, the same man is also responsible for the Saudi intervention in Yemen and his rule is far from democratic.
Next Round of Syrian Peace Talks: Can They Topple Assad?
A new round of Syrian peace talks took place in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on October 29-30. Representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition were joined by delegates from Russia, Iran, and Turkey, the guarantors of the peace process. The seventh round of the peace talks focused mainly on humanitarian issues and on asserting the previous decision to establish de-escalation zones. The opposition brought special attention to the issue of releasing forcibly detained people, followed by their criticism of Iran and the Syrian government for hampering the release process.
— MFA Russia ?? (@mfa_russia) October 31, 2017
The goal of the Russian intervention in the Syrian conflict was to keep Bashar al-Assad in power. However, it seems that the Syrian government does not have the strength to win the war after all. According to Russia’s chief negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev, Assad „has confirmed his readiness for … the preparation of a new constitution and the holding of new parliamentary and presidential elections on this basis.“ Since keeping Assad’s regime in power is no longer a priority for Russia, it seems that some room for compromise will finally be found. Further peace negotiations should take place in Geneva on November 28.
Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Opens: Was it Worth it?
A railway connecting capital cities of Azerbaijan and Georgia with north-eastern Turkish city of Kars has been officially launched on October 30. The project started in 2007, two years after the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was opened. It was originally supposed to be finished in 2010, but its completion has been postponed several times.
Açılan demiryolu hattı; Türkiye, Azerbaycan ve Gürcistan yönetimlerinin ortak başarısıdır. pic.twitter.com/ODJuqgdJxB
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RT_Erdogan) October 30, 2017
This railway corridor will, by extension, connect Europe to Central Asia and China, while bypassing Russia (as well as Armenia). It will complete the so-called middle line of the New Silk Road (the northern line goes from China via Russia to Europe, the southern one goes from China to Kazakhstan). Apart from providing a reliable transport route, boosting trade, attracting foreign investors and encouraging regional cooperation, the railway allows to bypass Russian sanctions that forbid transport of agricultural products across its territory. This reduced the amount of transported goods, but with the ban bypassed, the New Silk Road will be able to fulfil its potential. Nevertheless, the rail link between Europe and Asia through Russia is still significantly shorter than through the BTK and travels fully overland.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway to be officially launched soon will be the shortest route between Europe and Asia.
— Ilham Aliyev (@presidentaz) October 20, 2017
The plan for a new railway across the South Caucasus exists since 1993 resulting from the Nagorno Karabakh War between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Turkey then closed its border with Armenia as a sign of solidarity with Azerbaijan, thus cutting off the only railway between Tukey and the Caucasus.
Image source: Flickr | Jim Mattis
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a bi-weekly basis provides a 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.
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