Thursday, May 21, 2015

EU expanding further east into former Soviet Union

Today the EU held Eastern Partnership summit in Riga to discuss further expansion east into the former Soviet Union, at the time of lingering uncertainty about the future of the UK in the European Union and the nature of the long due reforms within the EU.

The European Union is already overstretched, new members such as Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia did not integrate well; Croatia is mired in crisis. The Balkans, which is poised for membership, the process is moving between back and forth. The EU-colony of Kosovo is faced with mass emigration, in Macedonia there is political chaos with armed gangs capturing towns and it was only a week ago when 23 people died in clashes between heavily armed gangs and security forces. 

Its called Eastern Partnership countries, but there is very little in common among them, only that they are former Soviet Republics, and that they strive to west. The desire to be western is so paramount for these countries that any obstacle to its actualisation is seen as an enemy. Many believe that Russia is such an obstacle and as such a threat to the nation. Russofobien yet another factor among the eastern partnership; this is not enough for partnership with these countries but recipe for trouble with Moscow.

The strength of EU comes from the strength of its member states and one of its strong members is the UK which is renegotiating its membership with the Union. The focus of the UK on hard economic benefits – for example, in advancing the single market, reducing bureaucratic burdens, or pushing for trade liberalisation as a healthy balance against too much focus on political integration or on European-style state interventionism has been beneficial to the Union.

Recently many have seen this positive role of the UK diminish, with a much greater focus on the UK domestic policy agenda and a high distrust of the EU among British policy makers and, increasingly, the British public. Even in areas where the UK in the past would have been a champion for European solutions, e.g. enlargement policy or the digital single market, there is a tendency of disengagement.

As the role of the western countries diminish in the EU any further expansion eastward will change the nature and identity of the European Union. The former Communist countries of the EU are active members of the EU and carry more weight in contrast with their size and strength, any further eastward expansion will shift the centre of power in the EU from the West to Eastern Europe. Under the current EU voting system Eastern Europe already has significant power. Germany, France and the UK combine have a population of 217 Million and a nominal GDP of close to US$ 10 Trillion and a total vote of 87 in the European council while Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia which pretty much cover all of Easterner Europe have a combined nominal GDP of US$1.3 Trillion and a population of 70 million have a total combine vote of 96. Any future accession from the east will shift the power of EU votes to the East despite the candidate countries being small and medium income.

There are three important implications for the EU policy. 
first, the EU will become more Russofobien, as the Euro barometer study of EU attitude toward Russia shows that eastern European countries are the most Russofobiske countries in Europe. furthermore the candidate countries have deep Russian complex. 

Second, the EU will become more xenophobic as there is strong anti-immigration sentiment in the Eastern Europe. A PEW study shows that 60% of population in Czech Republic is against immigration and there has been slightly over 1100 asylum applications in 2014 while that figure for Germany is over 220,000.  This is while Czech Republic is the most prosperous of all Eastern European countries.

third, the EU will become less coherent and influential as the institutional strengths and economies of member states diverse, the western nations will seek to curb immigration from the east and south states which will put the free movement pillar at risk.   

The dangers of conflict with Russia, weak national institutions within the EU, weakened EU and deterioration of human rights within an expanded union might or might not be clear to Brussels bosses, but what is clear is where to find new markets and play geopolitics. 

Many Iraqis Believe Washington Aid Islamic State

The general in charge of U.S. special operations forces in Iraq for the past six months has come out to speak about wide spread believe among Iraqi troops who believe America supports the Islamic State. The top generals fear this potentially leaving U.S. forces vulnerable to reprisal attacks from their nominal allies in the fight against the militants.

Gen. Kurt Crytzer believes this is a communication issue, convinced that Washington’s information campaign in the Middle East is so inadequate that many, “Our adversaries are constantly one step ahead of us in the IO realm,” said Army Brig. Gen. Kurt Crytzer, using the acronym for information operations, while talking to reporters in Florida.  This view is shared among American policy makers; on Tuesday, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command was also commenting on the release of multimedia material by US forces.

Foreign policy writes that “the nation that invented the Internet and which is home to Hollywood and Madison Avenue still has trouble competing with the message promulgated by terror groups whose worldview hearkens back to the 7th century but use a sophisticated online and social media strategy to raise money and recruit new fighters.”[1]

The US policy makers commit yet again the fatal error of mixing the remedies they have or can obtain with the solution for the problem and the media as usually carries the dominant narrative. This is not an information or rather misinformation problem, its how the policies of the US, the West and regional allies has impacted the region and its people. The information campaign on the contrary has had a negative impact on the image of the West in the middle in so far as justifying, promoting and reiterating the official line while it has been proven time and again that the western policies are detrimental to the region. As such sources associated with the west has lost their credibility while alternative media such as Aljazeera, RT, Iranian media and IS campaigns have gained audience either as primary or alternative source of information.

The Islamic State could not have emerged without support from western powers and their regional allies. They funded and facilitated the travel of jihadis from 80 countries into Syria and then trained and armed them. In so long as the Jihadists were fighting the Syrian government Western government turned a blind eye on the crimes they were committing against Syrians and all the signs of rising tide of fanatic Jahidism among the Syrian resistance. The idea of overthrowing Assad was primary and an imminent reality after the fate of Gaddafi and no neoconservative and liberal interventionist would have thought it would take this long.  Ecstatic by the prospect the liberals and neocons ignored all the key lessons learned in the last twenty years:

1.    War is unpredictable: this becomes more obvious if one studies the dynamics of conflict in Afghanistan; where the mighty US army failed to sway the tide in its favour against a ragtag band of peasants they labelled Taliban.
2.   People suffer in war: what if this war get uglier and become longer, are you willing to take that risk in order to achieve your strategic objective of ousting Assad from power? This question is left out but there should be a way to get this question into the policy thinking.
3.   States become weaker: as primary caretaker of the community and population a weakened state exposes the population to dangers and decline in living standards but also give rise to violence and tensions in society.
4.   Fanatic Islamism is not your friend: following the pattern established by al-Qaida (allies to Afghan Mujahidin) and the Taliban policy makers should have seen this coming.

We are at a point in history with human tragedy of millions suffering before our eyes can nudge us a bit and the primacy and pursuit of national interest as defined by western leaders is above all. Even if Gen. Kurt Crytzer was right and this was a media war the west has nothing but hypocrisy.