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Aftershocks of the Ukraine war

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The end of the Cold War, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, left a situation based on promises but nothing in writing.

East Germany was incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany, and President Mikhail Gorbachev received assurances from the western powers that NATO would not expand into East Europe.

What happened was exactly the opposite. Today, NATO is very close to Russia, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

Ukraine intended to join NATO, which led Russia to warn the West that it would not tolerate, for reasons of national security, such a situation in its soft underbelly.

On February 24, 2022, words became deeds, and the war in Ukraine, as expected, will have big repercussions, affecting in different ways the big players.

Already, Europe and the United States, Turkey and China are involved in the crisis with unforeseen developments.

Europe and the US, in the forefront, unanimously imposed strict sanctions against Russia. There are, however, differences in their positions.

Emanuel Macron’s France is open to dialogue with Moscow, whereas Germany’s dependence on Russian natural gas impedes the inclusion of energy in the sanctions against Russia.

The emerging energy crisis in Europe revived the EastMed project.

It obliged the US to abandon its negative “non-paper” concerning the pipeline project and the recent statements of Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland against the EastMed and confirm that the matter lies within the jurisdiction of the stakeholder countries.

I had proposed, back in 2012, that an Eastern Mediterranean Energy Corridor (EMEC) concept should be given serious consideration. It could be of considerable strategic and economic importance to the EU.

Of the countries in the EU, it was Poland that emerged as an important player.

As a member of NATO, Poland geographically lies closer to Russia, hence the stationing of a large number of NATO forces on its territory, including a strengthened American detachment.

The obvious goal is to deter or repel Russian aggression.

In a similar situation, after the Second World War, apart from the Marshal Plan, the US decided to station a considerable number of troops in Germany to contain the Soviet Union from expanding into Europe.

Within this framework, we should view the expressed wish of Sweden and Finland to join NATO, taking, however, into account the threat of Moscow to instal in the region ballistic missiles, thus annulling its denuclearisation.

As a result, the US came closer to Europe within the framework of NATO, overlooking the reluctance of its European partners to fulfil their financial commitments to NATO.

In the EU, the repercussion of the war in Ukraine resulted in a wider cohesion, within the framework of which it was decided to take measures to avoid the dependence of Europe on Russian natural gas by 2027.

Differences, however, exist as to whether payments should be made in roubles, as Moscow demands.

To minimise the cost incurred as a result of the war in Ukraine, Turkey decided to follow the policy of adroit neutrality.

On the one hand, she is not applying the NATO and EU sanctions against Russia. On the other, she interdicted the transfer to Syria of military equipment by Russian planes through her airspace.

Moreover, the chairman of the Defence Industry, Ismail Demir, stated that the delivery of a second lot of the S-400 missiles is postponed and will take place in due course.

Keeping distance from Ukraine’s current situation, the Turkish President skilfully followed a balanced policy to take advantage of the crisis to build an honest broker image.

He managed to arrange some meetings between the two antagonists in Turkey and, at every opportunity, invited Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky to meet in his country to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis.

For the moment, President Erdogan, evaluating the developments of the last two months in Ukraine, forgot Biden’s statement about the genocide of the Armenians and the impediment of Congress to the acquisition of the F-16 fighter programme by Ankara and aligned himself gradually with the West.

What is of interest is to see for how long President Putin will tolerate the tactical games of his Turkish counterpart, given the fact the two countries have conflicting interests, not only in the Black Sea but also in the North Caucuses, Syria, and Central Asia.

Finally, as was expected, China supported Moscow diplomatically in the UN Security Council and with statements by high-level officials within the framework of its anti-American stand.

Given the impact of the US sanctions against Moscow, one should not expect that China will provide military aid to Russia, as this might result in the imposition of similar or harsher sanctions by the US against Beijing.

The war in Ukraine will have universal repercussions, the dimensions of which will cover the questions of migrants, energy, economy, and our everyday life.

Halting the supply of natural gas by Russia to Poland and Bulgaria is indicative of the escalation of economic warfare.

By Dr Andrestinos N. Papadopoulos, Ambassador a.h.