Global Europe Brief: Running out of time

Global Europe Brief.

Welcome to EURACTIV’s Global Europe Brief, your weekly update on the EU in the global perspective from our foreign affairs news team: Georgi Gotev and Alexandra Brzozowski.

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THE CLOCK IS TICKING

It’s 100 seconds until the end of the world, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ ‘Doomsday Clock’, which indicates how close humanity is to complete (nuclear) disaster. This year’s verdict came after several nuclear arms control treaties were ended or undermined.

But soon, the clock might inch up even closer to midnight.

It’s less than four months until the New START Treaty is set to expire in 2021. It is the last remaining bilateral nuclear arms-control accord between Washington and Moscow that caps the number of deployed long-range nuclear warheads each country can have.

“[If] Russia would like to see that treaty extended, then it’s really on them to come back to us,” US negotiator Marshall Billingslea said in August, citing a mandate from his boss, President Donald Trump. “The ball is now in Russia’s court.”

The latest round of talks, however, does not seem to promise that an agreement to extend the landmark treaty can be reached in time, considering that the US presidential elections are less than a month away – a time when policy-making usually takes a back seat.

The US said this week it had reached an “agreement in principle” with Russia on extending the last remaining bilateral nuclear arms-control accord between Washington and Moscow.

The Russian side, however, immediately rejected the conditions as “unacceptable” – just like when Billingslea and Ryabkov were meeting in Helsinki last week and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed his belief that New START “is going to die.”

Asked about the confusion about whether there is an agreement or not, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo only told reporters that he “is hopeful that the Russians will find a way to agree to an outcome that, frankly, is in their best interest and in our best interest”.

And the stakes are pretty high, experts warn, as the untimely death of New START, with nothing to replace it, would open the door to a costly and dangerous nuclear arms race.

“There is no evidence that withholding an extension of New START or dangling a short-term extension of the treaty enhances US leverage to push Russia to agree to US demands for a bilateral framework agreement or a new trilateral arms control treaty,” Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos of the Arms Control Association commented in their latest analysis.

“The Trump administration’s demand for unilateral concessions from Moscow in exchange for a short-term extension of New START is a recipe for failure and risks setting the United States on the road to an expensive arms race that it can ill afford,” they added.

Europeans, being in between, are starting to feel the heat.

A group of over 75 European parliamentarians from more than 20 European capitals, the European Parliament, and NATO Parliamentary Assembly jointly called on their US Congressional counterparts to take bipartisan action in urging the US government to agree to the extension of New START.

EU IN THE WORLD

SANCTIONS ON. EU foreign ministers agreed to impose sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and move forward with a sanctions framework against the culprits involved in the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, agreeing to sanction the people and entities potentially responsible for it. Among the sanctioned are senior aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin, including the man known as his chef.

HOT POTATO. EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell described as “regrettable” Turkey’s decision to send back its research vessel Oruç Reis to Greece’s continental shelf, saying EU leaders will again discuss the issue at this week’s summit.

After the US used strong language slamming Turkey’s renewed push to send a vessel to carry out seismic surveys in the Eastern Mediterranean, Germany urged Ankara not to dispel the “climate of trust” needed to de-escalate tensions with Greece.

RECOVERY RISKS. The UK economy’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic risks being derailed if it leaves the EU’s single market without a successor trade deal, the OECD has warned.

EU-AFRICA. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of strong EU-African relations, Iratxe García, the leader of the Socialist and Democrat group in the European Parliament, told EURACTIV as her political group launched its annual Africa Week.

MYANMAR VOTE. An EU-funded voting application in Myanmar has come under heavy criticism for inciting “racial and religious vilification” in the country by profiling candidates’ ethnicity and beliefs, using derogatory terminology to designate those of Rohingya descent.

ENLARGEMENT LATEST

DIALOGUE, DIALOGUE. Kosovo needs the dialogue, as well as a comprehensive agreement, EU Special Representative for Belgrade-Priština Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák said after his visit to Kosovo. In turn, Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi stated that they primarily discussed reaching a final agreement between Kosovo and Serbia during the meeting.

CHINESE FRIENDS. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said it is not always easy to protect his country’s friendship with China given the way other powers look at its economic rise. But he promised that Serbia would continue to build “a sincere friendship” with China by “safeguarding the freedom of choice”.

EURASIA DIGEST

KARABAKH CEASEFIRE. EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell expressed his deep concern over reports of violations of a Russia-brokered ceasefire between warring neighbours Armenia and Azerbaijan in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

At the same time, Baku accused Yerevan of trying to attack its gas and oil pipelines and warned of a “severe” response as tensions rose sharply around a fraying ceasefire in the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

ESCALATING VIOLENCE. Belarus police will now be permitted to use combat weapons in the streets if needed, the country’s interior ministry said earlier this week, as security forces again clashed with protesters who want President Alexander Lukashenko to quit after a contested 9 August election. The escalation in violent rhetoric was one of the reasons that moved EU foreign ministers to add the Belarusian leader to their sanctions list.

US ELECTION WATCH

It’s 19 days until the US Presidential elections and both candidates faced-off in competing town-halls on Thursday night after US President Trump refused to partake in the virtual format and tried to push the electoral commission to hold an in-person event. Of course, this didn’t happen due to the pandemic.

Here’s a couple of take-aways from the separate townhalls.

WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING 

ON OUR RADAR FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS…

Europe’s everyday business is picking up after summer break and so does this newsletter. We’ll keep you updated on all relevant EU foreign affairs news, as operations start to move exclusively online.

  • Three Seas Summit
    | Monday, 19 October 2020 | virtual
  • Libya rivals hold talks hosted by UN
    | Monday, 19 October 2020 | Geneva, Switzerland
  • 33rd talks for EU-China comprehensive investment agreement
    | Mo-Fri, 19-23 October 2020 | virtual
  • European Parliament plenary session
    | Mo-Thu, 19-22 October 2020 | virtual
  • NATO ministerial meeting
    | Thu-Fri, 22-23 October 2020 | virtual

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