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Europe during 2016, and perspectives for next year, according to Victor Bjorgan.

Photo Victor02by  our Publisher Victor Bjorgan, Norway 31.12.2016.-  2016 was not  a good year for Europe´s  stability.  During this year, many negative situations  worsened  the geopolitical stability in Europe. Also, Europe felt direct repercussions of regional conflicts in North Africa and in the ever tumultuous Middle East.  Against this background, we in Europe Security News  debated intensively about which key developments would  shape European politics in the coming year, and what the major consequences could be. The key issues are: Turkey, Russia and Baltic states, Middle East and North Africa, UK, NATO, Eastern partnership, US/Trump, EU coordination and EU borders

Without going into considerations, here is a detail of what happened in terms of  security in Europe, during 2016:111download

  1. 1) Issues related to the relationship with Putin´s Russia:

 

 

  • A large swathe of Ukraine suffered a massive power outage, it could have been the result of destructive malware
  • Estonia warns of new risks of sudden armed conflict between Russia and the NATO allies in the Baltic States
  • Sweden not to join NATO, fears Russia
  • U.S. opens a military facility in Romania with the installation of The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System (AAMDS) in Deveselu, Romania
  • Behind the scenes diplomatic talks between Finland and Russia have been set in motion to soften Russia’s growing hostility
  • NATO preoccupied with Britain outside the EU
  • Military spending countries of the European Union, on the rise again
  • In Warsaw, NATO ready to pay the cost of enhancing the security of its eastern flank, joint intel division, multinational battalions in the Baltic, more fight against ISIL
  • The United States and Georgia signed a security deal designed to shore up the former Soviet republic’s defences against Russia as it waits to join NATO
  • Russia is entering NATO airspace
  • Germany more active in the Baltic Region. Chancellor A. Merkel, Foreign Minister F.W. Steinmeier, and Defense Minister U. von der Leyen separately visited the Baltic capitals with messages of support, reinforcing the Air Policing mission over the Baltic states.
  • Statement by President Elect Donald Trump on pre-conditions for the United States’ defense of its major allies in NATO
  • Turkey brokering with Russia a ceasefire agreement for Syria.

2. The migration crisis

  • Europe facing migration crisis and ‘imminent humanitarian crisis’, especially in the Mediterranean Sea. NATO has been called to patrol the waters of the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey.
  • Increasing of anti-refugee feelings in Europe
  • Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria could have increased the flow of refugees into Europe, a mass migration that now includes a growing number of foreign fighters and terrorists who are using the crisis for cover
  • The EU-Turkey migration deal could be cancelled, says Turkey

3. Terrorism in Europe

  • The “Tunisian connection”: many of the jihadists responsible of the terror attacks in Germany, France and other parts, are originally from Tunisia
  • Terror attack at Istambul´s Ataturk Airport
  • 84 people died after terrorist attack in Nice, France
  • Several terrorist attacks in Germany, the last one in Berlin.
  • Many Jihadists are returning to Europe as ISIL loses ground
  • Assassination of the Russian Ambassador in Turkey
  • The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) planned coordinated attacks on five EU cities and Ankara on 2015/2016 New Year’s Eve, only to be foiled by Turkish intelligence
  • Up to 5,000 jihadists are feared to be in Europe

 4. Other issues 

  • President Erdogan defeated a failed military coup in Turkey, followed by a crackdown of the opposition
  • Brexit and the resignation of PM David Cameron
  • The decline of socialism in the government of France
  • The questioning of Merkel’s leadership in Germany,
  • Political instability in Spain and Italy
  • The resurgence of nationalist political movements
  • Political weakness of the European Union
  • The advent of Trump to power in the US and his apparent lack of interest in Europe
  • EU´s acute vulnerability to Islamist terrorism

As a result of the way I have organized the issues that occurred during 2016, the reader will notice that today, December 31, 2016, Europe faces four major problems affecting its security, relations with Russia, the immigration issue, Terrorism and the political weakness of both the European Union and NATO.

To the previous issues we must add others such as the difficulties of European intelligence to confront the lone wolfs of terrorism, the ease with which the jihadists can move freely across borders, the growth of Islamic radicalism.

What can happen in Europe in 2017? I think it’s going to be a transition year. The President of the United States has to consolidate and I think he will have a difficult relationship  with his Republican parliamentary  bench.  His voters did not elect him to be President of the World but to get more jobs and to make the US “great again”, his voters were more isolationists than globalists, but Trump likes to run several battle fronts at the same time, although there is a learning curve that all Presidents must pay, we will see what happens. The question is whether Russia and Turkey try to take advantage of the situation of European and American weakness to make their moves.   I think, after a brief period of observation,  they will try to do it. On the one hand, Turkey is going to do its best to reduce the “Kurdish threat” to its minimum expression and in that way Erdogan  consolidates in power. For its part Putin´s Russia will try to strengthen its position of power in the Middle East and North Africa, while it will continue to strive to expand its influence on Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics (Ukraine, Moldova, The Balcans, the Baltic States).

So the EU and NATO needs to concentrate its resources on its immediate neighborhood, and urgently re-think its policy on Turkey and Russia, while preserving a good relationship with Trump. It could be an interesting move for Merkel and Stoltenberg (NATO) to be open for negotiations in regard to Trump´s  pre-conditions for the United States’ defense of its major allies in Europe, provided it is based on “democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man”.

Ultimately, what will decide the European immediate future are the elections in Germany, a victory of Chancellor A. Merkel would be indispensable for Europe.