Eric Pinzelli
Greece
Kalamata
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"These cards are divided into two periods: European Expansion from 1992 - 2008 and the resurgence of Russia from 2009 - 2019. I wanted these headline cards to model key historical events..." - David Thompson, game designer.

Starting from today we will post the real story behind these headline cards, one for Russia, and one for Europe, alternatively. We don't take sides, but you will have to! The battle is on!

RUSSIAN PLAYER: NAGORNO-KARABAKH WAR (1988-94)
In 1921 when Stalin arbitrarily decided to give the Nagorno-Karabakh region to Azerbaijan, he knew that the majority of population (94%) was Armenian. In 1988, the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave sought to reunite with Soviet Armenia. The conflict reached its peak in 1989, about 30,000 people were killed, more than 200,000 Azerbaijanis were expelled from the territory of the Armenian SSR and Nagorno-Karabakh, while some 300,000 Armenians living in Azerbaijan were deported the other way.
The resulting war ended with the Armenian troops’ occupation of about 20% of Azerbaijani territory, all of Nagorno-Karabakh, and 7 surrounding Azerbaijani districts. In 1994, Russia mediated the first cease-fire between the two parties, and was part of the creation of the Minsk Group created by the OSCE. This group, that includes Russia, the U.S. and France, is tasked with mediating and leading the peace talks between the two parts. The conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region is considered the main threat to the peace in the South Caucasus region. One of its other effects is Russia’s increasing influence in both the South Caucasus and on the international stage.

-Where else did Russia implement its strategy to «divide and rule»?

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Eric Pinzelli
Greece
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EUROPEAN PLAYER: THE BOSNIAN WAR (1992-1995)
In April 1992, the government of the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence. In May, Bosnian Serb forces with the backing of Milosevic and the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army launched their offensive with a bombardment of Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo. The Bosnian War was marked by a string of massacres and atrocities, including the siege of Sarajevo, which lasted for 44 months from 1992-95. The Bosnian War was marked by ethnic cleansing, the deaths of around 100,000 civilians and soldiers, and millions displaced. In December of 1995, the Dayton peace accord created two entities of roughly equal size: one for Bosnian Muslims and Croats, the other for Serbs. An international peacekeeping force is deployed.

-Do you remember those dramatic events?

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Eric Pinzelli
Greece
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THE 102nd RUSSIAN MILITARY BASE IN ARMENIA
In 1997, Armenia signed a 25-year agreement with Russia that provided for significant Russian military presence, including 18 MiG-29 fighters in Yerevan, along with Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters, infantry, armor, artillery, air defense and other supporting regiments near the city of Gyumri (former Leninakan), subordinate to the North Caucasus Military District and a part of the Transcaucasian Group of Forces (with Headquarters at Tbilisi, Georgia). The total number of the servicemen of the 102nd Military Base is around 5000.
Russia’s military presence is a significant factor of its influence in the region and an important component of its security strategy. Both Armenia and Russia are members of the CSTO military alliance, as well as participants in the Joint CIS Air Defense System. The 102nd military base in Gyumri allows Russian border guards to patrol Armenia’s frontiers with Turkey and Iran. Armenia regards Russian military presence as a key element of its national security, a guarantor of its territorial integrity, while its air force relies upon Russian aircraft and the anti-aircraft missiles located in the military base for the defense of the Armenian airspace.

-Why do you think Russia keeps such an important military presence in the Caucasus?

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Eric Pinzelli
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THE VISEGRAD GROUP
The group, also known as V4, was formed in Visegrád (a medieval town in Hungary) on February 15, 1991 and is comprised of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. The main initiator and author of the project of the founding documents was the then president of Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel. At Visegrád the countries involved signed a Solemn Declaration on their commitment to achieving peace, security and development for their nations. At the time, it was mostly intended to shield the countries from the east and to advance membership of the EU and NATO. According to José Manuel Barosso, "the Visegrad Group see themselves as completing and reinforcing the work of existing structures in Europe, both at the EU and transatlantic level".

-How does the Visegrád group contributes to the stability of Central Europe?

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Eric Pinzelli
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GEORGIAN CIVIL WAR (1991-93)
In the early 1990s, separatist movements in Georgia, mostly Ossetians and Abkhaz, were encouraged by the Soviet Union in order to weaken Georgia that was about to leave the Union and intended to join NATO. When on January 5, 1991, Georgia’s National Guard entered Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, a three-way power struggle between Georgian, Ossetian and Soviet military forces broke out in the region.
On top of that, in December 1991, civil war also broke out in Tbilisi between Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia supporters and his opponents. Gamsakhurdia was overthrown, a Military Council took power in Tbilisi and assured the return of Eduard Shevardnadze, the last Soviet Foreign Affairs Minister. At the end of July 1992, UN delegated the peacekeeping mandate in Abkhazia to Russian troops. On August 14, 1992 the region self-proclaimed independence and in the following weeks Abkhaz and Russian paramilitaries launched an offensive that ended up in the final expulsion of all Georgian troops out of Abkhazia. Between 13,000 and 20,000 ethnic Georgians and approximately 3,000 Abkhaz were killed, more than 250,000 Georgians had to flee. Since the Sochi Agreement, and the official ceasefire, Russia dominates the collective peacekeeping missions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

-Without Russia, could a lasting peace exist in the Caucasus region?

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Eric Pinzelli
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THE VELVET DIVORCE (1993)
Although Czechoslovakia as a country existed from 1918 to 1993 (minus a period in WW2 in which Slovakia gained independence), Czechs and Slovaks have always been two separate nations. After multiple meetings and the failure to arrive at a common solution, then prime ministers of Czech and Slovak federative republics of Czechoslovakia Václav Klaus and Vladimir Mečiar met at Brno in August 1992 and agreed with dissolution. Negotiations had developed in such a peaceful manner as to earn the name «Velvet Divorce.» On December 31st, 1992 Czechoslovakia ceased to exist, Czech president Václav Havel resigned, Slovakia and the Czech Republic came into existence on January 1st, 1993. It was done without referendum or without any popular vote. Czech-Slovak relationships seem became better than ever.

-Do Czechs and Slovaks lament the splitting of Czechoslovakia? Does anybody want to return to being a larger unified nation?

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Andy Down
Wales
Blackwood
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Thank you for these fascinating reminders of our recent European history. It's so easy to forget what has occurred in the recent past, especially in these days of the global, non-stop media avalanche.
I can hardly wait for this game.
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Eric Pinzelli
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THE TRANSNISTRIA WAR (1990-92)
Transnistria (Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic) is an unrecognized state, a narrow strip of land caught between Moldova and Ukraine, the only state to still use the hammer and sickle on its flag!
The Trans-Dniester Republic proclaimed its secession from the Moldavian SSR in September 1990. A year later, when the USSR ceased to exist altogether, the Moldovian SSR declared its own independence, as did Transnistria. Fighting broke out between Russian-speaking Transnistrian rebels, Cossacks, mercenaries and finally the 14th Russian Army, against the ethnically-Romanian Moldovan police and military. Romania responded by sending weapons and military advisors to help the 30,000-strong Moldovan army. The fighting intensified in March 1992. In the middle of the chaos Russian Major General Alexander Lebed intervened with full military might and then used his position to broker a peace agreement, also providing protection to ethnic Russians. An uneasy yet lasting ceasefire was established on July 22, 1992. Russia retains a 1,200-strong Russian military contingent in Transnistria in and around the largest Transnistrian city of Tiraspol. On May 9, Transnistrians lay flowers to those who “defended Transnistria from the aggression of the Republic of Moldova.”

-Did you know that pro-Russian Transnistria is not recognized by any state? Will the Russian Federation annex that territory following a local referendum?

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Eric Pinzelli
Greece
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SOUTH-EAST EUROPEAN COOPERATION PROCESS (1996)
The South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) is the major central forum of Southeast Europe. It was initiated in 1996 at the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of SEECP held in Sofia/Bulgaria.
The forum brings together 13 member countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey. This regional cooperation forum aims at improving cooperation among the countries of the region and to bring lasting stability in South East Europe. The EU is the stimulant behind Balkan regional cooperation, as all the countries in the region are driven by the common goal of full integration of SEE into European and Euro-Atlantic structures.

-Why are South-East European nations striving to join the EU and NATO?

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Eric Pinzelli
Greece
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UNION STATE OF RUSSIA AND BELARUS
The strategic partnership between Belarus and Russia is based on the geographic location, close historic and cultural links between both peoples. Belarus is the most Russianized of the post-Soviet countries: Until 1917 Belarus was part of the Russian Empire, and since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, in sharp contrast to most of the other former states, Belarus has made only limited attempts to define itself as an independent entity. The last period of Belorussian statehood dated back to the Union of Lublin (1569).
An «Union State» initiated by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Belorussian President Alexander Lukashenko (a former Soviet army political officer) was created in a 1996–99 series of treaties and co-operation agreements. On April 2, 1996, the first Treaty Establishing the Commonwealth of Russia and Belarus was signed, and a year later, the Commonwealth was transformed into the Union of Belarus and Russia. The Union is intended to integrate Russia's and Belarus's social, scientific-technical, legal, military, foreign and economic policies, including the introduction of a single currency.

-Is the Union State susceptible to evolve into Belarus being eventually absorbed by Russia?

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Eric Pinzelli
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NATO-UKRAINE COMMISSION (1997)
Cooperation between NATO and Ukraine started after the end of the Cold War, when newly independent Ukraine joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (1991) and the Partnership for Peace programme (1994). On 9 July 1997, the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine was signed. It identified areas for consultation and cooperation, and established the NATO-Ukraine Commission. In the end of May 2002, the Ukrainian government officially abandoned Ukraine's long-pampered neutrality. On 24 September 2017 President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree stating that «the priority of national interest for Ukraine was a strategic partnership with the USA, EU and NATO». Popular opinion about joining NATO has risen substantially since 2014, when Russia intervened and annexed Crimea. According to a recent poll (2019), 46% of Ukrainians now support joining the alliance that Russia sees as a strategic threat.

-If Ukraine joins NATO, how would Russia react?

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Eric Pinzelli
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RUSSIA-AZERBAIJAN 2002 CASPIAN AGREEMENT
On 23 September 2002 Russian President Vladimir Putin and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev signed a bilateral agreement setting out the boundary between the two countries' sections of the oil and gas-rich Caspian Sea while phase two of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline had been inaugurated five days earlier.
The Caspian is estimated to hold the world's third-largest oil and gas reserves after the Persian Gulf and western Siberia: the world’s largest closed sea, the Caspian has about 50 billion barrels of oil and 300 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.
At the turn of the 20th century, Azerbaijan already accounted for half of the world’s oil production. Oil wells have been operating in Baku since the 1840s. During Soviet times, the USSR and Iran were the only two states bordering the Caspian. The Soviet-Iranian treaties of 1921 and 1940 regulated the ownership of the sea. With the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, with the addition of three more littoral states, questions of subsoil and seabed resources and export became a whole new international dispute. In May 2002, President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan had already signed a new protocol on demarcation of the Caspian Sea shelf. The two sides agreed to develop jointly three fields located on the median line between the two countries. Russia wants to ensure that most of the Caspian oil continues to go via its territories.

-Why is Russia so adamant to keep control of the Caspian sea through agreements with former Soviet republics and control of the export lines?

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Eric Pinzelli
Greece
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ORANGE REVOLUTION (2004-05)
The presidential election of 2004 brought Ukraine to the brink of disintegration and civil war. Mass protests lasting for two months, the so-called «Orange Revolution», helped bring to power pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko, who defeated his rival Viktor Yanukovych in a repeat run-off election. In November 2004 supporters of opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko demonstrated in the capital Kyiv dressed in orange, chanting «"Together, we are many! We cannot be defeated!». Kyiv turned orange, as the protesters adopted Yushchenko’s campaign color as their own. Viktor Yushchenko’s victory was cemented by the hundreds of thousands of people who cheered, stomped, blew horns and chanted at Independence Square during a confusing and chaotic presidential campaign. The orange revolution set a major new landmark in the post-communist history of eastern Europe, it is also the first example of an Internet-organized mass protest.

-Did you witness those events personally?

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Eric Pinzelli
Greece
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AZERBAIJANI DYNASTIC SUCCESSION (2003)
Heydar Aliyev, a former Soviet politburo member, leader of Soviet Azerbaijan, and President of Azerbaijan since 1993, stood down from the presidency at the start of October 2003 and appointed his son Ilham (born 1961) as his party's sole presidential candidate. The ailing Azerbaijani president had cleared the path for his son, integrating Ilham into the ruling New Azerbaijan Party's leadership and the country's governing hierarchy. In the first dynastic succession of the post-Soviet world, the official results of the October 15, 2003, presidential elections gave a large victory to Ilham Aliyev. Ilham accession to power and transfer of authority had been the result of a carefully prepared plan. Russia welcomed Aliyev's election extremely favorably. Even before the result of the elections, in September Russian President Vladimir Putin had already endorsed the candidacy of Ilham Aliyev by congratulating him on being appointed prime minister and declaring "Ilham Aliyev is the right choice". In December 2003 Heydar Aliyev died in a US hospital at age 80, his dynastic succession well established.

-After this dynastic transmission of power from father to son, is Azerbaijan still a democracy?

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Eric Pinzelli
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KOSOVO WAR (1998-99)
Kosovo was the last of the former Yugoslavian groups to declare its independence. Under Slobodan Milošević, fundamental rights were denied to Kosovo's Albanians (95% of the population at the time) in an effort to secure power for the region's Serbs. According to a 1995 survey, 43 percent of all Kosovar Albanians wanted to join Albania and the remaining 57 percent desired outright independence. The KLA, the (Kosovo Liberation Army) began actions for Kosovar independence. By mid-1998 the KLA was involved in frontal battle though it was outgunned. Kosovar civilians were among the victims, leading to a Western condemnation of Serbian actions. All the while, the Serbs pushed 250,000 ethnic Albanian Kosovars off their land. After internationally-mediated peace talks failed, NATO launched air strikes to force Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević to back down. Kosovo was placed under international administration and in 2008 declared independence from Serbia.

-Do you recall those events?

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Eric Pinzelli
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THE FAILED «JEANS REVOLUTION» IN BELARUS (2006)
The «Denim» or «Jeans Revolution» began in the Belarus capital in September of 2005 against the policies of President Alexander Lukashenko. The term was coined after activists wore denim pants, jackets, and shirts, and fastened denim ribbons, as a symbol of freedom and Western culture. Weeks before the 2006 Presidential elections, opposition leaders were arrested and election monitors were denied access to election results. By the end of election night on 19 March 2006 Lukashenko had won with an official result of 83% amid allegations of tampering. Despite the riot police’s actions the night before, protesters gathered in Minsk on 25 March 2006 to mark the anniversary of the independence in 1918. Thousands took to the streets, as the police had closed off October Square to prevent the gathering. Riot police clashed with the protesters and many activists were put to jail. The government was successful in suppressing the protest. Lukashenko who had declared in the past “In our country, there will be no pink or orange, nor even a banana revolution!», gained additional strength when Russia announced its support for Belarus’s president, condemning the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for being biased: It was clear that Moscow would not allow a color revolution in Belarus.

-How did President Lukashenko manage to prevent a color revolution in Belarus?

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Eric Pinzelli
Greece
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KOSOVO’S INDEPENDENCE (2008)
Nine years after NATO bombings forced Serbian forces out of the province, Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008. This controversial decision pitted two principles of international law against each other: the territorial integrity of states vs the peoples’ right to self-determination. Following the Kosovo War, the UN Security Council established an UN-led interim administration (UNMIK) and an international security force (KFOR). Belgrade was determined to preserve Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo while the Kosovars insisted on independence. Major European powers, including France, Germany and Britain, along with the United States, officially recognize Kosovo while this decision is rejected by Serbia, Russia and China, along with half of the UN member states.

-Why are so many countries opposed to Kosovo gaining its independence?

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Eric Pinzelli
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CYBERWARFARE WAGED ON ESTONIA (2007)
The 1947 monument to the Red Army (the so-called «Bronze soldier war memorial») which was in the middle of the Estonian capital of Tallinn had great symbolic value: For the Russian minority in the country, it was the legacy of the Soviet Era, while for many Estonians it was a constant reminder of foreign occupation. When in April 2007 the Estonian government decided to move away the controversial monument to a nearby military cemetery, violent protests erupted in Estonia and Russia, where Estonia's Moscow embassy was blockaded.
The 27th of April marked the beginning of cyber attacks that targeted components of the Estonian Internet infrastructure that was subjugated to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, website defacements, DNS server attacks, mass e-mail, and comment spam. The attacks lasted 22 days, leaving government, information and banking systems paralyzed.
These cyber attacks being considered a threat to national security, the Estonian government appealed to NATO for assistance. Estonia's Computer Emergency Response Team concentrated its efforts on protecting the most vital resources, closing down the sites under attack to foreign internet addresses, and keeping the sites only accessible to domestic users. Estonia blamed the Russian government for the attack, though Moscow denied any involvement.

-How can NATO respond to cyber threats from potential hostile nations?

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Eric Pinzelli
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ROSE REVOLUTION (2003)
The Revolution of Roses (or Rose Revolution) was a change of power in Georgia in November 2003, which took place after twenty days of protests over disputed parliamentary elections. Student demonstrators decided to give red roses to the soldiers. Many soldiers laid down their guns. As a result, President Eduard Shevardnadze announced his resignation on 23 November 2003, declaring that he wished to avert a bloody power struggle "so all this can end peacefully and there is no bloodshed and no casualties". In January 2004, Mikheil Saakashvili was elected president. The United States' opinion of the Rose Revolution is the mirror opposite of Russia's. For Western Europe and the United States, the Rose Revolution is viewed as an ideological and political victory, a success story for the promotion of democracy and U.S. foreign policy, while pro-Western orientation of President Saakashvili exacerbates Russia's irritation, triggering increasingly harsher reactions as Georgia gets closer to NATO.

-Do you remember what happened to Georgia after that?

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Eric Pinzelli
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THE RUSSO-GEORGIAN WAR (2008)
In August 2008, Russian forces of the North Caucasus Military District fought Georgian troops in a brief five-day war. While Georgia (which gained its independence in April 1991) is dominated by ethnic Georgians, the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain strongly attached to their Russian heritage.
On 8 August 2008, Russia blamed Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's president, for ordering forces to attack civilians in South Ossetia while Georgia claimed that separatists in the breakaway region had shelled nearby villages to provoke a response from Russia, which arrived swiftly as Russia committed immediately 35,000 troops. Tskhinvali, the capital of the self-proclaimed republic of South Ossetia, was seized by the Russian military by 10 August, while the Russian Black Sea Fleet blockaded the Georgian coast. At the same time, internet turned into a battleground as Russian cyber-attacks neutralized Georgia’s use of the internet and its ability to communicate. President of France Nicolas Sarkozy negotiated a ceasefire agreement on 12 August 2008. On 17 August, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev announced that Russian forces would begin to pull out of Georgia the following day. Hundreds of people, servicemen and civilians on both sides had been killed. Subsequently, ethnic Georgians were expelled from South Ossetia and most of the Georgian villages were razed. Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as separate republics on 26 August. European Union nations were divided on how to deal with the conflict. Russia's invasion of Georgia had given it a new geopolitical foothold in the Caucasus. Moscow was back to global prominence, after decades of weakness in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse.

-Why didn't the US or NATO intervene during the Russian invasion of Georgia?

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Eric Pinzelli
Greece
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BALTIC AIR POLICING (since 2004)
Allies have been taking turns to police Baltic airspace since March 2004, when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO. Since then, 14 NATO Allies have deployed a total of 34 contingents. The mission is carried out in various rotations, typically lasting two to four months, and is part of the NATO Integrated Air Defense System. NATO has 100 permanent support personnel assigned to Šiauliai Air Base of the Lithuanian Air Force. The air assets deployed on the mission are ready to scramble at short notice and take deterrent or other actions against any trespassers. These have to frequently react on provocative flights of the Russian air forces in that region.

-Did you take part in these missions yourself?

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Eric Pinzelli
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RUSSIA-UKRAINE GAS DISPUTES (since 2005)
Russia and Ukraine remain bound to each other by Soviet-era infrastructure. Four-fifths of Russian Gazprom’s exports to Europe, its prime source of revenue, go through Ukraine’s pipelines. When Ukraine became independent in 1991 and took over the part of the network on its territory, local customers started paying their gas to Kyiv (Naftogaz) rather to Moscow (Gazprom), both state-owned companies. Ever since the Soviet breakup Russia and Ukraine have been quarreling about the details of natural gas deliveries, volumes, prices, transit terms and the growing Ukrainian debt.
Things got worse when the Ukraine's Orange Revolution of 2004 brought to power a government hostile to Russia: Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko intended to see his country join the European Union and NATO, which was unacceptable to Moscow. In the midst of growing tensions, Russia began to steadily raise the price of its natural gas supplied to Ukraine. From Gazprom’s standpoint, Russia had subsidized Ukraine to the amount of $47bn, mainly in the form of lower-than market prices for gas. Ukraine was presented as an unreliable transit partner and accused of stealing Gazprom gas intended for Europe.
In 2005 Gazprom tried to force the Ukrainians to pay for gas by withholding supplies. Naftogaz responded by hindering the transport of gas intended for Europe. Reduction in supplies to Ukraine in 2006 caused a drop in pressure throughout Europe’s integrated natural gas pipeline system and led to shortages in countries as far away as Italy and France. The temporary delivery interruptions that caused shortages in exports to Western Europe shook these countries to the core, it was the most confrontational move by Russia since the August war in Georgia. European states are increasingly concerned about their growing dependence on Russian gas which has turned into a geopolitical weapon.

-How can EU countries, threatened by supply disruptions and punitive prices increases reduce their dependence on Russian gas, a source of power for Moscow?

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BAKU-TBILISI-CEYHAN PIPELINE (2006-?)
The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Export Oil Pipeline (BTC) is 1768km long, from the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli oil field in the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The pipeline is owned by a consortium of energy companies led by BP. With BTC, the U.S. supported by Europe weakens Russia’s dominance over the energy rich former Soviet republics of the South Caucasus, previously seen as Russia’s backyard, and undermines Russian leadership over oil and gas transportation. US strategy toward Russia and Iran is to dominate Central Asian oil and gas resources, and associated pipeline routes, providing the foundation for stronger ties between the US and regional states. Azerbaijan has become a close partner of the United States, while Turkey intends to use the BTC asset as a tool to tame Russia. Since the pipeline became operational in June 2006 till the end of 2018, it carried a total of about 3.12 billion barrels (around 417 million tonnes) of crude oil loaded on 4,085 tankers and sent to western markets.

-How did Russia felt threatened in this episode of the new energy wars?

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REGIONAL FORCES GROUP OF BELARUS AND RUSSIA (since 2009)
In 1999-2000, the Belarusian and Russian governments agreed to establish the Regional Group of Belarusian and Russian troops. In the context of NATO expansion, Alexander Lukashenko proposed to establish a 300,000 strong joint military group to provide military security for Belarus and the adjoining Russian regions, as well as Kaliningrad, with the ability to move rapidly into the Baltic Sea. The agreement authorized Russian troops in Belarusian territory, and thus closer to Eastern Europe.
Belarus is a key part of Russia’s security strategy while Minsk views Moscow as its principal strategic military partner. The two countries share a joint air defense system (effective since 2013). Meetings at the highest level are held annually as well as joint strategic, battle and counter-terrorist training. They also have held joint military exercises (a Soviet era tradition since 1973) every four years since 2009: «Zapad» (West) 2009, 2013, and 2017. Russia has two military facilities in Belarus but hopes to strengthen its military presence. Belarus and Russia have made agreements on integrating their militarily further under the auspices of the Union State.

-Are these large military exercises a direct threat to Europe?

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Eric Pinzelli
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"GRAPE REVOLUTION" IN MOLDOVA, 2009
Moldova used to be one of the richest states in the former Soviet Union. Since the independence, the country suffers from economic decline and instability while the population is divided between those wanting unification with Romania, and those wanting to keep what are also longstanding links with Russia.
In 7 April 2009, more than 10,000 demonstrators attempted to storm the presidential palace and parliament to dispute the results of parliamentary elections. The protests came after an election commission confirmed that Vladimir Voronin's (in office since 2001) Communist party had again won the elections. The events were known as the «Grape Revolution» in reference to Moldova's flagship natural resource. It was also called «Twitter Revolution», due to the young crowd using the popular networking service to assemble the rally. Protesters clashed violently with the police, ransacking government buildings. Russia's foreign ministry declared that the riots were a plot aimed at undermining Moldova's sovereignty and accused Romania. During the 2-days unrest, more than 270 people were injured and 193 were arrested.
The police crackdown of the civil unrest antagonized the society, and the communists were unable to secure a parliamentary majority, snap parliamentary elections became necessary. Voronin resigned in September 2009 while an «Alliance for European Integration» pushed the Communist party into opposition.

-With a population so divided, can Moldova join the E.U.?


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