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Russia Military Buildup Threatens Europe’s Security Architecture

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Russia is threatening Ukraine and putting into question Europe’s security architecture. This week in Brest, EU Foreign and Defence Ministers are meeting: we should be united, clear about what we want and, above all, what we intend to do.

Russia has addressed to the United States and NATO proposals on the future of security in Europe that contravene the principles of the European security architecture. They are accompanied by a military build-up on the border of Ukraine and the open threat by Russia of taking military actions if these demands are not met.

“Two things are clear: we have to come to a united EU position and we have to substantiate our role, backing it up with concrete action tracks, i.e. not just on what we think or want but on what we intend to do.”

Working with the US and NATO, the EU must now define what we can do to uphold the security order of Europe and the principles underpinning it – which are clearly under threat today.

This issue is on top of the agenda of the meeting of EU Foreign and Defence Ministers in Brest this week. Going into that meeting, two things are clear: we have to come to a united EU position and we have to substantiate our role, backing it up with concrete action tracks, i.e. not just on what we think or want but on what we intend to do.

The ambition of the Russian authorities is to challenge the political and security order born after the Cold War. Moscow wants to go back on the NATO-Russia founding act of 1997, which accompanied NATO’s enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe; the Paris Charter of 1990, which codified the principles for European security after the end of the Cold War.

There are three principles that Russia has previously accepted and that it now puts into question. The first is the right of each state to freely choose to belong, or not to belong, to an international organisation and to be a party to treaties or alliances, as recognised by the Paris Charter.

By challenging this fundamental principle, Moscow is acting as a revisionist power. In Russia’s eyes, this prohibition would not only apply to countries of the former Soviet Union but also to EU member states like Sweden or Finland.

“Russia is not merely making assertions but accompanying this with growing military pressure on the Ukrainian border and by threatening Kyiv with a new intervention unless its demands are met in full.”

The second and the third are the non-use of force and the respect for the territorial integrity of all states. Russia is violating these three fundamental principles in Ukraine, as it has already done in Georgia. And Russia is not merely making assertions but accompanying this with growing military pressure on the Ukrainian border and by threatening Kyiv with a new intervention unless its demands are met in full.

In addition, Russia wants to portray the European Union as irrelevant and push for a strategic decoupling between the United States and Europe. It also seeks our acceptance of it having a decisive influence over Ukraine and Belarus, not to mention Central Asia.

The fact that Central Asia is included in the stated perimeter of Russian security confirms that the question of NATO is a pretext, since no Central Asian state is a candidate for NATO membership.

In short, reconstituting the Soviet geopolitical glacis in Europe and trying for a decoupling between the United States and Europe could be the strategic objectives of Moscow.

They are clearly unacceptable. But why should we still discuss these with Moscow? First, because not discussing never helps. This week an initial set of discussions took place: on Monday between the US and Russia in Geneva, followed by NATO-Russia talks in Brussels on Wednesday.

The positions remain far apart but we can envisage a continuation of a series of intense, multi-layered talks and consultations in which the EU will continue to play its full part.

I have spoken with Secretary Blinken last weekend and will do so again after the Gymnich meeting, EU-NATO coordination is strong at all levels, the EEAS Secretary General Sannino spoke with US Deputy Secretary Sherman and OSCE Secretary General Schmid. During this week’s informal Foreign and Defence Ministers meetings in Brest, we will work on the EU’s precise role and contribution.

We need to come with clear positions on what we want to achieve in these discussions on Europe’s security architecture, and, even more, with clear actions and contributions.

To achieve this aim, we Europeans must be united and formulate our answer in case Russia carries out its threats to Ukraine or the wider European security order.

When it comes to substance, one can of course discuss with Russia the security arrangements in Europe and how to improve them. The first task will be to return to the general principles of the security architecture as they derive from the Helsinki Charter, the Paris Charter, the NATO-Russia agreement, or the OSCE Vienna document on confidence-building measures.

The second is the establishment of a more effective crisis management mechanism with Russia, an area in which the EU has a great deal of experience. With good faith, it should be possible to make progress in this area.

The third is the establishment of permanent and operational conflict prevention mechanisms and confidence building measures so that the conduct of all parties is not misinterpreted, particularly with regard to military manoeuvres.

When it comes to EU-Russia relations itself, EU leaders have already said that any further move against Ukraine would carry real costs and massive consequences.

In addition to adopting a coordinated set of sanctions, we should also be ready to accelerate different actions tracks within the overall framework of ‘pushing back, containing and engaging’ Russia.

We are not a military alliance but we do have ways and means to advance our security interests and that of our partners.

“We need to seize the opportunity of this crisis with Russia to strengthen our unity and determination, to defend our security interests and that of the continent as a whole.”

This includes being prepared to scale up our work on countering disinformation and cyber threats emanating from Russia; strengthening our resilience and energy security through faster development of renewables at home and greater diversification of routes and sources for imports; and stepping up our support to Ukraine and its sovereignty so that it is better able to resist Russian pressures.

Together with NATO and the OSCE, the European Union is a key player in European security. We need to seize the opportunity of this crisis with Russia to strengthen our unity and determination, to defend our security interests and that of the continent as a whole.

 

Editors note: Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission

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Politics

Kampala Releases 58 Rwandans From Detention

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Taarifa investigative desk has reliably learned that the government of Uganda has freed a total of 58 Rwandans that have been languishing in detention centres run by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).

A local news website in Kampala with close links to the Ugandan intelligence quoted what it referred to as  a top intelligence source in Uganda on condition of anonymity that the matters between the two countries are being handled at the highest level.

“This is why it is difficult to know what is going on until you see information being released to the press,” the source added.

The same website quoted an un-named source in Kigali also on condition of anonymity that “Uganda has started releasing Rwandans. Last night, 58 were sent back home to Rwanda.”

Rwanda has persistently demanded and conditioned Uganda to release Rwandans detained in various detention centers as a condition for reopening the border and restoring relations.

Signs of normalising relations between the two countries started blinking when President Yoweri Museveni recently handed a special message to Adonia Ayebare, Uganda’s ambassador and permanent representative at the UN to deliver it to President Paul Kagame.

Days later, Museveni sent to Kigali another high profile official also his own son, Lt. General Muhoozi Kainerugaba Senior Presidential Advisor on Special Duties and Commander of Land Forces of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF).

At the current level, there are signs that the two governments are working back to back behind curtains to fix any unresolved concerns and revive positive relations.

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Politics

Sudanese Activist Against Oppression of Women Arrested

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The family of the head of the “No to Oppression of Women” group, Amira Osman said they ignore the whereabouts of the detained activist and called for her release.

On January 22, over 20 security agents stormed Osman’s house in Khartoum late in the evening and took her to an unidentified location. Her family said the armed men did not disclose to which security service they belong.

Amani Osman; a lawyer and Amira’s sister told reporters on Tuesday that they went to lodge a complaint at the police station but they refused and advised them to go to the General Intelligence Service (GIS) which arrested the activist.

She further added that the GIS denied having detaining her sister saying she was held at the women’s prison in Omdurman.

However, the family later learnt that she was not in prison.

“Now, my sister’s whereabouts are unknown,” she concluded.

For its part, her attending physician, Ihsan Fiqiri, spoke about her health condition.

She said that the detainee is partially disabled after a major automobile accident several years ago and as such, she needs special treatment.

“We believe her life is in danger,” she stressed.

The doctor called on the international community and human rights groups to put pressure on the Sudanese military authorities to free the activist.

Within their efforts to end the anti-coup protests, Sudanese authorities have arrested activists to prevent them from mobilizing civil society groups.

 

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Ugandan Parliament Suspends Funding for Joint FARDC-UPDF

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Ugandan parliamentarians have suspended funding for operations of the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) in the Democratic Republic of Congo for lack of prior information by the government on the “Shujja” operations carried out against the ADF.

As in the DRC, the Ugandan parliament was not informed beforehand of the launch of the “Shujja” operations against the ADF.

For this violation of the rules, the deputies have suspended the financing of these operations until they are informed

Uganda’s Ministry of Defense had requested 89.7 billion shillings to fund the operation, but MPs said informing parliament should precede the commitment of public funds to the operation.

“During the deployment of the UPDF in the DRC, parliament was bypassed. We don’t know how many battalions are in the Congo. We have the right to know the exit strategy and casualty reports on our side,” said opposition leader John Baptist Nambese, in remarks relayed by Baraza Media.

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