Border disputes spreading and intensifying in Eastern Europe, Moscow scholar says

The announcement three weeks ago that Prague is prepared to transfer 360 hectares of territory to Poland in the Těšín Silesia area is the latest indication that the border changes in the former Soviet and Yugoslav spaces are sparking new questions about borders in the northern portion of Eastern Europe, according to Aleksey Fenenko.

On March 6, the Moscow State University international relations specialist notes in an article in NG-Dipkuryer, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Subotka announced the transfer, something he said would end a territorial dispute between the two countries that has been going on since 1958.

Because Subotka provided no additional details and because the amount of land involved was so small, his words attracted relatively little attention. But Fenenko argues that border disputes are endemic in the region and that “the wave of de-Stalinization” at the end of the 20th century “has led to the de-legitimization of the borders of the 1940s.”

That is because, he continues, “for public opinion of these countries, references to the fact that the borders were established by ‘Stalin’s USSR’ is sufficient to recognize their illegitimacy.” The EU has been able to quiet “but not stop the process of their review.” And after the Těšín Silesia case, “the process is starting to take on a practical character.”

“Up to the present,” Fenenko says, “border changes have taken place in the Balkans and the territory of the former USSR. In Central Europe, on the contrary, the borders of the 1940s have been preserved.” He suggests that “the disintegration of Czechoslovakia … did not change the situation since it occurred quickly along administrative borders within the country.”

Now, however, “the situation is changing,” the Moscow specialist says, as the Těšín Silesia shows. Warsaw and Prague, under pressure from the Entente agreed to the border in 1920. But both sides had problems with it, and immediately after Munich in 1938, Poland demanded and got a border adjustment in its favor.

In 1947, following the Soviet occupation of the entire area, Poland and Czechoslovakia signed an accord that largely restored the 1920 border; but Poland later tried to make greater changes, something Czechoslovakia rejected. In any case, the small adjustment announced now highlights the reality that “Poland and the Czech Republic have a problem” with borders.

The 1938 Munich agreement between Hitler and Chamberlain is “traditionally viewed in Europe exclusively in a negative way.” Any reference to it, including by Moscow, Fenenko says, represents a kind of “’red line’” that must not be crossed. But Prague’s action this month has the effect of implicitly and partially rehabilitating of part of Munich.

Disputes

Could this prompt other countries in Central Europe, and especially Hungary, to raise similar issues, Fenenko asks. The answer is far from clear. Germany isn’t going to question its borders: the current ones are too much part of that country’s self-definition. But the situation with regard to Lithuania may be different.

The current Polish-Lithuanian border follows a line established by the Soviet-Polish treaty of August 16, 1945, but “problems of the border delimitation between Poland and Lithuania remain,” the Moscow scholar says, with each side having claims to portions now within the borders of the other.

On the one hand, many in Lithuania consider portions of Poland and Russia’s Kaliningrad oblast to be part of Little Lithuania. And many Poles still remember when Vilnius was within Poland, not Lithuania. As a result, Fenenko says, “Warsaw could activate discussions about the principles of the delimitation” of the border.

There is also the possibility of disputes between Poland and Ukraine. According to the 1945 Soviet-Polish treaty, Poland gave up territories to the Ukrainian SSR;” and “officially, Warsaw has refrained from advancing demands on Ukraine.” But that doesn’t end Ukraine’s western border problems: it also has them with Moldova.

The most serious set of border issues involve Hungary and Hungarians. After 1945, some of Hungary’s lands were handed over to Romania, others to Yugoslavia, still others to Czechoslovakia and the USSR. In 1991, Budapest began talking about the formation of “a Greater Hungary” that would reunite all of these.

The US blocked that at the time by promising Hungary eventual NATO membership if it refrained. But, Fenenko points out, “over the last few years,” discussions of this kind in Budapest have “intensified.” Budapest now has problems with Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine, problems it has exacerbated by demanding autonomy and offering dual citizenship to ethnic Hungarians.

Now, given “the precedent of the Polish-Czech negotiations,” the Moscow specialist continues, “Budapest in the future may achieve the establishment of a negotiation framework with Ukraine about the provision of particular rights to Hungarians” in that country.

Conclusions

Fenenko’s article is important for three reasons: First, it is clearly an effort to set the stage for Russian demands for border changes by suggesting that this is not a “Moscow problem.” Second, it suggests that some in the Russian capital are interested in promoting such conflicts as a way of expanding Moscow’s influence over the region.

And third, it is a reminder that the West, having failed to stop Russia’s “territorial” adjustments in Georgia in 2008 or in Ukraine in 2014, has opened the door not only to Vladimir Putin but to other leaders around the world who may decide that the era of fixed borders is over and that they have everything to gain by seeking to expand their own.

United Kingdom & Emirates strike deals with Ukraine to arm and instruct military

The United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates have struck substantial deals to better equip Ukraine’s armed forces as the country seeks to rapidly equip, train, and modernize its military in the face of war with Russia. In separate deals, the UAE will supply Ukraine with armaments and military hardware, while the Britain will provide necessary medical, intelligence, logistics and infantry training.

The deployment of up to 75 British Armed Forces personnel to Ukraine will begin as soon as next week as part of what the Ministry of Defense called a “training mission.” While a seemingly small contingent, the deployment of British troops to Ukraine would mark a significant boost in assistance relative to the benign non-lethal aid received to date.

“Over the course of the next month we’re going to be deploying British service personnel to provide advice and a range of training, to tactical intelligence to logistics, to medical care,” British Prime Minister Cameron told lawmakers during a session of parliament. “We’ll also be developing an infantry training program with Ukraine to improve the durability of their forces.”

In parallel to Cameron’s statements, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the signing of a deal on military and technical cooperation with the United Arab Emirates during a tour of the IDEX 2015 arms expo in Abu Dhabi. Details on the much needed arms deal were scarce, with Ukrainian interior minister Anton Herashchenko vaguely noting it would involve the “delivery of certain types of armaments and military hardware to Ukraine.”

Ukrainian and UAE companies have previously worked together in the development and production of BTR-3 personnel carriers. Notably, the UAE Army maintains the second largest detachment of Russian-made BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles in the world outside of Russia.

Poroshenko had also reportedly planned to meet with chief Pentagon weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, at the show with the intent of finally securing U.S. weaponry to defend Ukraine from the ongoing Russian invasion.

In addition, Ukrainian companies were involved in several multi-million dollar contracts, including joint development of Superhind Mi-24 attack helicopters with a South African firm, as the country aims to expedite its military modernization process, Poroshenko later said in a news release. Ukraine’s Air Force has been battered in the conflict.

The Ukraine deals coincide with a flurry of activity to bolster military support in the Baltics, with Lithuania announcing a planned reintroduction of military conscription. The Lithuanian government’s motion will see its armed forces increase by 45% in size. Meanwhile, U.S. Soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment took part in a joint parade with Estonian forces in Narva, a city directly on the border with Russia. It was the second time U.S. forces took part in the annual parade, marking the 97th anniversary of Estonian Independence.

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U.S. forces in Narva, Estonia during the military parade

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Lithuanian consul murdered by Russian-backed terrorists

Lithuania’s Honorary Consul in Luhansk was murdered today by Russian-backed terrorists. Shortly after the announcement, a tweet was sent out by the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Linas Linkevicius, saying that the consul, Ukrainian businessman Mykola Zelenets, was “kidnapped and brutally killed by terrorists.”

“We lost a sincere friend of Lithuania and Ukraine […] who had a lot of plans for the development of the two countries, including cultural and business ties. We condemn this crime and we believe that it will be investigated and those responsible prosecuted and punished persons.” the Ministry said in a written statement.

The President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite also expressed her condolences. “I am shocked by the news..myself and the people of Lithuania on behalf of the deceased to express condolences to the family and loved ones, ” said the President.

According to the Lithuanian Ambassador to Ukraine Peter Vaitiekűnas, Zelenets was kidnapped 12 days prior by a group of armed terrorists, his whereabouts since unknown. He was then shot.

Update:

Below is the official statement by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Abduction and murder of the Honorary consul of Lithuania in Luhansk Mykola Zelenets was confirmed today. This tragedy happened as result of criminal actions of the Russia-backed terrorists. At their hands suffer residents of Donbas region, hundreds of citizens of Ukraine and other countries of the world have been murdered.

We extend our condolences to the relatives of the deceased and to the friendly people of Lithuania.

We will take all efforts to bring those murders to justice.[/box]

Mykola Zelenec © cxid.info nuotr.
Mykola Zelenets © cxid.info nuotr.

Russian colonel Zhirinovsky threatens "total annihilation" of Baltics & Poland

Appearing on a talkshow on Russia’s Rossiya 24 network, Colonel Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), issued a series of threats towards the European Union’s easternmost states.

On the show, Zhirinovsky, who is known for his controversial statements, threatened and suggested launching pre-emptive strikes against the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, as well as Poland. He justified the remarks by suggesting that Russia “cannot allow” peripheral nations’ missile defenses and air forces to be within striking distance of Russia, and that Russia should seek to destroy them ‘a half hour before they launch.’

The language used in the broadcast was especially inciteful, not only calling for the carpet bombing of the four countries, but their entire annihilation.

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“What will remain of the Baltics? Nothing will remain…in Poland, the Baltics, they are doomed. They’ll be wiped out.”

“Let the leaders of these dwarf states reconsider this. Eastern European states will place themselves under the threat of total annihilation, and only they will be to blame.”

“…we’ll have to teach them the lessons of May 1945.”

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Recall that Zhirinovsky has personally aided Russian insurgent groups in Luhansk, and his party has openly set up terrorist training camps in the embattled Luhansk region. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry launched criminal charges against him in July for financing these groups.

The LDPR is Russia’s fourth largest political party.

Russia Sanctions Lithuania for Supporting Ukraine

Russia has imposed sanctions against Lithuania and embargoed the port of Klaipeda in response to its foreign policy with Ukraine

On Thursday morning the Lithuanian parliament condemned the military aggression of the Russian Federation in Ukraine and its occupation of the territory of a sovereign country. The parliament said that it strongly supports the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine and expressed political solidarity with the new Ukrainian authorities; they also supported sanctions against Russia, while favoring visa liberalization and the early signing of the European Union Association Agreement with Ukraine slated for next week.

In response, Russia has temporarily suspended the import of food products into the Customs Union. If a Western (specifically, American) company wants to deliver goods through Lithuania to Russia or a Customs Union state, Russian officials will order it to go “through other ports which do not belong to Lithuania [or] to certain other countries,” according to Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius. Russian media calls Lithuania’s pro-Ukrainian policy “anti-Russian.”

[one_fourth]Lithuania’s exports to Russia amount for a fifth of its total exports and remain an integral part of its economy.[/one_fourth]

“This is a way for Russia to show that having political positions which do not meet their interests are punished in some way,” said Robertas Dargis, president of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists. “In Lithuania’s case, punishment is usually through economic means, which we saw many times previously.”

Prime Minister Butkevicius said that because of Russia’s actions, all the terminals of the Klaipeda port can neither “export nor re-export or import.”

On Friday, a cooperation and partnership agreement was signed between the Klaipeda State Seaport and the Port of Houston, Texas.

“Although these Russian commentators do not say so, what Moscow is doing in Klaipeda is not only an act of revenge against Lithuania but a test of Western and especially NATO resolve.  In the absence of a clear and forceful response, more such testing of the alliance is unfortunately likely in the coming days.” said political analyst Paul Goble.