The spy affair involving the top Russophile in Bulgaria – Nikolay Malinov, has received an ominous turn in the last three days. Mr. Malinov was miraculously granted a three-day exemption from the ban to leave the country, allowing him to fly to Moscow and receive a Soviet time Оrder of Friendship from President Putin. The motives are clear – for outstanding contributions to the Russian nation. Mr. Malinov is what ideally fits into the term ‘Russian agent of influence.’ The invitation and the ceremony were all carefully staged showcase of Vladimir Putin’s imperial hiatus. In the case of Mr. Malinov, it was a clear case of marked red lines the Bulgarian PM Borissov should not cross. The most intriguing part of the story is the five-minute
Shortly after the October 20th visit of the head of Russia’s Civil Intelligence Sergey Naryshkin, an S-400 division and Panzer rocket-artillery system arrived in Serbia. They are supposed to take part in the second part of the joint military drills ‘Slavic shield – 2019’ that will span October 23-29th. The news generated fresh concerns about a possible permanent deployment of the S-400, leading to widespread geopolitical repercussions. More than 200 Serbian military experts were flown to Russia two months ago to take part in the first leg of the ‘Slavic Shield-2019’ military drills in the region of Astrakhan, which included training and live-fire tests with S-400. This summer, NATO-member Romania banned the river transport of Russian armored vehicles to Serbia. Russia then flew them over NATO member
The effect of LNG and newly sourced gas in the Southern Gas Corridor will spread across the CEE and the SEE and put the heat on Russia’s gas monopoly. In other words, if hidden and overt preferential treatment for Gazexport is revoked, this will result in lower prices or market shares for the incumbent monopoly. Reverse supplies via the Trans-Balkan Pipeline could start as early as January 1st, 2020, bringing gas from Turkey, Greece, and the Southern Gas Corridor to clients in Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, and Slovakia even before Turk Stream gas crosses the Bulgarian border. Demand for Nord Stream-2 south and eastbound gas exports via Opal and Eugal gas pipelines should wane with lower price differentials amid rising competition from the Southern Gas Corridor and LNG.
Sanctions on their own won’t stop Nord Stream-2, the market, and the EU directives can obliterate the effect sought by the Kremlin and turn what President Putin perceives as an asset into a liability. Gas pipelines are not a threat – politicians like Putin certainly are. The national security line in addressing the issues starts from the basics – Is Russia a threat? Perceptions matter. For many politicians in old Europe, located in offices at a safe distance from Russia, the threat notion is vague, remote, and academic. They do not discern Putin’s Russia as a threat. Perception matter. For many politics in old Europe. For the Austrian business, born and bred in brokering deals between Russia and Eastern Europe, this is routine and legitimate “business”.
President Putin’s address to the Valdai forum This year the Valdai forum gained in high-level profile – foreign heads of states attended the year’s plenary session, starring President Putin’s keynote address and his answers in the Q&A follow-up. The new old message – the pivot of the world is shifting to the East, and Russia is shifting its foreign policy alongside. One could mistakenly take Putin’s words at face value and deduct Russia is less interested in Europe and the West. Suffice it to dissect this into the strategic backdrop of the new cordial entente with Macron’s France and Trump’s America. Do not take Valdai’s communications wrong – although the speakers were invited to discuss the longer-term horizon, not an inch of what they covered contradicts or
So far so good for Volodymyr Zelensky as actual, rather than fictional, president of Ukraine. Or so it seems. Earlier this month, weeks after securing an unprecedented parliamentary majority to back his presidential mandate, Zelensky stood on the tarmac of Kyiv’s Boryspil Airport greeting freed prisoners returning home from Russia. It was a dramatic scene with Zelensky playing a key supporting, if not starring, role. In addition to getting back film director Oleh Sentsov, who had become a renowned political prisoner, the Ukrainian sailors who were captured by Russian forces in the Kerch Strait also returned home. This made for a joyous occasion in Kyiv. Zelensky’s approval rating is sky high, with a recent poll putting it above 70 percent. The prisoner swap certainly doesn’t
On September 3, an event of historic significance occurred. Few have grasped the historic footprint of what should have been a standard diplomatic disagreement between the Russian Embassy in Sofia and the Bulgarian MFA. This date will remain in the annals of history, if not as a marker of the end of the transition from Soviet to European type of self-consciousness in Bulgaria, as the first formal challenge of the Bulgarian authorities to the monopoly of the Soviet narrative on the Soviet-Bulgarian history around and after September 9th, 1944. The case that triggered the whole story was the exhibition “75 Years since the Liberation of Eastern Europe from Nazism”, organized by the Russian Embassy in Bulgaria, which is part of a major global undertaking by the Russian MFA