Photo : Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
03 April 2023, Monday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #477
By Padmashree Anandhan
Finland: Turkey greenlights its membership into NATO
On 30 March, Turkey’s General Assembly voted in favour of Finland to join NATO. It becomes the 30th NATO member to ratify after Hungary approved the same on 27 March. According to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party’s legislator: “As a NATO member, we naturally had some expectations and requests regarding the security concerns of our country.” Finland and Sweden which jointly applied for NATO membership in May 2022 was blocked by Turkey and Hungary citing the extradition of Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) categorized as terrorists by the EU and the US, combat against terrorism, and cooperation over arms exports.
On 30 March, Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö said: “Finland will be a strong and capable Ally, committed to the security of the Alliance.” On the same NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg appreciated Turkey’s ratification: “I welcome the vote of the Grand National Assembly of #Türkiye to complete the ratification of #Finland’s accession. This will make the whole #NATO family stronger & safer.”
Sweden denying to extradite the PKK terrorists and burning of a Quran triggered more gap in Turkey agreeing to Sweden’s accession into NATO. This led Finland to pass a legislation on 01 March to go ahead alone with the membership process upon the condition of ratification by Turkey and Hungary.
What are the issues?
First, Turkey’s pressure points. One of the key reason behind the block was the extradition of PKK terrorists, since Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will face elections in May, to keep the domestic pressure off, stressing on the extradition was necessary. Next would be the long standing demand for F-16 fighter jets from the US which was put in the back seat after Turkey purchased Russia’s S-400 missile system. Lastly its complex but close relations with Russia in terms of its engagement in northern Syria, energy imports, and financial loans had kept it away from the approval. This has taken slight shift in past years upon Erdogan taking the “transactional” foreign policy approach.
Second, Finland’s accession into NATO. Finland which is know for the military neutrality, especially during the cold war became the member of the EU and collaborated with NATO in the peace programme, and exercises. The Ukraine war became the spark point to re-think its stance as it shared a direct border with Russia. Although the goal was to join along with Sweden, considering the security threat Finland along with Turkey and Sweden signed a trilateral memorandum to close down the negations to enter NATO. Compared to Sweden, Finland was swiftly able detach itself from Sweden to join NATO alone and convinced Turkey into accepting its bid. This was through combatting terrorism and disinformation through new anti-terror laws, extradition of PKK individuals, granted first commercial export license to Turkey for military material. Upon the ratification, with completing the remaining procedures Finland is set to join NATO soon.
Third, European security. Finland’s membership into NATO is not just to secure the regional security but also adds 800 miles into NATO’s border extensing into the Baltic sea and arctic. Along with the ground advantage, Finland and Sweden are known for its “first-rate military forces,” especially Finland’s artillery forces. For Finland upon joining NATO meet its immediate threat of securing its 1300 kilometers border with Russia through a “mutual defence” guarantee.
What does this mean?
First, military advantage for NATO. Finland membership places NATO in an militarily strategic position to expand its exercises across the Baltic Sea and arctic. Although this heightens the risk of direct border with Russia, NATO has to ensure in preventing escalation. It’s access into Finland’s defence ministry and decision making guarantee’s security of Finland.
Second, From the Ukraine war point of view, it would be backlash for Russia, as Finland joining NATO has brought it more closer. Therefore the new red lines will push for new possibilities for Russia to re-strategize its position in the northern Europe and NATO’s operations in Finland.
War in Ukraine: Day 402 & 403
By Padmashree Anandhan
War on the Ground
On 01 April, Ukraine President’s Chief of Staff, Andriy Yermak commented on Russia holding the presidency of the UNSC as: “Symbolic blow to the rules-based system of international relations.” On the same Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytri Kuleba criticised the move and urged the council members to ensure Russia does not “abuse its presidency.”
On 01 April, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a decree imposing sanctions on companies, organisations and individuals who were found to be supporting Russia in the invasion. The sanctions target the “armament factories, military research institutes, Russia’s Foreign Ministry and the Federation Council,” applicable for 10 years. In the sanction list, Iran’s revolutionary guards were also included under the suspect of providing Kamikaze drones to Russia.
The Moscow View
Claims by Russia
On 01 April, Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu promised to boost the “munition supplies” to the Russian forces present in Ukraine. In a statement he said: “The volume of supplies of the most demanded ammunition has been determined. Necessary measures are being taken to increase them.”
On 02 April, Russia state investigative committee announced the death of 19 in a blast that took place in St. Petersburg café. In the blast, a Russian military blogger was reported to have died. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming Ukraine for triggering “domestic terrorism.” Russia’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the bombing as a “terrorist act.”
On 02 April, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was reported to have held a phone call with US Secretary of the State Antony Blinken. They discussed on creating smooth environment for the operation of diplomatic missions.
The West View
Responses from the US and Europe
On 01 April, the UK Ministry of Defence in its intelligence update made remarks on Russia’s progress in the Donbas region. The Ministry observed from the appointment of the Russia’s Chief who was to carry out the winter offensive to expand Russia’s control in the Donbas. Over eight days complete, the progress was found to be only “marginal.” In a statement: “Largely squandering its temporary advantage in personnel gained from the autumn's 'partial mobilisation.”
On 02 April, the UK intelligence released an update on the reason behind Russian causalities. Under the non-combat issues it found that “increased alcohol consumption, poor handling of weapons, road accidents, and hypothermia,” were the reason behind mass deaths. Close to 200,000 have been estimated to have died since the war began.
On 01 April, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the recent deal with Ukraine to deliver “100 Rosomak multi-purpose armoured vehicles.” The vehicles are planned to be made in Poland under Finland’s license, funded by the EU and the US.
The Global Fallouts
Implications of the war
On 01 April, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un’s sister blamed Ukraine for wishing to possess nuclear weapons. The comment comes highlighting an online petition which stated Ukraine’s call to bring nuclear weapons into its territory. She called it a “political plot” of Zelenskyy.
“Kuleba: Russian UN Security Council presidency 'a slap in the face to the international community',” The Kyiv Independent, 01 April 2023
“Kyiv Orders 100 Rosomak Armored Vehicles From Poland: PM,” The Defense Post, 02 April 2023
“Ukraine decries ‘symbolic blow’ as Russia assumes UN presidency,” Al Jazeera, 01 April 2023
“Russia’s defense minister promises more munition supplies during Ukraine HQ visit,” english.alarabiya.net, 01 April 2023
“Lavrov tells Blinken that it is up to court to decide about Gershkovich’s future,” TASS, 02 April 2023
“Russian war blogger killed in St. Petersburg blast,” Deutsche Welle, 02 April 2023
“Ukraine updates: Diplomat condemns German peace appeal,” Deutsche Welle, 02 April 2023
“Ukraine updates: Russia takes UN Security Council presidency,” Deutsche Welle, 01 April 2023
“Kim Jong-un's sister accuses Ukraine of "megalomania" in thinking it can defeat Russia,” pravda.com.ua, 01 April 2023
By Padmashree Anandhan
Preliminary result of elections show close gap while political uncertainty remains
On 02 April, Deutsche Welle reported on the general election result in Bulgaria. In the preliminary results, conservatives and liberals were found to be competing in a small gap. The elections occurring for the fifth time in last two years as the party fail to form coalition government. In the report: “Ex-Prime Minister Kiril Petkov's liberal We Continue the Change (PP) and their allied Democratic Bulgaria (DB) took 24.9%.” For the first time in the election, Petkov’s party was able to form coalition with Pro-European DB. According to the report, the continues political chaos in Bulgaria was due to increased inflation, corruption and anti-corruption protests which have not resolved the problem but led to series of elections. (“Close race in Bulgaria's fifth election in two years,” Deutsche Welle, 03 April 2023)
Government imposes ban on use of electric scooters hired individually
On 02 April, the city government announced the ban on use of “for-hire electric scooters.” In the held vote, 89 per cent were in favour while 11 per cent were against the ban. The ban was imposed due to increased accidents and environment concern, the suggested alternatives are going by foot, bicycle and public transport. In response, Mayor Anne Hidalgo stated the vote as “public consultation,” which helped in settling the transport issue before 2024 Olympics. According to the companies that operate E-scooters, of the two million people who used the vehicle, 71 per cent were youth under 35. E-scooters considered the most popular among the tourists was one of the reason to call for the ban. (“Paris to ban e-scooters, despite tiny voter turnout,” Deutsche Welle, 03 April 2023)
Olaf Scholz visit to Romania and Moldova
On 03 April, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz met the Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis. During the visit, Scholz announced the installation of maintenance hub in Romania by German arms manufacturer “Rheinmetall.” In response Iohannis welcomed the move and called for increasing NATO’s operation in the Black Sea area. Part of the visit, Scholz is also expected to visit Moldova to discuss on how to support the government against the Russian-backed protestors. (“Scholz visits Romania to discuss Black Sea security,” Deutsche Welle, 03 April 2023)
Slovakia's ZVS holding to increase ammunition production
On 03 April, Slovakia’s acting Defence Minister, Jaroslav Nad announced new set of measures to increase the production of artillery ammunition. The semi-state owned company ZVS holding which was initially producing 25,000 rounds every year, in 2022 increased to 50,000 and this is expected to increase further in 2024. The same was confirmed by Slovakia’s spokesperson: “The capacity increase will be in two phases, the first from 1 January 2024 and the second from 1 January 2025. This increase is linked to the delivery dates of the production equipment needed for the production of ammunition.” Since the company’s production falls under “EU-wide initiative” to creation of more ammunition, the Slovakia government is looking at means to get finance from the EU. (Michal Hudec, “Slovakia to increase ammo production fivefold, says defence minister,” EURACTIV, 03 April 2023)
Credit Suisse merger puts 11,000 jobs under risk
On 02 April, Tages-Anzeiger a Swiss newspaper reported on the possibility of the Swiss Bank UBS of laying off 30 per cent of its staff after acquiring Credit Suisse. Till now UBS has accepted three billion Swiss Francs in the government mediated deal to help Credit Suisse. Eventually it has been discovered that the Credit Suisse holds USD 1.6 trillion worth assets and employs 120,000 across the globe. Therefore, upon merger with no specification given, close to 11,000 jobs are at risk. (“UBS to slash up to 36,000 jobs after Credit Suisse merger,” Deutsche Welle, 03 April 2023)