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Defence

Europe between two fires - #Russia and #terrorism

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Being attacked from two sides simultaneously (terrorism and the Russian threat) Europe has to decide what to do first: to counter terrorism or the increasing Russian might. Choosing the priority is the most difficult challenge for European states today. But Europe should make a choice because the states' budgets are not bottomless, writes Adomas Abromaitis.

It is obvious that as soon as the terrorism problem comes to the fore, NATO (first of all the US) diverts attention to other matters, such as the necessity to boost defence expenditures because of Russia, Syria, Afghanistan and other "annoying" countries.

It can be easily explained by the burden that the country has in NATO. Washington wants to reduce the burden at the expense of European NATO member states. By and large it does not really care about what is happening with Europeans. Apparently, at this particular moment, the terror threat is not so important for Washington as it is for Europe.

Competing for supremacy with Russia, the US persistently calls on NATO member states to increase defence spending. This issue was on the agenda for NATO Defense Ministers meeting on 29 June. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that defence spending across the Alliance is expected to grow by 4.3% in 2017. This is too much for Europe.

Who will benefit? Definitely the US. But most European countries will be alone with with the terror threat and lack of money to solve their domestic problems.

But there are three European countries that have their own interest in this matter. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will also benefit. Deducting the insignificant sums they receive from NATO support and continuing to ask for more and more foreign troops on their territories. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg conducting a visit in Lithuania this month praised Lithuania for increasing defence spending and efforts to strengthen security in the region. The Baltic states feel their importance in confronting the superpowers and they intend to extract all possible benefits.

In other words, most European countries are in a trap. They are forced to help the Baltic States to the detriment of their own interests. Sooner or later, this state of affairs will lead to tension in relations between European NATO member states. Help and support within the organization should be equal for all members. Helping the Baltic States, other European countries themselves have the right to expect help and understanding of their problems. It could happen so that making their neighbors' life safer they endanger their own people, leaving them face to face with terrorists, without the capabilities to counter them because the money has gone somewhere else. A one-sided collective defence, is it not?

Cyber-espionage

EU countries test their ability to co-operate in the event of cyber attacks

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EU member states, the EU Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) and the European Commission have met to test and assess their co-operation capabilities and resilience in the event of a cybersecurity crisis. The exercise, organized by the Netherlands with the support of ENISA, is a key milestone towards the completion of  relevant operating procedures. The latter are developed in the framework of the NIS Co-operation Group, under the leadership of France and Italy, and aim for more coordinated information sharing and incident response among EU cybersecurity authorities.

Furthermore, member states, with the support of ENISA, launched today the Cyber Crisis Liaison Organization Network (CyCLONe) aimed at facilitating cooperation in case of disruptive cyber incidents.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “The new Cyber Crisis Liaison Organization Network indicates once again an excellent cooperation between the member states and the EU institutions in ensuring that our networks and critical systems are cyber secure. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and we should work collectively in preparing and implementing rapid emergency response plans, for example in case of a large-scale cyber incident or crisis.”

ENISA Executive Director Juhan Lepassaar added: "Cyber crises have no borders. The EU Agency for Cybersecurity is committed to support the Union in its response to cyber incidents. It is important that the national cybersecurity agencies come together to coordinate decision-making at all levels. The CyCLONe group addresses this missing link.”

The CyCLONe Network will ensure that information flows more efficiently among different cybersecurity structures in the member states and will allow to better coordinate national response strategies and impact assessments. Moreover, the exercise organized follows up on the Commission's recommendation on a Coordinated Response to Large Scale Cybersecurity Incidents and Crises (Blueprint) that was adopted in 2017.

More information is available in this ENISA press release. More information on the EU cybersecurity strategy can be found in these Q&A and this brochure.

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Defence

Security Union: EU law on combatting terrorism led to stronger criminal justice rules against terrorism and more rights for victims

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On 30 October, the Commission adopted a report assessing the measures that member states have taken to comply with the EU rules on combating terrorism (Directive 2017/541). This Directive is the main criminal justice instrument at EU level to counter terrorism. It sets minimum standards for defining terrorist and terrorism-related offences and for sanctions, while also giving victims of terrorism rights to protection, support and assistance.

The report concludes that the transposition of the Directive into national law helped strengthen member states' criminal justice approach to terrorism and the rights afforded to victims of terrorism. While the measures taken by member states to comply with the Directive are overall satisfactory, there are however gaps that are a cause for concern.

For example, not all member states criminalize in their national law all the offences listed in the Directive as terrorist offences. In addition, there are deficiencies in the measures that member states have taken to criminalize travel for terrorism purposes and the financing of terrorism, as well as to support victims.

The Commission will continue to support member states in working towards full and correct transposition of the Directive. Where necessary, the Commission will make use of its powers under the Treaties through infringement procedures. The report will now be presented to the European Parliament and the Council.

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Africa

New details released about the change of head of the Russian 'Wagner' group

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A recent journalistic investigation by Bellingcat reports about the change of the head of the Wagner Private Military Group. This joint investigation by The Insider, Bellingcat and Der Spiegel notes that the new head of the group may be Konstantin Pikalov, better known as 'Mazay', writes Louis Auge.

According to media reports, Mazay participated in the campaign of the group in the Central African Republic (CAR) in early July 2018. From the context of correspondence extracted by journalists of the publication, which concerns his activities in Africa, it becomes clear how influential Mazay is - it is reported that the military adviser to the Central African President personally followed his recommendations.

The media suggest that he was the one who co-ordinated the information and ideological work with the team in the Central African Republic.

Documents obtained by Bellingcat in electronic correspondence show that if Valery Zakharov was formally a military advisor to the CAR President, then Mazay was responsible for important military issues.

For example, one email contains a scanned letter from the local provisional authorities in the town of Bambari to the Commander of the Russian Armed Forces in the Republic of South Africa.

The letter (dated 13 May 2019) requested an urgent and private meeting to "discuss a particularly delicate situation in the town of Bambari". The letters mention that the Russian military command has sent instructions to Mazay for further action.

The change of the Wagner leadership, according to some experts, may be associated with a change in the format of group.

Dmitry Utkin, who previously headed the company and was responsible for the Ukrainian and Syrian fronts, may have left the group due to changes in the methodology and vector of work.

The private military company has moved from direct participation in military operations to the strategy of military and political training and interaction. According to sources, instead of participating in hostilities, the Wagner group is currently providing consulting and training support in a number of geopolitical hot spots in African countries, including Libya.

The change of the head of the company may be explained by a change in the regional orientation of the company as well. It means increased attention by the group to the African region, in this configuration the change of manager seems reasonable.

Based on an analysis of the information revealed this investigation, one can also draw a possible conclusion that Dmitry Utkin, who led the private military company for a long time, may now have been be killed. At present, his phone number is not functioning, and his regular trips from Krasnodar to St. Petersburg have stopped.

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