Read This, Part 1

Below is the first of what I hope to make into a regular, weekly feature. It's a short list of long reads or pieces of analysis on international relations and security which I find insightful in one way or another. Bookmark this for later and let me know if you found it useful at all.

This is an issue that has been simmering for a long time. Recently, nationalists and proponents of partition and ethnic cleansing have felt emboldened and that should worry everyone. Keep this on your radar if it's not there already.

Despite questions over whether they even have a mandate to do so, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and his Kosovo counterpart Hashim Thaci have embarked on high-level talks that could envision Kosovo's Serb-dominated north coming under Belgrade's rule in exchange for the Albanian-dominated Presevo Valley in south Serbia being handed to Pristina.

The idea is incendiary enough that Thaci has avoided calling it a redrawing of borders, but instead uses the phrase "correction" to describe any possible changes.

But no matter what the wording, Western diplomats, Balkan analysts, and even those on the ground say any moving of the borders could destabilize a region that has struggled to come to terms with the violent breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

Perhaps even worse, it is feeding tensions between Serbia's traditional ally Russia, which has been trying to gain influence in the region, and NATO and the European Union, which want to bring the countries into Western structures.

In which it is argued that, because of the combination of uncertainty emanating from Washington and the range of external threats to Europe, Germany and France need to explore the possibility of a joint nuclear deterrent. It is an under-explored subject which deserves some consideration.

NATO remains the most (powerful and) appropriate framework, if adapted, for a German-French initiative for a joint nuclear deterrent. In all of this, accurately perceiving and judging U.S. intentions remains fundamental for Germany’s grand strategy-making to draw the right conclusions in the present with a clear view to the future.

A deep dive into de Gaulle's vision of Europe with some takeaways for today. Thought-provoking if nothing else.

If European nation-states were as organized and vital as the populists claim, should they not be able to cast off the cloak of supranational oppression much more easily than they have shown so far?

One suspects, on the contrary, that they have projected their own weakness onto a mirror they call Brussels. Were they to shatter it—and that may still happen—all European peoples would find out that the reflection they deplore is their own. The European Union may well be weak and uninspiring, but we Europeans would be better off accepting that its troubles are our own troubles—that the age of European hegemony is now over, and the Rhine River has no claim whatsoever to be what it still was when de Gaulle was born: the center of the world.

If you, like me, are a stickler for the intricacies of Black Sea security, this piece is definitely for you.

Shortly after its 2004 accession to NATO, Romania began a series of initiatives aimed at stabilizing the Black Sea region by increasing cooperation among neighbors and boosting its strategic profile. The Black Sea NGO Forum as well as various diplomatic overtures to improve strained relations with neighbors Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia offer several examples.

Bucharest proved unable to solve its perceived security problems with NATO and E.U. tools. Within both organizations, Romania warned of Black Sea insecurity. While both promised to listen, they failed to prevent the disastrous 2008 Russo-Georgian war. At the E.U. level, Bucharest proposed the “Black Sea Synergy” in 2008. Yet its attempts to transform the initiative into a regional E.U. strategy failed, and the union continued to view Russia as a partner even after Moscow invaded its southern neighbor.

Turned away by the European Union, Romania went knocking on NATO’s door. After the 2008 Russo-Georgian war Bucharest insisted the Black Sea should become a NATO priority and in the aftermath of the 2014 annexation of Crimea the alliance agreed to prioritize the Black Sea rhetorically, if not actively.

The best English-language piece on the protests that I've come across so far.

Despite the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of the protests, police and gendarmes used tear gas to disperse the crowds from 4pm on Friday onwards. By 11pm, they received orders to clear the square. They did so using tear gas, water cannons, pepper spray, and by beating protestors with batons. This was one of the largest and most violent repressions the country has seen since 1990. Videos and images of police violence continue to circulate on social media, and demonstrators are demanding that the government respect European norms about the right to peaceful assembly and personal security.