Elections in Serbia, again

Serbia’s government seems to be collapsing.

The cause is, of course, Kosovo. Most of the EU countries have now recognized independent Kosovo, which pretty strongly implies that they won’t accept a Serbia that still claims Kosovo into the EU.

Last week, the nationalist Serbian Radical Party introduced a resolution in parliament calling on the EU to “clearly and unambiguously” confirm Serbia’s territorial integrity as a condition for further European integration. Since 16 of 27 EU members have now recognized Kosovo, this was not likely to happen. But PM Kostunica’s party went along with it. The other coalition partners in the government, the Democratic Party and G17 Plus, said that they wouldn’t support the resolution. (They said its aim was not the defense of Kosovo, but putting a halt to European integration.)

Kostunica then said that he “no longer had confidence in the sincerity of his coalition partners to fight for Kosovo,” and before anyone quite knew what was happening the government had collapsed.

It’s a bit of a surprise. I expected the government to survive, largely because almost everyone is afraid of new elections. But the Radicals seem to have decided that it’s worth rolling the dice; they seem to think they won’t lose seats and, in the general mood of national funk following the loss of Kosovo, may gain. They might be right. What’s less clear to me is why PM Kostunica went along with the Radical resolution. My best guess is that his nationalist rhetoric of the last few weeks has been so strong that he’s really painted himself into a corner.

Anyway, it looks like elections will be on May 11. More on this in a bit, I’m sure.

European power… sounds like a plan?

Just a quick post to point our readers to a very interesting article in The New York Times by Parag Khanna entitled Waving goodbye to hegemony. Hat tip goes to EUlogist and a comment he made over at Nosemonkey’s EUtopia. The article talks about the redistribution of world power after the end of the Cold War and foresees a prominent role for Europe. Plenty of food for thought. Two quotes to wet your appetites (emphasis mine):

In Europe’s capital, Brussels, technocrats, strategists and legislators increasingly see their role as being the global balancer between America and China. Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a German member of the European Parliament, calls it “European patriotism.” The Europeans play both sides, and if they do it well, they profit handsomely. It’s a trend that will outlast both President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, the self-described “friend of America,” and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, regardless of her visiting the Crawford ranch.

While America fumbles at nation-building, Europe spends its money and political capital on locking peripheral countries into its orbit. Many poor regions of the world have realized that they want the European dream, not the American dream. Africa wants a real African Union like the E.U.; we offer no equivalent. Activists in the Middle East want parliamentary democracy like Europe’s, not American-style presidential strongman rule. Many of the foreign students we shunned after 9/11 are now in London and Berlin: twice as many Chinese study in Europe as in the U.S. We didn’t educate them, so we have no claims on their brains or loyalties as we have in decades past. More broadly, America controls legacy institutions few seem to want — like the International Monetary Fund — while Europe excels at building new and sophisticated ones modeled on itself.

What I found particularly refreshing in this article is Khanna’s focus on the role of “second-world countries”:

They are not in the first-world core of the global economy, nor in its third-world periphery. Lying alongside and between the Big Three, second-world countries are the swing states that will determine which of the superpowers has the upper hand for the next generation of geopolitics. From Venezuela to Vietnam and Morocco to Malaysia, the new reality of global affairs is that there is not one way to win allies and influence countries but three: America’s coalition (as in “coalition of the willing”), Europe’s consensus and China’s consultative styles. The geopolitical marketplace will decide which will lead the 21st century.

I invite you to go and read the article and share your thoughts with us.

A European Future?

Parag Khanna has a monster screed – eight pages – in the NYT on the subject of “turning away from hegemony”. The hegemony concerned is that of the United States; the argument is that US power will decline relative to that of China, India, big second-tier powers, and Europe. This is a topic that cannot fail to elicit trolls; but it’s worth looking to, perhaps just for that reason alone.

Khanna, interestingly, bases part of the piece on demographics; Russian demographics. We’ve broached this before – it certainly looks like Russia is going to get more and more like one of the small Gulf states, an authoritarian petroleum exporter with a small population and a significant dependence on immigrants from a poor periphery. Further, we’ve also argued that Russian power is constrained by mutual dependence on the EU as a downstream market for energy and a source of investment; interestingly, a financial source of AFOE’s recently told us that he doubted the Russian sovereign-wealth fund spoke for anywhere near as much money as is sometimes claimed.

But the core of this row will probably be the US and Europe; it’s hard to imagine the US maintaining a hegemonic role in the world economy when it’s a massive importer of both goods and capital. Just as the UK’s financial hegemony didn’t make it past the First World War for the same reasons. Similarly, when Societe Generale had to dump the Kerviel overhang last week, they don’t seem to have bothered to tell the Federal Reserve; naturally, the French central bank and regulator were informed on day one (although Finance Minister Christine Lagarde seemed to deny she knew in advance on the BBC last week), and one presumes they clued-in the ECB.

Tony Karon calls it the Incredible Shrinking Davos Man. Well, their organisation is slipping; for the second year running, AFOE’s invite hasn’t turned up. But I’m not so sure, at least on the definition. If a multipolar world is going to work it’ll have to be more like, well, the European Union; all Khanna’s talk about playing by other people’s rules just drives home the point that they are rules, and rules mean institutions.

Institutions imply membership; which means the EU. Meanwhile, also at Karon’s, we see this in action. In Gaza, peaceful mass action to re-connect with the wider world has just capsized several world powers’ policy; the idea of locking up and refusing to engage with Gaza is now absurd, and it’s no surprise that it leads to concessions. If you can get out to the backbone, economically, suddenly all kinds of choices become available. It’s certainly very different from the days of George Habash, whose signature airline hijackings were directed precisely at separating from the rest of the world.

Kosovo: then what?

Okay, so Kosovo is likely to declare some sort of independence in the near future.

“Some sort” covers a lot of ground, but it will be something formally unacceptable to Serbia, and thus to Russia. The negotiations have another three weeks to run, but it’s clear they’re going nowhere; the Kosovar Albanians want independence, and Serbia will never agree to that. So, at some point the knot will have to be cut.

Okay, what happens next?

Former US Ambassador to Serbia William Montgomery has some ideas. I disagree, and I’m willing to stick my neck out a little.

Some fisking follows. If you’re not interested in Serbia and Kosovo, jump now! Continue reading

Russian Hide-and-Seek with Routers

So what exactly happened with the allegedly Russian-orchestrated DDOS attack on Estonian Internet interests? Some people have been talking about the first act of “cyberwar” against a sovereign state, others about a bizarre fuss about nothing. AFOE asked Gadi Evron, a world expert on botnets who runs Israel’s CERT and who took part in the international response effort, exactly what was going on.

How large was the DDOS attack on Estonian interests? How many different sites were targeted?

The DDoS attacks themselves were relatively small compared to some
past attacks we have seen, such as those on the root servers, but it
was significant for them and their infrastructure.

2. EE-CERT was presumably the first responder. How did other CERTS and agencies get involved, and what support did you/they provide?

There were 4 CERTs from Europe (Finland, Germany and Slovenia) who
helped directly with the response outside of Estonia, serving as an
escalation point for reporting attacking sources outside of Estonia.
I was there to help in whatever was needed, and later was also asked
to write a post-mortem of the attacks and defense for the Estonians,
covering preparedness for the next time.

Inside the country what saved the day was close coordination between
the CERT, ISPs, banks, etc. who all responded in semi real-time and
helped each other out.

3. Did the attackers attempt to compromise network infrastructure, or just end hosts?

They mostly left the network infrastructure alone, however, one
misconfigured router was attacked directly and another couldn’t take
the stress.

4. How much disruption was actually caused?

Considering Estonia is more advanced than most of us (they even held
the last elections online) the impact of the attack was significant
with some down-time for the banks, government sites, etc. It could
have been more serious, but while their Internet infrastructure as a
quiet country was not prepared for such an attack, the response and
mitigation worked for them. They stood the risk of losing their
ability to buy gas, for example, and for a short time, they did.

5. How unusual were the mitigation techniques used – just BCP38 etc, or spookier?

The fascinating thing is that in Estonia BCP38 is considered best
practice and implemented widely, which likely prevented some more
mess. As to mitigation, it ranged from basics such as using mitigation
devices to extremes such as blocking connections to certain networks
from abroad. Nothing any of us haven’t done before ourselves, however
mundane or extreme.

6. What fraction of the traffic came from within Russia? Or was it typical botnet activity, globally distributed?

The botnet traffic was distributed globally, with some of the botnets
being bought. However, many of the attacks were not by a botnet, but
rather by a mass of home users using commands such as ping to manually
attack Estonian sites. As they coined in Estonia, this was a riot, and
not just in the streets. Many different Russian-speaking forums and blogs (the Russian
blogosphere?) encouraged people to attack Estonia using crude commands
or simple tools. Others used more advanced techniques.

7. What was the role of ENISA?

“Who?”

8. Did the attack attempt to compromise/darkout other Internet-connected systems?

What other systems? Sorry, I don’t follow.

“Other systems” here was intended to mean such things as telco networks, embedded control systems, and the like.

Telco’s were affected for sure, as they hosted or were transit. There
was no attack on control systems that I know of, but the Internet is
critical infrastructure enough. The civilian infrastructure proved to
be more critical than any SCADA system.

Thanks!

Team Europe: World Police!

Over at the Small Wars Journal‘s blog, they’re wondering if part of the problem in dealing with failed states, the aftermath of wars, peacekeeping and the like is that it’s nobody’s job to provide a police force, and specifically a real civilian one that does things like investigating crimes.

This was, of course, a bitter problem in the Balkans, and one that was never really solved. To begin with, the job simply devolved on IFOR (and later, KFOR)’s provost units and whatever troops were nearby. Later, a UN police force was constituted for Bosnia, but the less said, the better – arguably it was the source of more crime than it solved, and it was eventually wound up and replaced by an EU police mission. Kosovo was a similarly bad experience.

However, John Sullivan writes, neither the US nor NATO-as-an-organisation have any answers. He praises the EU for setting up a (putative) rapid reaction police force that can call on member states for up to 5,500 cops. And it certainly seems like a task that the EU is suited to, whilst not touching too many of the constitutional pressure points. It’s not specifically military, it’s not “an EU police” although no doubt the Sun would call it one if any of its editor knew it existed, it doesn’t annoy the Poles or Russians specifically, nor does it touch on the subsidy world. It also fits nicely with the wide variety of governmental tasks the EU can take on, alone among international institutions.

Mind you, I have my doubts. European official circles, institutions, thinktanks and so on have been pushing this around the plate since Maastricht without making many decisions. It used to be fashionable enough that NATO also got in on it – I recall a briefing at NATO SHAPE in late 2000 which concentrated almost entirely on enlargement, policing, and civil operations, something borne out by the fact the briefers included a French gendarmerie colonel, a Polish air force officer, and a British civil servant.

Meanwhile, in Montenegro

Montenegro initialed a Stabilization and Association Pact with the EU on March 15. That’s a step on the road to EU candidacy.

Nobody outside the Balkans noticed. Even inside the Balkans, nobody got too excited. Montenegro is a small and rather poor country, and EU membership is still years away. Hell, all they did was “initial” the S&A pact. They won’t actually sign it until (1) Montenegro adopts a new, EU-appropriate Constitution, and (2) all the current 27 members approve.

Still, it’s no small achievement. It shows that the Montenegrins, like the Croats, may be able to launder their recent history. Montenegro isn’t being held up for not cooperating with the Hague Tribunal, nor is their enthusiastic participation in the breakup of Yugoslavia being held against them. They are now formally, officially on the road to EU membership.

This is as good an occasion as any to review the league table in the Western Balkans. Continue reading

Ukrainian Disappointment..

While everyone is focused on the French elections, the Balkans, or the contreaty relaunch (in increasing order of wonkishness), it’s not going too well in the Ukraine. Back in the winter of 2004, you couldn’t move for bloggers taking sides on the Orange Revolution, but hardly anyone has noticed the progressive disappointment since.

Well, all revolutions end up eating their children, they say. But I think it’s fair to say that this one at least turned the country in a less Putin-like direction, and after all, past revolutions here have actually ended up with people eating *their* children. Recently, though, there’s been a political murder – one of Yanukovich’s backers from last time was assassinated by a sniper – and the Associated Press can no longer tell President Yuschenko from Prime Minister Yanukovich.

So, the crowds are out again, as are the tents…with the same leaders as before. Indispensable as ever, Veronica Khoklova reports, with video.

In a sense, I suppose it’s the aim of the European project these days – to shift away from snipers towards tents and blogs as a means of resolving political conflict, and in the fullness of time, to falling turnout and general apathy. Hooray! Not that there’s very much wrong with that. People who complain about the hegemony of liberal order rarely concede that it’s unlikely to kill you.

But there’s the rub. As Leszek Kolakowski put it:

The trouble with the social democratic idea is that it does not stock and does not sell any of the exciting ideological commodities which various totalitarian movements – Communist, Fascist or Leftist – offer dream-hungry youth. It is no ultimate solution for all human miseries and misfortunes. It has no prescription for the total salvation of mankind, it cannot promise the fireworks of the last revolution to settle definitely all conflicts and struggles. It has invented no miraculous devices to bring about the perfect unity of man and universal brotherhood. It believes in no easy victory over evil.

It requires, in addition to commitment to a number of basic values, hard knowledge and rational calculation, since we need to be aware of and investigate as exactly as possible the historical and economic conditions in which these values are to be implemented. It is an obstinate will to erode by inches the conditions which produce avoidable suffering, oppression, hunger, wars, racial and national hatred, insatiable greed and vindictive envy.

You could say much the same about the EU, with the rider that too many people think pretending to be the fireworks, etc, will bring in the dream-hungry youth its grinding seriousness tends to alienate. Which is, I think, what I was drivelling about in this Crooked Timber thread.

Second Life, Second EU?

Right on time for the 5oth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the European Union’s Communications Department, is thinking seriously about establishing a digital “embassy” in the (currently more hyped than) popular virtual reality Second Life. According to a pressetext.at (in German) report, EU spokesperson Mikolaj Dowgielewicz explained that an EU office in Second Life was intended to reach out, get closer, and communicate better with individual European citizens, since 54% of the alleged 4.4m virtual inhabitants of Second Life are European nationals, according to Second Life operator Linden Labs.
Continue reading

French Candidates: What is this EU thing anyway?

Why do the leading candidates in the French presidential election seem to have utterly strange European policies?

Take Nicolas Sarkozy. He supposedly believes in “rupture” with old ways and a dash for a new free-market, hard-nosed, toughness cult future. And Euroscepticism is at the heart of this. But at the same time, he has promised to restore le productivisme – that is to say, the maximisation of volume – as the guiding principle of the Common Agricultural Policy.

That’s not free-market, tough, eurosceptic, hard-nosed, liberal, or anything else, except for pure clientele politics. Better yet, it’s the kind of clientele politics that uses other people’s money. Yawn. Not that the peasants’ representatives believes in it – one of them recently said that “there are no cloned Chiracs available”.

Fascinatingly, he’s also now blaming the European Central Bank for its exchange rate policy – as is Ségoléne Royal. Sarko thinks the trouble at Airbus is all down to the bank’s “policy of over-valuation against the dollar.” Sego apparently asked for Angela Merkel to help change the ECB’s charter so that “its sole objective would not be the exchange rate.”

One problem – the exchange rate is not the objective of the ECB. The ECB does not target the exchange rate. This is, of course, all part of the game with the straining “Bretton Woods II” arrangement between the US and China pushing the adjustment burden our way. But – the ECB does not stock and does not sell exchange rate targets.