Kosovo, Serbia: Siege mentality.
Also: Ukraine, Russia, the EU, Niger, France and the Korean Peninsula.
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KOSOVO. SERBIA. Siege mentality.
A shoot-out threatens a fragile peace deal.
Four were killed in north Kosovo on Sunday after 30 ethnic Serb gunmen barricaded themselves in a monastery and held a shoot-out with police. Kosovo's prime minister blamed organised criminals linked to Belgrade for the incident.
INTELLIGENCE. Both sides were quick to blame the other. While Serbia has a problem with guns and organised crime, Kosovo also has a problem with failing to implement autonomous Serb municipalities in the country's north, as agreed under a 2013 EU-brokered deal. Brussels attempted to resume normalisation last week, offering to agree the Serb municipalities and Belgrade’s de facto recognition of Kosovo taken in parallel, but Pristina rejected the move.
FOR BUSINESS. Despite tit-for-tat provocations since May, Kosovo and Serbia are among Europe’s fastest-growing economies, supported by tourism and mining investment. EU integration would provide an additional boost, but crony elites and the malign influence of Russia are impeding a settlement. Nationalist politicians who benefit from the status quo will do what they can to stymie rapprochement, but NATO peacekeepers will keep a lid on further violence.
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KOREAN PENINSULA. Seoul mates.
The great powers compete for attention..
Xi Jinping told South Korea's prime minister on Saturday he wanted closer ties and would consider visiting Seoul. South Korea joined the US and Japan on Saturday to express “serious concern” over North Korea’s cooperation with Russia.
INTELLIGENCE. Since South Korea’s Yoon Suk Yeol met Joe Biden and Japan’s Fumio Kishida last month, Beijing has sought to drag Seoul back to a point of strategic equilibrium. But North Korea’s growing closeness to Russia, and a rapprochement between Kim Jong Un and Xi – allegedly brokered by Vladimir Putin last week – are complicating matters, as is US pressure for Seoul to limit high-tech exports to Beijing and a groundswell of anti-Japan sentiment.
FOR BUSINESS. Moscow wants to solidify three-way ties with Beijing and Pyongyang, but Xi eyes a bigger prize in the South, whose economy is more than 50 times larger. And while China’s semiconductor sector is accelerating – its estimated self-sufficiency in chipmaking equipment has exceeded 40%, a doubling from 2021 – there is still plenty of South Korean IP that, if more freely available, would remove at least one strategic rationale for invading Taiwan.
With the brevity of a media digest, but the depth of an intelligence assessment, Daily Assessment goes beyond the news to outline the implications.
EUROPE. Border conflicts.
A migrant crisis tests EU cooperation.
Italy's defence minister criticised Germany on Sunday for funding charities that rescue migrants at sea. Germany's chancellor on Saturday asked Poland to clarify a scandal over an alleged 350,000 visas Polish officials issued for cash.
INTELLIGENCE. Europe’s common border policy is causing renewed friction within the bloc amid attempts last week for France to close its border with Italy to non-EU nationals and plans by Germany to begin checks on its border with Poland and the Czech Republic. The Pope said on Sunday Europe did not have a migrant emergency, but more earthly representatives, such as the EU's external affairs chief, have described the crisis as a “dissolving force” for the union.
FOR BUSINESS. As in 2015, migrants are moving faster than policymakers. Germany has split with the EU on its migration deal with Tunisia, while a winding-up of support for Syrian refugees in Turkey has sparked fears of higher flows into Greece and Cyprus. The EU has labour shortages, which some think could be fixed with more refugees, but as in the US, a mismatch of jobs and skills make such proposals economically dubious and politically risky.
UKRAINE. RUSSIA. Hits and missiles.
New arms and new strikes may not prove decisive.
Washington will send long-range missiles to Ukraine, US media reported on Saturday. Kyiv claimed to have 15,000 Russian troops pinned down near Bakhmut on Friday after a major strike on Russia's Black Sea naval headquarters.
INTELLIGENCE. Kyiv’s counter-offensive has recorded new victories as Volodymyr Zelensky travels abroad but they may prove pyrrhic should the current moment represent a high-water mark in Western support. Beyond weakening support from Congress and Poland, Canada’s parliament on Friday invertedly linked Ukraine’s war effort with Nazism. A 60 Minutes program on Sunday has meanwhile provoked outrage over the war’s $70 billion cost to US taxpayers.
FOR BUSINESS. As Western support looks wobbly, Moscow has proposed a dramatic increase in its defence budget. Russia’s foreign minister has meanwhile said the US and UK are “directly” at war, amid reports that German citizens were operating a Leopard-2 tank in Zaporizhzhia and US ATACMS missiles have already been used, including on Crimea. Neither side is willing to countenance peace talks, but it remains hard to envisage a full victory for Ukraine.
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NIGER. FRANCE. Frexit.
Macron says bonne nuit to Niamey.
Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday France would withdraw its troops and ambassador from Niger, having initially refused to recognise the demands of the country’s junta. Niger on Saturday banned its airspace to French aircraft.
INTELLIGENCE. Since Niger’s coup in July, a French exit seemed inevitable, even as Macron clung to the hope that former President Mohamed Bazoum, with whom he speaks daily, would be restored. The exit is doubly embarrassing for Macron however because the US has seemingly struck a deal to remain. While this is good for counter-terrorism operations in the region, it places more pressure on France to hang onto its remaining allies like Chad and Senegal.
FOR BUSINESS. Following four coups in former African colonies, France’s future in the continent looks uncertain. French firms will find ways to remain, but without the support of the French state, the operating environment will be harder. France's air force chief last week said Paris would have a smaller future in Africa and a larger role in the Pacific. The problem however is that Africa, whether on energy, migration or markets for French goods, matters more.