Amid general pessimism caused by covid-19 crisis, the last few days brought some good news for the Western Balkans, as the European Union (EU) green-lighted the launch of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. The long awaited and overdue decision is an indisputable step towards fulfilling the EU aspirations of the Western Balkans, a decision that will definitely inject some optimism in the region. On the other side, such decision heralds the fact that the EU can take strategic decisions, even in the midst of a big crisis, although it did not set a date for the formal start of negotiations, and adds additional conditions for Albania. Another positive signal for the entire region, was the raising of the North Macedonian flag in front of NATO´s Headquarters in Brussels, officially becoming the 30th member of the Alliance. It rewarded the success of the historic Prespa Agreement that solved the 27-year-old name dispute between Athens and Skopje, an example of demonstrated political courage in the region.
During the Cold War, an ever-increasing quantity of nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles determined the strategic parameters of international security. In the 30 years since then, the global nuclear stockpiles have been reduced gradually. This process has, at least for the time being, come to an end with the New START treaty on deployed strategic nuclear weapons. It was signed by the US and Russia in April 2010. Despite its overall success, the prospects for further (nuclear) disarmament are bleak. Instead, we are witnessing an evolving arms race that will, however, differ significantly from the Cold War tradition. Two main issues drive this process.
As evidenced by a growing number of comments, such as the ones by the Centre for European Reform and the Group for Research and Information on Peace and Security, the latest initiatives in European defence reopen discussions for European harmonisation in the field of arms export controls.
On August 2, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the United States and Russia officially collapsed, freeing the world’s two largest nuclear hoarders to develop weapons once banned by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Less than three weeks later, with the corpse of the Treaty still cooling, the United States launched a new ground-based cruise missile off the coast of Los Angeles with a range previously prohibited by the defunct agreement.