Interview with Ursula PENSA
Between April 02-04, 2015, in Tallinn, capital city of Estonia, took place a reunion on the topic ”NATO&EU ROUND TABLE”, which was organized by Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association in partnership with NATO, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Estonia. Within this working reunion there were approached different aspects regarding the future relations between these two major regional alliances – European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Participants from all the member states of these two organizations were present at this event. Romania was one of them, the country that I represented.
The purpose of this meeting was to present and help to a better understanding the current and the future evolutions of the state from a global security perspective ensuring a better understanding by the young generation of the decision making processes of these two alliances.
The main debated topics were: upcoming challenges in ensuring the security between the partners; ways to protect and develop cooperation in the cyber network; the evolving partner relations; civil-military relations within NATO framework; different aspects regarding the Ukraine conflict. In the third and the fourth day, the participants were divided in 2 working committees, the first group Defence Policy and Planning Committee and the second, Political and Partnership Committee. They debated and simulated the decision making process in a conflict situation, like ISIL, Ukraine or cybersecurity.
Gabriela PETRE: The world that we are living in is on the move. As you know we are witnessing the restructuring of certain alliances and nation-states and the emergence of some entities that seem to overlook the international laws. How do you forecast the evolution in Eastern Europe? Could we speak about a democracy crisis?
Ursula PENSA: I believe Eastern Europe and Europe as a whole is very protected, now more than has been in all the years. Estonia – I am talking about Estonia in perspective – is more protected now that has ever been in the history of Estonia. Of course there are threats that have emerged during the recent years and keep on emerging. The situation in the whole world is changing. Right now I don’t see there is a democracy crisis in Europe or in NATO alliance, of course there are moments when we should look carefully and see that the world we are living in is dangerous, there are threats emerging, but I don’t think that in the upcoming years or in the near future there is any kind of situation or evolution that would significantly alter the security of the Alliance. That have been of course changing beyond the borders of NATO or within the alliance or within European Union, I think we are quite safe here.
G.P.: Euro-Atlantic partnerships are and will be definitely the safest. Romania is, like your country, a beneficiary of the NATO ”protective umbrella”. NATO member countries proved to be true and reliable partners in supporting certain countries that experience structural issues. Fighting against international terrorism and taking a stand against certain countries’ outbreaks and impulses to breach the rights of other countries are internationally recognized. Sanctions against Russia and Iran are most well known. In this context, do you believe that the implications in those areas may have medium- and long-term effects on regional security?
U.P.: Well, I said before, the region is secure and protected. As you said that, as mentioned, NATO is a protective umbrella. Of course, sanctions I am talking about, sanctions towards Russia and towards Iran our countries did have a medium and a long term impact on relationships, hopefully the idea of the sanctions is to actually enhance cooperation, or to enhance the security environment, we are all equal, we are actually equal partners, hopefully the sanctions will have a positive effect on the behavior of the potential threats in the countries. So in that way that is the aim of the sanctions. What happened really I am not sure, probably the current sanctions are not strong enough to have a really long term impact but I think at this time this is all we can do. Under the NATO protective alliance we are secure. Of course we stand by our allied partners outside NATO. The situation in Ukraine is simply a crisis moment.
G.P.: An offensive is launched at the international level against ISIS (ISIL) terrorist organization. What is your opinion on the decisions and involvements of international forums in stopping such evil, which is also affecting Europe? What actions should be taken for the security in the Middle East, European Union and NATO area?
U.P.: European Union and NATO should take all actions they see necessary, however this should be done in cooperation with Middle East countries. ISIS obviously is not a country, but it is affecting a number of Middle East regions, a lot of civilians and it has extended across borders. So it is not only affecting one country, or based only in one country. However, I believe that, in my opinion all these should be cooperated and coordinated with Middle East countries, so we would not have any kind of miscommunication there. Regarding European Union, it has economic methods – further cooperation with some allies, listening to others on protection threats. NATO and the most common talks have been of whether to use all forces on military equipments. I am not sure that currently that is the best course of action. In regards the military actions, I am not sure that that is the best course of action.
G.P.: What about the efforts which have been implemented until now. Do you think should be change something?
U.P.: Do you mean we should do something more? Well, currently the methods that we have done – they’re still strong. They have real effects. We can argue that the methods we have done so far have not been of real use. We also have to consider how much we can do. How much emphasis should be put there, if there is a real threat or a real attack against any other member country. I believe that that is the point, maybe that is definitely the point. You know that is the real point of course of action should be taken and course of action … I think that perhaps the right strategy should be to wait and see. So, no, I don’t think that right now is the time to have more evasive methods, more NATO methods. It might actually … the situation even further. So, if anything better, more economic sanctions.
G.P.: So, everything is focused on economic ?
U.P.: Yes, because you know it is easy to say that you should have military going in into any other countries. But, like I said, it didn’t/doesn’t affect only one nation. ISIS is not placed in one nation. Any military action has long term consequences. We can see it now, Iraq was affected on a long term by the military actions and you have to consider what kind of effect you will actually have furthering the sanctions. I would say that being things, and staying strong the methods we have right now are the best possible.
G.P.: Romanian scientists (geographers, historians, geopoliticians) consider the activation of Baltic-Pontic axis as vital; Mr. Vasile Simileanu – a geopolitician and founder of Geopolitics Magazine – believes that now, more than ever, starting a cooperation on this axis is required, with Warsaw – Bucharest – Ankara as geopolitical power centers. I make this remark because in Vilnius Ukraine categorically opposed the activation of this axis! Do you think such approach is advisable given the Ukrainian crisis and the developing of Moscow – Budapest – Sofia – Athens axis?
U.P.: Cooperation is always needed and it is always good to have further cooperation with Pontic axis, always good and required. In that way I don’t believe that perhaps saying that any kind of furthering cooperation is not good. That should not be said. However, in addition to that, NATO and EU community should act as a whole and it should not be any strong divides within the alliance, within the Union. NATO and the Union should be taken as a whole to have discussion toward Moscow or with Moscow and with any other potential threats. So cooperation within the alliance should be the main emphasis, or the main focus point to have, and not to have separate alliances. Hopefully, with Romania we are good friends and will be good friends. Of course that cooperation within these is more …, that should be furthered as we understand each other and, in that way, it shouldn’t be perhaps.
G.P.: A meeting of the European extreme-right political parties has recently taken place in Moscow (after such a format was set up in Wien under the Alexandr Dughin’s direction). Do you think it is a warning signal for the European Union stability?
U.P.: There will always be supporters of extreme right, supporters of extreme left and supporters of all different parties and political structures. We have to look closely whether this kind of movements have grown bigger, it was this kind of actual movements in Moscow. We have to look closely whether they enlarged themselves, in that case it might be a threatening sign. The European Union and its sovereign countries will have the right to their own position. The stability in EU is quite good. Perhaps there is some worrying signs in some countries, but as long as the countries remain democratic, it should not be perceived as a real threat. There have and always will be supporters of these movements, but the important fact is that we should look behind the movements, look behind the supporters, because sometimes if the movement is only a local issue within the country is one thing, but if it is to be supported by perhaps another nation from outside the EU, if there is an interest actually building a volunteer organization and giving money for such purposes, that is a different thing.
G.P.: What is your opinion on the bilateral relations between your country, Estonia, and Romania? Better said, which is their development stage and what should be done to consolidate NATO and EU in economic, strategic, military and geopolitical terms?
U.P.: I believe that Estonia and Romania have been friends, having a traditional cooperation. We are kind of in a similar situation, your situation, you are closer to Ukraine, in terms of Ukraine – you feel the pressure of the situation. We are close to Russian borders. We have other issues as well. I think the relation between Estonia and Romania is and will be good, we are cooperating at many levels. Regarding cooperation between EU / NATO, the main fact is that it should be more cooperation. There are issues that can’t be resolved in one year, there are some long term issues, some countries belong to NATO, other countries don’t belong to NATO, some people belong to EU, and others don’t, but is up to those countries to actually make decisions whether they want to belong, to which alliance, not politicians. It is difficult to further cooperation. However, I think it is the only reasonable way to go, to have cooperation, that is one of the best secrets and guarantees in Europe, to have an alliance that is acting and coordinating all the member states, acting as a single voice for all the countries, for small countries as well, so we can grow bigger by being into the alliance.
By Gabriela PETRE
Ursula Pensa, project manager from 2012 for the Estonia Atlantic Treaty Association, currently she is a master student at the Tartu University, Estonia with the thesis on ”Ethnicity and security policy”.
jurnalist, specializată în Ştiintele Comunicării şi masterat în Management şi Guvernare – SNSPA Bucureşti, Gabriela Petre coordonează Asociaţia Centrul de Resurse Apollo.