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For quite some time, territorial defence seemed to be an obsolete need, a leftover from the Cold War era. However, Russia’s overt and covert uses of military force—against Georgia in 2008 and against Ukraine since 2014—have profoundly altered the security environment and threat perceptions in the region and, indeed, across the entire Alliance. Has this new situation also provided opportunities for the Baltic states and Poland to enhance their cooperation in their defence policies?
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) elected a new party leader during its party congress in Hamburg. The new leader is Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (often known by her initials, AKK), who won the votes of 517 delegates, beating Friedrich Merz with 482 votes. Kramp-Karrenbauer was born in 1962 to a large family. In 2009, she was nominated as the minister for Labour, Family, Social Policy and Sport of Saarland, and in 2011 she became the minister president of that federal state (which has a population of around 1 million).
On 28 November, the owners of the majority of Hungary’s conservative media began transferring shares in their companies to the Central European Press and Media Foundation that was established in August. The foundation is led by individuals who have close links to Hungary’s governing party, Fidesz, including one MP representing this party.
The focus of the CDU’s party congress in Hamburg (6-8 December) will be the election of a new leader. The best chances to take over as head of the party from Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has exercised this function for 18 years, are enjoyed by three candidates. From the latest opinion polls it appears that the current secretary-general, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, is most popular among supporters of the party; in a poll from 23 November, 38% of CDU supporters would like to see her as the new head of this group.
The second round of presidential elections in Georgia on 28 November was won by Salome Zurabishvili, who ran as an independent candidate but was supported by the ruling Georgian Dream party. According to unofficial results provided by the Central Electoral Commission, after the results from 100% of the polling places were counted, Zurabishvili received 59.5% of the vote, and her rival Grigol Vashadze (of the United National Movement, founded by the former president Mikheil Saakashvili) got 40.5%. Turnout was 56.2% (compared to 47.8% in the first round).
On 24 November, a group of ships of the Ukrainian Navy, composed of two armoured artillery boats, the Berdyansk and the Nikopol (newly-constructed Giurza M-type units, which have been in service since 2016 and 2018 respectively) and the tugboat Yana Kapu (in service since 1974), left Odessa under instructions to join the vessels which have been stationed in Mariupol since September (namely the twin artillery boats, the Kremenchug and the Lubny; the command ship Donbas; and the tugboat Koreyets).
After a heated discussion, the Ukrainian parliament adopted a law during an extraordinary session late in the evening of 26 November approving a decree by President Petro Poroshenko introducing martial law for 30 days in ten regions located along the border of Russia, the coasts of the Azov Sea and the Black Sea, and the borders with separatist Transnistria (the Vinnytsia, Odessa, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Sumy and Chernihiv oblasts).
Russia’s draft budget for 2019–2021 was accepted on 21 November by the State Duma and, on 23 November, by the Federation Council. The document is still to be signed by the president.
Before midnight on 25 November, President Petro Poroshenko issued a decree at the request of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine to introduce martial law for a period of 60 days, while announcing that a general mobilisation will not be declared and civil liberties will not be restricted (the full text of the decree regulating the scope of martial law has not been released).
On 19 November, Gazprom completed the construction of the offshore section of the TurkStream gas pipeline running from Russia via the Black Sea to Turkey (from the Russian port of Anapa to Kıyıköy on the European coast of the Black Sea in Turkey). The pipeline consists of two branches, 930 km in length and each with a capacity of 15.75 bcm. The first branch of this pipeline is designed to supply the Turkish market; the second is to be used for Russian gas exports to the markets of southern European countries.