The approaching 2018 year is expected to be another year of changes and new hopes for international politics.
For different countries this is due to different reasons. In a number of European countries elections of heads of the states will pass. It is necessary to go to polling stations and the Americans, but they will have congressional elections, on the basis of which, however, the prospects of US President Donald Trump may also largely depend.
Without exaggeration, an epoch-making event awaits Cuba. From power there will depart the family that ruled the Island of freedom for almost sixty years - from 1959 the Cuban leader was Fidel Castro, and then his brother Raul. And now he is retiring.
A very important year will be for the Middle East. After the victory over the terrorist group "Islamic State" * in Syria, a time of political settlement is coming. And, it seems, it is in the 2018 year that it becomes clear in many respects whether it will be possible to launch a full-fledged peace process in this country, which has been engulfed by the war for several years.
Hopes are also connected with Ukraine. The issue of the introduction of UN peacekeepers into this country is being actively discussed. It is not ruled out that this will help to ensure more effective settlement of the conflict parties and, as a result, will facilitate the implementation of the political part of the Minsk agreements.
RIA Novosti offers its view on these and other major foreign policy events of the coming year.
Elections-2018: not only in Russia
In the coming year, citizens of a number of states will choose new leaders of their countries. The presidential elections will be held, in particular, in Finland. Here, as expected, everything will be without surprises - the most likely winner is the opinion of the current head of state Sauli Niinisto. So in the generally positive relations between Russia and Finland after the elections, it is unlikely that something will change. Niyinisto advocates, in particular, for maintaining the status quo on the issue of the country's interaction with NATO. Most of the Finnish population, according to polls, opposes the country's entry into the North Atlantic alliance.
In 2018, the head of state will be chosen in another EU country - Hungary. Voting for the ruling party "Fidesz" is ready for more than 40 percent of voters. Support for the next political block "Jobbik" is half as much. Both parties launched a struggle for voters living outside of Hungary, in particular, in Ukraine and Romania. The predominant topic in the pre-election campaign is the migration problem. Both Fidesz and Jobbik do not support EU sanctions against Russia. In the case of the victory of Fidesz, the current Prime Minister Viktor Orban will head the country's parliament for the third time.
Next year, the new president will be elected in Georgia. Apparently, these elections will be the last, when for the Georgian leader the citizens of the country will vote directly. In October this year, the parliament adopted amendments to the constitution, according to which the president will elect 300 appointed members of the electoral college. Changes should take effect in 2024 year. There is still no clear list of candidates for the presidential post, so it is not yet possible to assess which way Georgia will go after 2018. The desire to stand for election has already been voiced by former Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Nino Burjanadze. Georgy Margvelashvili, the incumbent president, is likely to go to the polls.
Between war and peace
With North-East Asia, expectations are more alarming. While the US and North Korea in mutual provocations have reached threats of a military nature, the world community asks whether there should be or not be a war on the Korean peninsula. And there is something to fear - neither Kim Jong-un nor Trump is predictable.
In Pyongyang, for example, they say that the DPRK does not seek to fight, but they will not avoid it either. "War by itself is already an established reality, a matter only of time," the North Korean Foreign Ministry noted.
Washington, too, constantly demonstrates that it knows how to make warlike statements. "We are fully prepared for the second option (the use of military force), but this is not the preferred option, but if we choose it, it will be devastating," Trump said earlier.
Given the intensity of the passions, the situation can easily develop into a military confrontation. The only question is who will be the first to use nuclear weapons - the US or North Korea. Moscow believes that the one who is smarter must give in this conflict. It remains to find out who. So far no analyst has taken to predict the outcome of events. But everyone agrees that full-scale hostilities can have catastrophic consequences for the whole region.
And the US position seems to be beginning to change. In any case, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the US is ready to negotiate with the DPRK on the nuclear issue without preconditions. At the same time, he noted that "it is important that diplomatic efforts are supported by reliable military alternatives."
The forthcoming mid-term elections to the US Congress in November will traditionally determine not only the domestic political agenda of the country for the next few years, but will also have great significance for international relations.
At stake are all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 33 of 100 seats in the Senate, as well as governors in most states. Republicans with 2014 year keep the majority in both chambers, however the forthcoming campaign promises to become for the "elephants" a big challenge. After a series of scandals, from the so-called "Russian interference" in the presidential election, to the controversy surrounding Obamacare, tax reform, allegations of sexual harassment and inner-party controversy, the Republican position in a number of key and wavering states has weakened, especially in the election for the House representatives.
As analysts say, the upcoming elections and the fact that the democrats will win with a victory will become a kind of confidence vote for Donald Trump and, in particular, his foreign policy initiatives.
Trump himself in the last weeks of the past year tried to do everything possible so that party sponsors, against the backdrop of the historical fall in his ratings, should not turn away from the Republicans: the tax reform, which gives indulgences to large corporations, seems to be approved, the president restrained and another pre-election pledge - approved the transfer of the embassy USA to Jerusalem.
From bombing to negotiation
The outgoing year was a turning point for the fight against terrorism in Iraq and Syria. Two years ago, when Russia's military space commenced operations on Syrian territory, the terrorists controlled most of the country. Since then, the situation has radically changed - as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said this autumn, terrorists have less than 5% of the territory of the ATS.
And there is every reason to believe that in the coming year the fight against terrorists in Syria will be over. Russia even announced its intention to reduce part of its military group in this country.
In this regard, the political settlement is becoming more and more urgent, which is likely to be intensified in 2018. Its main platform remains Geneva, where inter-Syrian negotiations are under way under the auspices of the United Nations. So far, they have not led to tangible results because of attempts by some opposition groups to advance for a political settlement preconditions that are certainly unacceptable for Damascus, in particular, the resignation of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
One of the important steps towards a political settlement will be the congress of the national dialogue of Syria, which was announced in December. It is expected that it will be held in Sochi 29-30 January, and a special preparatory meeting will be held there 19-20 January.
UN in Donbass
One of the important expected events of the year 2018 is the launching of an armed UN peacekeeping mission to the east of Ukraine. Earlier, with such an initiative, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke. According to him, the UN peacekeepers can be deployed on the line of breeding forces in the Donbass to protect the OSCE observers.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin said that Kiev, Washington, Berlin and Paris have practically developed a draft UN resolution on peacekeepers. However, the positions of the parties on this document vary greatly.
The OSCE, whose observers it is supposed to guard, also doubts. "There is an opinion (in the OSCE - ed.) That observers in their current form - unarmed civilians - will be more secure than if they are attached to an armed man," RIA Novosti Director of the Department of European Cooperation of the Russian Foreign Ministry Andrey Kelin.
Nevertheless, the solution of the issue of UN peacekeepers in the Donbass could be a significant success on the way to the settlement of the conflict in the east of Ukraine and the transition from the military phase to the political one.
The end of the Castro era
In February 2018 the semi-annual process of elections to the organs of the people's power of Cuba will end. It would seem that the event is not from a series of sensational ones. But the fact is that as a result of this process, over half a century, when the Freedom Island was headed by representatives of the Castro family - first Fidel, and then his brother Raul - should end.
86-year-old Raul Castro, who holds the posts of the chairman of the Council of Ministers, the head of the State Council and the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, stated that he would not propose his candidacy. And now the whole world cares about the question of who will replace the famous family of revolutionaries.
According to experts, the most likely candidate for the post of the new leader of Cuba is 57-year-old first deputy chairman of the State Council Miguel Diaz-Kanel. Despite the fact that this person does not belong to the "old guard" of the Cuban politburo, his attitude can hardly be called liberal. He, in particular, repeatedly made very harsh statements about Washington.
The opposition could theoretically compete with Diaz-Kanel, but it is heavily divided, and a significant part of it believes that participation in the elections will not do anything. So the course of Cuba for the coming years, for sure, will remain socialist.
Running in place towards the cancellation
It's been a little less than four years since the introduction of EU sanctions against Russia. And practically from the same time inside the European Union from time to time there are talks about their cancellation, at least partial. For sure, this will also be discussed in 2018.
Representatives of the leadership and leading politicians of Austria, Hungary, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus regularly speak against anti-Russian sanctions. The harmfulness of restrictive measures is spoken by business circles of European heavyweights - Germany and France. But so far everything remains only in words. In fact, all EU states still vote for the extension of sanctions - ostensibly in order not to violate the principle of solidarity in the European Union. And in the foreseeable future, probably, "riots" is not expected.
But the ranks of the opponents of sanctions are gradually expanding. And in Moscow they hope that in the structures of the European Union, finally, they will stop on the occasion of a small but extremely aggressive group of Russophobes. Russia itself declares its desire to develop cooperation with the EU at the pace to which European partners are ready.
The referendum is in doubt
Following the fashion for the referendums, which he asked the outgoing year, his plebiscite in 2018 can also be held in Moldova. Here, the country's president, Igor Dodon, at the peak pro-Western to the government and parliament wants to bring to the national discussion the issue of banning the idea of unification with Romania at the legislative level.
It is planned that the referendum will be of an advisory nature. The prospects for holding it, I must say, are rather doubtful. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of Moldovans are not in favor of joining Romania. In a survey conducted in November, 62,8% of respondents opposed the so-called union, for - only 22,2% of respondents. Realizing this, the cabinet and parliament are unlikely to allow Dodon to hold a plebiscite, which would be a big blow to the image of pro-Western, which in Moldova is often synonymous with the word "pro-Romanian" forces.
Nevertheless, if this idea is implemented, the outcome of the referendum will be obvious. One of its consequences may be that Transnistria will lose a good trump in the negotiations with Moldova. After all, the potential entry into the composition of Romania in Tiraspol is called as one of the main arguments against reunification with Moldova: this is completely unacceptable for the Russian-speaking majority of Transnistrians. The referendum, if it takes place, can remove these fears.
Reform of education in Ukraine
In Ukraine, the so-called language articles of the new law on education, which caused a sharp negative reaction in Russia and a number of other European countries, should be earned in 2018.
This document significantly reduces the possibility of teaching in the languages of national minorities. It is assumed that the law will be enacted in stages, but from 2018, classes with teaching subjects in minority languages will remain only in primary school, while secondary school and higher education will be taught exclusively in Ukrainian. It is allowed to teach one or more disciplines in the languages of the EU countries. And with 2020 year, education in Ukraine is planned to be completely Ukrainian-speaking.
Moscow also believes that the law on education violates the constitution and international obligations of Kiev and speaks of discrimination against the Russian-speaking population. In the governments of several other countries, including Hungary and Romania, they said that this law violates the rights of national minorities in Ukraine. It went so far that the Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Siyarto said that Budapest is initiating a revision of the agreement on the association of Ukraine with the EU because of this document.
In turn, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe decided that "the new law does not offer solutions for languages that are not the official languages of the EU, in particular the Russian language, as the most widely used non-state language" and this speaks of discrimination. In this regard, she invited Kiev to amend the document.
* Terrorist organization, banned in Russia