Russia and Eurasia

The Global Take | Russia | Change of Defense Minister: Sergei Shoigu Moved to Russia's Security Council

May 13, 2024

Dr. Ariel Cohen provides his commentary on BBC concerning a sudden change in Russia's defense minister and Sergei Shoigu's move to Russia's Security Council. In this interview, Dr. Cohen discusses the implications of these changes and what they could mean for the war in Ukraine.

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American Deterrence Is Failing In The South China Sea

April 2, 2024

One of Beijing's enduring hobbies is accusing Washington of violating or abusing international law. This selective outrage is justifiably ignored, given China’s unwillingness to abide by international law and disregard for U.N. arbitration concerning demarcation in the South China Sea. “International law with Chinese characteristics” was easily mocked and ignored when American deterrence and international safeguards stymied Beijing’s ambitions. Unfortunately, that security architecture is unraveling.

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Despite Wars And Sanctions, Superyacht Market Continues Recent Growth

March 26, 2024

A superyacht is a status symbol and the ultimate pleasure boat. What ordinary people envisage doing on cruise ships, the super-rich do on their mega-yachts. Space and change of scenery have appealed to humans from time immemorial. However, with luxury yacht ownership requiring vast sums of disposable income, one would think that factors putting the global economy under pressure, such as inflation, Houthi terrorists and Somali pirates attacking ships in the Red Sea, sanctions following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and before that, the COVID-19 pandemic, would slow down the demand for superyachts. Instead, despite severe disruptions, mainly because of the post-Ukraine 2022 Russian invasion sanctions, with billions sloshing around in the global economy, demand for these vessels has reached a high point, driven by changes in the tastes of the ultra-rich, innovative new uses for superyachts, and the number of buyers able to splurge on such craft.

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Ukraine Needs An Economic Victory

March 21, 2024

For Ukraine, winning on the battlefield is not enough, as Kyiv must ensure that the country’s economy stays afloat. If exports continue to slump, Kyiv could lose its ability to finance the war effort and sustain its population even further. Thus, maintaining the flow of its agricultural exports is vital.

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The Global Take| Navalny’s Widow Enters Fray as Putin Eyes Fifth Term: Bloomberg Surveillance| March 11, 2024

March 11, 2024

Dr. Ariel Cohen appeared on Bloomberg Surveillance with Tom Keene to discuss the elections in Russia.

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Are Drones Putting Global Peace In Danger?

February 29, 2024

Three recent wars highlighted the use of drones in 21st-century warfare. Houthi and Iranian attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure and military in Yemen brought the war between Iranian proxies and the UAE-Saudi coalition to a stalemate by 2015. Azerbaijan used drones massively against Armenia in 2020 and 2023, and a deluge of drone-focused combat footage flooded the internet after Russia’s February 2022 re-invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian songs cheering on the Turkish Baykar company’s Bayraktar drone went viral as drones devastated Russian armor. The Kremlin is playing catch-up quite successfully. The Russian military used swarms of drones, many of them Iranian-made, in attacks against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure targets.

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Can Europe Count On US LNG?

February 20, 2024

The US House of Representatives appears to be so dysfunctional that Mike Turner, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had to go public to respond to a major national security threat from new Russian anti-satellite weaponry. Meanwhile, the other Mike, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, is delaying a vote on crucial foreign aid to provide means for Israel, Taiwan, and Ukraine to defend themselves.

Energy, specifically the Biden Administration’s liquified natural gas (LNG) future infrastructure development pause/ban, is also on the Congressional agenda. The recent White House decision is one of the worst in a string of failed energy decisions, including the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada’s oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Xi And The Red Sea: Protect Iran Or China’s Economy?

February 2, 2024

A US bombing campaign against Iranian proxies, which hit more than 85 targets in response to a recent drone attack in Jordan that killed three Americans and injured dozens, threatens a regional conflagration. This crisis began after the Houthi attacks out of Yemen on commercial shipping in the Red Sea disrupted the supply chain, raised maritime insurance and transport costs, and threatened a global recession.

Amidst the deluge of international condemnation, one actor’s silence speaks volumes: China’s. Outwardly, China and President Xi Jinping are putting on an excellent poker face. However, this cannot hide China’s unenviable dilemma: its ambitions for global leadership require expanding influence in the Middle East, while simultaneously China’s economy and the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party are threatened by Iran’s truculence.

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The U.S. Is Losing the Nuclear Energy Race to Russia and China

January 25, 2024

Even as Russia remains under unprecedented Western economic sanctions, the U.S. finds itself dependent on one Russian vital import: enriched uranium. The U.S. is the largest producer of nuclear energy in the world, but it has allowed its civilian nuclear infrastructure to languish since Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan’s presidencies in the 1970s and 1980s.

While the U.S. has coasted on its laurels, with nuclear energy production not changing much in over 30 years, Russia continues its gradual climb upward and exports many reactors, while China is investing heavily in civilian nuclear tech and boosting its atomic power generation at home. Beijing plans to build 24 new nuclear power plants by 2030, bringing the total up to 60, overtaking the U.S. with its old reactor fleet. For comparison, the U.S. has 93 operational nuclear power plants in total, and in the same period as China’s building spree, the U.S. added 2 with none under development now.

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Electric Vehicles 2024 Tax Changes Are Not Enough For Global Leadership

January 18, 2024

Considering an electric vehicle in 2024? Be aware of policy changes that could negatively affect your purchase. Starting in January, new rules will allow car dealers to give EV buyers their tax credit upfront. However, many EV models, batteries and components from China will no longer be eligible as the Sino-American competition goes green.

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which includes the Clean Vehicle Tax Credit, offers up to $7,500 to new EV buyers. As part of the U.S. strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bring industries back to the country, this initiative has boosted EV sales, benefiting manufacturers like Tesla and General Motors GM +1.2%. Since 2021, EV sales have tripled, with over 3 million vehicles currently on the roads.

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Leveraging Central Asia’s Rare Earth Elements for Economic Growth

December 1, 2023

December 2023 | Wilder Alejandro Sanchez, Ariel Cohen, and Wesley Alexander Hill |Read the report here.

The global energy transition has underscored the vital importance to advanced economies of rare earth elements (REEs), the 17 minerals with broad and, to this point, irreplaceable uses in a wide variety of high technology, green energy, and defense industries. As the uses for these minerals has expanded, so too has global competition for them in a time of sharply increasing geostrategic and geoeconomic tension. Advanced economies with secure, reliable access to REEs enjoy economic advantages in manufacturing and corresponding economic disadvantages accrue for those without this access. China’s current dominance of both mining and, importantly, processing of REEs poses challenges for Western and other companies seeking to continue leadership in the global energy transition and other high technology industries. This report therefore features an increasingly attractive opportunity in the global market for REEs, analyzing the abundance of many of these materials in Central Asia. It has a particular focus on Kazakhstan, the region’s leading economy and holder of the largest reserves of REEs in the region. Kazakhstan also holds the world’s largest chromium reserves and the second largest reserves of uranium, as well as a very strong position in many other mining and extractive industries. The need for reliable supplies of REEs reaffirms the importance of ties with these countries, and in particular with Kazakhstan, not only in securing REEs for Western markets but in building closer geopolitical ties. While recent diplomatic initiatives are encouraging, more must be done to build deeper and more sustainable ties with those countries — and to encourage further economic partnership and integration among them, strengthening their collective impact on the global stage. Further, the report recommends reforms Central Asian countries can take to expand their global share of REE mining and processing, including greater transparency of data and access, steps towards limiting the environmental impact of REE mining through new extracting and processing technologies, diversifying the customer base, building stronger transportation links, and encouraging foreign investment. Looking beyond the region for foreign investment will both signal Central Asia’s openness to global markets and help safeguard Central Asian countries’ sovereignty and economic progress. What has been termed “soft infrastructure” — tax, trade, and regulatory polices — is essential to attract foreign investment. By establishing a strong investment climate, nations can unleash private capital for sustainable economic growth. Using market signals, rather than simply relying on subsidies, to encourage private investments in critical minerals for the energy transition will best ensure both a just transition and strong US leadership in that transition. While the report offers steps Central Asian nations to take advantage of this increasingly important global market, its call to action applies with equal force to nations outside the region, not least the United States, to recognize the importance of Central Asia to this highly significant global market and act with urgency to build the ties that will ensure the US and Western countries have access to REEs in a highly competitive global market. The report aims to spur action to seize this unique opportunity.

Russia Uses New Arctic LNG To Dodge Energy Sanctions

October 31, 2023

Vladimir Nekrasov, a prominent executive in Russia’s energy sector who criticized Putin, has had a tragic accident. These unavoidable twists of fate mean that up to 40 of the top managers in Russian energy have died since the war in Ukraine began. Coincidentally, they all commonly express skepticism towards Russia’s energy strategy, its funding streams, and its ability to fund the Kremlin’s war effort.

Prior to exposés recently released by Le Monde and Der Spiegel, it was assumed these deaths were Putin sweeping away the opposition and shaking down oligarchs for much-needed capital. While this remains true, the revelations that multiple French and German companies were cooperating with the Russian state in an “arctic pivot” for energy exports may have revealed another reason. Many of these Russian executives stood to lose significantly from Russia’s new energy strategy: pivot exports to the difficult-to-monitor Arctic to mitigate sanctions and may have resisted the transition.

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BRICS Expansion: China’s Energy Victory?

September 13, 2023

At a recent summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) group, which some believe can counter-balance the West, for the first time in over a decade, opted to invite six new members: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE UAE0.0%). This disparate group of emerging economies has one common feature greatly influencing their January 1st, 2024, entry into BRICS – ample energy endowments. At first glance, this seems like an assertive BRICS move towards energy dominance. The newly admitted countries would not only boost the bloc’s energy production but also greatly diversify it.

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Sinking Permafrost Sinks Pipelines In Russia And Canada

August 30, 2023

2023 is defined by a string of depressing climate records. Wildfires in Malibu, a strong El Niño that may last through the winter, and many more showcase the perilous state of the climate. Amongst these record highs, it’s not surprising that one of the world’s most unstable environmental resources is literally melting: permafrost. Permafrost is the permanently frozen soil found at extreme northern latitudes. It covers 24% of the northern hemisphere’s landmass and contains nearly half of all organic carbon in the Earth’s soil. Its degradation represents a ticking time bomb, with scientists warning a mass melting of permafrost is one of the deadliest but least discussed problems facing humanity.

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Will China’s Electric Vehicle Dominance End?

August 26, 2023

Amidst Hangzhou’s modern skyline are scores of weed-infested lots filled with the remains of thousands of abandoned electric vehicles (EVs). China’s EV revolution soared to prominence, generating envy and fear from Western competitors. Like the Greek mythological hero Icarus, however, it may have flown too close to the sun. As China now confronts intense deflationary economic woes fatal to consumer spending, the subsidy-driven EV boom may be coming to an end. An assortment of EV competitors determined to humble China makes things worse for the nascent Chinese EV industry.

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Putin’s Threats To Zaporizhhia Nuclear Power Plant Endangers Energy Transition

July 16, 2023

Carl Sagan once said, “The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist-deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.” The near-universal recognition of the futility of an all-out nuclear war led to widespread cuts in nuclear armaments since Gorbachev’s perestroika and the Soviet collapse in 1991. Even anti-communist hawks like former President Ronald Reagan pragmatically cut nuclear arms. The US and the USSR cut strategic arsenals from over 30,000 warheads each to approximately 1550 by 2011.

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Russia’s War & China’s Ambition Remake Eurasian Energy Routes

July 12, 2023

Putin’s chef and international villain par excellence, Yevgeny Prigozhin’s half-baked coup against Russia’s Vladimir Putin highlighted just how toxic Russia has become as a global business partner. While Prigozhin ostensibly failed and his power base is being purged, his failed coup revealed the fragility of the Russian state.

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Breaking Free: The Nuclear Fuel Alliance Strikes Back At Russian Control

May 24, 2023

Moscow’s dominant position in the nuclear supply chain grants Russia influence over the nuclear renaissance in the West, vital for the transition to low-carbon energy generation and helps fund its war machine in Ukraine. To redress these challenges, last month the United States, France, Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom formed the Nuclear Fuel Alliance (NFA) to develop a shared supply chain for nuclear fuel. It is 23 years overdue, but better late than never.

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War in Ukraine is creating new Silk Road corridor

May 22, 2023

In the year after Russia’s 2022 reinvasion of Ukraine, freight volume more than doubled on the Middle Corridor, a transportation network connecting Asia with Europe via rail, boat and highway. In March, Secretary of State Antony Blinken unveiled a new U.S. approach to Central Asia that stressed the facilitation of the Middle Corridor, which bypasses Russia. This route removes Russia’s ability to extort its neighbors by leveraging its transit infrastructure while expanding an independent economic artery to the states of Central Asia and further to China.

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The Global Take | Kazakhstan's Political and Economic Reform| New Lines Institute Event

May 19, 2023

Dr. Ariel Cohen participated in a panel discussion organized by the New Lines Institute and the International Tax and Investment Center on the strategic implications of Kazakhstan’s political and economic reforms and what Washington needs to learn from Kazakhstan’s pro-reform agenda to increase engagement with the country and other Central Asian states.

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The Global Take | Biden's Trip to Asia- QUAD Summit | Bloomberg Radio

May 19, 2023

Dr. Ariel Cohen in his interview with Bloomberg Radio analyzed President Biden's trip to Asia and the reasons for its sudden cancellation, China's intensifying engagement in Central Asia and US policy to counter China in the Indo-Pacific.

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Putin’s ‘Gambler’ Mentality is a Wild Card in Global Energy Markets

May 16, 2023

Interstate relations are normally governed by self-interest and restraint but the ongoing war in Ukraine, when coupled with Russia’s escalatory bent, have rendered predictions about a return of political and energy stability precarious, if not impossible.

The Cipher Brief recently spoke with Ariel Cohen, director of the Energy Growth and Security Program at the International Tax and Investment Center, about the spillover of the war into a global energy crisis and what that means for 2023, when Cohen says we may experience “the toughest circumstance in Europe probably since World War II.”

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Where In The World Are Putin’s Billionaire Cronies?

May 10, 2023

While Putin may no longer see the utility in showing unity with Russia’s business elite, going from “unshakable unity” in March 2022 to imploring “patriotism over profit” in March 2023, this does not mean they are unimportant. After being banned from traveling to most Western nations, these oligarchs lost 97 billion dollars and counting. Sanctions deeply hurt the Russian economy and even resulted in some non-energy oligarchs risking their lives publicly calling for peace.

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Central Asia: An Emerging Food And Energy Supplier For The World

April 25, 2023

The West must understand the groundswell of anti-Russian sentiment that is sweeping Central Asia while understanding the structural constraints facing these governments. An Atlantic Council event “How can Kazakhstan and Central Asia power and feed the world?”, for a forthcoming report by Margarita Assenova, Ariel Cohen, and Wesley Alexander Hill elucidates many of these problems and solutions.

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The Global Take | Why are Sudan’s warring generals failing to abide by the ceasefire? |TRT World Now

April 20, 2023

Dr. Ariel Cohen is interviewed by TRT World Now where he presents his analysis of the ongoing clashes between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary force RSF, the geopolitical dimension of the conflict and future scenarios.

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