As the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine grows ever more likely, Berlin’s hesitancy to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and other pressure points, such as SWIFT bank transfer system, erodes deterrence, and may invite Russian aggression.
Countries across the globe are pursuing zero-emission goals, which have created a bottleneck of critical rare earth elements (REE) such as cobalt, copper, and lithium. These are essential components in producing renewable energy technology, from electric vehicle batteries to wind turbine blades. REEs also play a key role in manufacturing semiconductors and other electronics. Access to these resources – both in raw and refined forms – has never been more important.
A new European Union (EU) proposal to treat new nuclear power and natural gas investments as “green” is sparking controversy over the taxonomy of sustainable energy, provoking a clash between Paris and Berlin.
Nord Stream 2 (NS2), Europe’s most contentious infrastructure project, seems to have survived the Putin-Biden teleconference and is likely to be approved by the German regulator. This outcome may be the purpose of the recent Russian troop mobilization. Europe’s and Germany’s dependence on Russian gas deepens and may appear irreversible, with long-term geo-strategic consequences the U.S. leaders and planners should take into account. Yet, Russia’s clash with the West would incur very high costs on the Kremlin.
Russia is escalating pressure on Ukraine, threatening to drag the U.S. and NATO into their worst confrontation with Moscow since the Cold War. A devastating combination of external and internal threats now imperil Ukraine's security, with energy playing a key part.
November was a big month for climate action. Attending leaders, diplomatic delegations, or recorded messages — practically every nation had some presence at this month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Even North Korea was represented, with its Ambassador to the United Kingdom attending a speech by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
The United States recently reaffirmed its intent to support Ukrainian energy security amidst the near-certain completion of Nord Stream 2 (NS2) – Russia’s controversial pipeline, which will pump 55 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas into Germany while increasing Europe’s dependence on Gazprom and entirely circumventing Ukraine. The $11bn project was completed in September and is now awaiting final approval from German regulators.
Ministers from twenty-four developing nations – including China, India, Vietnam, and Pakistan – released a statement ahead of the United Nations Climate Change summit (COP26) denouncing new net-zero standards as discriminatory. The plan asks for all countries to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Climate negotiations have long been shaped by equity concerns; this makes sense. The recognition that different countries have different responsibilities for, and capabilities to, address climate change is at the heart of the U.N. negotiation process. More advanced countries not only have greater resources to devote towards the greening of their economies relative to emerging economies, they also benefitted from unlimited cheap fossil fuels throughout the 20th century to get where they are today. Many argue that is unfair for these advanced economies to “pull the ladder up behind them” now that they have reached a sufficient level of development. Not all countries can afford to make the same expensive energy transitions as their already developed neighbors.
The recently disclosed Pandora Papers—a massive trove of documents disclosing offshore bank accounts, tax evasion and money laundering—revealed massive corruption in numerous European countries. The prime minister of the Czech Republic, the president of Ukraine and many others are allegedly involved. Such corruption corrodes the body politic of U.S. allies, and even threatens their security.
Europe is in the throes of an unprecedented energy crunch. Some call it a crisis, which, if not addressed, may be comparable to the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s – with dire economic, social and political consequences. Brent crude is at a 5 year high of $84 per barrel while spot natural gas prices are up more than 500% year-over-year, forcing highly polluting gas-to-coal switching and putting the brakes on the EU’s green energy transition. Resurgent energy demand post-Covid, extreme weather events (unprecedented heatwaves and prolonged winters), supply chain disruptions, and poor regional and global stockpiling have all contributed to Europe’s current crisis. Russia’s supremo Vladimir Putin may have a reason to pop a champagne bottle in view of the EU’s sanctions on the Kremlin. He says that Europe had created a self-inflicted wound. He may be right.
The fuel crisis spreading across Europe and Asia highlights the weather-related vulnerabilities faced by global energy systems. As wind and solar falter under intermittency, power generation has defaulted to gas, where demand is being squeezed by early-autumn heating and late-summer electric cooling needs across Eurasia. The reverberations of February’s polar vortex in Texas—which froze gas output—continue to be felt as resulting low reserves run dry and Gazprom dithers. The resiliency of energy supply chains is being put to the test—and failing.
As U.S. forces pull out of Afghanistan, the Taliban are making dramatic territorial gains in a new, tragic phase of the war. The Taliban’s rapid offensive is not merely a function of dwindling U.S. combat and logistical support, but a concerted push by their patron Pakistan to establish a foothold in the war-torn country. Afghanistan has been at its ‘forever war’ since the Soviet invasion in December 1979. It may stay in that state for years to come. The discord between the great powers: U.S., China, Russia, India, and others doesn’t help.
Soviet dominance left Central Asia’s environment in shambles. From hundreds of nuclear blasts in the testing grounds of Semey (Semipalatinsk) in Kazakhstan to barbaric destruction of water management in the drying-up Aral Sea, these environmental disasters left the land-locked five countries to deal with destroyed human lives, ruined ecosystems, and pollution.
When Joe Biden confronts the strongman of Russia on June 16th, the global balance of power will be at stake, for the remainder of his presidency and beyond. The responsibility on Biden's shoulders will be tremendous. The forecast? Grim.
This Newlines Institute Contours podcast presents a deep dive into U.S. President Joe Biden’s inaugural visit to Europe, his administration’s commitment to collective defense, and the fragile trajectory of U.S.-Russian relations ahead of the June 16 Geneva summit between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. In this episode, Newlines Institute Senior Analyst and Contours host, Nicholas Heras, sits down with four special guests: Jim Townsend, Jr., an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security’s Transatlantic Security Program and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy; Rachel Rizzo, the Director of Programs at the Truman Center and Truman National Security Project; Dr. Ariel Cohen, a Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council and Founding Principal of International Market Analysis, Ltd; and Caroline Rose, a Senior Analyst and Head of Newlines Institute’s Power Vacuums Program.
Last Friday, a cyber-attack was conducted against the Alpharetta-based Colonial Pipeline, which spans 5,500 miles from Houston to the Port of New York and New Jersey and meets 45% of the East Coast’s fuel needs. The ransomware attack is believed to have been perpetrated by criminal hacker syndicate ‘Darkside.’ Even though the breach targeted business rather than operational computer systems, the company has halted all pipeline operations out of an abundance of caution. With this major artery shut down, a shortage of heating oil, jet fuel, gasoline and diesel will soon hit the North East. Gas prices are already trending upward, and that’s with a temporary freeze. If the systems that run the pipeline do become compromised, the pipeline may be shut for weeks or even months.
On Thursday April 15, President Biden imposed long-awaited sanctions on Russia, blaming the Kremlin for the SolarWinds hack that breached U.S. government agencies and American companies. The sanctions are aimed at Russia's disinformation efforts and the occupation of Crimea, along with its recent military buildup and exercises on the Ukraine border. Ten Russian diplomats were expelled as a result.
The idea of space-based laser weapons orbiting the earth has been a part of popular culture and real life government projects for decades, from James Bond’s Goldeneye to Ronald Reagan’s ambitious “Star Wars” program. Recently, the Pentagon began developing a framework to promote the innovation of what it calls Direct Energy Weapons (DEW) designed to weaponize laser systems for use against military targets. The U.S. military more than doubled its spending on DEWs between 2017 and 2019, from $535 million to $1.1 billion. Yet, compared with the massive funding for kinetic missile defense and nuclear modernization, these are minuscule budgets.
Beijing and Moscow assiduously followed former president Donald Trump's second impeachment trial for the same reasons they followed the first: the United States is China's and Russia's number one geopolitical rival. What's relevant to America's domestic politics, then, is relevant to its rivals' foreign policy ambitions. To prevent acts of hostility in a time of tumult—virtual and real—the Biden administration will need to reassure allies, shore up American institutions and deter aggression.
Central Asia’s economies have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with demand for the region’s prolific oil and gas supplies down substantially over the course of 2020. Relative to last year, global oil demand is expected to contract by 9 million barrels (about 10 percent) and crude prices remain at an anemic $48/bbl. International natural gas prices are at multiyear lows. This is bad news for gas giant Turkmenistan, hydrocarbon rich Uzbekistan, and OPEC+ member Kazakhstan, which all rely on oil and gas revenues to fill government coffers.
By most accounts, OPEC, the global oil exporting cartel and their allies led by Russia — known as OPEC Plus — should be wary of the incoming U.S. administration’s rhetoric. President-elect Biden campaigned on an historically pro-environment agenda: He intends to rejoin the UNFCCC Paris Agreement on climate change, achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, and invest trillions into a ‘clean energy revolution’ that will transition America towards green electrification. This adds yet more obstacles for an organization that once viewed the United States — the world’s number one crude consumer — as its prized export market.
“The third revolution in fifteen years is an indication that Kyrgyz society is developing immunity against corrupt and authoritarian rulers. In an surprisingly fast development, the people swept aside the president, annulled the election, which were broadly viewed as falsified, released a former president from jail, and appointed an acting prime minister, a mayor of the capital Bishkek, and a militia (police) chief. The new elections may take place soon.
“This is not the first time the Kyrgyz have kicked out leaders they perceive as corrupt and abusive. Two of the former presidents reside in Russia and Belarus respectively. So far, Kyrgyzstan beat Ukraine with its two Maidans, yet that did not improve the economy or attract foreign investment. The real challenge for the Kyrgyz people is to address the conflicts between clans and between the north and the south, and to ensure that the new leaders and the government will get corruption under control. Whether they need to change the Constitution to achieve that remains to be seen.
“Finally, it is important to understand that Kyrgyzstan may be a model for other countries in Central Asia and in the former Soviet Union where people may think that they exhausted all other available and peaceful means of protest and appeal. I am not a supporter of violence or extra-constitutional means of political struggle, but in the stolen Belarus presidential elections, in the Russian “annulled” constitutional process, or in the forthcoming elections elsewhere—if the powers that be trample on their own laws and brutally abuse police authority and resort to violence, otherwise peaceful citizens may resort to the Kyrgyz recipes to assert their rights.”
Una guerra que nunca ha terminado vive su capítulo más sangriento desde la última gran tregua.
A más de 30 años del inicio del conflicto del Alto Karabaj (o Nagorno Karabaj), Armenia y Azerbaiyán cruzan otra vez disparos y misiles y dejan muertos y heridos en una de las zonas de mayor tensión del planeta.
In this video series, Dr. Ariel Cohen discusses current events happening around the world. The discussion in this video will focus on possible Tik Tok sanctions, the events in Belarus, & the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Thank you for watching and be sure to subscribe for more updates on currents events happening around the world.
Developments in the oil market over the past two months have been catastrophic. From the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the collapse of demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic, historic (but ultimately unsuccessful) OPEC+ cuts, to negative prices, the prospects of a crude market rebound seem dim.