My analysis of the US-German crisis over Nord Stream 2 and policy towards Russia, published in Washington by the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS), 8 October 2020. Read it at AICGS website\. Or, continue here. Comments & Critiques welcomed (below or via email)
Nord Stream 2: Allies’ Crisis
Two decades of Washington-Berlin collisions over the Nord Stream 1 and now the Nord Stream 2 pipelines have come to crisis.
The U.S. Congress stopped Nord Stream 2 construction in December 2019 by enacting sanctions under the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act (PEESA), and is poised to enact a much harsher “Clarification” of PEESA, sanctioning any entity that resumes or aids in resuming construction in the Baltic Sea. German officials insist the project will, nonetheless, be completed, denouncing U.S. sanctions as “extraterritorial” interference in “European sovereignty.”
In reality, the project appears dead. Statements by businesses interests, as opposed to political actors, support this. To resume construction, companies, ports, officials, and insurers would require guarantees against ruin, including being personally sanctioned, which is difficult to imagine the German state providing. And there is no evidence of preparations to do so. Nevertheless, Russia’s Gazprom continues preparations to resume work.
Complicating matters, the U.S. Congress, having mandated sanctions against the pipeline, would have to approve any compromise. On the other side, the German Bundestag roundly “savaged” a motion by the Green Party to abandon Nord Stream 2 in response to Navalny’s poisoning, unprecedentedly uniting the CDU/CSU of Chancellor Merkel and her SPD coalition partners with both the far-left Die Linke and far-right Alternative for Deutschland.
This Wikistrat Report on the Saudi kingdom’s “reform” plans and the future of oil is from a press webinar I did on 17 May together with Dr. Ariel Cohen (Atlantic Council, Washington) and Prof. Shaul Mishal (Middle East Division, IDC Herzliya & Tel Aviv U.). A nicely done report on oil market and geopolitical hot topics.
Oil output freeze is needed to ‘create a firm price floor’: analyst
The oil market has given members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries a reason to crack a cautious smile when they meet June 2 in Vienna.
Signs of a more stable oil market have emerged since the cartel members last held a regularly-scheduled meeting. Oil prices CLN6, +0.04%LCON6, -0.38% have gained more than 30% so far this year. And both West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, and Brent crude, the global benchmark, briefly traded above $50 on Thursday.
Global production is falling following a larger-than-expected weekly decline in crude supplies, according to a report from the American Petroleum Institute late Tuesday. The report comes as the number of active-drilling rigs have been in a steady state of decline and oil-company spending cuts, oil-and-gas sector bankruptcies, and recent outages in Africa and North America, have been supportive for crude prices.
“OPEC members are likely to be a little happier going into June’s meeting than they were in December,” Tom Pugh, commodities economist at Capital Economics, said in recent research note.
Oil prices have “surged by about a third since the start of the year,” he said. The “higher prices will have removed some of the pressure on [OPEC] to act to prop up prices.”
But that doesn’t mean major oil producers can sit back and relax when they get together. Oil market supply and demand haven’t fully stabilized and there a lot of factors than can, and probably will, rock OPEC’s boat.
Here’s a rundown of what analysts see as the key issues at hand and possible outcomes for the OPEC summit: Continue reading →
Merkel and Obama answer questions. 6 June 2014 [Denver Post]
During April and May, I interviewed over a dozen Washington-based experts in European energy and geopolitics. My report on these interviews–along with some policy proposals in light of Brussels’ “institutional incapacities” and the “fundamental contradictions” of German leadership–is here: [PDF with a Table of Contents for navigation] or at theAICGS website [HTML].
This work was conducted as a resident fellow of the AICGS (American Institute of Contemporary German Studies) in Washington, DC and supported by a generous grant from the German Academic Exchange Office (DAAD) with additional support from the Foreign Office. My thanks to the AICGS for their collegial support and warm hospitality.
Next, the plan is to interview in Berlin and perhaps Brussels energy experts and officials for their viewpoints on European energy vulnerabilities and on their work with the U.S. side.
Merkel and Obama at G7. Main topic was Russian threats to EU and Ukraine
An AICGS workshop with Dr. Thomas O’Donnell was held on May 27 in Washington, DC with a lively full-room attendance.
O’Donnell presented preliminary results of interviews he conducted in Washington during April and May to hear candid views of US energy-and-geopolitical experts on German and the EU energy policies. The main topics were (1) European natural-gas vulnerabilities in light of the Ukraine crisis and dependence on Russian supplies and (2) implications of Germany’s commitment to a transition to renewable energy called the Energiewende. Continue for Workshop PowerPoint & written Summary –> Continue reading →
Presidents Rouhani of Iran and Putin of Russia holding discussions
(AICGS Analysis, by Tom O’Donnell) Since Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, decided to annex Crimea and back east Ukrainian separatists with troops, many have worried he might use his “energy weapon” to counter U.S.-EU sanctions, as Russia supplies around a third of the EU’s natural gas imports. But what about Russian retaliation in the oil sector?
That’s hard to imagine. While gas is marketed in bi-lateral, pipeline-mediated relationships, oil is not. It’s liquid, fungible, and marketed in a unified open market—“the global barrel” [and name of this blog, T.O’D.]—which means there are no bi-lateral oil dependencies.
So, when EU leaders were cajoled by Germany’s Angela Merkel into joining the United States in applying sanctions, Russia could do little to retaliate from within the oil sector. In reality, it is the EU and the U.S., not Russia, that have an “oil weapon” in hand. And, the flurry of Russian oil diplomacy with OPEC, Iran and China over the past couple of weeks has a distinct whiff of desperation to it. Continue reading →
EU Foreign Affairs Representative. Federica Mogherini, and Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, announce the P5+1 deal with Iran. 3 April 2015
On April 3, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, together with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced a framework agreement significantly limiting Iran’s future nuclear program.
Clearly, this deal was only possible with the patient collaboration of the British, French, German, and EU foreign ministers and U.S. secretaries of state. However, this common front was only forged through a multiple-step process orchestrated by Mr. Obama, beginning when he took office. Continue reading →