Nicholas Lokker, Research Assistant at the Centre for a New American Security
Marie Jourdain, Visiting Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center
Dr. Thomas O’Donnell: Energy and Geopolitics Analyst
Host: Philip Hampsheir, sitting in for David Foster.
From the TRT YouTube page blurb:
Dec 7, 2022 – Top European Union officials are accusing the United States of profiting from the war in Ukraine through high natural gas prices and weapons sales, while Europe struggles with rampant inflation and a cost of living crisis. Amidst rising tensions, a meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and his American counterpart in Washington saw both attempt to send a message of unity.
Is this even a real proposal? Nowadays, after becoming so unreliable a supplier of gas to Europe, in fact having weaponized Russian gas deliveries, it is difficult for anyone to take this proposal seriously. Erdogan may have many significant problems; however he and Turkey are not so naieve as to do what Germany and Austria forced the European Union to do, i.e., become overdependent on Russian gas, especially given the deep energy crisis Europe is currently going through.
But, also consider this (as I explained towards the end): This proposal of sending Nord Stream gas, originating in Northern Urengoy province, above the Artic Circle, would also require a big, new pipeline laying project, running at least from perhaps near the Ukrainian border south towards the Black Sea and then onto Turkey. This would have a significant cost. And, by the time this could be finished – in perhaps five or more years – the world will have moved on. By that time, new LNG and natural gas production potential in the USA, Qatar, Australia, Algeria, Norway, Israel (sent to Egypt for liquification) and likely many others’, will have been developed and be on the global market. On this time horizon, there would be plenty of diverse sources of gas fully able to replace Russian export capacities.
I also explained the history of the South Stream Pipeline …
I told Al Jazeera that Finland is well prepared, having worked since 2017 with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – the Baltic states – and with Poland to connect them all together with new pipelines, also to access LNG, storage and soon, new supplies from Norway.
Finland has also rented a regasification ship, from a US firm, to receive 5 billion cubic meters per year of LNG, whch will be plenty to supply both itself and Estonia in the wake of Putin cutting off Gazprom supplies of natural gas. Finland refuses, as did Poland too, to pay Moscow in rubles and so are being punished by Putin.
Kostaka.Media (Kyiv) independent journalists continue informing the Ukranian people on energy affairs. I was interviewed from afar by YAROSLAV MARKIN, TETIANA HUZENKO. We focused on gas issues – would Putin cut Europe’s gas? What have the Americans been organizing, now with the Europeans? How would this affect Europe, Ukraine and Putin’s income?
Below are links to the article in Kostaka’s three languages (EN, RU, UA). I pasted in the English one below, in case you have access problems. This interview had to be written, not audio/video, due to wartime difficulties. [Also, here’s my previous (in-person Kyiv) interview with Kostaka.Media.]
Biden’s Gas Air Lift and the impact on Kremlin revenue: Thomas W. O’Donnell on the russian gas embargo 28 April 2022 — Author YAROSLAV MARKIN, TETIANA HUZENKO Europe is going to cut the consumption of gas by a ⅔ in 2022, that is obviously will affect the Kremlin’s revenue. However, an embargo is highly possible as well. Both the Kremlin and the EU, in response to Russia’s new war crimes in Ukraine, could stop the gas flows. In such a case, LNG supplies are to help weather the crisis of 2022-2023 via Biden Air Lift. The last mentioned is being set up by the US and EU diplomats and is patterned on the Berlin Air Lift of 1949. Berlin Air Lift was a system of food and coal supply during the times when the USSR had been blocking land routes. This would be the end of Russian gas supplies to Europe forever, an international expert and senior energy and geopolitics analyst at GlobalBarrel.com, Dr Thomas W. O’Donnell believes. He told Kosatka.Media how quickly Europe would be able to abandon Russian gas, what alternative supply routes could be used, and whether Hungary and Austria, obsessed with Russian gas, could prevent this.
The analogue of Putin’s army in the energy sector • How much gas does Europe import from Russia per year? Who are the major consumers?
There are two different market processes whereby Russian gas is purchased by Europe. If we speak about only gas delivered by pipeline, these are: І. Via long-term contracts, agreements which are for natural gas to be delivered for several years, perhaps from five to as much as 20 years.
ІІ. Via the “spot” market. These are short-term contracts for gas to be delivered the following month. It is also possible to buy gas day-by-day, where traders agree to a price for gas delivered the next day. Here, gas traders consult the future’s market, which has set the price for gas delivered the next day, or the next month, or some number of months in the future.
Re: Urgente Pedido de Entrevista Periodística – Corresponsales Clarín y La Nación – Argentina
De Maria E… … Fri, Apr 29, 11:50 PM
Dr. O ´Donnell, … Estas son las preguntas para la entrevista del domingo:
1¿Alemania tiene otra posibilidad que no sea seguir comprando el gas ruso? ¿Cuáles serían sus otras opciones?
Repuesta: Antes que nada, muchas gracias por esta oportunidad de hablar con su audiencia argentina.
Pues, debo señalar que hay dos problemas diferentes: el suministro de petróleo ruso a Alemania y Europa y el suministro de gas ruso a Alemania y Europa. Me preguntas por el gas. El gas es mucho más difícil para Europa y para Alemania que el petróleo Hay dos casos: una reducción gradual o parcial de gas o un corte inmediato.
Un corte gradual se puede manejar bastante bien. Ahora Putin está tratando de dividir y conquistar Europa cortando el suministro de gas a Polonia y Bulgaria.
Un recorte inmediato, ya sea por parte de Putin o debido a las sanciones de la UE, crearía una gran crisis energética en Europa. Sin embargo, es importante entender que, al final, Putin está en una posición mucho más débil.
Si Putin corta todos los suministros de gas a Europa, ahora no hay suficiente gas en el mercado mundial para compensar. Pero Occidente, y especialmente EE. UU., la administración Biden, se ha estado preparando para esto al menos dos meses antes de que Putin invadiera Ucrania, incluso antes de que Europa creyera las advertencias de EE. UU. de que Putin atacaría Ucrania.
26.01.2022. Experts Wahid Machram, market analyst in Dubai; Samuel Ramadi at Oxford University, UK. and TRT Roundtable host David Foster in London made important points. Here’s a key assessment I made.:
There is a new and growing asymmetry between the European Union and Russia in energy supplies – one increasingly favoring Moscow.
Europe has opened itself to energy blackmail. The present winter 2021-22 gas shortage and skyrocketing prices are only one part. There is also the real possibility of Putin cutting off the pipeline gas he is still supplying in the event that Europe, esp. Germany, opposes any Russian invasion of Ukraine.
About the new EU-Russia growing energy asymmetry:
On the demand side, Germany and Europe generally increasingly need natural gas, and are growing more dependent on Russian supplies, contrary to the promises of rapid progress to a carbon-free future of the German Green Party and others. The EU, and especially Berlin, have adopted ideologically-determind, technologically unrealistic and expensive energy-transition policies, with little concern for energy-supply security. This has made Europe increasingly dependent on Russian gas imports – 40% at present of total gas imports,
Meanwhile, on the supply side, Russia, the major European supplier, is increasingly finding ways to diversify its gas customer base away from Europe, to the Far East, especially to China, and to Eurasia generally. It also has new outlets for its vast Arctic gas resources by converting it to LNG that can go by ship to anywhere in the world.
Reportedly, the EU Commission plans to soon include nuclear power in its green finance taxonomy, finally making it eligible for favorable financing and carbon credits on a par with wind and solar.
This could be spun two ways: as a victory for science over populist capture of climate policies, or as a tipping point in Brussels angst at the growing complexities and costs of the “100% renewables and no nuclear” model.
In reality, it’s some and some.
On the one hand, in March, the Commission received reports solicited from the Joint Research Centre (JRC), its scientific expert arm, finding that nuclear waste is “manageable”, posing no “significant” harm to the environment, and that nuclear energy has been demonstrated to be eminently safe.
However, these assessments are not surprising. Had the Commission requested these years ago, they undoubtedly would have concluded similarly. Nuclear, public-health, risk-assessment and other expert bodies have been saying these things for years (full disclosure: my PhD is in experimental nuclear physics ).
The question then is, why is this scientific consensus only now becoming actionable for the Commission?
“Cooperation in energy transformation and trade to increase the economic strength of the Three Seas Region …”
Kongres590 – Warsaw – 14 October 2021
Moderator: prof. dr. hab. Zbigniew Krysiak, Chairman of the Program Council of the Institute of Schuman Thought Panellists:
Dr. Thomas W. O’Donnell, (PhD Nuclear Physics; Lecturer in Berlin & Energy & Geopolitical Analyst),
Julius Zellah, (President of the Light for Africa Online Foundation)
Paweł Kotowski, (Deputy Director of the Department of Economic Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Jarosław Malczewski, (President of the Polish Dairy Group),
Dr. Krzysztof Malczewski, (President of the B-2M Company)
Key points of my talk:
1. Poland has no previous experience in nuclear energy; and this is a difficult problem that needs to be tackled starting now. Also, any institute needs a sufficient scale to guarantee both high standards and employment security to those trained for industry, academia, safety, and planning. It is for this reason that nuclear training in Poland’ should be done jointly, together with all 12 of the Three Seas Initiative members (i.e., the eastern EU member states, and this may soon include also Ukraine – many of which countries already have established nuclear programs). And, as part of the Three Seas Initiative, this means also in conjunction with the USA, in particular its Department of Energy with a vast network of nationl laboratories and obviously decades of nuclear experience to draw on. Continue reading →
On Friday, 8 October, I was interviewed, with Aura Sabadus (@ASabadus) of ICIS-London, about Nord Stream 2’s impact on European energy politics on”Strait Talk” with TRT host Ayse Suberker. We discussed the geopolitical aims of Russian and German leaders for partnering on this pipeline.
I stressed, the issue is not whether Europe is dependent on Russian gas – it is and it will remain so for the foreseeable future for up to 40% of its imports. The issue is what route this gas takes to arrive from Russia into Europe.
Consider: Russia historically exported 80% of the gas it sends to Europe using massive Soviet-era pipelines transiting Ukraine, the remainder via a Belarus-Poland-Germany pipeline. However, for 20 years Continue reading →
I was quite happy with the answer of IEA (International Energy Agency*) director, Dr. Fadi Birol, to two critical questions I posed, first on how the European Commission should include nuclear power in its “green financing taxonomy,” and secondly, against German over-reliance on variable renewables (I termed this “renewable fundamentalism”) which I said produces high “organizational entropy,” that is, unworkable and unaffordable, completely “reinvented” so-called “smart grids” with “grid scale stage” whose technology is not sufficiently developed all to cope with the problem of unavoidable wind and solar energy fluctuations, which become more massive as the percentage of installed renewables increases. This is a significant contribution to Germany’s (and the EU’s) present crises of energy supply and price security. (The video above is set to start at my two questions.)
My Op-Ed on German motives for Nord Stream 2 appeared in the Dziennik Gazeta Pravwna 4 Aug. 2021 (no. 149 dziennik.pl, forsal.pl), derived from an English interview (below here) with Artur Ciechanowiicz (PAP, Brussels). [Polish Op-Ed link]
Here is my full English interview, expanded for clarity:
1) [AC] What are the consequences of the Nord Stream 2 deal between Washington and Berlin?
[T O’D] Stepping back a bit: this deal marks a victory by Berlin in its long and intensifying contest with its ally, the USA, over which of these two biggest transatlantic powers will decide the alliance’s strategy with respect to Russia and China. The two allies deeply disagree on this matter.
In the USA, both Democrats and Republicans have agreed since the Obama administration that “Great Power Competition” must be the strategy for the alliance versus Russia and China. The Americans strongly feel it is necessary to “decouple” from globalism’s deep trade and tech integration with China and Russia, that these states must either change their disrespect for global trade rules and moderate their increasingly aggressive geopolitical activities, or be isolated and forcibly contained.
Germany, with almost 50% of its GDP from global trade, deeply disagrees with this US strategy [i.e., German exports provide 46.9% of GDP, the USA’s only 11.7%]. Berlin likes global rules; but its unbalanced economy cannot afford trade decoupling and it broadly opposes forceful military containment of China and Russia. Instead, it wants only negotiations and occasional sanctions.
So, Nord Stream 2 is an iconic example of this clash, this “leadership fight” between the USA and Germany over the transatlantic alliance’s strategy towards Russia. Berlin wants to maintain energy ties at all costs, while the USA has long advocated maximum European energy independence from Russia, and to constrain Russia (and defend Ukraine) by forcing Putin to continue having to send gas across Ukraine to reach his European customers.
Russia, for its part, wants to re-incorporate former-Soviet Ukraine [plus Belarus, Moldova and Georgia, and minimally keep them outside of the EU and NATO], and has wanted to avoid having to send its gas to Europe via Ukraine. Moscow’s transit dependence on Ukraine not only provided income for Ukraine, this constrained Russian subversion and military aggression there, for fear that the transit pipelines could be interrupted by either Ukrainian state or non-state actors.
For Germany, the “insecurity” of having to import Russian gas through Ukraine deeply alarmed Berlin. And so it made a strategic decision over 20 years ago to partner with Russia, to build new pipelines to bring gas directly from Russia to Germany [via Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2] and on to European customers long supplied with the same Russian gas but via Ukraine. The aim was to make Germany the new hub for distribution of Russian gas in Europe.
Given Berlin’s logic, the 2014 Russian war on Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea only made it more sure than ever of the dangers of relying on Russian gas imports that have to transit Ukraine, and it redoubled its efforts to complete NS2, notwithstanding this would undermine German relations with three consecutive US administrations and with many of its EU allies, esp. Poland and East-Central Europe – a region where its much-prized soft power has been sacrificed.
My live interview (22 July 2021) on the Nord Stream 2 deal between Germany and USA. with CGTN (London office of Chinese state broadcaster. This was not edited, or I would not post it here.)
I explain the bind which Berlin had put the Biden administration in for agreeing to waive sanctions on Nord Stream 2 (NS2) in return for this bad deal. The German side was playing hardball. Berlin had made clear to Washington (well before Biden arrived in office) that the pipeline would be finished regardless of sanctions.
The German (and the Danish) side had already allowed Gazprom-owned North Stream 2 AG to continue construction in their territorial waters even when reputable insurance companies and the reputable construction-commissioning firms had abandoned the project due to the threat of US sanctions; and Berlin had made it clear to the US side that it would be completed regardless of any further sanctions. Sanctions on German firms could be circumvented by Berlin continuing to allow Russian firms to do any work that German firms were prevented from performing. And, sanctioning German firms, or NS2 AG, would cause outrage in every German political party except for the Greens, the only German party clearly opposed to the project. However, the Greens had made clear they did not think US sanctions on German firms was an appropriate measure for an ally to take.
It was my pleasure to be with Thierry Bros of Sciences Po University, Paris, and Peter Zalmayev, Ukrainian security analyst and executive director of Eurasian Democracy Initative on David Foster’s Roundtable on TRT World, London, broadcast 9 June 2021.
I discussed Biden’s apparent reasoning for waiving Nord Stream 2 sanctions:
First off, the German government of Angela Merkel simply would not cooperate otherwise. Allowing her pet energy project to go forward was the price she had demanded for trans-Atlantic “unity” before Biden’s summit with Putin.
(Aside: My research in Berlin and elsewhere has convinced me that, at no point from the late-Trump administration through Biden’s six months in office, did the German side actually engage in any meaningful “negotiation” or discussions with the US side to seek to find some compromise or to initiate a moratorium on construction. Not until Biden waived sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, and decided not to sanction any German firms inolved in construction did Merkel show any real interest in discussions. She emphasized her change of attitude on negotiating with Biden about: “what now are also the necessary commonalities in the relationship with Russia” in comments during a German national broadcast interview immediately following Biden’s sanctions waiver. Until this waiver, she had held up any real discussion of the pressing issues of trans-Atlantic unity-in-general, whcih urgently needed attention.
Here are four issues on the Biden-Blinkin sanctions decision I discussed with EuroNews and other news media in the last few days:
-1- Regarding Biden’s waiving of sanctions on the company Nord Stream 2 AG and its head Matthias Warnig (former Stazi officer):
These sanctions would be unlikely to stop NS2, though it would cause difficulty for the firm and the European oil and gas firms that are partnering with it.
I am not surprised, however, in light of the upcoming Biden-Putin summit. It should be noted that the Russian side (e.g., their ambassador here in Berlin) has made clear, publicly, that sanctions would kill the Biden-Putin summit — which both sides need on many hot issues (see my comments of yesterday, on Iran negotiations, and US necessity to withdraw on-the-ground forces from the Middle East, and to focus on “Great Power Competition” vs. especially China, and Russia).
-2- As for effect of the new sanctions on the pipeline’s construction, and what options the US has:
The English version is below here | Mein Op-Ed-Artikel wurde am 6. April 2021 im Tagesspiegel Background in Berlin gedruckt.
Die Ukraine als „Zentralbank“ für europäische Energie
Thomas O’Donnell, Hertie School of Governance
Wie kann die Gasdominanz Russlands strategisch eingehegt werden? Der Wissenschaftler Thomas O’Donnell von der Hertie School of Governance prüft in seinem Standpunkt die Möglichkeit, die Ukraine mit ihren großen Gasspeichern zu einer Art „Zentralbank“ für europäische Energie zu machen und sie als Puffer zu nutzen. Zusammen mit weiteren Alternativen zu den Nord-Stream-Pipelines verbessere das die Versorgungssicherheit stark.
Der Chef des ukrainischen Gastransportsystems, Sergiy Makogon, hat vorgeschlagen, dass Europa die Ukraine als flexiblen und strategischen Energieknotenpunkt akzeptiert und dabei die Vorteile ihrer einzigartigen Gastransport- und -speicherinfrastruktur nutzt.
Was dieses Konzept glaubwürdig macht, ist, dass die Ukraine seit 2014, kurz nachdem die Maidan-Revolution und die russische Aggression begannen, ihren Gassektor erfolgreich in diese Richtung umgestaltet hat. Mit Hilfe der EU rüstete die Ukraine rasch die Exportpipelines in die Slowakei, nach Polen, Ungarn und Rumänien um, um Rückflüsse (Reverse-Flow) zu ermöglichen. Das befreite Kiew schnell von der Notwendigkeit, russisches Gas zu kaufen, und stellte sicher, dass ein solcher „Handel“ in Zukunft nicht dazu genutzt werden kann, Moskau zugeneigte Oligarchen zu fördern.
Op-Ed: Ukraine as “Central Bank” of European energy
Dr. Thomas O’Donnell, Hertie School of Governance | Published in: Tagesspiegel Background, Berlin. 6 April 2021
How can Russia’s gas dominance be strategically contained? Dr. Thomas O’Donnell of the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, examines the possibility of turning Ukraine with its large gas storage facilities into a kind of “central bank” for European energy and using it as a buffer. Together with other alternatives to the Nord Stream pipelines, this will greatly improve European security of supply.
The CEO of Ukrainian’s gas transmission pipeline system, Mr. Sergiy Makogon, has proposed that Europe embrace Ukraine as a flexible and strategic energy hub, taking advantage of its unique gas-transport and -storage infrastructure.
What makes this concept credible is that Ukraine has been successfully re-shaping its gas sector in this direction since 2014, shortly after its Maidan Revolution and Russia’s aggression began. With EU assistance, Ukraine rapidly retooled export pipelines to Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to permit reverse flows. This rapidly freed Kyiv from buying Russian gas and assured this “trade” could not be used in future to cultivate pro-Moscow oligarchs.