Tag Archives: Putin

Our TRT TV: Will Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s new Green Foreign Minister, be able/permitted to succeed?

David Foster hosts TRTRoundtable 15.12.21

Here’s our TRT Roundtable on Annelene Baerbock as new German Green Foreign Minister. The questions included, will/can she:

  • Prioritize human rights in China and Russia over German trade?
  • Stand strong vs Putin’s Ukraine-invasion threats?
  • Insist Chancellor Scholz (SPD) kills Nord Stream2?

Can the new German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, co-chair of the Green Party, possibly make any difference in German foreign policy under the strong hand of the new SPD Chancellor, Olaf Scholz?

I appeared on David Foster’s “TRT World” show, produced in London, to discuss Germany’s first woman foreign minister, whose Green Party is now governing with the Social Democrats (SPD) and liberal Free Democrats (FDP).

Ms. Baerbock, the first woman foreign minister in German history, has a steep hurdle to overcome to put any imprint on German foreign policy. For example, the chair of Scholz’ party, said this week that he sees Putin’s 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders as, rather incredibly, a case of “mutual threats,” quite different from Minister Baerbock’s public views before assuming this office.

As Nato, EU and USA relations vis-a-vis Russia and China heat up, Minister Baerbock comes with no previous foreign affairs experience, and SPD Chancellor Scholz is expected to dominate foreign policy, just as Angela Merkel’s office did previously. [See footnote]

I discussed her much-asserted intent to shift to a “values-centered” foreign policy, to criticizing Russian and Chinese human rights violations, which were not emphasized by the “pragmatic” and “interest-based” foreign polity of Angela Merkel.

I also discussed her avowed “post-pacifist” political ideology – e.g., ​in favor of ​speaking more strongly​ than most Greens have traditionally done​ ​in favor of​ NATO security​ (and perhaps expansion?)​ in Eastern and Central Europe​, and​ than either the CDU and especially the SPD generally would, and ​also ​for a “European Army” to enhance EU defense capacities. However, what she exactly means by this is not ​so ​clear, and till now this stance has tended to be a distinction without any great practical difference to the policies of either the former CEU or the new SPD chancellor.

For example, as I pointed out, last week she indeed spoke clearly in opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a threat to Ukrainian security, and further said that it cannot be certified as it now stands, under EU law.. However, while she was in opposition, she consistently demanded the project be abandoned. Now, as foreign minister, she has only thus far stating what is known: that the pipeline is not possible to certify legally and bring into operation as its present ownership structure would violate the anti-monopoly provisions of European law (and, therefore, too German law), known as the “Third Energy Package.”

However, she has said nothing really new here. Gazprom and its Nord Stream 2 AG subsidiary are now increasingly being seen to be on legal thin ice (e.g., I gave a historical overview of this Gazprom difficulty in my 05.12.2021 Kyiv talk video: Plan C: Gazprom’s failures on Nord Stream 2 and in my written explanation accompanying it).

The question is, will she demand of Scholz that the pipeline be abandoned, especially not that Putin is openly threatening to commits new aggression against Ukraine? And, the Americans will demand it is he takes any such step, based on their reading of the “deal” they made with Mrs. Merkel’s government that the pipeline must not be used as an energy weapon and that an invasion of Ukraine would especially require the project being killed.

Should she do so, she has a very steep climb ahead in her governing coalition, especially coming up against the firm support for the project within Scholz’ SPD..

My fellow expert panelists included

NOTA BENE: A really very informative background deep dive on the decline of the German Foreign office under Merkel, who gradually took over all important foreign issues herself, by Politico’s Germany/Austria reporter is: “Who will be Germany’s next foreign minister? Nobody cares. During her 16 years in power, German Chancellor Angela Merkel seized full control over international affairs.” BY MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG September 24, 2021. Here is the link.

My DW “Inside Europe” Nord Stream 2 interview. Russian-German-USA-Ukrainian energy geopolitics. Radio & podcast

My DW Inside Europe, Interview with Kate Laycock on legally stalled Nord Stream 2, the EU’s winter energy crisis, Russia’s aims versus Ukraine, Germany’s rationale for partnering with Russia, and etc. – Syndicated in North America on NPR, etc. – on 18.11.21.
To avoid Russian gas transiting Ukraine, Belarus & Poland, huge detour-pipelines Nord Stream & Nord Stream 2 were built by Russia in partnership with the German government. These run from Russia, near St. Petersburg, via the Baltic Sea directly to Germany

The continued refusal of the recently arrived German coalition government, in the face of clear threats by Putin to again invade Ukraine, to clearly abandon this huge pipeline project is upsetting to many NATO partners and Ukraine. In particular, the new German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, co-leader of the Green Party, had constantly called for the immediate abandonment of this project while her party was in the opposition during the Angela-Merkel-led coalition government. However, in government, she has merely repeated the well-known fact that this pipeline must meet EU law requirements, and so far this is not possible. Moreover, even more disappointing to many NATO allies, the new government, led by the Social Democrat Olaf Scholtz, has also blocked NATO from sending various “offensive” weapons to Ukraine to defend itself.

This audio file is an eight-minute DW-edited version of a much longer interview we taped, so of course these are not my complete statements on these issues. Hopefully these brief answers do shed light on the perceived national interests of German leaders across what are now three separate governments and 18+ years of partnering with Moscow on these huge Ukraine-detour pipelines: Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2.

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My Kyiv interview: PUTIN WAS BLUFFING HE COULD “SAVE” EUROPE: Dr. Tom O’Donnell on Nord Stream 2, hydrogen & nuclear energy [Kosatka.Media]

Dr. Thomas W. O’Donnell, at 1st Ukraine Gas Investment Congress, Kyiv. 21.10.21.[Kosatka Media]

Here’s my extended interview in Kyiv with two great Kosatka.Media journalists [Read in UA, RU]

18 NOVEMBER 2021 — AUTHOR YAROSLAV MARKIN, TETIANA HUZENKO In 2021, the energy sector of Ukraine faced myriad threats related to the completion of Nord Stream 2, increasing gas prices and coal shortage just before the heating season. At the same time, green trends require decarbonizing the industry and developing the hydrogen direction.

Kosatka.Media discussed what direction is better for Ukraine, whether it should wait for the protection against Nord Stream 2, and where global green trends could take us, with Dr. Thomas W. O’Donnell, international expert and senior energy and geopolitics analyst at GlobalBarrel.com, who participated in the Ukraine Gas Investment Congress held in late October in Kyiv.

  • One of the key messages at the congress is that whatever the ‘green’ trends are, gas is a transition fuel and we will use it for a long time. Are there any other case scenarios? How should Ukraine act in this situation?

In the long run, we want to have a world that’s not dependent on hydrocarbons. The worst hydrocarbon is lignite and brown coal. And that’s what people s\should concentrate on eliminating. Natural gas in fact is a great way to eliminate coal.

It’s actually an improvement for Ukraine, not only because of global warming, because of CO2, but also for the health of the people since natural gas does not produce environmental pollution. So, increasing the use of natural gas (or also nuclear energy) in a country like Ukraine is to the benefit of the environment and to the people’s health.

However, Ukraine is not a typical European country, it is a country that unfortunately is at war. In such a situation, it has found an intelligent way to access natural gas, which is virtual reverse flow.

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There’s no 2021-22 Nord Stream 2 option: Only way to avert EU gas crisis & for Gazprom not to waste its huge domestic-production-surge investment … is for Moscow to take Kyiv’s offer of 50% cut in transit fees, flooding the EU with gas from 7 November.

voice-of-europe-fire-novy-urongoy-gas-plant-gazprom-5augustPutin’s recent gas-Godfather-like statements that Nord Stream 2 could alleviate  the current European natural gas price and supply crisis is an obvious attempt to pressure the EU to rush Nord Stream 2 approval in ways violating the EU’s own rule of law.
 
As a Polish expert wrote in 2019,: “The amendment to the [European Union’s] gas directive explicitly confirms that EU law applies in the case of Nord Stream 2 (that is, to the section running through German territorial sea), including the rules on unbundling, third-party access, independent operators et al.: (Agata Łoskot-Strachota, “The gas directive revision: EU law poses problems for Nord Stream 2,” OSW, Warsaw, 21.02.2-19.).
 
However, Putin’s hubris should be taken with a grain of salt. In reality, his options in this regard are subject to current technical-economic constraints of the Russia gas sector, as my research had indicated in recent weeks.
 
Russian domestic storage was announced to be at 97% full mid-last-week due to its continuing all-out Gazprom filling campaign, reportedly at the high rate of about 300 million cubic meters/day (mcm/d). The plan had been to finish by 1 November.. Thereafter, this maxed-out production has to immediately be choked off or be sent somewhere else – and indeed there is only one option; but it is not Nord Stream 2…
 
One caveat: a recently announced 7 November Gazprom export start date did not made sense. Where would the maxed out production flows go from 1 to 7 November?  However, an article yesterday by Bloomburg [possible paywall] clarifies “Gazprom said Wednesday that the Russian re-injection campaign would be a week longer than the original Nov. 1 conclusion.”  This is quite plausible – it is simply taking an extra six days to top off Russian domestic storage. 
 
So to reiterate points I have stressed over the past few weeks (e.g., at Naftogaz’ Ukraine Gas investment Congress closing panel in Kyiv last Thursday-I’ll put a video of this here soon- and in various interviews):
 
First, while Putin has relished playing the gas-mafia Godfather (e.g., at the St Petersburg gas conference two weeks ago), asserting that, if  Nord Stream 2 is rapidly approved, Gazprom exports could save Europe this winter, he has been merely posturing as the strongman decider. He wanted to appear to be craftily withholding extra, non-contracted gas supplies needed to fill  the company’s storage facilities in Germany and throughout the EU, all still now at worryingly low levels long after the traditional filling season ended at the start of October.
 

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My Al Jazeera Live: EU Gas Crisis 2021: Too many windmills w/o wind, a cold winter & hot summer drained EU & Russian storage. While Putin fills his, EU goes back to coal & prices soar. [Arabic & English]

ENGLISH AUDIO: At 0:30 are the interpreter’s questions & my answers.

Video In Arabic – Audio above has English interpreter’s and my voice in English.

My TRT StraightTalk: Nord Stream 2: Europe’s Energy crisis, Putin’s lever, Ukraine’s plight, & Berlin’s complicity

StraitTalk, 8 October. My comments (from Berlin) begin at 2:30, with Aura Sabadus of ICIS (in London) and TRT’s Ause Suberker interviewing (in Stockholm).

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

“EU leaders will consider creating a strategic gas reserve” [TVPoland explains I proposed this in August: “Ukraine as a Central Bank of Energy”]

ursula_von-der-leyen_EU_gas_strategic_reserve_tvp_pap_03oct21For explanation of  my proposal, go below to bold text on my August Tagesspiegel Op-Ed.

RAJA ME  |

EU leaders will discuss the idea of ​​creating a strategic EU gas reserve and decoupling electricity prices from gas prices, said the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

– When it comes to gas, we are dependent on imports – 90 percent. gas is imported. The economies in the world are growing, so is the demand. But the supply is not correspondingly greater. We are very grateful that Norway is increasing production, but it seems that this is not the case in Russia, noted the head of the European Commission, visiting Estonia. In her opinion, the solution to the problem are investments in renewable energy sources, which should make the Community independent of imports and stabilize prices.

– In the short term, we will talk at the European Council, not only this evening (Tuesday), but in two weeks’ time at the formal Council of Europe, how to deal with storage, the strategic reserve and we will look at the overall price structure on the electricity market. Electricity prices are high due to high gas prices and we have to consider the possibility of (them) decoupling because we have much cheaper energy from renewable sources, said von der Leyen

On Tuesday evening, an informal meeting of European leaders will take place in Slovenia ahead of the EU-Western Balkans summit scheduled for Wednesday.

According to unofficial diplomatic sources in Brussels, Poland wants the European Commission to conduct investigations into the manipulation of the natural gas market by the Russian company Gazprom, which are causing the increase in gas prices in the EU. This issue is expected to appear at the EU summit on October 21-22.

Back in April, American energy market analyst Thomas O’Donnell predicted that Russia would use gas supplies to build strategic domination. The EU’s response should be to create a kind of gas ‘central bank’ in Ukrainian warehouses and use this country as a buffer, he proposed.

Ukraine is a key element of the strategic gas reserve

– Shortly after the beginning of the Maidan revolution and the Russian aggression, Ukraine, with the support of the EU, quickly made technical modifications to the export pipelines to Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania in such a way as to enable a reverse. This quickly freed Kiev from having no alternative to buying Russian gas, said the expert.

– Moreover, the Kremlin cannot so easily promote favorable oligarchs – he envisaged adding that the implementation of this idea was only a matter of legislation.

– The EU could designate warehouses in Ukraine, Germany and France as the so-called strategic reserves that must always hold a certain minimum amount of gas. In the event of any aggression by Russia against Ukraine or other countries, these warehouses would be launched by a special EU-US committee or within the OECD, and Russian pipelines would be cut, the analyst suggested.

– Gas belonging to Gazprom, which stores huge amounts of gas in Germany and other EU countries, should in this case be nationalized – the expert believes.

Responding to the objection that such ideas sounded a bit fantastic, he explained that this is almost exactly how the international oil security system has operated for 50 years: in the event of a crisis, 90-day strategic oil reserves are deployed in each member state of the International Energy Agency.

My CGTN live: Merkel put Biden in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” bind on Nord Stream 2 deal

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.

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I tell DW TV: Nord Stream 2 is geopolitical. Berlin & Moscow aim to reroute Russia-to-EU gas around “insecure” Ukraine.

My DW Business live, with host Chris Kober, Feb 12,

In this live interview with Deutsche Welle (DW.de) on 12 February, I told host Christoph Kober, that this pipeline is clearly “geopolitical”.

Without Nord Stream 2, Putin can’t significantly escalate his war inside Ukraine; he’d risk his lucrative gas-export business with EU. That’s because, without Nord Stream 2, most of the gas Russia exports to EU countries currently has to arrive via pipelines transiting Ukraine that belong to its finance ministry (the remainder Russia pipes to EU states arrives via Belarus-Poland).

I pointed out that, by invading Ukraine in 2014, Putin created his own worries about his lucrative gas business with the EU. Unfortunately for Ukraine, Germany’s government also frets about this gas, fully 40% of all EU imports, having to pass through Ukraine. And so, Berlin made a “realpolitik” decision in 2015, to assist Russia’s Gazprom to build a huge new a detour pipeline around Ukraine. (I analyzed this policy, in 2017, as a “Neue Neue Ost Politik” and here – i.e., the New New Eastern Politics, a third historical iteration of German elites’ reorientations towards Moscow.)

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The FT quotes my critique on: “German green foundation joins efforts to complete Nord Stream 2”

Baltic Sea Port of Mukran, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.. Logistic center for building Nord Stream 2 pipeline. – By Klugschnacker – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15320681

“This is either a conscious Russian disinformation scheme to collect supplies from naive firms, or it’s a really irresponsible move by the foundation,” said Thomas O’Donnell, energy and geopolitics analyst at Hertie School of Governance. (“German green foundation joins efforts to complete Nord Stream 2,” Financial Times, 21 Jan 2020, see here, or PDF here.)

The FT’s Erika Solomon interviewed me about the fake “climate-protection” foundation established by the legislature of the German state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania (German initials MV).  State officials stated intent is to help Gazprom, the Russian state gas monopoly, overcome US sanctions to finish building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Their new foundation is financed with €20 million from Gazprom (sole owner of Nord Stream 2 AG), and €200,000 from the state government.

The strategy is for the foundation to purchase “rare and hard to find” equipment Nord Stream 2 AG will need to finish the pipeline, but which firms cannot sell directly to it because of US sanctions against the project. MV politicians have called their foundation a “clever mechanism” to protect firms from sanctions.  According to the state’s energy minister, Mr. Christian Pegel (SPD), the foundation will be a “type of hardware-store shelf” (“Baumarktregal-Variante“) that then supplies the Gazprom operation. The strategy here is that with the “climate-protection” foundation acting as the middleman, German firms will both not deal directly with Gazprom’s sanctioned Nord Stream 2 project, and the foundation’s purchases will be completed “before the deadline” when sanctions are applied.  

However, there are no such loopholes to be exploited.

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