Tag Archives: Russia

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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Plan C: Gazprom’s failures on Nord Stream 2 | My talk, Ukrainian Energy Security Dialogue [English & Ukrainian]

ENGLISH – Dr. Tom O’Donnell spoke from Berlin (Українське відео розміщене нижче)
Українська мова: з Берліна говорив доктор Томас О’Доннел

Here is my talk [English & Ukrainian videos] for the Ukraine Energy Security Dialogue of 01.12.21, via Zoom, organized by Kyiv’s Dixie Group. Program & Speakers are below.

I outlined failures of the legal and political models Russia’s Gazprom has embraced to eventually bring the Nord Stream 2 pipeline into operation under the anti-monopoly provisions of the EU’s Third Energy Package law..

Critical observers have understandably interpreted the public optimism and “gas-Godfather”-like posturing of Kremlin and Gazprom officials as evidence of self-confidence, even arrogance. In contrast, here I outlined what actually amounts to a history of repeated failures of Nord Stream 2 AG strategies.

I termed its first two failed strategies as “Plan A” and “Plan B,” and the current one as “Plan C.”

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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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UPDATE: Gazprom begins “tepid” filling of EU gas storage. Transparency lacking from EU’s main supplier during crisis.

Este informe y mi entrevista están en español. Euronews 8.11.21

First: My Euronews 8 November interview is also in Hungarian  – Italian – Spanish (posted here) and English (yesterday’s post)

1. Factual Update:

The interview was on Monday with no evidence of Gazprom filling EU storage on the date promised. Today, Wednesday, Gazprom has begun filling at least two of five promised EU storage sites.

To the best of my knowledge, from various sources who follow the industry and/or politics of this closely:

  • Gazprom began using its recently unused Yamal pipeline, flowing 30mcm/day (million cubic meters per day) to the Mallnow, Germany pumping station. This Russia-Belarus-Poland-Germany. pipeline, has a total capacity of  85 mcm/day (31 bcm/year – billion cubic meters per year).
  • Gazprom also applied to use its previously booked-and-paid-for but also recently unused capacity across Ukraine under the December 2019 transit contract with Naftogaz of 40 bcm/year (109.3 mcm/day). Of this, :Velke Kapusany, Slovakia station is receiving 92mcm/day, with SE Poland and Moldova receiving 18 mcm/day.
  • Gazprom is flowing via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline (directly from Russia into Germany via the Baltic Sea) 165mcm/day.  This would be 60 bcm/year if continuous with no annual maintenance downtime, but its annual nameplate capacity is 55 bcm).
  • I recommended the article “Gazprom makes slow start on boosting gas supplies to Europe: Markets react tepidly as volumes remain too low to stave off supply fears,” by Max Seddon in Moscow, David Sheppard in London, and Roman Olearchyk in Kyiv  (paywall, perhaps a few articles free/month)
2. My Analytical Points:
  • This is well below the total flow Gazprom was routinely sending in recent years via Yamal (31 bcm) plus via Ukrainian pipes (89.6 bcm in 2019, and 55.8+ bcm in 2020)
  • Thus, these are not yet “surge” supplies; it is not yet a concerted effort to urgently replenish the EU’s worryingly low gas storage levels before winter gets colder and in the likely event winter winds will drop significantly as they did last year, requiring still-more gas, for electrical generation. (This combination ran the then-nearly full EU and Ukrainian storages to very low levels, which have still not been replenished sufficiently for this winter.).
  • Such drama and uncertainty from Europe’s main energy supplier when it needs reliability and transparency is heghly problematic (though, of course, Europe and especially Berlin have been amply warned about this high degree of dependence on Gazprom)..
  • Oh, and note that the USA is evidently quite concerned about the Russian troop buildup on Ukraine’s border. However, the EU seems at a complete loss, absolutely absent from joining with the Biden Administration in dissuading Mr. Putin from some new aggression. 
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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

My TRT TV-London: Cold War espionage in Berlin? Plus Russia’s “unique influence & penetration” of German society

Watch the Roundtable discussion

Is this a revival of Cold War espionage?

Aug 24, 2021 Roundtable (20.9K subscribers)
Following the arrest of a British employee at its Berlin embassy as a Russian spy, it’s been suggested that Russia has tried to infiltrate Germany in particular because of its role at the centre of Europe and because of its ties to Moscow. A former MI5 agent-recruiter, Annie Machon, plus UK academic expert Dr. Jenny Mathers at Aberystwyth University, and Dr. Tom O’Donnell, at Hertie School of Governance in Berlin are here to tell us if we’re witnessing a return to the Cold War ways of spying.

Some comments on the show: First off, my fellow panelists are experts on human espionage and Russian spy craft – which I am not – and were extremely informative In this discussion on David Foster’s Roundtable.

An overview and elaboration of my points: I stressed, besides a Cold-War-like level of Russian espionage in Berlin, there is a general openness in Germany to economic and political interpenetration and integration with Russia. In plain sight one sees everyday what I called the “unique influence and penetration” of German society as compared to any other EU or NATO ally.

I stressed energy-sector examples – most especially Nord Stream 1 and, now, Nord Stream 2 pipelines, built by German partnerships with Putin’s Russia, aiming to avoid Russian gas having to transit Ukraine to arrive in Germany and beyond. The degree of this open integration with Russia is unique in the EU. Consider: the Germany’s pre-Merkel chancellor, Schröder, heads the boards of both Gazprom and Rosneft; that an x-German Stazi secret-police officer is the CEO of Gazprom-owned Nord Stream 2 AG, and that overwhelming numbers of German experts “consult’ for Gazprom, including even the 2005-06 German Federal State Secretary for Defense(!) – who is a member of Merkel’s CDU/CSU party.

David Foster’s Roundtable, TRT-London
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My Warsaw Op-Ed: Nord Stream 2 deal marks a German win in setting allied strategy on Russia & Ukraine | Niemcy nie boją się Rosji. Boją się ryzyka płynącego z Ukrainy.

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]

Read the Polish Op-Ed (PDF) “Germany is not afraid of Russia. It fears risks coming from Ukraine”

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.

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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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