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From Energy Core to Currency War

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A multi-spectrum war is being waged against Moscow by Washington. If there are any doubts about this, they should be put to rest. Geopolitics, science and technology, speculation, financial markets, information streams, large business conglomerates, intelligentsia, mass communication, social media, the internet, popular culture, news networks, international institutions, sanctions, audiences, public opinion, nationalism, different governmental bodies and agencies, identity politics, proxy wars, diplomacy, countervailing international alliances, major business agreements, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), human rights, prestige, military personnel, capital, and psychological tactics are all involved in this multi-spectrum war.

On a daily basis this struggle can be seen playing out on the airwaves, in the war theaters in Ukraine and the Middle East, through the statements and accusations of diplomats, and in the economic sphere.
Additionally, the debates and questions on whether a new cold war—a post-Cold War cold war—has emerged or if the Cold War never ended should be put to rest too. The mentality of the Cold War never died in the Washington Beltway.

From the perspective of Russian officials, it is clear that the US never put down its war mace and continued the offensive. The dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, defeating the Soviets and Eastern Bloc, and seeing the Soviet Union dismantled into fifteen republics was not enough for the Cold War warriors in the US. The newly emergent Russian Federation had to be placated in their views.
Petro-politics have been a major feature of this multi-spectrum war too. [1] Not only have energy prices been a factor in this struggle, but so are financial markets and national currencies. The manipulated decline in the price of energy, which has been driven by the flooding of the global market with oil, is now being augmented by a siege on the value of the Russian ruble.
This is part of what appears to be a deliberate two-pronged attack on the Russian Federation that seeks to cut Russia’s revenues through market manipulation via economic sanctions and price drops. It is what you would call a «double whammy». While sanctions have been imposed on the Russian economy by the US and its allies, including Australia, Canada, the European Union, and Japan, offensives on Russia’s main source of revenue — energy — and its national currency have taken place.

Currency Warfare and Inflation
The price of the Russian ruble begun to drop in December 2014 as a consequence of the economic siege on the Russian Federation, the drop in global energy prices, and speculation. «Judging by the situation in the country, we are in the midst of a deep currency crisis, one that even Central Bank employees say they could not have foreseen in their worst nightmares». Interfax’s Vyacheslav Terekhov commented on the currency crisis while talking to Russian Preisdent Vladimir Putin during a Kremlin press conference on December 18, 2014. [2] Putin himself admitted this too at the press conference. While answering Terekhov, Putin explained that «the situation has changed under the influence of certain foreign economic factors, primarily the price of energy resources, of oil and consequently of gas as well». [3]
Some may think that the drop in the Russian ruble’s value is a result of the market acting on its own while others who recognize that there is market manipulation involved may turn around and blame it on the Russian government and Vladimir Putin.

This process, however, has been guided by US machinations. It is simply not a result of the market acting on its own or the result of Kremlin policies. It is the result of US objectives and policy that deliberately targets Russia for destabilization and devastation. This is why Putin answered Terekhov’s question by saying that the drop in the value of the Russian ruble «was obviously provoked primarily by external factors». [4]
Both US Assistant-Secretary of State Victoria Nuland — the wife of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) co-founder and neo-conservative advocate for empire Robert Kagan—and US Assistant-Secretary of the Treasury Daniel Glaser told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives in May 2014 that the objectives of the US economic sanctions strategy against the Russian Federation was not only to damage the trade ties and business between Russia and the EU, but to also bring about economic instability in Russia and to create currency instability and inflation. [5]
In other words, the US government was targeting the Russian ruble for devaluation and the Russian economy for inflation since at least May 2014.

It appears that the US is trying to manipulate the Kremlin into spending Russia’s resources and fiscal reserves to fight the inflation of the Russian ruble that Washington has engineered.
The Kremlin, however, will not take the bait and be goaded into depleting the approximately $419 billion (US) foreign currency reserves and gold holdings of the Russian Federation or any of Russia’s approximately 8.4 trillion ruble reserves in an effort to prop the declining value of the Russian ruble.

In this regard, while holding a press conference, President Putin has stated the following on December 18, 2014: «The Central Bank does not intend to ‘burn’ them all senselessly, which is right». [6] Putin emphasized this again when answering Vyacheslav Terekhov’s question by saying that the Russian government and Russian Central Bank «should not hand out our gold and foreign currency reserves or burn them on the market, but provide lending resources». [7]
The Kremlin understands what Washington is trying to do. The US is replaying old game plans against Russia. The energy price manipulation, the currency devaluation, and even US attempts to entrap Russia in a conflict with its sister-republic Ukraine are all replays of US tactics that have been used before during the Cold War and after 1991.
For example, dragging Russia into Ukraine would be a replay of how the US dragged the Soviet Union into Afghanistan whereas the manipulation of energy prices and currency markets would parallel the US strategy used to weaken and destabilize Baathist Iraq, Iran, and the Soviet Union during the Afghan-Soviet War and Iran-Iran War.
Instead of trying to stop the value of the ruble from dropping, the Kremlin appears to have decided to strategically invest in Russia’s human capital. Russia’s national reserve funds will be used to diversify the national economy and strengthen the social and public sectors.
Despite the economic warfare against Russia, this is exactly why the wages of teachers in schools, professors in post-secondary institutions of learning and training, employees of cultural institutions, doctors in hospitals and clinics, paramedics, and nurses—the most important sectors for developing Russia’s human capital and capacity—have all been raised.

The Russian Bear Courts the Turkish Grey Wolf
The Kremlin, however, has an entire list of options at its disposal for countering the US offensive against Russia. One of them involves the courting of Turkey. The Russian courtship of Turkey has involved the Russian move away from the construction of the South Stream natural gas pipeline from Russia across the Black Sea to Bulgaria.
Putin announced that Russia has cancelled the South Stream project on December 1, 2014. Instead the South Stream pipeline project has been replaced by a natural gas pipeline that goes across the Black Sea to Turkey from the Russian Federation’s South Federal District.
This alterative pipeline has been popularly billed the «Turk Stream» and partners Russian energy giant Gazprom with Turkey’s Botas. Moreover, Gazprom will start giving Turkey discounts in the purchase of Russian natural gas that will increase with the intensification of Russo-Turkish cooperation.

The natural gas deal between Ankara and Moscow creates a win-win situation for both the Turkish and Russian sides. Not only will Ankara get a discount on energy supplies, but Turk Stream gives the Turkish government what it has wanted and desired for years.
The Turk Stream pipeline will make Turkey an important energy corridor and transit point, complete with transit revenues. In this case Turkey becomes the corridor between energy supplier Russia and European Union and non-EU energy customers in southeastern Europe.
Ankara will gain some leverage over the European Union and have an extra negotiating card with the EU too, because the EU will have to deal with it as an energy broker.
For its part, Russia has reduced the risks that it faced in building the South Stream by cancelling the project. Moscow could have wasted resources and time building the South Stream to see the project sanctioned or obstructed in the Balkans by Washington and Brussels.
If the European Union really wants Russian natural gas then the Turk Stream pipeline can be expanded from Turkey to Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) of Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, and other European countries that want to be integrated into the energy project.

The cancelation of South Stream also means that there will be one less alternative energy corridor from Russia to the European Union for some time. This has positive implications for a settlement in Ukraine, which is an important transit route for Russian natural gas to the European Union.
As a means of securing the flow of natural gas across Ukrainian territory from Russia, the European Union will be more prone to push the authorities in Kiev to end the conflict in East Ukraine.

In more ways than one the Turk Stream pipeline can be viewed as a reconfigured of the failed Nabucco natural gas pipeline. Not only will Turk Stream court Turkey and give Moscow leverage against the European Union, instead of reducing Russian influence as Nabucco was originally intended to do, the new pipeline to Turkey also coaxes Ankara to align its economic and strategic interests with those of Russian interests.
This is why, when addressing Nabucco and the rivalries for establishing alternate energy corridors, this author pointed out in 2007 that «the creation of these energy corridors and networks is like a two-edged sword. These geo-strategic fulcrums or energy pivots can also switch their directions of leverage. The integration of infrastructure also leads towards economic integration». [8]
The creation of Turk Stream and the strengthening of Russo-Turkish ties may even help placate the gory conflict in Syria. If Iranian natural gas is integrated into the mainframe of Turk Stream through another energy corridor entering Anatolia from Iranian territory, then Turkish interests would be even more tightly aligned with both Moscow and Tehran.

Turkey will save itself from the defeats of its neo-Ottoman policies and be able to withdraw from the Syrian crisis. This will allow Ankara to politically realign itself with two its most important trading partners, Iran and Russia.
It is because of the importance of Irano-Turkish and Russo-Turkish trade and energy ties that Ankara has had an understanding with both Russia and Iran not to let politics and their differences over the Syrian crisis get in the way of their economic ties and business relationships while Washington has tried to disrupt Irano-Turkish and Russo-Turkish trade and energy ties like it has disrupted trade ties between Russia and the EU. [9]

Ankara, however, realizes that if it lets politics disrupt its economic ties with Iran and Russia that Turkey itself will become weakened and lose whatever independence it enjoys
Masterfully announcing the Russian move while in Ankara, Putin also took the opportunity to ensure that there would be heated conversation inside the EU. Some would call this rubbing salt on the wounds. Knowing that profit and opportunity costs would create internal debate within Bulgaria and the EU, Putin rhetorically asked if Bulgaria was going to be economically compensated by the European Commission for the loss.

The Russian Bear and the Chinese Dragon
It is clear that Russian business and trade ties have been redirected to the People’s Republic of China and East Asia. On the occasion of the Sino-Russian mega natural gas deal, this author pointed out that this was not as much a Russian countermove to US economic pressure as it was really a long-term Russian strategy that seeks an increase in trade and ties with East Asia. [10]
Vladimir Putin himself also corroborated this standpoint during the December 18 press conference mentioned earlier when he dismissed—like this author—the notion that the so-called «Russian turn to the East» was mainly the result of the crisis in Ukraine.
In President Putin’s own words, the process of increasing business ties with the Chinese and East Asia «stems from the global economic processes, because the East – that is, the Asia-Pacific Region – shows faster growth than the rest of the world». [11]
If this is not convincing enough that the turn towards East Asia was already in the works for Russia, then Putin makes it categorically clear as he proceeds talking at the December 18 press conference.

In reference to the Sino-Russian gas deal and other Russian projects in East Asia, Putin explained the following: «The projects we are working on were planned long ago, even before the most recent problems occurred in the global or Russian economy. We are simply implementing our long-time plans». [12]
From the perspective of Russian Presidential Advisor Sergey Glazyev, the US is waging its multi-spectrum war against Russia to ultimately challenge Moscow’s Chinese partners.

In an insightful interview, Glazyev explained the following points to the Ukrainian journalist Alyona Berezovskaya—working for a Rossiya Segodnya subsidiary focusing on information involving Ukraine—about the basis for US hostility towards Russia: the bankruptcy of the US, its decline in competitiveness on global markets, and Washington’s inability to ultimately save its financial system by serving its foreign debt or get enough investments to establish some sort of innovative economic breakthrough are the reasons why Washington has been going after the Russian Federation. [13]
In Glazyev’s own words, the US wants «a new world war». [14] The US needs conflict and confrontation, in other words. This is what the crisis in Ukraine is nurturing in Europe.

Sergey Glazyev reiterates the same points months down the road on September 23, 2014 in an article he authors for the magazine Russia in Global Affairs, which is sponsored by the Russian International Affairs Council—an think-tank founded by the Russian Foreign Ministry and Russian Ministry of Education 2010—and the US journal Foreign Affairs—which is the magazine published by the Council on Foreign Relation in the US.
In his article, Glazyev adds that the war Washington is inciting against Russia in Europe may ultimately benefit the Chinese, because the struggle being waged will weaken the US, Russia, and the European Union to the advantage of China. [15]

The point of explaining all this is to explain that Russia wants a balanced strategic partnership with China. Glazyev himself even told Berezovskaya in their interview that Russia wants a mutually beneficial relationship with China that does reduce to becoming a subordinate to Beijing. [16]
Without question, the US wants to disrupt the strategic partnership between Beijing and Moscow. Moscow’s strategic long-term planning and Sino-Russian cooperation has provided the Russia Federation with an important degree of economic and strategic insulation from the economic warfare being waged against the Russian national economy.

Washington, however, may also be trying to entice the Chinese to overplay their hand as Russia is economically attacked. In this context, the price drops in the energy market may also be geared at creating friction between Beijing and Moscow.
In part, the manipulation of the energy market and the price drops could seek to weaken and erode Sino-Russian relations by coaxing the Chinese into taking steps that would tarnish their excellent ties with their Russian partners.
The currency war against the Russian ruble may also be geared towards this too. In other words, Washington may be hoping that China becomes greedy and shortsighted enough to make an attempt to take advantage of the price drop in energy prices in the devaluation of the Russian ruble.

Whatever Washington’s intentions are, every step that the US takes to target Russia economically will eventually hurt the US economy too. It is also highly unlikely that the policy mandarins in Beijing are unaware of what the US may try to be doing. The Chinese are aware that ultimately it is China and not Russia that is the target of the United States.

Economic Terrorism: An Argentina versus the Vulture Funds Scenario?
The United States is waging a fully fledged economic war against the Russian Federations and its national economy. Ultimately, all Russians are collectively the target. The economic sanctions are nothing more than economic warfare. If the crisis in Ukraine did not happen, another pretext would have been fund for assaulting Russia.

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Both US Assistant-Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Assistant-Secretary of the Treasury Daniel Glaser even told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives in May 2014 that the ultimate objectives of the US economic sanctions against Russia were to make the Russian population so miserable and desperate that they would eventually demand that the Kremlin surrender to the US and bring about «political change».
«Political change» can mean many things, but what it most probably implies here is regime change in Moscow. In fact, the aims of the US do not even appear to be geared at coercing the Russian government to change its foreign policy, but to incite regime change in Moscow and to cripple the Russian Federation entirely through the instigation of internal divisions.

This is why maps of a divided Russia are being circulated by Radio Free Europe. [17]

According to Presidential Advisor Sergey Glazyev, Washington is «trying to destroy and weaken Russia, causing it to fragment, as they need this territory and want to establish control over this entire space». [18]

«We have offered cooperation from Lisbon to Vladivostok, whereas they need control to maintain their geopolitical leadership in a competition with China,» he has explained, pointing out that the US wants lordship and is not interested in cooperation. [19]
Alluding to former US top diplomat Madeline Albright’s sentiments that Russia was unfairly endowed with vast territory and resources, Putin also spoke along similar lines at his December 18 press conference, explaining how the US wanted to divide Russia and control the abundant natural resources in Russian territory.

It is of little wonder that in 2014 a record number of Russian citizens have negative attitudes about relations between their country and the United States. A survey conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center has shown that of 39% of Russian respondents viewed relations with the US as «mostly bad» and 27% as «very bad». [20]
This means 66% of Russian respondents have negative views about relations with Washington. This is an inference of the entire Russian population’s views.
Moreover, this is the highest rise in negative perceptions about the US since 2008 when the US supported Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi’s war against Russia and the breakaway republic of South Ossetia; 40% viewed them as «mostly bad» and 25% of Russians viewed relations as «very bad» and at the time. [21]

Russia can address the economic warfare being directed against its national economy and society as a form of «economic terrorism». If Russia’s banks and financial institutions are weakened with the aim of creating financial collapse in the Russian Federation, Moscow can introduce fiscal measures to help its banks and financial sector that could create economic shockwaves in the European Union and North America.
Speaking in hypothetical terms, Russia has lots of options for a financial defensive or counter-offensive that can be compared to its scorched earth policies against Western European invaders during the Napoleonic Wars, the First World War, and the Second World War.
If Russian banks and institutions default and do not pay or delay payment of their derivative debts and justify it on the basis of the economic warfare and economic terrorism, there would be a financial shock and tsunami that would vertebrate from the European Union to North America. This scenario has some parallels to the steps that Argentina is taken to sidestep the vulture funds.
The currency war eventually will rebound on the Washington and Wall Street. The energy war will also reverse directions. Already, the Kremlin has made it clear that it and a coalition of other countries will de-claw the US in the currency market through a response that will neutralize US financial manipulation and the petro-dollar.

In the words of Sergey Glazyev, Moscow is thinking of a «systemic and comprehensive» response «aimed at exposing and ending US political domination, and, most importantly, at undermining US military-political power based on the printing of dollars as a global currency». [22]
His solution includes the creation of «a coalition of sound forces advocating stability—in essence, a global anti-war coalition with a positive plan for rearranging the international financial and economic architecture on the principles of mutual benefit, fairness, and respect for national sovereignty». [23]

The coming century will not be the «American Century» as the neo-conservatives in Washington think. It will be a «Eurasian Century». Washington has taken on more than it can handle, this may be why the US government has announced an end to its sanctions regime against Cuba and why the US is trying to rekindle trade ties with Iran.
Despite this, the architecture of the post-Second World War or post-1945 global order is now in its death bed and finished. This is what the Kremlin and Putin’s presidential spokesman and press secretary Dmitry Peskov mean when they impart—as Peskov stated to Rossiya-24 in a December 17, 2014 interview — that the year 2014 has finally led to «a paradigm shift in the international system».
 

Repost from the MD’s partner the 4th Media.
 
NOTES
[1] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, «Oil Prices and Energy Wars: The Empire of Frack versus Russia,» Strategic Culture Foundation, December 5, 2014.
[2] Official Kremlin version of the transcribed press conference — titled «News conference of Vladimir Putin» (December 18, 2014)—has been used in quoting Vladimir Putin.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, «Psychological War In The Financial Markets And The Sino-Russian Gas Deal,» Mint Press News, May 29, 2014.
[6] Supra. n.2.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, «The ‘Great Game’ Enters the Mediterranean: Gas, Oil, War, and Geo-Politics,» Global Research, October 14, 2007.
[9] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, «Oil Prices and Energy Wars,» op. cit.; Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, «Turkey & Iran: More than meets the eye»RT, January 20, 2014.
[10] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, «Psychological War In The Financial Markets,» op. cit.
[11] Supra. n.2.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Sergey Glazyev, «Alyona Berezovskaya interviews Sergei Glazyev,» Interview with Alyona Berezovskaya, Ukraine.ru, July 17, 2014: .
[14] Ibid.
[15] Sergey Glazyev, «The Threat of War and the Russian Response,» Russia in Global Affairs, September 24, 2014.
[16] Sergey Glazyev, «Alyona Berezovskaya interviews,» op. cit.
[17] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, «WWIII aimed to redraw map of Russia?» Strategic Culture Foundation, September 10, 2014.
[18] Sergey Glazyev, «Alyona Berezovskaya interviews,» op. cit.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Всероссийский центр изучения общественного мнения [Russian Public Opinion Research Center], «Россия-США отношенияв точке замерзания» [«Russia-US Relations at Freezing Point»], Press release 2729, December 4, 2014: .
[21] Ibid.
[22] Sergey Glazyev, «The Threat of War,» op. cit.
[23] Ibid.

Energy

China’s Unorthodox Intervention in the Global Oil Market

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Apparently, China has been the talk of the town for quite some time. While the entire yesteryear passed in a flurry of blame game over the pandemic, this year has been nothing short of a blessing for Xi’s regime. However, while China rapidly compensated for the drastic slump last year, the bustling economy has now cooled down – though a bit prematurely. Due to the expansive outbreak of the delta variant, China – like most countries around the world – now faces surging inflation and a crippling shortage of raw materials. However, while one might get a bolder vibe from China’s recent crackdown on industrial giants, the supposed Second Cultural Revolution’ seems on a divergent path from the government’s latest aspirations for the domestic industry.

China seems to be on a path to harness growth that appears to be slowing down as the global economy battles uncertainty. However, while many expected China to take orthodox measures to prolong growth, hardly anyone expected a drastic change of strategy: intervening in a close-knitted global market like never before.

China recently posted its most robust trade surplus in history, with a record rise in exports jumping 25.6% from last year to stand at $294.3; $10 billion more than any previous month. However, while the glowing figures imply sturdiness, the underlying fragility of the Chinese economy is not disguised. In the past few months, China’s production engine has taken a toll as surging energy costs have inhibited production capacity. The factory-gate inflation stands at a 13-year-high which has forced factories to cut output. Amid declining domestic demand due to covid restrictions, manufacturing surveys show that China’s export orders are eroding as supply bottlenecks coupled with energy costs have weighed heavily on the production function. To counter the problem, China recently supplied its reserves into the domestic market; undercutting the surging global price tag dictated by the petroleum giants.

Last Thursday, China’s National Food and Strategic Reserves Administrator made a press release, confirming that the world’s second-largest economy tapped into its crude reserves – estimated at 220 million barrels – to “ease the pressure of rising raw material prices.” While China is known to intervene in commodity markets by using its strategic reserves, for example, Copper, Aluminium, or even grains.

Recently, China tapped into its national reserves to intervene in the global commodity market of industrial metals for the first time since 2010. The intervention was situated as a release to normalize surging metal prices and retain domestic manufacturers’ margins. However,  it is a novelty that a national agency confirmed an active supply of petroleum buffer via an official press conference. And while no additional details were offered, it is presumed by global strategists that the press release referred to the 20-30 million barrels allegedly poured into the domestic industry around mid-July: when Xi’s government offered to supply crude to the OPEC.

Furthermore, China’s Stockpile Agency claimed that through open auctions, China’s reserve crude was intended to “better stabilize the domestic demand and supply.” It was apparent that as China ventured through a supply crunch when Brent Crude – Global Crude Index/Benchmark – breached the $76 bpd mark, the country instead resorted to utilizing its own stockpile instead of relying on expensive imported petroleum. Thus, it shapes a clear picture of how China managed to clock a phenomenal trade surplus despite not importing its usual crude quota.

While it is common knowledge that economies like the US and Europe maintain strategic petroleum reserves, the buffers held by China were utilized to actively manipulate the price in a ‘normalized’ oil market instead of their designated usage in supply crunches or wars. The situation today is anything but critical for the oil market to warrant such an intervention. As OPEC+ has boosted its output by 400,000 bpd starting August, output has bloomed beyond its peak since the price war back in April 2020. While the oil market is still well below the output capacity, mutually curbed by the OPEC+ alliance, the demand is still shaky and an equilibrium seems set. Yet, when we observe China – the world’s largest oil importer – we extricate reason that despite a growing economy, China continues to experience massive shortages: primarily in terms of oil, gas, coal, and electricity.

Furthermore, with the ensue of Hurricane Ida, massive US crude reserves have been wiped which has majorly impacted China as well. The US and China rarely stand on the same page on any front. However, even the White House recently asked OPEC to pump more crude into the market due to the rising gasoline prices in America. The same scenario is panning in China as energy shortages have led to surging costs while domestic demand is diminishing. The brunt is thus falling on the national exchequer: something China is not willing to haggle. While it is highly unorthodox of China to explicitly announce its intervention, many economists believe that it was a deliberate move on part of China’s communist brass to amplify the impact on the market. The plan seemingly worked as Brent fell by $1.36 to stand at $71.24 on Thursday.

If China’s commitment to normalize domestic energy prices is this significant, it is highly likely that another intervention could be pegged later in the fourth quarter. Primarily to counteract the contraction in export orders by cutting imports further to maintain a healthy trade surplus. In my opinion, it is clear that both the US and China are not willing to let Brent (and WTI) breach the $70-$75 bracket as key industries are at stake. However, while one takes a passive approach, the other is touted to go as far as pouring another 10-15 million barrels of crude by the end of 2021. Yet revered global commodity strategists believe that the downturn in prices is “short-lived” just like any other Chinese intervention in a variety of other commodity markets globally. And thus, experts believe that the pump is simply “not enough physical supply” to quite strike a permanent dent in an inherently flawed market mechanism.

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Energy Forum Seeks To Analyze Africa’s Energy Potentials And Utilization

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African Energy Week (AEW) 2021 in Cape Town, fully endorsed by the Government of South Africa, is committed to accelerating Africa’s energy growth with the aim of establishing a secure and sustainable energy future for every individual on the continent. Accordingly, AEW 2021 firmly believes in the role that oil and gas will continue to play in Africa and will emphasise the continent’s upstream market through a collaborative, International Oil Company (IOC) forum. Led by IOC executives, as well as government representatives from notable energy markets in Africa, the IOC forum aims to address the upstream challenges faced in Africa, providing solutions and strategies to drive exploration and make Africa more competitive for investment.

With the discovery of sizeable oil and gas reserves across the continent in recent years, regional and international explorers are turning an eye to the world’s final frontier market – Africa. Nigeria’s 200 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas reserves and 37.2 billion barrels of oil (bbl); Mozambique’s 11 tcf of gas; Senegal’s 450 billion cubic meters of gas; Libya’s 48 billion bbl and 53.1 tcf; and Egypt’s 77.2 tcf of gas have all made Africa the ideal destination for hydrocarbon exploration. What’s more, with many African countries making significant steps to enhance their regulatory environments, implementing legislation to create an enabling environment for investment, the continent has become a highly competitive market for exploration and production. Nigeria’s recently implemented Petroleum Industry Bill, Gabon’s new Hydrocarbon Code, and Angola’s inclusive petroleum regulation, to name a few, have all ensured a competitive and highly attractive market.

With the world’s six oil ‘supermajors’ – BP, Chevron, Eni, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and TotalEnergies – all actively present in mature and emerging markets across Africa, the continent has become an upstream hotspot. AEW 2021 aims to accelerate this trend, promoting new upstream opportunities and ensuring both National Oil Companies (NOC) and IOCs drive the continent into a new era of energy and economic success. Accordingly, Africa’s premier energy event will host an upstream-dedicated IOC forum in Cape Town, led by IOC executives and government representatives. The IOC forum aims to address key challenges in Africa’s upstream market, whereby the diverse speaker panel will offer up solutions to expand exploration and production, while ensuring the continent remains competitive for investment in a post-COVID-19, energy transition era.

In addition to the discussion on upstream activities, the forum aims to highlight the role of IOCs in enhancing capacity building, whereby emphasis will be placed on IOC-NOC collaboration. IOCs have a critical role to play in Africa, not only regarding resource development, but human capital and local business development. In order for the continent to become truly sustainable and competitive, NOCs require support from IOCs. Accordingly, the forum aims to identify strategies to enhance cooperation and partnerships, with IOCs taking the lead in Africa’s energy development.

“AEW 2021 in Cape Town will offer a real discussion on Africa. Oil and gas are critical in Africa’s development and the African Energy Chamber (AEC) will not succumb to the misguided narrative that Africa should abandon its potential. The IOCs in Africa have demonstrated the continent’s potential, and by sharing strategies to enhance growth, address challenges, and accelerate upstream activities, they will be key drivers in Africa’s energy future. The IOC forum will not only offer a description of African reserves, but will provide clear, attainable solutions to exploitation, exploration and production with the aim of using energy to enact stronger economic growth. By coming to Cape Town, attending the IOC forum, and interacting with African ministers from across the continent, you will be able to be a part of Africa’s energy transformation,” stated NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the AEC.

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Nord Stream 2: A Geopolitical Tension between Russia and Ukraine and the European Dependence

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nord stream

Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is a 1,230-kilometer direct linkage between the Russian natural gas producers and the consumer market of Europe. The model was made keeping in mind the successful operation of the existing Nord Stream pipeline after a thorough analysis by Nord Stream AG. The main aim of NS2 is said to be the increase in the annual capacity of the existing pipeline up to 110 billion m³. The pipeline starts from the Russian region of Ust-Luga then stretches through the Baltic Sea and ends at the area of Greifswald in Germany. It is due to this route that the project is mainly considered to be controversial. Bypassing directly through the Baltic Sea, the importance of Ukraine for Russia for exporting natural gas to the European market would reduce significantly which will end the $3 billion transit fees gained by the Ukrainian government in the year 2018 alone, causing a sudden and huge strain on the GDP of the country.

This project worth $11 billion would double the market of Russia in Germany which is the largest market in Europe, possessing a key position in international politics. It is said by the Russian officials that the pipeline has almost been completed and it may get operational by the end of August in the year 2021. Some analysts and International Relations experts have considered this as a geopolitical weapon that gives leverage to Russia to influence future events in the region particularly the ones related to the Crimean annexation.

Threat to Ukraine

Recently in a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the President of Ukraine appeared to be displeased by the Western recognition of the NS2 pipeline. He called it a “dangerous political weapon” in the hands of the authoritative regime of Russia which has already annexed an integral part of their country to fulfill their geopolitical and economic desires. The desperate opposition of this project by the Ukrainian government has several underlying factors which are very important to discuss.

Firstly, the transit fees earned by Ukraine just by giving passage to the gas going from Russia to Europe make up a fine amount of the GDP of the country. If projects like NS2 get operational then the importance of Ukraine will decline, causing an end to the $3 billion transit fee. Although Russia has ensured to still use Ukrainian passage for the export of their gas, this does not seem to be happening in the future. States are after their national interests and Russia would prefer the direct linkage with the European market instead of paying billions to the Ukrainian government. Currently, out of the quarter of natural gas transported to Europe, around 80% has to pass through the Ukrainian territory.

Secondly, after the expiry of the transit deal between Russia and Ukraine in 2024, it would depend upon the negotiations between the two parties to revive the fate of this deal. Although Kremlin’s Spokespersons have ensured the revival of this deal after its expiry in 2024, debates still exist about the prospects. No one can claim with certitude about the future of this deal between the two states.

Thirdly, Ukraine is intimidated by the future of the country if the Russian gas pipeline bypasses its territory. There already exist many gas-related disputes between the two states which resulted in the cut-off of the gas supply in 2014 and later on in 2015. Russia can pressurize Ukraine for accepting their demands to get their gas supplies back. Recently, Ukraine has started to reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas by switching back to European gas. But this would not be beneficial in any sense if the Russian monopoly over the gas market increases through the NS2 pipeline.

And lastly, the dependence of European markets on Russian gas can undermine the Crimean cause. Once a state has to depend on the other state for the necessities, it has to let go of many important causes and decisions. As Angela Merkel has repeatedly called the NS2 pipeline a geo-economic project rather than a geopolitical “weapon” that can be used by the Russian government as a decisive tool at times of disputes and crises, this already shows the drowning picture of the cause. In addition to this, previously the US administration was very aggressive towards the pipeline but the current government despite its opposition, is unable to do much for stopping the project which can get operational very soon.

Role of US and NS2 Pipeline

The United States of America is well aware of the changing dynamics of the region and the intentions of resurgent Russia. The Republican government under Trump proved to be very destructive for the project. The US did not only oppose the gas pipeline openly but also imposed sanctions on entities aiding Russia in the development of this gas pipeline. In January 2021, Trump imposed sanctions on the gas-pipeline laying ship, “Fortuna” and its owner under the Counter American’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Previously, work on the pipeline had to be suspended as the US imposed sanctions on the main company, Allseas. President Biden was one of the many policy-makers who opposed this pipeline and considered it dangerous for the US and its allies. Although it was not clear what Biden’s policies would be, Blinken ensured to use “persuasive tools” against the pipeline, after acquiring the office. President Biden indeed imposed sanctions on the Russian ships and other companies involved in the laying of pipeline, but analysts think this would not cause any impact on the project as it is almost running towards completion. Rather, anti-sanction policy-makers consider it more important to waive off these sanctions and get into formal negotiation talks with the Russian government.

In May 2021, the President of the US and the Chancellor of Germany gave a joint statement for the agreement signed between the two countries related to the NS2 project. Some of the main features incorporated in the agreement are the announcement of sanctions on Russia in case it violates the peaceful use of the pipeline and utilizes it as a weapon against Ukraine. Germany would not only oppose such a step but would also press on the EU to take counter-measures. Similarly, it was decided to revolutionize the energy sector of Ukraine by the creation of a Green Fund for Ukraine by Germany worth $1 billion. Initially, it was decided that Germany would contribute an amount of $175 million. Also, it is said that Germany would use all its leverage to ensure an extension of the current transit agreement (which is going to expire in 2024) between Russia and Ukraine for at least up to 10 years. This would continue the role played by Ukraine as a transit state, helping its GDP and putting off the security threat over it. There is a sharp criticism on the Biden administration over this agreement which did not involve Poland and Ukraine while deciding their future. Also, the deal does not put any process of hindering the pipeline which is against the aspirations of all Americans and most of its allies.

In addition to limiting the role and influence of Russia in the European continent, the US is also looking forward to the opportunities of fulfilling its national interest. If the US becomes successful in hindering the operation of NS2, it can expand its gas buyers in the European countries. This way, like the post-war era the US can get a strategic and decisive role in this part of the world which can ultimately help it to counter the threats related to the rise of China and the Sino-Russian nexus. We can say that the US cannot only use this as an economic incentive but also utilize its importance in the future of great power rivalry.

Why states are against this Pipeline Project?

Along with the direct impacts of this project on Ukraine and Poland (to some extent). The major concerns of the states which oppose the NS2 pipeline include the additional leverage which Russia will gain when its national gas firm would directly export gas supplies between Russia and the European continent. This may result in a sudden disruption of the supplies, influenced by the changing dynamics of the region. The Russian authorities had cut off the gas supplies of Europe in the winters of 2006 and 2009, leaving millions without gas for days. Similarly, the increased dependence of Europe on Russian gas can be counter-productive and may hinder the interests of the states and the US soon. This situation can be utilized by both Russia and China to exploit the bonding between the US and its allies.

From the security perspective, the presence of Russia and its naval forces can cause a security threat to the states surrounding the Baltic Sea. The unsettled conditions may lead to chaos and problems in the region.

If Russia was to get a high stake in the energy market of Europe, this would also allow it to exploit the situation and create a monopoly over the market. This may not also lead to political outcomes and consequences but can also end the game of local and international gas market players in the continent. This is the biggest threat that is encouraging the US to make NS2 a security threat for itself and its allies.

Way Forward

Keeping in view the nature of international politics and changing economic dimensions to the project, the only possible way forward is an agreement between Russia and the US related to the pipeline and the future of Ukraine. If developments can be made over the existing US-Germany agreement then concerns of the states can be mitigated to a huge degree. The options of imposing sanctions on the pipeline are no more practical and can be counter-productive for the US concerning its allies especially Germany.

Conclusion

The Nord Stream 2 Pipeline despite its economic benefits cannot be separated from its geopolitical aspects and consequences. In international politics, the hardest thing to do is to trust the intentions of the other state, especially when it was a superpower previously and has several examples of violating the sovereignty and rights of neighboring states. But presently, all those who oppose the pipeline have no other option than to allow its proper functioning under certain terms and conditions.

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