Is Truth Born out of Dispute?
The debate has raged across the world over the past few years (and not only in the expert community) as to the priorities for energy development at the national, regional and global levels. Moreover, the West has extended this discussion beyond engineers, economists, energy sector specialists and investors to form an entire expert movement that conveys a particular opinion to the society at large and then influences governmental policies. Developing countries present a somewhat different picture, where governments enjoy greater independence from public opinion in their decision-making, although the discussions are no less heated, nevertheless. These discussions have already created stable stereotypes associated with supporters of a particular mode of energy sector development: support for renewable energy sources (RES) and distributed energy is the province of liberals, while (centrally managed) traditional energy is the pet project of the conservatives.
Recently, the debates between supporters and opponents of renewable energy sources in the media and on the internet have reached an unprecedented level against the backdrop of major power supply problems caused by the abnormal cold spells in Europe and the United States. For instance, the Russian media actively criticizes the RES-based energy policies of the European Union and the United States for bringing about dire consequences in terms of energy supply (which is in fact not the case).
Nuclear energy is another butt of long-standing criticism. Public opinion in Western Europe demands that politicians abandon nuclear power in favour of renewable energy sources. This pressure has resulted in government and inter-governmental programmes geared primarily towards developing solar and wind power and the use of hydrogen.
Most surprisingly, supporters of both sides frequently miss the essence of the debate: they fail to ask why the authorities sometimes plump for renewable energy sources, while in other cases they choose oil, gas, or nuclear power plants. As a result, we often witness experts complaining about the low share of renewable energy sources in Russia’s energy balance compared to the high rates seen in European countries. Russia is thus seen to be lagging behind, having missed opportunities to develop the renewable energy sector. The problem, however, lies elsewhere: renewable energy sources do indeed make it possible to radically reduce the environmental footprint. However, if the idea behind developing the national energy sector is to solve environmental and climate problems, for example, by achieving carbon-free energy supply by a certain date, as many developed countries, as well as China, have done, then it is necessary to develop renewable energy sources (now, pay attention!) in combination with other low-carbon types of energy: nuclear energy and natural gas. Let us stress once again that this combination does not at all contradict the ideology and essence of “Energy 4.0” or the “energy transition.”
The Energy Sector and Economic Development
Renewable energy sources have proved stable and reliable during the COVID-19 crisis and, as expected, every “respectable” forecast predicts stable growth of varying intensity.
Renewable energy sources will cover 80 per cent of the increase in global demand for power in the next decade, and are expected to surpass coal as the principal source of energy by 2025. The highest growth will take place in China, where renewable power generation is predicted to increase by nearly 1500 TWh by 2030, which equals the total power generation of France, Germany and Italy combined.
In the next decade, solar and wind power plants will replace coal as the investment priority in building new power generation facilities. Solar power plants (SPP) will be constructed with greater intensity compared to other generation facilities due to the short construction times, low capital costs and the opportunities they offer to reduce environmental pollution. As the solar energy sector develops, secure supply chains and land for building SPPs will become critical factors. At the same time, direct support from the state will no longer be needed in most cases, although auxiliary support measures for stabilizing financial balances will still play a significant role in accelerating the construction of new capacities and reducing the costs of implementing new solar power projects.
In 2010–2019, the average costs of building solar power plants fell by 80 per cent. Additionally, solar power plants enjoy some form of governmental support in over 130 countries. This support has made cheap financing for solar power possible, which has played an important part in achieving record low prices.
The use of wind power is also expected to grow significantly. The average global cost of generating this kind of power has fallen by approximately 40 per cent over the past decade. Wind power enjoys governmental support in about 130 states, over 70 of which intend to develop shelf projects. Improved technologies and preferential financing terms will make it possible to reduce the costs of offshore wind energy to around USD 50 per megawatt/hour (MWh) in the next five years, which is roughly half the cost of recently constructed wind farms.
The use of nuclear power has continued to grow around the world, thanks to the completion of the first units of the EPR and AP1000 in China in 2018. The first unit of the Hualong-1 reactor is slated to be put into operation by the end of 2020.
Nuclear energy accounted for approximately 10 per cent of power generation in 2019 and was the second largest source of low-emission energy around the world (after hydropower). Nuclear energy has also contributed to the reliability of energy supplies: most reactors continued to operate throughout the first wave of the pandemic, despite demand being lower than usual. NPPs made it possible to ensure a certain flexibility of power grids and reduce the dependence of some states on imported fossil fuels.
Nuclear power generation is expected to return to pre-crisis levels by 2023 as demand recovers. Depending on the development scenarios, it is forecast to grow by 15–30 per cent before the end of 2030, although its share in the energy balance will decrease somewhat against the backdrop of various trends manifesting in two groups of states. In 2019–2030, developing states will increase NPP power generation by two thirds, which will bring its share in the total power production to 6 per cent. In early 2020, NPPs with total capacity of 42 GW (out of 62 GW) were being constructed. In 2030, nuclear power capacity will increase from 110 GW to 180 GW. China is on track to becoming the leader in nuclear power by 2030, ahead of the United States and the European Union. As of early 2020, China operated 48 nuclear reactors and was building 11 more. China is one of the few states that, under the Paris Climate Accords, included both nuclear power generation and renewable energy sources in its national programme for reducing emissions. The NPP development programmes that are being implemented in Russia, India and the Middle East could also contribute to increasing the global significance of nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy was the largest source of power in developed economies in 2019, but its generation is expected to drop by 10 per cent in 2019–2030 due to reactors aging and the restrictions imposed on new construction projects. Within the next decade, over 70 GW will be decommissioned at the NPPs currently in operation. Extending their service life may provide about 120 GW that otherwise would be shut down by 2030. By early 2020, about 20 GW of new NPP capacities had been built in Finland, France, Japan, South Korea, Slovakia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Otherwise, the projected additional capacities in developed economies is limited.
By 2030, total NPP capacity in the European Union will have dropped by 20 per cent. The biggest drops will be seen in Germany (which plans to fully decommission its NPPs by 2022), Belgium, Spain and France. By 2030, the installed nuclear capacity in the United States will have declined by 10 per cent, despite the fact that construction has been completed on two AP 1000 reactors and that five states now offer livelihood loans to companies with zero emissions. In Japan, the total installed capacity of its NPPS will drop from GW 33 in 2019 to GW in 2030. Even those countries that are interested in developing nuclear energy are running the risk of soon abandoning it due to extremely complicated market conditions and the risks connected with new capital investment. This development is highly probable, despite the possibility of nuclear energy being declared “clean” and despite NPPs being the most economically efficient low-emission power source.
Overall, global investment in renewable energy sources and nuclear power will rebound to pre-crisis levels in 2021, and is expected to grow steadily to USD 420 bn by 2030. In the next decade, renewable energy sources and nuclear energy will account for up to 80 per cent of all investments in energy generation.
Features of Nuclear Energy Development in Russia and Around the World
Nuclear energy is a technologically proven source of electric power that has significant potential to reduce carbon emissions. It has a large number of unique features that make it a viable option for many governments throughout the world. For example, one of the advantages of nuclear energy, besides it having zero carbon emissions, is that it is manageable: it does not depend on weather conditions, which makes it compatible with renewable energy sources. Additionally, nuclear energy generates more power than other zero-carbon energy sources per unit of area (facilities require less space).
However, nuclear energy technologies are capital intensive. Capital costs may account for up to 80 per cent of the energy costs of a new nuclear power plant. Therefore, reducing the cost of power plant construction (including equipment, building materials and labour) are of fundamental importance for making nuclear energy competitive.
In addition to the high capital costs, nuclear energy has other problems—possible construction time and budget overruns and the uncertainty of energy prices throughout the life cycle of nuclear power plants in an era of increasingly cheap renewable energy sources and advances in energy storage technologies. This has prompted consumers and other interested actors (from taxpayers to national governments) to reassess their standing on NPPs. Additionally, the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011 sparked political and social debates on nuclear power in some markets.
At the same time, according to the Energy Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, even though some countries abandoned the development of nuclear energy in favour of using renewable energy sources, global power generation at NPPs will increase by 2040.
Some experts believe it is desirable, reasonable and even necessary to combine nuclear energy with renewable energy sources to achieve the global carbon-free development goal. The goals set by international treaties to reduce environmental impact may prove unattainable if NPPs are abolished, despite the growing economy, population and emerging technological development trends. Additionally, some experts consider the projects to combine the use of NPPs (base-load demand) and renewable energy sources (variable duty) of particular interest.
The new developments in nuclear energy, such as building and operating mini nuclear reactors, appear highly promising in terms of long-term development. Several countries are working on such reactors. Russia, the United States and France have been particularly successful in this area. These technologies are particularly interesting for small states and isolated and remote regions (Russia is already building such a mini NPP in Yakutia).
Given Russia’s leadership in nuclear technologies, nuclear energy could play a leading role in the low-carbon technological restructuring of Russia’s energy sector. The transition to the new generation of VVER-TOI light-water reactors has already begun, and the use of fast nuclear reactors will develop at an increasingly rapid pace, which will in turn speed up the nuclear sector’s changeover, first to the combined fuel cycle, and then to the closed cycle. Additionally, new types of NPPs will boast improved safety and efficiency and lower capital intensity. Therefore, the share of capital investment in VVER-TOI power units will be reduced by 15 per cent compared to their current costs, and the target specifications for fast reactors will be 15 per cent lower still compared to VVER-TOI. Transitioning to the closed nuclear fuel cycle will also make it possible to halve the costs of generating power at NPPs.
The introduction of fees for greenhouse gas emissions, even at RUB 600 (approximately USD 8) per tonne of СО2, significantly improves the competitive edge of carbon-free energy technologies and will lead to a 10-per cent increase in NPP capacity by 2050 compared to the base case, which does not include emissions payments. This is about 31% of the installed capacities of Russia’s UES.
With two thirds of its territory made up of isolated or remote regions with power supply problems, Russia has a huge area for applying new nuclear energy technologies. It is perfectly clear that a large country with a low population density cannot resolve the problem in developing its energy sector through large-scale network construction. Small-capacity nuclear power plants constitute one of the most realistic ways out of this situation.
Our analysis demonstrates that renewable energy sources are the most attractive energy generation technologies for ensuring sustainable carbon-free development around the world. At the same time, there are a number of technological and economic problems that can only be overcome by adopting a systemic approach using additional technologies, radically new approaches to managing and regulating energy markets, and complex energy systems (including in the course of transitioning from primarily centralized to primarily distributed systems). This, in turn, requires additional expenditures on developing the energy infrastructure. Under the currently emerging conditions, nuclear energy has rather good development prospects in both developed and developing states. It can serve as a supplement to renewable energy. As one of the leaders in nuclear energy, Russia has several competitive advantages in the face of the tougher requirements and commitments in environmental protection and countering climate change.
1. For instance, the difference in the U.S. energy policy of the Republicans (Donald Trump) and the Democrats (Barack Obama, Joe Biden).
2. World Energy Outlook. International Energy Agency. Paris. 2020
From our partner RIAC
Russian Energy Week: Is the world ready to give up hydrocarbons?
In an official message to mark the opening of the Russian Energy Week international forum on 13-15 October in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that there are numerous issues on the agenda related to current trends in the global energy market, including improvements to industry infrastructure and the introduction of modern digital technologies into its operation.
“The efficiency of energy production and consumption is the most important factor in the growth of national economies and has a significant impact on people’s quality of life. Many countries have already adopted policies to accelerate the development of clean energy technologies,” he wrote in the message to guest and participants.
“The forum business programme is therefore set to look in detail at the possibility of developing green energy based on renewable sources and the transition to new, more environmentally friendly fuels. I am confident that the events of the Russian Energy Week will allow you to learn more about the achievements of the country’s fuel and energy sector, and that your initiatives will be put into practice,” Putin said.
Leaders of foreign states have also sent greetings to the participants and guests. For instance, President of the Republic of Angola João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, Prime Minister of Vietnam Pham Minh Chinh, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Armed Forces Mohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and Vice Premier of the State Council of China Han Zheng.
In their greetings, it generally noted the importance of the topics to be discussed at the forum as well as the need to build an international dialogue and consolidate efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals, including as regards climate change.
The programme covers a wide range of issues of transformation and development in the global energy market. In the context of energy transition, the issues of energy development are inextricably linked with the introduction of new technologies, and the transformation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Climate protection is a task that cannot be solved by one country; it is a global goal, which can be achieved through building dialogue and cooperation between countries.
The participants in the discussion will answer the question: Is the world ready to give up hydrocarbons? In addition, during the panel session, the participants will discuss whether oil, gas and coal are really losing ground in the global energy sector; whether the infrastructure will have time to readjust for new energy sources; how long will there be enough hydrocarbons from the field projects that are being implemented; and whether an energy transition using fossil fuels is possible.
The international climate agenda is forcing many countries to reform their carbon-based energy systems. For Russia, which holds a leading position in the global hydrocarbon markets, the transition to development with low greenhouse gas emissions presents a serious challenge, but at the same time it opens up new opportunities for economic growth based on renewable energy, hydrogen technologies, advanced processing of raw materials and implementing green projects.
The Climate Agenda included sessions dedicated to the operation of the Russian fuel and energy sector in the context of energy transition, the impact of the European green pivot on the cooperation between Russia and Europe, as well as the session titled ‘The Future of Coal in a World Shaped by the Climate Agenda: The End, or a New Beginning?’
Sessions of the ‘New Scenarios for the Economy and the Market’ track are dedicated to the global challenges and opportunities of the electric power industry; the impact of ESG on the Russian fuel and energy sector; the potential for the renewable energy sources; and other issues of the future of energy.
The Russian Energy Agency under the Ministry of Energy brings together experts from key international analytical organizations to discuss the future of world energy during the session titled International Energy Organization Dialogue: Predicting the Development of Energy and Global Markets.
The Human Resource Potential of the Fuel and Energy Sector, participating experts will discuss the prospects for developing the professional qualification system, and a session titled Bringing the Woman’s Dimension to the Fuel and Energy Sector. Optimizing regulation in the energy sector and organizing the certification and exchange of carbon credits in Russia are the basis of the Regulatory Advances in Energy.
Anton Kobyakov, Advisor to the Russian President and Executive Secretary of the Russian Energy Week 2021 Organizing Committee, said “the level of various formats of international participation testifies to the importance of the agenda and Russia’s significant role in the global energy sector. We are a reliable strategic partner that advocates for building international cooperation based on the principles of transparency and openness. With the period of major changes in the industry, it is particularly important to engage in a dialogue and work together to achieve both national and global goals.”
The forum, organized by the Roscongress Foundation, the Russian Ministry of Energy, and the Moscow Government, brought together many local and foreign energy and energy-related enterprises. The speakers attending included Exxon Mobil Corporation Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO Darren Woods, Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG Chairman of the Board Ola Kallenius, BP CEO Bernard Looney, and TotalEnergies Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanné.
World Energy Outlook 2021 shows a new energy economy is emerging
A new energy economy is emerging around the world as solar, wind, electric vehicles and other low-carbon technologies flourish. But as the pivotal moment of COP26 approaches, the IEA’s new World Energy Outlook makes it clear that this clean energy progress is still far too slow to put global emissions into sustained decline towards net zero, highlighting the need for an unmistakeable signal of ambition and action from governments in Glasgow.
At a time when policy makers are contending with the impacts of both climate change and volatile energy markets, the World Energy Outlook 2021 (WEO-2021) is designed as a handbook for the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, which offers a critical opportunity to accelerate climate action and the clean energy transition. The new analysis – which the IEA is making available for free online – delivers stark warnings about the direction in which today’s policy settings are taking the world. But it also provides clear-headed analysis of how to move in a well-managed way towards a pathway that would have a good chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C and avoiding the worst effects of climate change.
The WEO-2021, the IEA’s annual flagship publication, shows that even as deployments of solar and wind go from strength to strength, the world’s consumption of coal is growing strongly this year, pushing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions towards their second largest annual increase in history.
“The world’s hugely encouraging clean energy momentum is running up against the stubborn incumbency of fossil fuels in our energy systems,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “Governments need to resolve this at COP26 by giving a clear and unmistakeable signal that they are committed to rapidly scaling up the clean and resilient technologies of the future. The social and economic benefits of accelerating clean energy transitions are huge, and the costs of inaction are immense.”
The WEO-2021 spells out clearly what is at stake: what the pledges to reduce emissions made by governments so far mean for the energy sector and the climate. And it sets out what needs to be done to move beyond these announced pledges towards a trajectory that would reach net zero emissions globally by mid-century – the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario from the landmark IEA report published in May, which is consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 °C.
As well as the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, the WEO-2021 explores two other scenarios to gain insights into how the global energy sector may develop over the next three decades – and what the implications would be. The Stated Policies Scenario represents a path based on the energy and climate measures governments have actually put in place to date, as well as specific policy initiatives that are under development. In this scenario, almost all of the net growth in energy demand through 2050 is met by low emissions sources, but that leaves annual emissions still around today’s levels. As a result, global average temperatures are still rising when they hit 2.6 °C above pre-industrial levels in 2100.
The Announced Pledges Scenario maps out a path in which the net zero emissions pledges announced by governments so far are implemented in time and in full. In this scenario, demand for fossil fuels peaks by 2025, and global CO2 emissions fall by 40% by 2050. All sectors see a decline, with the electricity sector delivering by far the largest. The global average temperature rise in 2100 is held to around 2.1 °C.
For the first time in a WEO, oil demand goes into eventual decline in all the scenarios examined, although the timing and speed of the drop vary widely. If all today’s announced climate pledges are met, the world would still be consuming 75 million oil barrels per day by 2050 – down from around 100 million today – but that plummets to 25 million in the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario. Natural gas demand increases in all scenarios over the next five years, but there are sharp divergences after this.
After decades of growth, the prospects for coal power go downhill in the Announced Pledges Scenario – a decline that could be accelerated further by China’s recent announcement of an end to its support for building coal plants abroad. That move may result in the cancellation of planned projects that would save some 20 billion tonnes in cumulative CO2 emissions through 2050 – an amount similar to the total emissions savings from the European Union reaching net zero by 2050.
The differences between the outcomes in the Announced Pledges Scenario and the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario are stark, highlighting the need for more ambitious commitments if the world is to reach net zero by mid-century.
“Today’s climate pledges would result in only 20% of the emissions reductions by 2030 that are necessary to put the world on a path towards net zero by 2050,” Dr Birol said. “Reaching that path requires investment in clean energy projects and infrastructure to more than triple over the next decade. Some 70% of that additional spending needs to happen in emerging and developing economies, where financing is scarce and capital remains up to seven times more expensive than in advanced economies.”
Insufficient investment is contributing to uncertainty over the future. Spending on oil and natural gas has been depressed by price collapses in 2014-15 and again in 2020. As a result, it is geared towards a world of stagnant or even falling demand. At the same time, spending on clean energy transitions is far below what would be required to meet future needs in a sustainable way.
“There is a looming risk of more turbulence for global energy markets,” Dr Birol said. “We are not investing enough to meet future energy needs, and the uncertainties are setting the stage for a volatile period ahead. The way to address this mismatch is clear – a major boost in clean energy investment, across all technologies and all markets. But this needs to happen quickly.”
The report stresses that the extra investment to reach net zero by 2050 is less burdensome than it might appear. More than 40% of the required emissions reductions would come from measures that pay for themselves, such as improving efficiency, limiting gas leakage, or installing wind or solar in places where they are now the most competitive electricity generation technologies.
These investments also create huge economic opportunities. Successfully pursuing net zero would create a market for wind turbines, solar panels, lithium-ion batteries, electrolysers and fuel cells of well over USD 1 trillion a year by 2050, comparable in size to the current oil market. Even in a much more electrified energy system, major opportunities remain for fuel suppliers to produce and deliver low-carbon gases. Just in the Announced Pledges Scenario, an additional 13 million workers would be employed in clean energy and related sectors by 2030, while that number doubles in the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario.
Russian Energy Arrogance or American Cold War Psychology?
Lately, there has been much garment-rending across Western media and governmental sources, all criticizing Russia’s so-called hostility toward the European Union on the issue of gas supplies this coming winter. The core essence of the criticism is the accusation that the Russian Federation is playing geopolitical games with the European Union, threatening it with a freeze-out this winter if it does not play ball on accepting the massive Nord Stream 2 pipeline deal. A cursory glance across many important media sources in the West reveals just how quickly the “analyses” seem eager to ratchet up the emotionality:
- The Washington Examiner reported that “winter is coming” for Europe and Biden because of Putin.
- The National Interest derisively called “giving Europe a pass” on ratifying Nord Stream 2 as an outright victory for Putin.
- Politico blatantly asked “will Putin attack?” when discussing the issue of supplying gas to Europe.
- The New York Times called Nord Stream 2 a “security threat” and that Biden must stop Putin from achieving this victory.
- Newsweek reported how many governmental officials in Washington are outright lamenting this issue as a “present to Putin” and an example of the White House enabling Putin while undermining Europe.
Very disconcerting language indeed, emblematic of the continued insistence in the West that it is de facto in a New Cold War with Russia. To all of this Putin has largely given a presumptive and decidedly dismissive geopolitical yawn. But underneath the typical cool bravado that Putin has always exhibited in the face of direct Western criticism, there must also be an obvious air of dissatisfaction and outright anger at what Russia sees as a consistent effort by Washington to portray it in the worst possible light.
First, Russia is quick to explain that recent soaring energy prices are not the result of some dastardly political scheme engineered inside the Kremlin, but instead connected to recovering energy demands as the world emerges from the COVID pandemic, particularly from Asia. To ignore this global economic fact in order to focus on a fabricated political design is the first hint to Russians that they are being held to a geopolitical double-standard that others do not face.
Second, powerful Washington opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, is based not so much on any flaw in the pipeline or doubt that it would ease the energy needs of Europe. Rather, it is recognition that the pipeline makes Russia stronger, as it will allow it to directly supply gas to Europe, as opposed to its current main pipelines that run through Ukraine first. As everyone knows, the Russia-Ukraine relationship continues to be incredibly tense and unfriendly. Thus, seeking a way to work around that problem while still supplying a valuable natural asset is, in economic-geopolitical-security terms, completely rational and logical for Russia. Therefore, Washington’s opposition is seen by Putin for what it truly is: strategizing against Russia growing stronger, more prosperous, and influential.
Third, Russia, if anything, is always aware of all perceived slights when it comes to its position on the global stage. Some might even say it has a tendency to “over-perceive” such slights historically. In this particular case, the slights are quite obvious when Russian analysts look at how the rest of the major players in the global economy are treated when they engage in similar strategy. The fluctuations in the oil market, overall decided by OPEC but heavily influenced individually by Saudi Arabia, have over the decades rarely been purely altruistic. When it has been apparent that Saudi Arabia is taking advantage of its leveraged position, maximizing its own individual benefits to the detriment of all the other players, rarely has the United States gone straight for the geopolitical jugular, questioning whether or not Saudi Arabia is preparing for war by another name or is intending to “starve” the West of its innate energy needs. The same can be said for China, with all of its various machinations over the past two decades in terms of the currency, labor, real estate, and manufacturing markets. While criticism has always existed against both of these countries, those same criticisms have also recognized that the respective Saudi and Chinese maneuvers are understandable from objective geopolitical, economic, and security perspectives. It is not surprising, therefore, that Russia is not just aware of these parallel realities but also notices how unfavorably it is treated in comparison for the same behavior. Especially given that these countries, while not exactly the best-of-friends with the United States, are still given so-called passes deemed “dangerous” if given to Russia.
Taken together, these facts are what always drive Russians crazy and push Putin into his “dismissive arrogance” posture that he often assumes when irritated by members of the Western media. Luckily for Russian specialists, this is one of the most entertaining aspects of Putin’s personality, as this arrogance is one of the few times that his true opinions and feelings are on display for reporters. But underneath the arrogance is arguably an endemic frustration forming the base of it all. What the Kremlin is most tired of is having to answer questions that clearly (though obliviously when it comes to the reporters asking) imply that Russia is in the wrong if it pursues policies that maximize its economic strength, increase its geopolitical prestige and leverage, and/or does not improve its relationship with the United States. Putin often remarks about how his decision-making is based solely on what is good for Russia and best for Russians. These comments are usually dismissed by the West as platitudes. But he means them. The problem is not that he takes such objectives seriously. The problem is that too many in the West fail to envision a reality where Russia does not accept being put into a tightly controlled box built on what the United States considers appropriate. And this latter point is not affirmation of a New Cold War with the West; it is confirmation that the West is still stuck in the psychology of the old one.
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