Author Topic: Russia/US-- Europe  (Read 171793 times)

DougMacG

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Russia/US-- Europe: Moldova next, Wash Post
« Reply #550 on: April 23, 2022, 11:03:35 AM »
Russian commander said Friday that Moscow wants to take “full control” of eastern and southern Ukraine, in part so it could have a path to neighboring Moldova — raising fears that the nearly two-month war could spill outside of Ukrainian borders.

The comments from Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s Central Military District, seemed to hint that the Kremlin — which has been stymied in its bid to take over the Ukrainian capital — still wants to conquer wide swaths of its neighbor’s land, and potentially threaten the nations that lie beyond. They drew swift condemnation from Moldova, where residents have worried since the beginning of the war they could be next in the Kremlin’s crosshairs.

Mr. Minnekayev said capturing Ukraine’s east and south would create a “land corridor” to the Crimean Peninsula — which the Kremlin annexed in 2014 — and give Moscow influence over “vital objects of the Ukrainian economy,” according to the Russia state media outlet Tass. It would also provide “another way out to Transnistria,” Minnekayev said, referring to a thin strip of land that runs along Moldova’s border with Ukraine that functions as a separate nation, though it is not recognized as such, even by Russia.

Minnekayev’s comments came at the end of anothergrim week in Ukraine — particularly in the eastern Donbas region, where Kremlin forces have refocused their fire in recent days. The devastated southern port city of Mariupol remained under siege, with Russia vowing to trap remaining Ukrainian forces that have been holed up in a steel plant there
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/04/22/russian-ambition-beyond-ukraine/


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Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #553 on: April 25, 2022, 11:13:55 AM »
Not sure that I even understand quite a bit of that, but the questions presented sure seem important.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Can Africa Replace Russian Energy in Europe?
« Reply #554 on: April 25, 2022, 01:04:55 PM »


April 25, 2022
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Can Africa Replace Russian Energy in Europe?
Moscow isn’t too worried, but neither is it taking any chances.
By: Ekaterina Zolotova
Unsurprisingly, the economic war against Russia has created tensions in European energy markets, which are scrambling to find alternate sources from what is still their largest supplier. Italy, for example, has already reached agreements to increase natural gas supplies from Algeria and Angola. However, Russia isn’t all that concerned – it figures the internal problems endemic to the region, the recent OPEC+ deal and the competition for energy in the European Union will conspire to keep Europe fairly dependent on its own exports. But neither is Moscow taking any chances. It sees what Europe is doing and will take all appropriate steps to maintain its position in European markets by increasing cooperation with African states.

Hopes

The debate over abandoning Russian gas for other suppliers, particularly in Africa, isn’t new. U.S. President Ronald Reagan encouraged Europe to do so as far back as 1981, right around the time the Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod gas pipeline – the primary conduit for Russian exports to Europe via Ukraine – was being built. The idea was to weaken the Soviet Union, which, like Russia today, relied heavily on oil and gas revenues. Washington set a ceiling for Western Europe – allies could buy only up to 30 percent of their total gas consumption from the Soviet Union – and banned the General Electric Corporation from exporting technology and equipment to the Soviet Union under the threat of sanctions. Europe ultimately went its own way: West Germany and the Soviet Union had important oil and gas infrastructure contracts that neither wanted to abandon, and other countries had too few options for ginning up their own production.

Today's tension is somewhat similar. It’s true that curbing Russian imports would hurt the government in Moscow. It generates more than a third of its budget with oil and gas sales, with Europe importing about 85 percent of all Russian gas. Which is why the European Commission has accelerated a plan to reject Russian carriers. If implemented, the EU could reduce its demand for Russian supplies by as much as two-thirds by the end of 2022, its supplies offset by increases in imports from the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia, Africa, Azerbaijan and Norway, as well as the U.S., which is supplying liquified natural gas.

But in the context of the current economic war, African countries occupy a unique place for a couple of reasons. First is the sheer amount of natural gas resources – about 455.2 trillion cubic meters, according to British energy firm BP. Second is proximity. The legacy of colonialism has left many African regions oriented toward trade with Europe, with gas pipelines and LNG terminals to boot. Third is the simple fact that countries such as Algeria and Nigeria already supply a not-insignificant amount of gas to Europe. (Algeria accounts for almost 12 percent of European consumption, while Nigeria accounts for about 3 percent.)

Gas Pipelines from Africa to Europe
(click to enlarge)

More important is that African countries have the potential to increase production and supplies without dramatically reorienting global supply flows. Stimulating production and discovering new deposits will be a much more effective method of energy warfare than the reorientation of existing trade flows. After all, if the European Union prefers countries that already have a developed infrastructure for production, processing and transportation, and already have customers and occupy a sizable market share, then these countries will most likely have to abandon their current markets to cover European demand. (Think Azerbaijan, Qatar and Norway.) This will almost certainly result in Russian oil filling the gaps. Goosing production in Africa sidesteps that problem.

Doubts

All this is easier said than done. Just about every EU country is trying to accomplish the same thing but on a bilateral basis. What may benefit one country may well come at another’s expense. Moreover, EU members that go it alone will have a harder time marshaling the huge amounts of resources needed to boost African production enough to offset the loss of Russian supplies.

Indeed, it’s hard to overstate how difficult it will be to build up the necessary infrastructure in the short term. It’s not that there aren’t any pipelines. Transmed, a natural gas pipeline from Algeria via Tunisia to Sicily and thence to mainland Italy, delivers some 30 billion cubic meters of gas per year. And Medgaz, the main gas pipeline connecting the largest gas field in Algeria with Spain, has a design capacity of 8 billion cubic meters per year. It’s that existing pipelines either have far too low a capacity to replace Russia or have been rendered inoperable by construction or regional conflicts. (Such is the case with the Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline in Algeria.) This is to say nothing of the difficulty in constructing new pipelines through the Mediterranean Sea, which is often too deep for modern technologies to accommodate.

Natural Gas in Africa
(click to enlarge)

And even if new infrastructure were completely operable, it ignores the fact that gas producers tend to start consuming more of their products. In Algeria, for example, gas consumption increased from 25.3 billion cubic meters in 2010 to 43.1 billion cubic meters in 2020. In Egypt, it jumped from 43.4 bcm to 57.8 bcm, while in West Africa it jumped from 8.6 bcm to 25.2 bcm. That means Algeria consumes nearly half of what it produces, Egypt nearly all of what it produces, and West Africa roughly two-thirds of what it produces.

Production is typically incommensurate with increased consumption for a variety of reasons. International oil companies began to reduce investment in response to falling oil prices. In Algeria, the development of new potential exploration zones, most of which are new shale gas deposits, becomes unsustainable due to the lack of water resources necessary for hydraulic fracturing. In Nigeria, gas production depends on oil production, and oil production is limited by the OPEC+ agreement. In Angola, production has fallen by more than a third because Western operators simply do not want to invest any more money in perpetually unstable economies. And it goes without saying that redirecting needed gas supplies to Europe will be sure to upset the local populations, potentially leading to bouts of unrest.

Meanwhile, Russia has significantly strengthened its position in the region. Lukoil, Gazprom, Rosneft and others are directly or indirectly enhancing energy relations with many African states. For example, Lukoil entered the offshore deepwater project on the Tano block of the Ghana shelf in West Africa, where there are two gas fields. Lukoil also acquired a 25 percent stake in the Marine XII hydrocarbon production project on the shelf of the Republic of Congo, where Litchendjili gas condensate is being produced. Rosneft acquired a 30 percent stake in the Zohr offshore gas field in Egypt. Gazpromneft has projects in Libya and offshore fields in Equatorial Guinea and Angola through its subsidiary, NIS. Gazprom is participating in exploration and production operations at ​​El Assel, Algeria, in which it has a 49 percent share. Russia also participates in maritime transport, as evidenced by a delivery to Spain from Cameroon on a Gazprom-chartered tanker.

Russia's Presence in Africa
(click to enlarge)

For Europe, then, finding new partners is possible but difficult. Finding new deposits is expensive and time-consuming. And redirecting existing flows risks creating more markets for Russia. Even if things proceed without a hitch, it’s unlikely that Africa can replace the Russian energy that Europe wants to forgo – namely, about 40 percent of what it consumes every year – any time soon. Moscow will therefore bank on the ineffectiveness of Europe’s current African project in the short term, while continuing to enhance its market share in the medium term. Given the lack of investment and technology and the rather friendly attitude of African states toward Russia and their nonaligned sanctions policies, the future may still be bright for Russia.

Crafty_Dog

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Ummm , , , Shouldn't the Euros be paying?
« Reply #555 on: April 26, 2022, 02:34:50 AM »
Pentagon grapples with future of troop presence in Europe

Military planners debate rotational deployments vs. permanent posts

BY BEN WOLFGANG THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The U.S. military footprint in Europe has vastly expanded in the two months since Russia invaded Ukraine, with more than 100,000 troops now on the ground on a continent where the talk until recently was on how and where to cut back.

The looming question for Pentagon planners now is how many troops should stay and for how long.

Russia’s assault on Ukraine has sparked a high-stakes debate about how best to use American boots on the ground in Europe as a show of solidarity with Kyiv and as a deterrent against any Russian move against NATO’s eastern flank, such as an attack on Baltic nations or a strike on Poland.

Inside the Pentagon and in national security circles, the questions center on whether the U.S. should dramatically increase the number of troops permanently stationed across Europe, with all the attendant costs and commitments, or ramp up rotational deployments of service members on missions typically lasting less than a year.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley recently told Congress that he favors the construction of permanent U.S. bases in Eastern Europe but wants to staff those facilities primarily with rotational troops. Such an

approach carries a host of benefi ts, most notably on the financial front. Rotational deployments are less costly, mainly because the troops’ spouses and children usually remain in the U.S. Troops on multiyear deployments stay with their families on American military bases.

That approach has critics, especially given the security climate in Europe.

Proponents of more permanent deployments say that increasing the number of U.S. troops on rotation through Europe isn’t a strong enough show of force to change Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cost-benefit analysis. They say a more permanent American presence would carry tangible benefits in the worst-case scenarios of an all-out NATO showdown with Russia.

“We can’t have forces slated to reinforce Europe waiting in garrisons in the U.S. They need to be ready, and they need to be permanently deployed to the front lines in Europe,” said Jim Townsend, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy during the Obama administration.

“We’ve got to lean toward deployed forces in Europe. There’s a role for rotational forces, but forces are vulnerable when they transit the Atlantic,” he told The Washington Times in an interview. “We need to have full-time forces there. I know the Pentagon doesn’t like to hear that for various reasons, but I think it’s a mistake to just do more of what we’re already doing. We need to have more armor permanently deployed in Europe.

“To rotate an armored brigade combat team to Europe, their equipment has to go over on ships. If we are in a conflict with Russia, we won’t have time to wait for ships, and they may be intercepted in the Atlantic before they even reach Europe. We need to have more armor permanently deployed to Europe, not just rotating in,” he said.

The Pentagon is reimagining its approach to troop deployments against the backdrop of Europe’s biggest ground war since World War II and longer-term strategic hopes of reorienting U.S. power to face China, not Russia.

Russia’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine continued Monday with strikes on Ukrainian rail and fuel depots. The Russian military is working to cripple Ukrainian supply lines and prevent equipment from reaching the eastern front.

Russian forces have massed in eastern Ukraine in a major offensive on the disputed Donbas region, which has become the epicenter of the war. Russian troops also are seeking to capture the devastated port city of Mariupol, which would create a land bridge between the Donbas and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia forcibly annexed in 2014.

To help beat back that Russian offensive, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv over the weekend and announced another American military assistance package to Ukraine. Underscoring the high stakes of the conflict, Ukrainian officials said such aid is crucial but the Western world must do more to stop Russian aggression, which they said will surely not stop in Ukraine.

“As long as Russian soldiers put a foot on Ukrainian soil, nothing is enough,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press on Monday. He said the U.S. and NATO must do more to “stop Putin in Ukraine and not to allow him to go further, deeper into Europe.”

Russia was complaining about the growing number of U.S. troops near its borders weeks before Mr. Putin authorized the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a Feb. 3 briefing that the U.S. was fueling tensions in the region by sending more troops to Poland and Romania in response to the Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border.

“Clearly, Russian concerns are justified and understandable,” Mr. Peskov told reporters. “All measures to ensure Russia’s security and interests are also understandable.”

Ironically in light of the debate, the Biden administration defended the troop deployments in part because they were temporary and could be reversed if Russia stepped back.

“These are not permanent moves. They are precisely in response to the current security environment in light of this increasing threatening behavior by the Russian Federation,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

The Biden administration has vowed to defend every inch of NATO territory from Russia, essentially guaranteeing a world war scenario if Russian troops press beyond Ukraine. A central part of the U.S. deterrence strategy has been to send tens of thousands more troops to Europe at a pace not seen since the Cold War.

Such major increases in U.S. troop deployments seemed unthinkable a few years ago. President Trump and his national security team, skeptical of many NATO allies, looked to shrink the overall number of U.S. troops in Europe and reposition more than 10,000 forces from Germany.

President Biden and Mr. Austin quickly stopped that plan after taking office in January 2021.

Fifteen months later, The U.S. footprint has expanded to its highest level in years. In January, as the world watched to see whether Mr. Putin would attack Ukraine, about 80,000 U.S. troops were stationed across Europe.

Now, about 102,000 American forces are in Europe, military officials told The Times on Monday. Of those, about 65,000 are on a permanent deployment and remain there for several years. The remaining troops are in Europe on a rotational basis, officials said. Such an approach has become common in Europe, the Korean Peninsula and other theaters with significant U.S. troop presences. Troops often arrive on short-term deployments to take part in military exercises or could be sent temporarily to hot spots such as Eastern Europe to demonstrate American resolve in the face of a potential attack.

In Eastern Europe in particular, Gen. Milley said, the U.S. can essentially have the best of both worlds.

“My advice would be to create permanent bases but don’t permanently station. So you get the effect of permanence by rotational forces cycling through permanent bases,” Gen. Milley told House lawmakers during a recent hearing. “And what you don’t have to do is incur the cost of family moves, PXs, schools, housing and that sort of thing. So you cycle through expeditionary forces through forward deployed permanent bases.

“You get the effect of permanent presence of forces, but the actual individual soldier, sailor, airman and Marine is not permanently stationed there for two or three years,” he said.

That approach clearly has supporters inside the Pentagon, but strong arguments could be made for more permanent deployments. Some evidence shows that rotations don’t always generate as much cost savings as anticipated.

Perhaps more important, permanent troop deployments may send stronger signals to allies and enemies. During the Trump administration, Poland lobbied for more American troops on its soil and even offered to build a $2 billion “Fort Trump” to house them.

“In terms of diplomatic or political-military factors, forward stationing is preferred by American allies overseas over rotational deployments. Allies perceive forward-stationed forces as a sign of a stronger, more enduring commitment from the United States,” U.S. Army War College researcher John R. Deni said in a 2017 report examining Army deployments around the world

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: US should show it can win a nuclear war
« Reply #557 on: April 27, 2022, 01:17:38 PM »
The U.S. Should Show It Can Win a Nuclear War
Washington might study Cold War-era practices that had a major effect on Soviet policy making.
By Seth Cropsey
April 27, 2022 1:08 pm ET

Russia conducted its first test of the Sarmat, an intercontinental ballistic missile that carries a heavy nuclear payload, on April 20. Vladimir Putin and his advisers have issued nuclear warnings throughout the war in Ukraine, threatening the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with attack if they escalate their involvement. Moscow recently threatened Sweden and Finland with a pre-emptive strike if they join NATO.

The reality is that unless the U.S. prepares to win a nuclear war, it risks losing one. Robert C. O’Brien, a former White House national security adviser, proposed a series of conventional responses, which are necessary but not sufficient to deter Russian nuclear escalation. Developing a coherent American strategy requires understanding why Russia threatens to use nuclear weapons and how the U.S. can recalibrate its strategic logic for a nuclear environment.

Russia’s war is being fought on two levels. At the military level, the battlefields have been restricted to Ukrainian and, in a handful of instances, Russian territory. But the conflict is also a war against NATO, given Ukraine’s position as an applicant, NATO’s military support for Ukraine, and NATO’s willingness to embargo Russian products and cut off Russian energy.

Mr. Putin had two objectives in going to war. First, he hoped to destroy Ukraine as an independent state. Russia planned to drive into Kyiv within hours, install a quisling government, and months later stage referendums throughout the country that would give the Kremlin direct control of its east and south. Aleksandr Lukashenko’s Belarus, and perhaps the Central Asian despots, would fall in line. Mr. Putin would therefore reconstitute an empire stretching to the Polish border.


Ukrainians thwarted that plan. Much depends on the next few weeks, as Russia stages a major offensive in the east designed to destroy the Ukrainian military’s immediate combat capacity, tear off eastern provinces, and solidify a land corridor to Crimea. But there is a serious possibility that Ukraine wins this next round of fighting. Russia has no reserves beyond its mobilized forces; its units have dwindling morale; and those formations withdrawn from around Kyiv are trained to conduct armored, mechanized, and infantry operations and poorly suited for combat. Meantime, the Ukrainians are receiving heavier weapons from the West and have begun a counteroffensive around Kharkiv, which, if successful, will spoil Russia’s attack.

If Russia’s military situation appears dire, Mr. Putin has a dual incentive to use nuclear weapons. This is consistent with publicly stated Russian military doctrine. A nuclear attack would present Ukraine with the same choice Japan faced in 1945: surrender or be annihilated. Ukraine may not break. The haunting images from Bucha, Irpin and elsewhere demonstrate Russia’s true intentions. A Russian victory would lead to mass killings, deportation, rape and other atrocities. The Ukrainian choice won’t be between death and survival, but rather armed resistance and unarmed extermination.

Nuclear use would require NATO to respond. But a nuclear response could trigger retaliation, dragging Russia and NATO up the escalation ladder to a wider nuclear confrontation.

Perhaps a conventional response to a Russian nuclear attack would be sufficient. What if the U.S. and its allies destroyed Russian military units deployed to the Black Sea, Syria and Libya; cut all oil pipelines to Russia, and used their economic clout to threaten China, and other states conducting business with Russia, with an embargo?

Each of these steps is necessary. But Russia’s goal in going nuclear is to knock NATO out of the war. The Kremlin believes its resolve outstrips that of the U.S. A conventional American response would confirm this—and create incentives for additional Russian nuclear use.

The Kremlin is resurrecting the arcane art of nuclear war fighting. These weapons have a military purpose. They also have a political one. The U.S. should reframe its thinking in kind.

This isn’t to say the U.S. should use nuclear weapons—again, a nuclear response would make global nuclear war more likely. But America and its allies can take steps against Russia’s nuclear arsenal that undermine the Russian position at higher escalation levels. The U.S. Navy’s surface ships, for example, could be re-equipped with nuclear weapons, as they were during the Cold War.

Most critically, if Russia used a nuclear weapon, the U.S. could use its naval power to hunt down and destroy a Russian nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine, the backbone of Russian second-strike capability. Late in the Cold War the U.S. Navy threatened to do exactly that, pressuring the Soviet Union’s nuclear bastions, the protected littoral areas from which Soviet subs aimed to operate with safety. In a series of naval exercises during the Reagan administration, the U.S. and its allies simulated assaulting the Sea of Okhotsk and Barents Sea bastions, while U.S. submarines probed and shadowed Soviet boats in both areas. Post-Cold War evidence reveals that American naval pressure had a major impact on Soviet policy making: Despite Moscow’s priority of armaments over all other state needs, the U.S. showed it would still be able to fight and win a nuclear war.

The ability to win is the key. By arming surface ships with tactical nuclear weapons as well as attacking a nuclear-missile sub and thus reducing Russian second-strike ability, the U.S. undermines Russia’s ability to fight a nuclear war. The Soviets were deeply afraid of a pre-emptive strike by NATO. That fear has morphed, under Mr. Putin’s regime, into a fixation on the “color revolutions,” pro-democracy uprisings in former Soviet republics. Jeopardizing Russian second-strike capability would tangibly raise the military stakes. Mr. Putin could no longer unleash his nuclear arsenal with impunity. Instead, he would need to reckon with the possibility that NATO could decapitate the Kremlin—yes, suffering casualties in the process, but still decapitate it.

A nuclear war should never be fought. But the Kremlin seems willing to fight one, at least a limited one. If the U.S. demonstrates it is unwilling to do so, the chance that the Kremlin will use nuclear weapons becomes dangerously real.

Mr. Cropsey is founder and president of the Yorktown Institute. He served as a naval officer and as deputy undersecretary of the Navy and is author of “Mayday” and “Seablindness.”

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Hungary
« Reply #558 on: May 02, 2022, 09:54:22 AM »
May 2, 2022
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Hungary and Europe’s Energy Puzzle
It’s getting harder for Budapest to balance Russia and the West.
By: Antonia Colibasanu

On April 27, Russia announced that Gazprom stopped sending gas to Bulgaria and Poland after they missed the deadlines Russia set for paying in rubles. The European Union is scrambling to respond as members negotiate the content of their next sanctions package, which would contain a ban on Russian oil imports. But as with all things EU, there is dissension in the ranks. Germany, Poland and the Netherlands may be Russia’s biggest customers in Europe, yet it is Hungary that seems to be most reluctant on further sanctions against Russia. In fact, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said earlier in April that Hungary would pay in rubles if Russia requested it. That request will have only a limited impact on European energy security, but it will have important political consequences, especially for Hungary, which will find it increasingly difficult to maintain its position with Russia – and the EU.

Hungary’s Strategy

Russia’s announcement, not to mention its halting of exports to Poland and Bulgaria, has been described as a breach of contract, but even if that’s the case, it won’t be all that consequential. Poland imports 10 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas per year, and its contract with Russia was due to expire in December anyway. Bulgaria imports 3 bcm. Together, they account for just 8 percent of total EU imports. They are already planning to offset the losses with supplies from Norway and Azerbaijan and with regasification facilities for imported liquified natural gas.

It’s unclear which country Moscow plans to cut off next. Its deadlines are unknown to the general public, and they depend on the details of contracts and negotiations between Gazprom and its customers. However, industry sources have said it could happen as early as May. Whatever the case may be, the European Commission has urged member states to make sure their facilities are 80 percent full by November, and while it is difficult to know the stock levels for each member state, the block’s stocks are at only 33 percent storage capacity.

It’s also unclear how much Russia is willing to cut off. Now more than ever, Moscow can’t afford to deprive itself of too much revenue. Perhaps this is why Moscow initially offered what looked to be a compromise for its European partners: Energy importers would open two accounts with Gazprombank, which is currently not under sanctions, and European buyers would pay euros into a first account, after which the bank could convert them into rubles and deposit the money into a second account. Then, the sum would be wired to Gazprom.

But the offer was also strategic. Moscow knew that it would create disagreement among European states and potentially weaken the Western alliance – one of its fundamental goals in Ukraine. The proposal essentially splits EU members into three groups. One is formed of countries like Belgium, Spain and Romania that import little or no gas from Russia and can thus refuse to compromise. The second includes countries such as Poland that are only partially dependent on Russian gas and may have contracts that soon expire. These countries are already looking for new suppliers and may consider accepting a compromise in the near term. The third group comprises big buyers like Germany and Italy that are struggling to replace imports quickly and that may take the deal if the threat of cutting supplies dramatically hurts their economy. They are looking at replacing gas suppliers and finding alternative sources to gas. For them, time and adaptability are of the essence.

Hungary is a bit of an outlier. In the context of recent EU history, Budapest has become an important partner for Russia. Since 2008, the EU has struggled with socio-economic problems and since the early 2010s with an unprecedented refugee crisis. Consequently, support and financial funding for Eastern European countries that were still new to the bloc declined as Western Europe was facing unprecedented problems. Nationalism, populism and euroscepticism have, meanwhile, increased throughout Europe. Energy security had become a concern for most European states well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Amid these problems, Hungary started engaging more with Russia, which could provide energy security and no-strings-attached investment. Of course, this decision invited criticism from Brussels, and Prime Minister Viktor Orban has used it to shore up support at home, positioning himself as a champion of sovereignty and independence against an ever-encroaching Europe.

Benefits

Currently, roughly 75 percent of Hungary's natural gas imports and 65 percent of oil imports come from Russia. This means that import prices are a matter of political stability. Budapest capped energy prices last fall to protect domestic consumers from rising oil prices. The government provides tax benefits and subsidies, and the costs of the price freeze are currently divided between the big players, the small retail petrol stations and the government. One can understand why the government is reluctant to sanction Russia.

But Hungary’s alignment with Russia goes beyond energy. Its geopolitical imperative, and the strategy that comes from it, is to maintain internal security while seeking to expand its influence and project power beyond its current borders. This demands a balance between its alignment with the West and its relations with Russia.

Two major historical events are responsible for Hungary’s strategy. The first and most important is the Treaty of Trianon after World War I, which ceded parts of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, as nation-states in the region were taking shape. Since then, Hungary’s goal was to establish influence and eventually gain back the land it considered unjustly lost. During the Cold War, Budapest wasn’t strong enough or independent enough to reclaim these lands, but since the conflict has ended, it has made a concerted effort to cater to Hungarian communities there that vote in Hungarian elections.

The second is the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The uprising was repressed by the Soviets after an intense summer of insurgent fighting, and after the U.S. proved unwilling to counter Soviet action, it ultimately failed. Most Hungarians perceive the event as simply proving that America can’t be trusted. Even so, Hungary became a NATO member as it recognized the West’s superiority over Russia, and it joined the EU once it understood the economic benefits of membership. Yet it never fully trusted either organization, and it never fully disavowed its relations with Russia.

All this explains Hungary’s position. Budapest depends on Russian energy, so even though it has been absorbed by Western institutions, it still needs a good working relationship with Moscow – and vice versa. Russia didn’t place any conditions on its investments in and business ties to Hungary. That relations with the West have been deteriorating lately made the Hungary-Russia romance all the more advantageous.

All of which helps to explain Hungary’s response to the invasion of Ukraine. It hasn’t condemned Russia the way others have, choosing instead to focus its remarks on protecting Hungarian communities in Eastern Europe, while being somewhat instrumental in getting Ukrainian refugees to the rest of Europe (something it was loath to do in other immigration crises when the refugees were coming from the Middle East and North Africa). Budapest did the bare minimum to help NATO beef up the eastern flank and allowed NATO to move through and be stationed in the country, but it banned the shipment of weapons and equipment to Kyiv coming from NATO member states and U.S. allies. (Here again domestic politics is in play. During campaign season, the government understood there was a chance that Russia would win, and thus saw an opportunity to expand its influence in Transcarpathia while ensuring the country’s energy security.)

Flaws

Despite the obvious benefits, Hungary’s strategy isn’t as successful as it appears. With the outcome of the war becoming less and less clear, the only tangible perk is that it gets discounted Russian gas at a time when everyone else is scrambling. But even this benefit might be in question, as things evolve.

Meanwhile, the European Commission seems to be getting serious about its threat to cut EU funding to Hungary if it doesn’t fix its rule of law problems. It had made that threat ahead of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, but since Budapest didn’t take it seriously, and since it was difficult to get Hungary to toe the EU (and the U.S.) line on condemning Russia, the commission has launched an administrative procedure against Hungary, making the claim more realistic. (Even if the EU does not admit the procedure is tied to the conflict in Ukraine, the timing is telling.)

It is a first for the commission to start such a procedure, which is based on the principle that the disbursement of EU funds is conditional on respect for values like the rule of law and could see countries with systemic problems lose out on funding. It’s expected to take between five and nine months. It will also involve two rounds of consultations with Budapest, but if the talks go nowhere, the commission will design “administrative remedial measures” that the other EU countries will have to adopt or amend with a qualified majority in the council – a process that will last a maximum of three months.

Many see the EU’s move as an attempt to set a precedent, a warning to other European countries with respect to EU funds and democratic norms. It is partly that, but because the feud between Brussels and Budapest is years in the making, the timing is indicative of something else: that this is a consequence of supporting Russia, or at least of not aligning with the EU on the war. In the coming talks, it will be up to Budapest to negotiate its position and decide whether Europe or Russia is a more reliable and more financially productive partner.

Another flaw in Hungary’s strategy involves the trust it has in natural gas transit states. Siphoning off gas is unethical and in many cases illegal, and Russia has said that it would cut off supplies to any country that engages in this tactic. But that’s not an especially effective threat. If Poland or Bulgaria have already had their supplies threatened, what’s to stop them from taking gas passing through their territory on its way to Hungary? They are both looking to secure alternative supplies so it's unlikely they'll do that. But in any case, the only party that would know is Gazprom itself. And who can really verify the accuracy of what Gazprom says?

It may be that Hungary’s answer to Brussels in the months to come will influence Gazprom’s reply to Budapest’s energy security concerns. But no matter what it decides, the energy puzzle in Europe remains. Russia knows and uses some key vulnerabilities, and Brussels is struggling to keep its politics and economics coordinated, while nation-states are scrambling to remain stable.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: What to watch for as EU sanctions Russian oil
« Reply #559 on: May 06, 2022, 06:50:11 AM »
What to Watch for as the EU Sanctions Russian Oil

If approved, the European Union's proposed embargo on Russian oil will ripple across global markets, especially if it helps enable more substantial U.S. sanctions targeting Moscow's energy sales to non-Western countries. On May 4, the European Commission proposed a sixth package of EU sanctions against Russia in response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. The new measures include:

An EU-wide embargo on Russian petroleum, with the embargo of crude oil imports entering force in six months and the embargo on petroleum products imports entering force by the end of 2022.

A ban within one month on the transport, including ship-to-ship transfers, of Russia-origin crude oil and petroleum products by any EU-flagged, -owned, -chartered or -operated vessel to third-party countries (i.e. non-EU member states).

A ban within one month on EU entities and persons providing any services related to the transport of Russia-origin crude oil and petroleum products, including technical assistance, brokering services, insurance, and financing or financial services.

All of the European Union's 27 member states need to approve the proposal before the sanctions enter force. To secure unanimous support, Brussels may grant exemptions to countries that are most dependent on Russian oil, like Hungary and Slovakia. Countries including Greece, Malta and Cyprus have also expressed concerns about banning EU tankers from shipping Russian oil. Nonetheless, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the European Union aims to approve the sanctions during the bloc's next Foreign Affairs Council meetings, which are scheduled for May 10 and May 16. But according to Politico, the new measures could be approved even sooner — potentially as early as May 6.

What to Watch For

As EU member states discuss, approve and ultimately implement the new sanctions targeting Russia's oil sector, there are several key things to watch for in the coming months in order to gauge the embargo's overall impact:

Whether the EU grants exemptions to certain countries

If approved, the proposed embargo on Russian oil is slated to come into force for all EU member states' contracts (including long-term contracts) this year. The European Union, however, already appears willing to exempt certain member states from implementing the new sanctions. Just hours after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveiled the sanctions package, Hungary's foreign minister said the country could not support a full EU ban on Russian oil. But it's unlikely that von der Leyen would have announced the package if she was not confident that all countries would get behind the proposal. There are reports Hungary and Slovakia will receive exemptions that will allow them to continue buying Russian oil under long-term contracts through the end of 2023. If Brussels does grant these exemptions, other countries will probably seek them as well, diluting the overall effectiveness of the bloc's embargo. On May 4, Bulgaria's deputy prime minister told a Bulgaria-based financial newspaper that Sofia would seek an exemption if the European Union exempts other countries from the new sanctions. According to Politico, the Czech Republic wants similar concessions to the ones reportedly being granted to Slovakia and Hungary.

How fast European markets adapt

The initial market response to the May 4 unveiling of the new EU sanctions package was fairly small, with the price of Brent crude oil only increasing by about 3-4%. This suggests much of the proposed ban on Russian oil was priced in and that markets are not as concerned about crude oil supplies for European refineries. While this may be the case, how quickly European refiners and supply chains can adapt to the new restrictions may ultimately decide how impactful the sanctions are on European consumers. The refineries most at risk of physical supply disruptions are the ones in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary that are situated along the two arteries of the Soviet-built Druzhba pipeline system. Each of these could import crude oil from sources other than Russia, though in some cases, it would require additional investment like expanding port facilities.

Nonetheless, the refinery in the Czech Republic is connected to a number of other pipelines that can import non-Russian oil. Germany, meanwhile, has recently reached an agreement with Poland to allow its two Druzhba-dependent refineries to use a Polish port to import crude oil. And TotalEnergies, which operates one of the two German refineries along the pipeline, is already planning to phase out the use of Russian crude oil at its Luena refinery in Germany. Hungary and Slovakia, which each have a Druzhba-dependent refinery, may receive exemptions from sanctions allowing them to phase out Russian oil over a longer period. But Hungarian oil and gas company MOL, which operates both refineries, has said it has sufficient capacity in the Adria oil pipeline connected to an oil import terminal in Croatia to supply the two refineries in Hungary and Slovakia. This underscores that Hungary's push for the exemption is more driven by its current government's political calculations, rather than purely economic considerations.


An aerial photo taken on April 12, 2022, shows the TotalEnergies Leuna oil refinery near Spergau, Germany. The refinery is connected to the Druzhba oil pipeline that transports oil from Russia to Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

But despite what appears to be alternatives, each of these European refineries will be trying to replace Russia's flagship Urals crude oil sent through the Druzhba pipeline with other medium sour crude. This means that there will be more customers competing in a part of the global market that is already tight due to the self-sanctioning by companies deciding to reduce Russian oil purchases. Many of the largest streams of medium sour crude grades come from Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates — all of which will now be caught between high demand from Asia and increased demand from Europe.

The ban on petroleum product imports — principally Russian diesel — will also exacerbate Europe's ongoing diesel challenges, though the exact impact remains unclear. In April, Europe imported about 770,000 barrels per day of diesel from Russia, or about half of its diesel imports. It is unclear how the EU sanctions, however, will clarify what constitutes ''Russian'' petroleum products (if they do at all), as different intermediate petroleum products (such as naphtha) are often used in the process of making finished petroleum products; even finished petroleum products (including gasoline) are usually blended with different components as well. The fine print of the finalized EU sanctions package could clarify whether the embargo will also apply to products that were either created or blended with any Russian petroleum — which will, in turn, determine how much Russian petroleum products end up in European markets. According to a May 4 Reuters report, some traders are already trying to assess whether or not a diesel blend containing 49% Russian diesel constitutes a Russian petroleum product or not.

The impact of the EU's transport-related sanctions

Although the EU embargo on Russian petroleum is getting the most attention, the proposed ban on transporting Russian oil to non-EU countries may be just as significant due to the potential impact on Russian oil sales to non-Western countries like China and India, which have imposed few (if any) sanctions on Russia. Europe is one of the regions most important to the shipping industry. Many of the world's largest tanker companies are based in the European Union, such as Belgium-based Euronav, Greece-based Tsakos Energy and Greece-based Navios Maritime Holdings, and U.K.-based International Group of Protection & Indemnity Clubs, which collectively provide liability coverage for around 95% of ocean-bound tankers and will follow EU law and regulations. There is already a global shortage of oil tankers and many of them may be unwilling or unable to carry Russian crude due to the new sanctions if they are approved, limiting Russia's ability to export oil beyond the EU market.

Moreover, Russia's Baltic Primorsk and Ust-Luga oil export terminals and the Black Sea Novorossiysk oil export terminal that handle Russia's seaborne Urals crude grade exports are not equipped to handle very large crude carriers (VLCC) or ultra-large crude carriers (ULCC). Instead, most Russian crude oil shipments to Asia are first loaded on smaller tankers at these Russian ports. The smaller vessels transfer the oil to larger VLCCs or ULCCs that then go on to deliver the shipments at Asian ports. Those VLCCs or ULCCs, however, are typically sitting in EU waters and thus could soon be subject to sanctions. In addition, because it takes much longer to reach India (and especially China) from Russia compared with Europe, more tankers will need to be in use at once in order to maintain the same level of crude oil exports if going to Asia instead of Europe.

All of this will make it harder for Russia to find tankers that can export its crude if the EU sanctions are approved.

All of this will make it harder for Russia to find tankers that can export its crude if the EU sanctions are approved. And while India and China have their own fleets of tankers that can and have been used to skirt Iran or Venezuela sanctions, doing so on such a large scale will eat into their tanker capacity, which may deter Beijing and New Delhi from significantly ramping up their Russian oil imports. If the transport sanctions are effective in limiting Russia's ability to export oil currently destined for Europe to other markets, it will not only have a more significant financial impact on Russia, but a more significant impact on overall global oil supplies and, in turn, global oil prices.

The potential expansion of U.S. sanctions

The United States and European Union have been working closely together on their respective sanctions packages. Washington, however, has so far sought to avoid forcing EU states to cut off their imports of Russian oil by imposing secondary U.S. sanctions akin to those that have significantly curbed Iran's global oil exports. But if the European Union implements its proposed embargo, it would remove this roadblock by mitigating concerns about the second-order impact such sanctions would have on virtually all of the United States' NATO allies. This could, in turn, free Washington to more broadly target Russia's oil sales via secondary sanctions if the situation in Ukraine does not improve or if the number of civilian casualties in the war escalates significantly.

Such expansive U.S. sanctions, however, would still make it difficult for India, China and other countries to import Russian oil at high volumes, even at discounted prices — adding pressure on crude oil prices and, more importantly, gasoline prices in the United States. Given U.S. voters' particular sensitivity to rising gas prices, the White House is unlikely to impose broader sanctions on Russian oil ahead of the November midterm elections, though it may have more political space to do so after the vote.

Russia's response

Russia — which exported about two-thirds of its oil to Europe prior to the Ukraine invasion — will probably retaliate against the EU embargo, raising the potential for more economic disruptions in Europe. Moscow recently cut off Bulgaria and Poland's natural gas supplies and has threatened to do the same to other European customers that do not pay for gas using the ruble payment mechanism the Kremlin has set up. The European Union is planning to issue new legal guidance in the hopes of clarifying whether Russia's ruble payment mechanism violates EU sanctions ahead of gas payments due by more customers in the second half of May. If companies do not use the mechanism, the European Union oil embargo makes it even more likely that Russia will retaliate with gas cutoffs. Even if they do use the mechanism, Moscow may still consider cutting off the bloc's natural gas supplies.

Russia can also threaten to cut off other key raw materials and goods that the European Union depends on (such as nuclear power fuel rods, agriculture and fertilizer) or demand that purchasers of these exports use a similar ruble payment mechanism. On May 3, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a broad decree allowing his government to cut off exports for products and raw materials to people and entities that are on a Russian sanctions list. The decree gives the Russian government 10 days to draft the list of entities that will be affected. It's possible that European firms, especially those announcing a plan to exit Russia investments like TotalEnergies and Shell, are placed on that list. Russia could also conduct cyberattacks against Western targets or retaliate against Western businesses or visitors still active in Russia through asset seizures or arbitrary detentions. The Kremlin's response to the European Union's proposed oil embargo has so far been largely rhetorical, but it is unlikely to stay that way for long.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF
« Reply #560 on: May 06, 2022, 02:01:44 PM »
second

Daily Memo: Europe Searches for Substitute Suppliers
The U.S. and Germany also agreed not to recognize any territorial gains made by Russia as a result of the war in Ukraine.
By: Geopolitical Futures
Gas alternatives. As Europe continues its search for alternative sources of natural gas, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country should be prepared to facilitate liquefied natural gas shipments to landlocked member states. Germany recently rented four floating storage and regasification units. Azerbaijan’s energy minister, meanwhile, said his country expected to deliver over 10 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe by the end of this year. This follows statements from Azerbaijan’s president earlier this week in which he said that Azerbaijan plans to produce more gas from new offshore fields next year and that the capacity of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline could be expanded to 20 bcm by adding pump stations. In addition, Bulgarian gas provider Bulgargaz and Greek utility company DEPA said they agreed to start joint purchases of LNG – which will be used to supply southeastern Europe – in an effort to boost their bargaining position.

Security aid for Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz discussed Ukraine during a phone call on Thursday. They pledged to coordinate on providing security aid to Kyiv and, according to a German government spokesperson, agreed not to recognize any territorial gains made by Russia as a result of the war. Relatedly, Germany’s defense minister said on Friday that Berlin will deliver seven Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine. Training for the equipment will be offered starting next week, and ammunition will also be sent.

Turkey and France. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday spoke by phone with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron. The two leaders discussed the Ukraine war and ways to improve bilateral ties. Erdogan said relations between Ankara and Paris are of great importance for European security – though they have been strained over the past few years over a number of issues including the eastern Mediterranean and Libya.

Russian tariffs. Russia will reduce duties on wheat exports from $120.10 per ton to $114.3 per ton for a weeklong period beginning May 13. This will be the first decrease since mid-March. A spokesperson for Russia's Foreign Ministry confirmed that Moscow still planned to fulfill its international contracts to supply agricultural and fertilizer products.

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Stratfor: Russia's need for reinforcements
« Reply #561 on: May 06, 2022, 02:22:32 PM »
third

The Need for Reinforcements in Ukraine Backs Russia Into a Corner

While Russia is unlikely to declare a full mobilization in the short term, it will likely need to deploy more soldiers to continue waging its war in Ukraine. This means that Moscow will likely mobilize at least some reinforcements, which could indefinitely prolong the conflict — exposing Russia to more economic problems and pressure from the West. As Russia's offensive in eastern Ukraine grinds on, military analysts increasingly believe the offensive capability of Russian forces in Ukraine will be largely exhausted in the coming weeks, regardless of whether they secure the entire administrative borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Russian troops now find themselves outnumbered in Ukraine after losing roughly 15,000 soldiers since the beginning of the war. As Kyiv raises, trains and moves territorial defense battalions to the frontlines, Russian forces will thus first and foremost need more manpower to conduct a new offensive operation, in addition to rest, resources and stronger logistical support.

Russia's Options for Military Reinforcements
Against this backdrop, the future of the conflict now rests largely in the Kremlin's hands, and in particular, on Russia's willingness to conduct mobilization by raising new troops and readying the country's economy to work on behalf of the war effort. Recent media reports suggest Russian President Vladimir Putin could declare additional mobilization measures — or even war on Ukraine — as soon as May 9, which is Russia's Victory Day commemorating the Soviet Union's role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II. But even if Putin doesn't leverage the patriotic holiday to make such an announcement, Russia will still need to provide its battered troops in Ukraine with at least some reinforcement. Moscow has three main options for such mobilization — all of which pose considerable military, political and economic risks:

1) Keep the current course by conducting partial mobilization measures.

In this likely scenario, Putin would seek to maintain maximum flexibility by declaring Russia's ''special military operation'' a victory, but noting that defending the victory will be a long-term struggle requiring additional sacrifices from the Russian people. Moscow will choose from a menu of measures to draw additional manpower into the armed forces, which would represent a partial mobilization. The goal of this strategy would be two-fold: consolidate the current territorial gains in Ukraine (specifically the so-called ''land bridge'' connecting Crimea to the Donbas consisting of the southern portions of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions on the left bank of the Dnieper river), and keep pressure on Kyiv to negotiate a peace deal favorable to Moscow.

Under this strategy, Russia's partial mobilization measures could include an unofficial mobilization of up to 60,000 reservists in Russia (which Ukrainian and Western sources believe may already be underway); a steady increase the economic incentive of military contract service; a mobilization of troops in specific regions of Russia bordering Ukraine on the grounds of the alleged threat to them; a decree mobilizing a certain percentage of reservists or other employees with weapons training from federal agencies such as the interior ministry, bailiffs service, emergency situations service and others for temporary military service; an extension of last year's conscripts' service requirement and a movement of select conscripts into front-line roles; and, finally, a patriotic campaign declared by Putin himself calling for volunteers for military service.

Drivers: Russia will probably require at least some additional manpower to confidently stabilize its current control of Ukrainian territory in the medium term, and the current pace of Russians' volunteering is insufficient to meet these requirements. These measures would be much less harmful to the Russian economy and politically risky than a general mobilization. The Kremlin's complete control of decision-making means that it can adapt mobilization measures to fit whatever it decides its next objectives are and the speed with which they should be completed. Because training requirements mean that it will take months before mobilized forces are combat-ready, a partial mobilization would give Moscow options and peace of mind no matter how things play out on the battlefield in the coming weeks. In addition, partial mobilization measures could sufficiently deter the Ukrainian army from major counteroffensives.
Constraints: This option could raise expectations among the Russian populace without any guarantee of a greater victory. Hard-liners in the government and nationalist elements could criticize the measures as evidence that Russia's special operation has failed, but that the Kremlin still lacks the resolve to take the necessary steps to achieve a decisive victory. Should Russian forces prove capable of holding off Ukrainian counterattacks (or should Ukrainian forces be deterred from attempting such attacks), these partial mobilization measures would not significantly improve Russian military capabilities relative to Ukraine's, but would still have political and economic costs.

Soldiers carry the coffin of Nikita Avrov, a 20-year-old Russian serviceman killed in combat in Ukraine, during a funeral service in Luga, Russia, on April 11, 2022. (AFP via Getty Images)

2) Significantly escalate the conflict by declaring war and a national mobilization.

In this less likely but still possible scenario, Putin would rebrand Russia's ''special military operation'' into a war to justify extensive mobilization measures in a risky bid to achieve a decisive victory over Kyiv, reverting to the invasion's original maximalist aims. Putin would claim that this massive war effort was the only way to sufficiently ''demilitarize'' and ''denazify'' Ukraine and, in turn, ensure Russia's long-term security as otherwise, low-level conflict would continue to grind as Ukraine maintained its pro-Western course.

The declaration of war would open the door for Russia to declare martial law and a national general mobilization. This would make all men between the ages of 18-50 eligible for military service, depending on their category of fitness for the army. Men unfit for military service, meanwhile, could be placed in armaments production or other secondary roles. After several weeks or months of organizing and training these reserves, Russia would attempt to use its massive manpower advantage to surround Kyiv and annex as much southern and eastern Ukraine as it desires, linking up with Transdniestria or going further into Moldova, possibly leaving a rump state in western Ukraine or creating a puppet government modeled off of President Alexander Lukashenko's regime in Belarus.

Drivers: Russia would use this massive mobilization as part of a bid, along with other measures such as raising the nuclear threat level, to intimidate Ukraine into submission in negotiations and deter additional Western support for Ukraine in the following weeks as Russian forces mobilize. Should this fail, Russia would attack with its now significant numerical superiority to achieve its most ambitious stated goals of ''demilitarization and denazification.'' This is because the Kremlin sees the installation of a pro-Moscow regime and occupation of the country as the only sure way to prevent Ukraine from resuming integrating with European and transatlantic structures in the long term. Russia could also use a declaration of war to force Belarus and Russia's other Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) partners into the conflict that would otherwise resist doing so under all circumstances.
Constraints: Putin's repeated false declarations that conscripts aren't fighting in Ukraine suggest that the Kremlin believes such a move would be highly unpopular and would effectively constitute an embarrassing admission that the war is not progressing as originally planned. Russia is already confronting shortages of equipment and rations. Bringing hundreds of thousands more poorly trained and poorly motivated troops to the frontlines in Ukraine would thus risk only worsening Russia's already poor logistical situation. Russia can already declare victory and can continue economically starving Ukraine indefinitely via its naval blockade, making such a complete victory not worth the cost. Such an extensive mobilization, however, would only exacerbate Russia's own economic woes by not only generating new Western sanctions but deepening the brain drain, as younger and more educated Russian men are forced from their jobs and many attempt to flee the country.

Ukrainian soldiers ride in the back of a truck after fighting on the frontlines near Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, on April 30, 2022.  (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)

3) Pursue minimal mobilization and rely on negotiations to de-escalate.

In this more unlikely scenario, Moscow would declare its ''special military operation'' in Ukraine a victory and claim that it would now pursue de-escalation as it waits for Kyiv to accept the new reality of Russia's seized territories in southeastern Ukraine as part of a peace agreement. In this scenario, Moscow would likely unilaterally declare a cease-fire and make small tactical withdrawals to defensible positions. Moscow would also likely forgo additional mobilization measures under the assumption that its current forces can successfully defend their ground against Ukrainian counterattacks without major reinforcements. In addition, the Kremlin may decide against mobilizing more military reinforcements for fear that it'd provoke costly counterattacks on its troops by convincing the Ukrainian leadership to exploit a potentially unique window during which they have a manpower advantage. But should such Ukrainian counterattacks take place anyway and fail strategically by taking heavy losses, this would reduce the extent and necessity of Russian mobilization measures in the future. 

Drivers: Moscow may believe it has already sufficiently accomplished its strategic objectives, as Ukraine will continue to remain a broken, blockaded and outside of Euroatlantic organizations for the foreseeable future. Russia can always resort to mobilization in the future should it feel the situation is truly critical. There is also little strategic reason for Moscow to endure the economic and social consequences of mobilization until such reinforcements are absolutely necessary. Finally, this course of action would most effectively allow Russia to claim that it is Kyiv and the Ukrainians that are continuing the war and an obstacle to peace — an argument Moscow likely believes will be key in turning the narrative in Russia's favor internationally and helping sure up support domestically.

Russian soldiers patrol a bombed theater in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on April 16, 2022. (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Constraints: Without more forces, many military experts believe that Russia may not be capable of holding their current lines in the coming weeks, in particular on the right bank of the Dnieper in the Kherson region. However, it will take months to adequately assemble, train and transport more Russian soldiers to the frontlines in Ukraine. Failing to start this process now would risk leaving outnumbered and increasingly outgunned Russian troops particularly vulnerable to counterattacks by extending the window in which Ukraine has more manpower. A failure to mobilize could also suggest that Russia is comfortable with abandoning at least some seized territory, which would disappoint Russian nationalists and collaborators in Ukraine. The situation on Russia's frontline could deteriorate suddenly and quickly, meaning Russia's mobilization could come too late after Ukrainian forces have launched a counterattack — allowing Ukraine to return significant territory before sufficient Russian soldiers can stabilize the front.

Crafty_Dog

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Swiss neutrality being questioned
« Reply #562 on: May 06, 2022, 07:21:39 PM »

DougMacG

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Re: Swiss neutrality being questioned
« Reply #563 on: May 07, 2022, 04:13:22 AM »


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Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #566 on: May 08, 2022, 02:37:00 PM »
Frustrating article. 

Several interesting perspectives mixed in with this sort of thing:

Ukro Nazis?  Seriously?

Completely ignoring that the Ukes REALLY don't want to become Russian

Completely ignoring how Russia is waging the war

etc



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Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #570 on: May 14, 2022, 02:14:08 PM »
May be a negotiating tactic for arms and or money.

FWIW seems to me Turkey has motive for Russia to be off balance.

IIRC it has had strong trade with Ukes and good Black Sea relations.

On the other hand, the more Russia gets Black Sea position, the more valuable Turkey's Bosphorus.

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GPF: Reactions to Finland's NATO membership
« Reply #571 on: May 16, 2022, 04:29:57 AM »
May 16, 2022
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Reactions to Finland’s NATO Membership
Russia and NATO-member Turkey oppose expansion for different reasons.
By: Antonia Colibasanu


On May 15, Finland officially announced that it would apply to join NATO. The debate over whether it would do so had taken place for some time, but the decision was accelerated by Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine. Sweden reportedly will follow suit this week.

If the decision isn’t all that surprising given the circumstances, the reaction from Russia is – and it reveals much about Moscow’s limitations. Also surprising is the response from Turkey, which is opposed to Swedish and Finnish accession, even as their potential admission revives the alliance by creating a new containment line from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

Russia’s Reaction

Russia and Sweden don’t have much to do with each other, but Finland and Russia do. They share a massive border and have been friendly for years, thanks in part to Finland’s neutrality during the Cold War. This was made possible through a treaty they signed in 1948. In exchange for neutrality, the Soviet Union promised not to invade or turn Finland into a satellite state. At the time, it was imperative for Finland to maintain the integrity of its borders, lest it lose any more territory to Russia.

As a result, Finland and Russia have developed a fairly close relationship. Trade and investment have increased since the Cold War, particularly between southeastern Finland and northwestern Russia, while transit and transport have also grown. Economic ties suffered when Russia annexed Crimea, after which Finland joined in on EU sanctions against Moscow, but even then, some 60 percent of Finnish natural gas still came from Russia. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, Helsinki has grown increasingly wary of Russia's aggression since 2008 and has, like Sweden, enhanced its cooperation with NATO accordingly.

For its part, Russia has already said that it will take “retaliatory steps'' over Finland’s accession. In some ways, it has been hedging its bets in the event this day ever came. Since 2014, it has been modernizing infrastructure and investing in the settlements of northern Murmansk. On Feb. 28, just a few days after the invasion of Ukraine started, the regional government announced the beginning of another stage of construction and modernization and that about 3 billion rubles ($44 million) were allocated for the works in 2022 – a first for a region that hasn’t gotten much attention over the past decade.

NATO accession talks have made the Kremlin’s plans more urgent. On April 13, President Vladimir Putin tasked the Defense Ministry with handling these modernization efforts, ordering that they be finished by 2024. The Murmansk region, where about 724,000 people live, is the location of Russia’s northern navy's main base, which consists of five military camps and 12 settlements with a population of roughly 150,000. Considering the total budget for the program is estimated at 78 billion rubles (and since it had been allocated before sanctions took effect), it is likely that the Northern Fleet will be beefed up.

Another option for Russian retaliation is economic. Cutting energy supplies is something that Russia will consider judiciously – Moscow needs the money, and it can’t afford to look indifferent to the plights of the 30,000 Russians who live there. Hence why Russia acted measuredly on May 14 in cutting electricity supplies to Finland citing payment delays, which opens the door for negotiations later.

But it may not matter as much later as it does today. Finland currently receives about 10 percent of its electricity consumption from Russia, but it has been working on shoring up its own production. And though 60 percent of its natural gas comes from Russia, natural gas accounts for only about 5 percent of Finland’s total energy consumption. The country’s main sources of energy are nuclear power (roughly 33 percent of total consumption), hydropower (22 percent), and biomass (17 percent).

A more effective way to hurt the Finnish economy is for Russia to “weaponize” St. Petersburg. The port there dominates regional shipping, helping to handle Finnish cargo that Helsinki cannot accommodate. More, most of Finland’s foreign investment in Russia is concentrated in St. Petersburg. The Russian government could increase pressure on the Finnish companies operating in Russia, thus making them rebrand their business, sell their key assets or even renounce their business in Russia. In an extreme scenario, Russia could nationalize Finnish assets before investors begin the long and arduous process of divesting from a fairly integrated economy. However, Moscow would be reluctant to do so since it may also lose other investors who may reconsider their investments in a country that's willing to nationalize private assets.

The Turkey Factor

Whatever Russia decides, it certainly has the time to consider its options. For a country to join NATO, it needs to receive a formal invitation. And though NATO leadership has been openly inviting both Sweden and Finland to join, a formal invitation depends on the consensus of current members.

Enter Turkey. The day after Finland announced it would join NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he opposed expansion, citing concerns over the presence of “terrorists” in both Finland and Sweden. Turkey has long complained that Sweden doesn’t consider the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) a terrorist organization. Ankara has condemned the fact that the Swedish foreign minister criticized Turkish operations in northern Syria and met with members of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the PKK’s Syrian arm, in 2020.

Ankara has also criticized Finland for joining military sanctions against Turkey. The sanctions were imposed by the United States after Ankara purchased the Russian S-400 missile defense systems, and though they are mainly about limiting American military sales to Turkey, they also limit credit that would benefit Turkey’s military industry, something that cuts into the European-Turkish development of advanced weapon systems. In general, NATO and its allies have been concerned that integrating the S-400 into allied systems could compromise NATO’s security and have limited their technological sales and cooperation with Turkey. Finland and Sweden both have enhanced their security partnerships with NATO, participating in joint exercises and, by doing so, establishing common interoperability infrastructure.

Even with the tense relations between Turkey and Finland and Sweden, Ankara’s reaction to their accession surprised NATO and its member states. The U.S. State Department spoke to Ankara nearly immediately after Erdogan came out against expansion. Turkey has long complained of insufficient cooperation from NATO in its fight with the PKK and blocked a NATO defense plan for the Baltic region in 2019 over the bloc’s refusal to label the YPG as a terror group in its official documents. But it also took a step back in 2020 after NATO met some of its conditions and supported the Baltic defense plan.

But Turkey’s posture shouldn’t be all that surprising. Ankara has maintained a balanced strategy over Ukraine, looking for a middle ground. While it has supplied Ukraine with drones and has shut its straits and air space to Russian military ships and aircraft, Turkey was criticized for doing too little, too late, so as not to upset Russia, which could easily retaliate against Turkish interests in northern Syria. All that makes Turkey willing to maneuver so that it accommodates some of Russia’s behavior. Its negotiating posture within NATO allows it to ensure some small gains for itself, further growing its posture as a regional power.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #572 on: May 16, 2022, 02:00:00 PM »
How Russia Would Respond to Finnish and Swedish NATO Membership
7 MIN READMay 16, 2022 | 18:19 GMT


Russia will perceive Sweden and Finland's NATO membership as another eastward move by the alliance that would further encircle it in the Baltic region. Moscow will respond with disruptive measures, but a direct conflict between Russia and Sweden or Finland is not feasible at this time. Russia has sent mixed messages regarding how it perceives the prospect of Finland and Sweden joining NATO, suggesting that while it did not perceive the possibility as an existential threat, the move would force Moscow to increase arms deployments to the Baltic region. This in turn would raise the odds of accidental clashes between Russian and Western forces, though the risk exists regardless given the growing importance of the Baltic Sea and Arctic to military competition and training. Before the Ukraine war, Moscow viewed Finland and Sweden as outside of its sphere of influence, and had already factored in the possibility of Finnish and Swedish NATO membership in its decision to invade. This does indeed suggest that Moscow does not view their membership as an existential threat, and so would not respond to the development with extreme measures that could risk a direct military confrontation with NATO. In any event, Russia currently lacks the military capability to conduct a military incursion against Finland since 70% of Russia's ground forces are committed to Ukraine at present (though some have withdrawn from there due to heavy losses of personnel and equipment). Even if Russia did want to carry out preemptive military action against Finland, doing so would require weeks of highly visible preparations and the implementation of mobilization measures, which would take months.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 16 said Russia had no problem with Finland or Sweden, so there was no direct threat from NATO enlargement to those countries, but that the expansion of NATO military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke a corresponding military response.

 Former Russian President and current Deputy Chairman of Russia's Security Council Dmitri Medvedev on April 14 warned that should Sweden and Finland join NATO, then Moscow would strengthen its land, naval and air forces in the Baltic Sea, including the deployment of nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles to the region, but said their membership was different for Russia because "we do not have territorial disputes with these countries, as with Ukraine."

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 12 said, "Finland's accession to NATO will cause serious damage to bilateral Russian-Finnish relations, stability and security in the Northern European region. Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, to stop the threats to its national security that arise in this regard." While Russian officials repeatedly warned of "military-technical" response measures should its demands not be met before invading Ukraine, such measures toward Finland likely will comprise only the deployment of military hardware to the Baltic area.

Russia's short-term response to Finnish and Swedish accession to NATO could include cyberattacks and other destabilization measures, some of which have likely already commenced. Despite Russian officials' contradictory, but threatening, rhetoric, Moscow has few means to prevent or deter the two countries from joining NATO, or impose significant costs on them for doing so. Since it cannot credibly threaten a conventional military strike, Russia would likely resort to threatening rhetoric, often mentioning the likely deployment of nuclear weapons to the Finnish border and Baltic Sea region. Moscow will also consider actual moves to increase the costs on Sweden and Finland for their move toward membership, including cyberattacks and political interference campaigns, perhaps aimed at worsening supply chain disruptions and inflation. Such attacks could be used in tandem with disinformation and propaganda campaigns intended to fuel discontent over economic difficulties and the growing military and asymmetric threat from Russia that NATO membership brings. Russia could also seek to shut off natural gas supplies to Finland as soon as May 23, when Finnish utilities' next gas bills are due.

Medvedev on April 14 noted that "no sane person wants higher prices and taxes," suggesting that Russia could implement a disinformation campaign to convince voters in Sweden and Finland that NATO membership will raise the cost of living.

Many Finnish government websites crashed April 8 while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the Finnish parliament via video, most likely due to Russian cyberattacks, underscoring that Russian cyber and political interference measures have already begun.

According to May 12 Finnish media reports, lawmakers in the Nordic country have been briefed that a gas shutoff and possibly other economic retaliation could be part of Russia's response to Finland's move to join NATO.

Russia's mid- to long-term response will likely involve a significant increase in its military infrastructure near Finland and the Baltic and Arctic regions. Finland and Russia share a 1,340-kilometer (about 833-mile border), and its accession would more than double the length of NATO's land borders with Russia. The Russian side of the border is severely underdeveloped due to its remoteness and decades of government neglect. To remedy this, Russia will move to expand its civilian border control infrastructure and construct new fortifications along the Finnish border should Finland join NATO. Russia will be particularly sensitive to NATO activities in Finland given the proximity of Murmansk, Russia's only ice-free port with unrestricted access to the Atlantic and world sea routes. The transportation route to and from Russia's commercial and military window on the Arctic would become well within range of NATO spy planes given Finnish membership. Moscow will have to spend large sums on constructing housing and facilities for more Russian ground forces to be based around its second-largest city, St. Petersburg — which sits less than 200 kilometers from the Finnish border — and in the border region of Karelia. The other major point of Russia's military response will be in the Kaliningrad exclave, which will likely officially become home to tactical nuclear and hypersonic weapons, and the Gulf of Finland, where Russia will likely deploy additional coastal missile and anti-aircraft batteries. These measures will require substantial defense spending increases toward capital-intensive construction projects — a cost that will come on top of the massive expenditures related to its war in Ukraine.

Russia has already deployed nuclear weapons in its Baltic exclave in Kaliningrad, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said April 14; nuclear-capable hypersonic Kinzhal missiles were spotted on a Russian fighter landing in Kaliningrad on Feb. 7, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow could attempt to use migrant flows to destabilize Finland and Sweden, similar to how Belarus weaponized migrants against Poland and Lithuania in summer and fall 2021, though reduced migration and travel flows through Russia due to the war in Ukraine will make this difficult in the near term. Though its length and remoteness make the Finnish border an attractive target for such a gambit, it is ulikely to become a preferred route to Europe through Russia because harsh conditions make it a dangerous journey for much of the year.

The Arctic Council and other current Arctic governance models could well break down, as Sweden and Finland joining NATO would formally split the Arctic into two spheres: NATO countries and Russia. Disruptions to cooperation in science and the regulation of marine resources have already been seen in the wake of the Ukraine war.



Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #575 on: May 17, 2022, 05:03:17 PM »
Turkey's autocratic president is still mad at Sweden and Finland. So officials from the two Nordic nations are headed to Ankara to talk about their upcoming request to join the alliance. Their bids would require approval from every NATO member—including Turkey.

According to Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who is facing re-election next year, there are too many northern Europeans of Kurdish descent. Indeed, six members of Stockholm's Riksdag (parliament) are Kurds, according to the Wall Street Journal. And Erdogan has been engaged in a fierce counterinsurgency campaign against the stateless Kurds for nearly a decade, with tensions peaking around the time of the attempted coup in Turkey back in the summer of 2016.

A further reason Erdogan is heated: Sweden and Finland joined other European countries in sanctioning Turkish defense firms after Erdogan's military carried out an offensive inside Syria in 2019.





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GPF
« Reply #580 on: June 04, 2022, 01:09:04 PM »
June 3, 2022
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Daily Memo: Beijing Searches for Ways to Help Moscow
By: Geopolitical Futures
Chinese support. Chinese President Xi Jinping has instructed his closest advisers to propose ways to help Russia financially without conflicting with the sanctions imposed by the West, according to a report by The Washington Post. The report also says China’s top leadership called for new investment and trade with Belarus.

Helping hand. With assistance from the U.N., Turkey is facilitating the delivery of 20 million tons of grain and sunflower seeds from Russia and Ukraine to world markets. The details, including the route that will be used to deliver the goods, will be worked out in the coming days. Belarus’ president said his country was also open to helping deliver Ukrainian grain to Baltic ports.

More sanctions. The European Council has approved the sixth package of sanctions against Russia and Belarus. They include restrictions on importing Russian oil – though a temporary exception will be made for the import of crude by pipeline to a number of EU member states. The sanctions also include disconnecting three Russian banks and a Belarusian bank from the SWIFT system, and an expanded list of defense-related goods and technologies that will be blocked for Russian access.

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« Reply #581 on: June 07, 2022, 09:39:57 AM »
June 6, 2022
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Daily Memo: Germany Approves New Military Spending, Lavrov Cancels Trip to Serbia
Moscow was forced to cancel the visit after three Balkan countries banned the foreign minister's plane from their airspace.
By: Geopolitical Futures

New military spending. Germany’s parliament approved a constitutional amendment that will unlock 100 billion euros ($107 billion) in military spending for the country. Approximately 41 billion euros will go to the air force, which intends to buy CH-47F Chinook helicopters and possibly F-35 fighter jets. Another 19 billion euros will go to the navy to purchase submarines, frigates, corvettes and multipurpose combat boats. A portion of the money will also fund personal equipment for troops.

Trip canceled. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov canceled a visit to Serbia that was planned for Monday after Montenegro, North Macedonia and Bulgaria banned the plane he was set to use from flying in their airspace.

Crafty_Dog

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Europe dependent on Russian nuclear power
« Reply #582 on: June 08, 2022, 11:49:37 AM »
Remember Sec. of State Hillary signing off on Russia acquiring 25% of American uranium?  Remember the huge deal that Bill helped engineer for Russia with Kazakhstan that resulted in over $100M (!!!) going to the Clinton Foundation?
=============
Russia’s Nuclear Power Hegemony
The West Is Dependent on Moscow for More Than Just Gas and Oil
By Jessica Lovering and Håvard Halland
June 8, 2022
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/.../russias-nuclear-power...

The invasion of Ukraine has thrust the world into an energy crisis. Since Russian troops began pouring across the country’s borders, oil prices have risen by more than a quarter. Gas prices have nearly doubled. And the outlook for both markets is not promising; as Western countries use sanctions to limit Russia's ability to finance its war with oil and gas revenues, energy prices are likely to remain high and volatile. The wartime uncertainty is dovetailing with concerns about climate change, prompting further anxiety about the world’s energy future. Countries needed to start shifting away from fossil fuels decades ago to protect the planet. Now, they must do so at a time when people are paying increasingly high prices.

As states look to bring down high energy costs and disentangle themselves from Russia—while combating climate change—many have expressed a renewed interest in nuclear energy. It’s easy to see why. Nuclear power is already one of the world’s largest sources of carbon-free energy, responsible for 25 percent of the European Union’s electricity. Unlike most forms of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, nuclear power can reliably produce large quantities of electricity every hour of the year. And it has already helped Europe move away from fossil fuels extracted elsewhere in the world, including natural gas from Russia.

But in the short term, increasing Europe’s reliance on nuclear energy won’t free the continent from Russian fuel. Just as Europe has become dependent on Russian oil and gas, so too has much of the world become dependent on Russia for the materials needed to make nuclear power. Russia has close to half of the global capacity to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel, and 40 percent of the nuclear energy produced in Europe depends on uranium from Russia or Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, both close allies of the Kremlin. Roughly half of all U.S. nuclear power plants—about 10 percent of total U.S. electricity generation—are powered by imports from those three countries (a fact that could explain why the U.S. nuclear industry lobbied to exclude uranium from sanctions on Russian energy imports.) Russia also dominates the market for nuclear power plant exports and construction, especially in emerging economies. Its closest competitor is China, another autocracy. States that contract with China or Russia could spend decades dependent on them for nuclear fuel and services.

To end Russia’s dominance over the nuclear business (and prevent China from taking its place), democratic countries need to get serious about supporting their domestic nuclear industries—especially as new, innovative technologies hit the market. They must implement policies that create demand for nuclear energy as part of their broader climate agendas, and they need to invest in creating nuclear manufacturing facilities that can reliably supply a growing global market. Doing so is critical both to fighting climate change and curtailing the global power of authoritarian regimes.

RUSSIAN POWER

Over the last two decades, Russia has become the world’s go-to supplier for nuclear technology, especially for countries building their first nuclear projects. Russia is deeply experienced in constructing and maintaining nuclear plants, and it offers a one-stop-shop for the items needed to create them: reactors, fuel, financing, and even worker training. Since 2000, Russia has signed bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with 47 countries, and it has large power plants under construction in Bangladesh, Belarus, and Turkey. It is involved in nuclear projects across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America.

It also has projects in eastern Europe. Indeed, for decades, one of Russia’s main nuclear clients was Ukraine. Before Russia first invaded the country in 2014, Ukraine got 95 percent of its nuclear fuel from Russia—a majority of its entire electricity supply. But after Russia annexed Crimea and fostered an insurgency in the Donbas, Ukraine accelerated plans to diversify its uranium imports. Many other European countries also began expressing concern about being dependent on Russian nuclear technology, worries that were validated in February 2022. Since then, the West has moved quickly to try to wean itself from Russian energy resources, including nuclear power. On May 2, for instance, a Finnish consortium announced it was canceling a contract for a 1,200-megawatt Russian reactor.

Almost all green energy sources present ethical dilemmas.

Of course, Europe’s most prominent dependence is ultimately on Russian coal, oil, and gas, rather than on nuclear energy. In fact, in its guidance for how countries can best move off Russian fuel, the International Energy Agency highlighted the role that nuclear power could play. As the IEA noted, nuclear energy is “the largest source of low emissions electricity in the EU,” and its expansion could substantially increase the continent’s access to fossil-free energy. Not everyone agrees; the European Commission’s plan to reduce Russian gas imports notably does not mention nuclear power, and Germany has held fast in its plans to close its three remaining nuclear reactors by the end of this year (even though the country imported close to $10 billion euros worth of fossil fuels from Russia since the start of the invasion). But other countries, such as Belgium and Japan, have promised new investments in nuclear energy to reduce their dependence on Russian gas. They are picking up on an old tradition of using nuclear power to bolster energy independence. Countries with dwindling domestic coal supplies, like the United Kingdom and Japan, turned to nuclear energy after World War II to fuel their growing industrial sectors. After the oil embargoes of the 1970s, France and Sweden also built out nuclear infrastructure to reduce their dependence on the Middle East.

Although nuclear power is critical to freeing Europe from Russian gas, it could still leave these states vulnerable to Russian influence. And even if states cancel nuclear projects with Russia, China will soon surpass France to become the second-largest producer of nuclear power, with its own ambitions for dominating the global export market.
Indeed, almost all green energy sources present ethical dilemmas. The Democratic Republic of Congo currently makes 60 percent of the world’s cobalt—a mineral critical to electric vehicles—but the country’s producers have faced scrutiny from international organizations over human rights practices, including their use of child labor. In 2021, the Biden administration blacklisted several Chinese solar companies after they were accused of using forced labor and other abuses. And Russia is a significant producer of nickel, which is critical to electric vehicle batteries. Concerns over future sanctions on nickel, or other disruptions to its supply, have driven its price to an 11-year high.

CHAIN REACTION

To free itself from dependence on Russian energy, the world will need to be more proactive in ensuring that its energy supply chains are sustainable and ethical. But that doesn’t mean a return to energy isolationism. Modern energy production systems are complex and interconnected, especially those that depend on critical minerals not evenly distributed across the globe. They indicate that true energy independence—where states create power entirely by themselves—is no longer practical. Instead, democracies should focus on strengthening their energy interdependence with trusted partners.

To some extent, this process is already underway with nuclear power. Romania canceled an agreement with a Chinese state-owned firm in 2020 for two nuclear reactors because it preferred to move forward with a NATO ally. China and Russia had been in the running for a nuclear tender in the Czech Republic, but the government ultimately excluded them from a formal document-sharing process and explicitly said that both states were “not invited” to bid. Chinese firms are significant investors in two nuclear power projects in the United Kingdom. Yet in September of 2021, the British government announced it was trying to force a sale of China General Nuclear Power Group’s share in one of the projects. In 2019, a U.S. nuclear company co-founded by Bill Gates announced that it had canceled a project to build an experimental reactor in China after U.S. President Donald Trump imposed further trade restrictions.

True energy independence is no longer practical.

But the West’s domestic nuclear industries have stalled in recent years, and so right now, U.S. and European nuclear companies are struggling to find proper alternatives to Russian and Chinese state-owned vendors. To catch up, their governments must craft an old-fashioned industrial policy based on investing in domestic manufacturing capabilities all along the nuclear supply chain. They will have to successfully demonstrate new nuclear technologies that they can then market globally. That means Western countries should increase funding for nuclear export projects through their own export-import banks and development financing, and also by pushing large investment and development banks to change their policies on supporting nuclear power.

Doing this will not be easy, and it will not be inexpensive. But the West’s drive will benefit from its dynamic and innovative nuclear sector. Although traditional, large-scale nuclear projects have struggled domestically in the United States and Europe, a new suite of nuclear technologies could start to shift the market in their favor. The United States has over 60 companies working on advanced reactor technologies, including NuScale Power, which is marketing small modular reactors and has reached agreements to deploy them to Poland and Romania. (The latter country has also agreed to import reactors from Canada.) The British company Rolls Royce is working to develop its own small modular reactor technology, and it has signed memorandum of understanding with the U.S. utility Exelon and entities in the Czech Republic. Westinghouse, a U.S. nuclear energy company that helped Ukraine dramatically reduce its reliance on Moscow, has also recently expanded its cooperation with the Czech Republic (and Slovenia) to explore deploying its newer, large AP1000 reactors. And in April, the U.S. State Department announced that it would help Latvia explore the feasibility of nuclear power.

These kinds of collaborations across allied democracies are precisely what the planet needs to create energy supply chains that are secure, ethical, and sustainable. They will help the West build resilience against the whims of authoritarian regimes. By pivoting away from fossil fuels, they will also help states avoid supply shortages and price shocks. But these collaborations show a recognition that the solution to Russia’s energy dominance and to climate change is not an attempt at green nationalism. Instead, it requires that allied states work together to design energy systems and technologies that are robust because they are collaborative and interdependent

ccp

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McDonalds in Russia
« Reply #583 on: June 10, 2022, 06:43:23 AM »
I thought they left Russia to protest Ukraine

well
not exactly

https://nypost.com/2022/06/10/mcdonalds-corp-marks-rebrand-restaurant-to-reopen-in-russia/

they changed their logo
for ignoble reasons
likely

do not want to be seen as US company which is in proxy war with Russia

just burger and fries for sale ....

« Last Edit: June 10, 2022, 06:56:41 AM by ccp »

G M

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Re: McDonalds in Russia
« Reply #584 on: June 10, 2022, 07:02:35 AM »
Russia won. Time to move on to the next psyop.



I thought they left Russia to protest Ukraine

well
not exactly

https://nypost.com/2022/06/10/mcdonalds-corp-marks-rebrand-restaurant-to-reopen-in-russia/

they changed their logo
for ignoble reasons
likely

do not want to be seen as US company which is in proxy war with Russia

just burger and fries for sale ....

ccp

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #585 on: June 10, 2022, 07:19:56 AM »
"Time to move on to the next psyop"

that already in progress

1/6/21

propaganda

and white supremacy

threat to democracy

yet China is already able to deal us death blows

they sell us tech that is rigged
we sell them hamburgers ......

wonder if mc donalds puts chips in their fries.....


Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: Russian logistics
« Reply #586 on: June 14, 2022, 06:40:19 PM »
The 19th-Century Technology Driving Russia’s Latest Gains in Ukraine: Railroads
After struggling to supply troops early in the war, Moscow has returned to Soviet-era shipping methods. That could limit its reach going forward.
Russian armored vehicles loaded on rolling stock at a railway station on Feb. 23 in the Rostov-on-Don region of Russia, not far from the Ukraine border.
Russian armored vehicles loaded on rolling stock at a railway station on Feb. 23 in the Rostov-on-Don region of Russia, not far from the Ukraine border. ASSOCIATED PRESS
By Daniel MichaelsFollow
 and Matthew LuxmooreFollow
June 14, 2022 10:56 am ET


Russian forces have advanced in eastern Ukraine over recent weeks behind overwhelming artillery barrages, a shift in fortunes made possible by better access to rail lines delivering tons of ammunition and other supplies.

Trains are the Russian military’s go-to method for moving troops and heavy weapons. In Ukraine’s industrialized Donbas region, dense rail networks have played to Moscow’s advantage.

Russia’s military depends so heavily on trains that it maintains an elite Railroad Force, a service branch once common in countries through World War II. The unit has camouflage-painted armored train cars equipped with antiaircraft cannons and artillery to guard supply trains, and its troops are trained to repair bombed tracks while under enemy fire. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it has restored 750 miles of track in the land corridor it now controls in Ukraine’s southeast.

“Even if Ukrainians destroy rail lines, it will just slow the Russians, not stop them,” said Alex Vershinin, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who has analyzed Russian military logistics.


But Russia’s heavy reliance on train transport, a 19th-century technology, reveals critical gaps in its logistics, the coordinated transfer of supplies. Russia’s struggle to supply troops away from rail lines has slowed its invasion and contributed to catastrophic failures in its early offensives to take Kyiv and Kharkiv. It could also shape the conflict going forward.

On Track
Russian troops have advanced into eastern Ukraine, using artillery transported on the region's dense rail networks.

Areas of significant fighting

Track gauge

Russian

5 ft

Standard

4 ft 8 1⁄2 in

RUSSIA

Donetsk

BELARUS

Kyiv

POLAND

Donetsk

UKRAINE

DONBAS

REGION

ROMANIA

200 miles

200 km

Note: Significant fighting areas denote areas of ongoing combat with at least one Russian battalion tactical group, and are within 24 hours of June 12, 3 p.m. EDT. Rail networks include passenger and freight tracks.  All high-speed rail in Europe uses standard-gauge except from Russia and Finland.

Sources: Institute for the Study of War (areas of significant fighting); Stratfor, Agico Group (track information)
Emma Brown/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Unlike the U.S. and other countries that have adopted modern military logistics, Russia has largely remained wedded to traditional Soviet-era methods. It isn’t just a sign of the military’s failure, according to Western officials. The shortfall results from a lack of modernization in Russia’s economy.

Russia boasts one of the world’s largest military forces, equipped with nuclear submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles, but it has few shipping containers, forklifts or pallets of the kind the U.S. is using to speed supplies into Ukraine, according to logistics experts.

Instead of the heavily mechanized logistics system used for decades by Western businesses and militaries, Russia’s military relies on bountiful conscript labor to move gear, much of it packed in unwieldy coffin-size wooden crates.


“The U.S. has built logistics like we are short of people, and Russia has done it like manpower is free,” said Trent Telenko, who spent 33 years at the Pentagon’s Defense Contract Management Agency and has studied Russian military logistics.

Supply-chain management is a booming field in much of the world. Yet in the World Bank’s most recent Logistics Performance Index, from 2018, Russia placed 75th out of 160 countries, between Paraguay and Benin. Germany ranked first, the U.S. 14th and China 26th.

Modern cargo handling relies on containers of standard sizes that fit trucks, train cars, ships and hoisting equipment. Russia’s container ports in 2020 handled slightly more of the containers than those in Colombia and fewer than France, according to United Nations data. The volume of container traffic passing through Russia has been largely flat since 2013, while global volume rose 23% over the same period.


Russians load cargo manually into railway vehicles that travel its national rail system, which forms the backbone of the country’s freight network. Railways reach deep into sparsely populated corners of Siberia, with many lines built by Gulag slave labor under Stalin. The U.S.S.R. used train tracks with a wider gauge than Western Europe, in part to thwart invasion. In recent years, that disparity has slowed rail commerce with other countries, further isolating Russia’s logistics industry.

Ukraine, once part of the U.S.S.R., has the same wide-gauge tracks, making it easy for Russian trains to roll in during the invasion.

Despite being the world’s largest country by land area, Russia has only 963,000 miles of highway, according to 2020 figures from Russia’s state statistics agency. That leaves some smaller cities without access to large delivery trucks. The U.S., with less than 60% the area of Russia, has 4.2 million miles of highway, according to government data.

Russia’s lack of civilian trucks is mirrored in its military, which has long faced vehicle shortages. Western intelligence analysts during the Cold War could judge Soviet battle readiness by seeing if army trucks were deployed to help farms collect the harvest rather than move troops.

All by hand

Days after Moscow first stormed into Ukraine in February, a Russian soldier radioed comrades to complain he was stuck. “I just need a gas station,” said the soldier, identified as Buran 30, over an open frequency captured by intelligence firm Shadowbreak International. “Equipment is stopping.”

In the weeks that followed, Russian soldiers abandoned scores of military vehicles that had run out of fuel or needed spare parts, according to Ukrainian and Western intelligence. Fuel trucks, lightly armored and potentially explosive, and other supply vehicles were easy targets of Ukrainian fighters. Short of fuel, food and ammunition, Russian troops struggled.

Efficiency and worker safety, goals of for-profit logistics operations in the West, haven’t been a priority for Moscow’s quartermasters.

Russia’s wooden crates, which can weigh more than 100 pounds when full, are similar to ones the U.S. used in the 1940s. “They’d get everyone who wasn’t an officer and make them lug things” into trucks, said Georgy, a Russian conscripted into a logistical support brigade in 2016 and who asked to be identified by only one name.

He recalled seemingly endless work cradling the splintery containers or grabbing them by small metal handles that dug into his fingers. The painful work was accepted as character-building, Georgy said.

The U.S. resisted mechanizing military logistics for the first decades of the 20th century, aiming to keep peace with labor unions representing civilian dockworkers who loaded vital supplies, said Manley Irwin, an emeritus professor of economics at University of New Hampshire who studies U.S. Navy history. That changed in World War II.

U.S. Marines island-hopping across the Pacific in pursuit of Japanese forces repeatedly outraced their supplies. To speed the movement of provisions, the Navy looked to transport systems used by U.S. companies and tapped corporate managers to help improve military logistics.


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A wartime study found that the man-hours required to load and unload supply ships could be cut to 203 from 682 by using forklift-and-pallet systems.

“What saved them was bringing in industry,” Mr. Irwin said. The forklift was deemed so significant to the U.S. military, he said, that literature about its various wartime uses and methods was classified as secret.


Supplies being unloaded from landing crafts on the shores of Iwo Jima after the U.S. Marines established a beachhead on the island during World War II.
PHOTO: BETTMANN ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES
The Russian economy under President Vladimir Putin has advanced beyond Soviet-era practices. But investment has focused largely on extractive resource sectors, like petroleum and minerals, rather than advanced manufacturing and logistics.

The easing of economic restrictions in post-Soviet Russia allowed it to obtain more-advanced technology, superior production equipment and to hire experienced foreign managers. But that also increased Russia’s reliance on outsiders to build its industrial base.

Specialized roles in industry, such as supply chain supervisor, had only begun taking root in Russian businesses in 2014, when ties with the West were frayed over Moscow’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. Sanctions recently imposed after the invasion of Ukraine are expected to set back Russia’s logistics even further.

Without domestic logistics expertise, Russia’s military lacks a model to challenge its resistance to change, which is typical of armed forces, analysts said.

Boxed in
Private-sector know-how rescued the Pentagon in 1965, when Washington ratcheted up the number of troops in Vietnam. Supplies piled up on the shores of the embattled country, and ships were waiting weeks to unload.

American shipping entrepreneur Malcom McLean, who had led development of the standardized shipping container almost a decade earlier, persuaded the Defense Department to adopt his innovation. Taking the risk of investing his own money, he built a container terminal at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam.

“A lot of people in the military were opposed to containers in Vietnam, taking a not-invented-here attitude,” said Marc Levinson, author of “The Box,” a history of the shipping container. “In pretty short order, containers solved the military’s problems. It really transformed the ability to fight the war.”

The use of containers by the military quickly catapulted demand among civilian-cargo movers, Mr. Levinson said.


Early this year, before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, a steady flow of U.S. cargo planes landed at Kyiv’s Boryspil Airport. Mechanized loaders moved pallets of Javelin antitank rockets, artillery shells and ammunition to forklifts, which hoisted them onto military trucks destined for bases across Ukraine. The speedy deliveries helped Ukrainians repel Russian forces from the capital of Kyiv.

The U.S. military’s commitment to logistics automation is embodied in the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System that President Biden recently promised to Ukraine. The 5-ton truck has robotic arms that load prepackaged rockets ready for launching and can be operated by a single soldier. Comparable Russian systems must be loaded and prepared manually by a team.

Mr. Telenko, who followed the development of such automated systems over the years, said the contrast between the two countries reflects how their respective societies approach risk. In the U.S., public accountability and the prospect of litigation prompted the military to reduce as much human fallibility in logistics as possible.

“There’s a cultural aversion to risk built into the American military supply chain that Russia doesn’t have,” Mr. Telenko said. Increased safety and efficiency have the added benefit for the Pentagon of reducing payouts in veterans’ benefits, a large expense, and leaving more money for operations, training and equipment.

“A military can’t be better than the social system it grows out of,” he said.

Write to Daniel Michaels at daniel.michaels@wsj.com and Matthew Luxmoore at Matthew.Luxmoore@wsj.com

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Why Russia will be reticent to unblock Uke grain exports
« Reply #587 on: June 14, 2022, 06:53:25 PM »
Why Russia Will Be Reticent to Unblock Ukraine’s Grain Exports
4 MIN READJun 14, 2022 | 16:56 GMT





Wheat grows in a farm field about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from the front line of battle between Russian and Ukrainian troops near Sloviansk, Ukraine.
Wheat grows in a farm field about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from the front line of a battle between Russian and Ukrainian troops near Sloviansk, Ukraine.

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Even if talks on ending Russia’s naval blockade of Ukraine to allow grain exports via the Black Sea continue, major obstacles to an agreement and its implementation mean that Ukraine’s grain exports will remain strained, maintaining pressure on global food prices and fueling war fatigue in the West and around the world. On June 8, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met in Ankara where, among other topics, they discussed measures to create a sea lane to resume Ukraine's grain exports via the Black Sea as a part of a U.N.-backed effort to address the global food crisis. According to reports, Turkey is open to an agreement that would involve Turkish warships demining Ukrainian ports and creating a safe passage for ships carrying wheat and other products from Ukrainian waters. While the two foreign ministers expressed optimism that the plan was feasible, no agreement was struck. And as long as the talks take place without the participation of Ukraine and its demands are not addressed, a deal will likely remain elusive.

Prior to the war, Ukraine exported around 95% of its cereals and oilseed via the Black Sea, averaging as much as 6 million tons per month. But exports amounted to only around 800,000 tons in May. Ukraine’s rail operator has said it expects rail exports to rise to up to 1.5 million tons a month in the coming weeks, but even under this optimistic scenario, Ukrainian grain exports will remain below a third their pre-war levels and at a much higher cost. Ukrainian farmers still managed to plant nearly 70% of their spring 2022 crops, but the inability to sell their goods amid the ongoing storage and export bottlenecks could prevent Ukrainian farmers from planting crops in the fall of 2022 and the spring of 2023.
Turkey’s cooperation with Russia to advance the Ukrainian grain export issue is in part motivated by Ankara’s domestic economic instability and desire to mitigate the added pain of global food price shocks. But it’s also motivated by Turkey’s desire to remain a central player in cease-fire talks between Russia and Ukraine, as well as an overall constructive partner for Moscow as Turkey eyes another possible offensive in Russia-protected parts of Syria.

Kyiv will insist that the most sustainable way to end the naval blockade and resume grain exports is for the West to supply Ukraine with weapons to end the blockade and protect its coastline. In a statement following the Turkey-Russia meeting, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that while Kyiv "appreciates Turkey's efforts to unblock Ukrainian ports," it would reject any agreements that do not take Ukraine’s interests into account. Negotiations to which Ukraine is not a party and that do not involve providing Ukraine with a military deterrent against Russia breaking the deal are therefore unlikely to materialize. Ukraine has numerous concerns about resuming grain exports, including the possibility that demining its ports and coastal waters could prompt Russia to swiftly move in with its own naval mines or use the cleared areas to conduct offensive strikes on Ukraine.

The Ukrainian statement specifically pointed to a Russian missile strike that destroyed warehouses at Mykolaiv’s commercial port on June 7 as evidence that Russia was not serious about allowing Ukraine to resume food exports.
Ukraine will keep open the possibility of a deal as long as third countries, presumably NATO countries including Turkey and Romania, guarantee all aspects of the deal, including the minesweeping process and patrol and escort duties for the area of the Black Sea in question.
A deal could take months to implement, and Moscow has little reason to expedite the resumption of grain exports because food inflation could fuel Western war fatigue. Representatives of the International Maritime Organization have said that even if Ukraine wanted to reopen its ports, it would take several months to completely remove sea mines in the necessary areas. Furthermore, Moscow likely believes that the continued limitation of Ukraine’s grain exports to road, rail and river transport (effectively capping the volume it can export) will contribute to war fatigue in Europe and across the globe by contributing to rising food prices amid already immense pre-existing inflationary pressures on fuel and other commodities. Moscow likely hopes that such fatigue would push the West to pressure Kyiv to accept Russian terms for a ceasefire later this year.

Commercial ships stopped operating in the northwest of the Black Sea near Ukraine, and freight and insurance costs spiked after several merchant ships were hit in the early days of Russia’s invasion, prompting some shipping companies to avoid the Black Sea altogether. Three mines were detected free-floating in March, two of which were located off the coast of Turkey and the other of which was found near Romania.


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George Friedman: Russia/US, Poland, Hungary
« Reply #589 on: June 17, 2022, 03:00:42 PM »
June 17, 2022
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On the Road Again
Thoughts in and around geopolitics.
By: George Friedman

Tomorrow, my wife, Meredith, and I leave for Poland and Hungary. I have been invited to both countries so I am not crashing the party, and it will give me a chance to get a sense of the war in Ukraine without being shot at. Not getting shot is key to our retirement plan. Still, the war is very much about the eastern tier of European states, and there is much to learn.

To be sure, the war is as much about Eastern Europe as it is about Ukraine. Russia, as I have written, needed strategic depth. The eastern Ukrainian border is less than 300 miles (480 kilometers) from Moscow. That makes Eastern Europe insecure. If the Russians take Ukraine, Eastern Europeans ask, where will they stop? If Russia takes Ukraine, its border will be shared with the Baltics, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. This new border would be long, and guarding it against further Russian penetration could replicate the Cold War strategy with a far longer border to protect. There would be more strategic depth for the West, but not enough to change the basic battle problem.

There is a reason this would matter to the United States. As I have written, the fundamental interest of the United States is controlling the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Washington’s participation in both world wars was predicated on it. If all of Europe were under the control of the kaiser, Hitler or the Soviets, they could utilize European expertise and resources to build a fleet that could challenge the United States. The ability of the U.S. to ignore the world rests on these oceans, and holding on to them means that the world can’t be ignored. Thus is the paradox of U.S. geopolitics. The best way to defeat an enemy navy is to prevent it from being built. Hence why blocking Soviet advances in Europe was a Cold War naval strategy.

Russian acquisition of Ukraine reopens that threat, albeit as a very distant one. But the farther east Russia is challenged, the lower the cost and the lower the risk for the United States and Europe. Thus, the Russian conquest of Ukraine would be followed by the question of where Russia might go next. Russia might claim that it had no further territorial ambitions, but even if that were true now, it may not be in the future.

Poland and Hungary must formulate complex calculations to manage Russian and American strategic imperatives. Neither wants to be occupied by Russia, but neither wants to become a pawn in another chapter of European grand strategy. Each has sought to deal with the problem in very different ways.

Poland sits on the North European Plain, the long flat stretch of land running from France to Moscow. It is the plain where great powers duel. As a result, Poland has been occupied by foreign powers for much of its history. Warsaw reclaimed its sovereignty after the Cold War, and it doesn’t want to lose it again. It already has a hostile Belarus on its border, and a Russian victory in Ukraine would mean a large portion of its border, already difficult to defend, would be face-to-face with Russian power. Poland’s only option is to either hope for the best or build up its own military as it banks on Washington remembering how much Russia threatens the Atlantic. Which also means that during the current conflict it must protect itself by supporting Ukraine and counting on Washington to do likewise. Preventing Russia from occupying Ukraine is the least costly and risky option, so Poland is deeply linked to the U.S. and the U.S. to Poland. Both are working to make sure Russia fails to conquer Ukraine.

Hungary is in a different position. If Russia advanced, it would have to cross the Carpathian Mountains that lie to the east of Hungary. Doing so would be difficult, and the strategic benefit would be questionable, especially because Russian forces would be in a poor defensive position in the flat, open expanses of western Ukraine. Moving westward increases the risk, while occupying the Hungarian basin intensifies the risk. Russia has invaded Hungary before, of course, but under the current circumstances, it creates more problems than it solves.

Budapest is therefore less concerned than Warsaw about the events in Ukraine. So long as Hungary doesn’t pose a threat to Russia, it is secure. Which is why Budapest didn’t outright oppose the Russian invasion, why it didn’t agree to get much involved, and why it didn’t do Washington’s bidding either. If Russia gets bogged down in Ukraine or loses the war, Hungary will be fine. If Moscow wins, that’s another story.

Geography has forced Poland into an aggressive posture and Hungary into a passive posture. Circumstances change over the long term, but countries like Poland and Hungary don’t have the luxury of the long term. As for the war, Russia has abandoned a broad, poorly manned offensive in favor of seizing Donbas, a region over which it had decisive influence before the invasion. It has not managed to fully take Donbas. Donbas is next to Russia, so movement and logistics are much easier. Given this, it cannot be said that the war has turned around, only that Russia is winning in an area it didn’t really need to fight for. This is a far cry from occupying Ukraine. There is a solution of course: leave Ukraine as a vast buffer between Russia and the West, and return to the status quo. It is hard to imagine Moscow being able to live with that. And this is Russia’s great problem. Wars fought in order to make political statements are dangerous wars.

So off to Europe I go. I will have to make sure I don’t give the wrong speech in the wrong country.

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George Friedman
« Reply #591 on: June 24, 2022, 03:32:06 PM »
Russia Isn't Winning in Ukraine, 'but It's No Longer Losing'
Is anyone actually winning the war in Ukraine? Are European leaders already positioning themselves for post-conflict relations with Russia? George Friedman, founder of Geopolitical Futures, joins the podcast to discuss China's and Germany's positioning throughout the conflict, U.S. standing in NATO and more.

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Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio is posted above.

Mohamed Younis 00:07
For Gallup, I'm Mohamed Younis, and this is The Gallup Podcast. In this episode, we check in on the war in Ukraine. What's changed and what hasn't? Dr. George Friedman is the founder of Geopolitical Futures and Gallup senior adviser on geopolitics. George, welcome back to the show.

George Friedman 00:23
Good to be here.

Mohamed Younis 00:25
Let me just start by asking, where do things stand right now in the war in Ukraine? Is there a side that's in any way winning?

George Friedman 00:32
Well, the Russians are no longer losing. That doesn't mean they're anywhere close to winning. What we have is this: The Russians have cut way back on their emissions so far. They are dominating the eastern part, the Donbas. But we have to remember that they controlled the Donbas before the war. This is a heavily Russian district -- wanted to be part of Russia, had a lot of Russian special forces in there. So at this point, what they've managed to do is stabilize their losses. They're not losing anybody in the south because they've withdrawn. And they're fighting -- not yet succeeding -- in taking the Donbas. So at this point, while people are talking about the war having changed its dynamics and the Russians being more in power, no, what we are seeing here is the Russians having retreated to a safe point and fighting to hold that point. And we're waiting to see whether they can launch out of there to carry out operations at a distance.

Mohamed Younis 01:42
We heard recently complaints or comments from Ukraine's military leaders about weapons and how quickly they were arriving. Is that at all an issue in what we're watching in the Donbas, or do the Ukrainians kind of have what they need?

George Friedman 02:00
Well, the Ukrainians received a huge load of weapons from the Americans, primarily through Poland. That supply was exhausted. It takes time to refresh it. I'm assuming that that pile is being refreshed; the U.S. said it is being refreshed. At the same time, the Europeans are beginning to talk about cutting back the support for Ukraine, forcing a negotiation or something like that. The American position still seems to be to fully support the Ukrainians, which means the weapons will arrive shortly. And so they're caught between these two. But there's also the thing when you're on the battlefield, you're always short of weapons. You always feel that there should be more coming. The avalanche the U.S. delivered in the first instance is probably unsustainable from a logistics point of view. But we have to watch the question of the Europeans, and the Americans quietly agreeing with them: This can't go on, Ukraine is not gonna win. Let's get the deal. It's there.

Mohamed Younis 03:11
That's a great segue to my follow-up question. There was a lot of celebration of Western unity at the beginning of this conflict -- NATO uniting and Putin bringing everybody together. The past couple weeks have actually been really good examples of where each of the key European powers kind of stands and how far they're willing to go, at varying degrees. We saw -- before getting to Europe, we saw, of course, Henry Kissinger make a couple comments about, you know, how a settlement could be achieved, with Ukraine giving up some territory. We've seen Macron take a much more, you know, direct interest in maintaining relations and communication with Putin. The Italians, the Germans, the U.K. -- everybody seems to be positioning themselves differently. So what I want to ask you, George, is lay out kind of the main powers in degrees of ascending or descending support for Ukraine. Like, who's the most for just, like, supporting them, and who's the most tepid or timid in supporting them? Let's start there.

George Friedman 04:20
We have to define "supporting," because the United States doesn't need their support to wage this war. The United States is overwhelmingly the supplier of weapons. The Poles are the foundation of the training system and so on. And so the reality of war is that, so long as the Americans want to fight it, the Poles like to do it, which they will, both, it sort of doesn't matter what they're saying. From a political point of view, it's nice to have the unity. But as in the Vietnam War, for example, there was a point where the public didn't want to support it. It was a losing war anyway. So ranking who's most in favor, I suppose, would require that we talk about not their rhetoric but their weapons. And the British are providing weapons. They're our buddies -- always there -- and the rest are minimally significant.

George Friedman 05:23
So the question is, to what extent does the United States care what the Ukrainians are saying? What the -- I should say, to what extent do the Americans care what the Europeans are saying and to what extent are they prepared to wage the war without them? I can pretty much assure you that the European position is not the top consideration for the Americans. The top consideration is this: If Ukraine fell to the Russians, where would they go next? You know, they may say, like Hitler did, I have no further territorial ambitions. But the Russians want to return to the position they had prior to 1991. They want to go dominate Eastern Europe and go deeper. Can they? Well, the American position is it's the last thing we want. We don't want the Cold War again. And if we have to have a Cold War, I'd rather have it in Ukraine than in Germany.

George Friedman 06:29
So what's not being discussed by most people is, why do we assume that Ukraine is the sum total of what the Russians want? And the American position seems to be, we're not sure what they're going to do. Not being sure, we're going to hold the line in Ukraine. It's cheaper.

Mohamed Younis 06:49
In terms of -- and I love how you responded and said, you know, "What does it mean by, what do you mean by 'support'"? In terms of hold that line, what, what does that mean -- forget about sort of like politically for America. But just as George geopolitical analyst, is it realistic to support Ukraine to the point of like getting back all of its territory? Is it folding to the Russians to say, "You guys can have the Donbas but no much, no further"? Like how do you, where do you draw that line?

George Friedman 07:20
Well, the fundamental question is not Ukraine, if you pose it that way. But if you pose it as I just did -- further ambitious of the Russians -- the question you ask is, where is it going to be more costly, to defend west of the line of the Ukrainian border or to defend the Ukraine? From the American point of view, the Ukrainian war has been very cheap. It has cost weapons. The Poles took what little risk there is from our shoulders; the Ukrainians are having casualties. So the question is just how long are we prepared to fight to the last Ukrainian? And the answer is that the Ukrainians will fight so long as the weapons come in. Weapons, weapons are cheap.

George Friedman 08:06
So everybody is kind of looking at the question of what comes after a Russian victory? And they get nervous. The Russians are looking, what comes after a Ukrainian-American victory? And they get nervous. Neither feel they can afford to lose the war. The Russians don't want the Americans 236 miles away from Moscow. We don't want them pushing into Poland; that's another war for us. So right now, both sides calculate that holding the line makes the most sense.

George Friedman 08:45
Now, we need a buffer zone between the United States and Ukraine -- and the Russians, I should say. Where do we draw that line? And where will the Ukrainians allow us to draw that line? So there are many political questions that we have to address. There are many military questions we have to address. And very frankly, the Europeans only enter into it to the extent that they reduce the sanctions against Russia and have allowed them to have trade and rebuild their economy. And that matters.

Mohamed Younis 09:24
On that front, let me end by asking you, George, about Germany. If anybody is going to lead the way, economically, at least, in Europe, it's gonna be them. Assess the chancellor's position right now in Germany on this war.

George Friedman 09:41
Well, remember the largest importer of -- of German goods is the United States. Now, that doesn't mean that there's, on the whole, there aren't others, but the United States is an urgent trading partner because we buy Mercedes, we buy Volkswagens, and these are the structures. So how far do they want to go in alienating the United States? Do they really want to create a situation where the United States throws in the towel on NATO and says, there is no alliance that counts? They have a lot of decisions to make.

George Friedman 10:21
What the Germans want is this thing to disappear, go away and not bother them anymore. Ain't gonna happen. So each of the countries that might want to challenge the United States on the continuation of the war has to consider what the United States might do as a result. One, increase the level of the war. Two, ban their exports to the United States. Three, you know, possibly dismantle the Atlantic relationship. They're all concerned about that. So it's not a simple question of, let's end the war; it's a more complex question. And always remember in this war, there are many people officially at war. This is an American war. And if the, NATO cannot at least give lip service and sanctions on this war, there's a lot of Americans who really have a serious question of what the point of NATO is.

Mohamed Younis 11:23
Yeah. And it's fascinating that so much of this was discussed in the previous president's term under a very different fact pattern. But those tensions were there, are still there.

George Friedman 11:35
Trump, whether you like him or not, understood a fundamental fault line in the West, which is that we have trans-Atlantic relationships. And it's not the Americans that have let down the Europeans but, to the contrary, the Europeans, by not building militaries that are sufficient. Now, the politics of it all going back and forth is uninteresting. But the point was that the United States has consistently wanted to pretend that they had partners. And the United States truly doesn't know what the partnership consists of. What can we count on? And the Europeans really don't want NATO to go away.

Mohamed Younis 12:16
Yeah. It's fascinating how just kind of, you know, this limbo that we're seeing happening between don't get too involved, want the war to end but don't pull down NATO. It's really fascinating to see so many important economies have so little to say or do on such a major conflict.

George Friedman 12:36
Compared to the American economy, they're not that impressive. We underestimate how just massive our economy was. We overestimate how powerful the Chinese economy is or the Russian. But the Europeans understand exactly how important the American economy is to them and, you know, this is what's holding up any change. Now, if we could negotiate an agreement where the Russians agreed to return to their borders, let the French do it. It's no problem. If they said, OK, we'll end the war but not Donbas. The other question would be, yeah, Donbas is really yours, and we don't care. But when will you start the war again?

Mohamed Younis 13:27
Exactly.

George Friedman 13:28
And this is the real issue. Wars end in truces when both sides are exhausted; neither is. Or when you're looking at a situation where there's a kind of clear demarcation line; there isn't. So it's very hard to end this war and very hard to win this war. And these considerations really are more important than what the French are doing. Not to denigrate the French, but you're not going to be able to bring a peace settlement, and you're not going to be able to change the American position. Now if it turns out that the U.S. is deliberately cutting weapons deliveries to Ukrainians to try to force some sort of settlement, that becomes very, very different. That would also be politically significant in the United States to find out that secretly they dialed back. So I think this war continues.

Mohamed Younis 14:36
Let me -- and of course, I always lie with the last question. My real last question is -- and it's really a question that could be a whole episode -- China. So far, when we started, when this war started, we were talking about how much China will support or not support or try to remain neutral on this. As this is dragged on, has China backed off supporting Russia, or have they become more involved in supporting Russia?

George Friedman 15:02
They really only have rhetorically supported Russia. They never really did. But they certainly backed off. We know there are negotiations going on between the United States and China over the question of trade barriers and so on. That's been going on. We also hear reports of unrest in China. I just spoke to a Chinese source today, and he said, "Look, Shanghai was not about COVID; it was about punishing Shanghai and demonstrating Xi's power." OK, it's one report, but that people will be saying things like this is important.

George Friedman 15:42
Another person basically made it clear that we have a prob -- well, apparently, the Politburo met (that's the leadership). And the Politburo meeting agreed that most money would be spent on poor farmers, not on tech. Two members of the Politburo went out, wrote an article criticizing the decision. And now, I have not seen the Politburo split in public for a long time. The incredible economic stress on China, it's weakening; it's causing serious political problems that are going to be settled soon.

Mohamed Younis 16:30
On that note, George Friedman, founder of Geopolitical Futures. George, thanks for being with us.

George Friedman 16:35
Thank you.

Mohamed Younis 16:43
That's our show. Thank you for tuning in. To subscribe and stay up to date with our latest conversations, just search for "The Gallup Podcast" wherever you podcast. And for more key findings from Gallup News, go to news.gallup.com or follow us on Twitter @gallupnews. If you have suggestions for the show, email podcast@gallup.com. The Gallup Podcast is directed by Curtis Grubb and produced by Justin McCarthy. I'm Mohamed Younis, and this is Gallup: reporting on the will of the people since the 1930s.

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WT: US troop increases
« Reply #592 on: June 27, 2022, 01:23:01 AM »
U.S. quickly builds up troops in Europe

No sign of mission length, goal

BY BEN WOLFGANG THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The number of American troops in Europe has risen sharply in the four months since Russia invaded Ukraine, from about 65,000 in mid-February to 100,000 today.

That increase, one of the most rapid U.S. military buildups on the continent in the post-Cold War era, has no clear end date or any obvious metrics to determine when troops could come home or be repositioned to other theaters such as the Indo-Pacific.

Instead, their mission is to deter further Russian aggression and prevent any attack on NATO territory. That goal will prove difficult to measure and could justify a years-long mission as Russia and Ukraine settle into a slow, bloody war of attrition in the Donbas.

The long-term consequences for the U.S. and its foreign policy priorities could be significant, some analysts say, because Washington likely can’t afford to maintain such troop levels in Europe over the long haul without sacrifi cing resources in the Pacific.

They say the conflict in Ukraine, and Russian President

Vladimir Putin’s not-so-subtle threats toward Europe, should spark a renewed push inside NATO and the European Union to ramp up member nations’ defense spending and troop deployments on their borders.

“We did what we had to do in the short term, following the February invasion, to deter an attack against NATO members,” said Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank. “Unfortunately, we have no idea how long this lasts. I think we can make a reasonable guess that what’s going on in Ukraine could go on for a very long time.

“I don’t want to send more forces than we need to Europe because they’re needed in the Indo-Pacific,” Mr. Bowman said. “We really need Europe to step up as much as possible to take the security burden off of our forces that are there as much as possible so we can allocate more of our finite resources elsewhere.”

Mr. Bowman said, however, that if the choice is between a ramped-up U.S. presence or inadequate protection for NATO’s eastern flank, “I choose to send U.S. forces.”

Those questions will be at the center of public and private conversations this week when NATO members meet for a high-stakes summit in Madrid.

The debate over a long-term American military presence in Europe has been politically divisive. It formed a cornerstone of President Trump’s foreign policy as he relentlessly pushed European nations to spend more on their own security and remove some of the burden from the U.S.

His push was somewhat successful. Numerous NATO members increased annual defense spending past 2% of gross domestic product, which has become the widely accepted target figure.

Mr. Trump’s effort to pull thousands of U.S. forces from Germany was abandoned after President Biden came to power in January 2021.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked more defense spending increases, but even European leaders acknowledge that they have been too slow to bolster their militaries.

The figures are stunning, especially compared with the eye-popping defense spending increases in Moscow and Beijing.

From 1999 to 2021, EU combined defense spending increased by 20%, the European Commission said in a May 18 analysis. During that same time, defense spending increased by 66% in the U.S., 292% in Russia and a whopping 592% in China.

“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has changed the security landscape in Europe. Many are increasing their defense spending, but it is crucial that member states invest better together to prevent further fragmentation and address existing shortfalls,” top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said in a statement accompanying that May 18 document. “If we want modern and interoperable European armed forces, we need to act now.”

In 2020, total EU defense spending amounted to 1.3% of the alliance’s GDP, according to European Commission figures. Key European nations, including Germany and Poland, have ramped up their defense budgets in the months since the war in Ukraine began. They have pledged to increase the budgets further.

In the short term, there is no clear substitute for U.S. manpower, weapons and equipment in Europe, particularly in Poland and the Baltic states closest to the raging war in Ukraine.

The Pentagon has largely sidestepped questions about how long it will maintain the level of U.S. troops in Europe. It emphasizes that the military is present in the region to deter Russian aggression and demonstrate NATO solidarity.

Military analysts say such deterrence is crucial for the security of Europe and for America’s long-term foreign policy challenges beyond the continent.

“To the extent China is seen as a major challenge, it is all the more reason that European security must be stabilized as an anchor of the future global order,” Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow and director of research in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, wrote in a June 21 analysis of U.S. and NATO defense postures in Europe.

“The United States and allies do not have the military, economic, or diplomatic bandwidth to address escalating crises and conflict in both Europe and Asia at the same time,” Mr. O’Hanlon wrote. “New crises and conflicts in Europe must be prevented before they begin, to the maximum extent possible.”

The twin dynamics in Europe and the Pacific will require close collaboration between the U.S. and its NATO allies to achieve maximum impact, specialists say.

Major European military players such as Britain and France are increasing their presence in the Pacific, specialists say, but others should focus almost entirely on Europe to take pressure off U.S. forces.

“I really don’t need German vessels sailing through the Taiwan Strait,” Mr. Bowman said. “What do we need to defend Europe? We need air defense. We need long-range fires. We need [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]. Armored forces deter aggression along our flank. I’d like the Europeans to provide that as much as possible. It’s their backyard. If they don’t, we should. But we should be banging on them behind closed doors as much as possible to do it.”

Of the 100,000 U.S. troops in Europe, more than a third are on rotational deployment. That means the service members are expected to remain on the continent for less than a year.

“Prior to the unprovoked Russian invasion in Ukraine, there were approximately 65,000 permanently assigned U.S. service members in European Command,” U.S. European Command told The Washington Times in a statement. “There are currently 100,000 U.S. service members in the region. That includes approximately 35,000 scheduled rotational forces and additional forces ordered to the region by Secretary of Defense [Lloyd] Austin.”


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GPF on the Ruble
« Reply #593 on: June 27, 2022, 01:33:27 AM »
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June 22, 2022
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The Paradox of a Strong Ruble
Russia’s task for the rest of the year is to weaken its currency.
By: Ekaterina Zolotova
After a precipitous fall at the beginning of the war in Ukraine and the imposition of large-scale Western sanctions, the Russian ruble has surged back over the past two and a half months. From 120 rubles per dollar on March 11, the currency is now valued at around 55 rubles per dollar, and banks can buy dollars for as little as 44 rubles. But a strong ruble does not necessarily mean a strong economy. On the contrary, the ruble’s strength, combined with government and bank policies to limit the impact of sanctions, may complicate life for ordinary Russians more than sanctions.

Impact on Average Russians

Western sanctions against Russia since Feb. 24 have shredded supply chains, and many foreign firms opted to leave the Russian market, whether due to moral outrage or because of the difficulty of executing financial transactions. The list of sanctioned individuals has expanded, and many Russian banks – mostly state-owned – have been disconnected from the SWIFT international payments system. But the measures so far have had minimal effect on Russian consumers, who can find Russian or other foreign substitutes for most products and can still use SWIFT to transfer money via some private banks. More important, Russia’s oil production continues to grow, rising by 5 percent in May compared with April.

However, the most important consequence for both business and individuals was in the financial sector, which has grappled with currency restrictions, sharp fluctuations in the ruble’s value and unpredictable bank policies regarding foreign currency. It isn’t easy to find alternative means to make online purchases from foreign websites, execute money transfers, manage foreign currency accounts or exchange currencies at prices and conditions comparable to those before the war. (I personally had to give up subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon, and some newspapers and magazines, simply because I no longer have the technical ability to pay for them. Of course, Russians immediately found loopholes, but the process is typically inconvenient and expensive.)

Another problem Russians are facing is that, despite the strengthening of the ruble, domestic and imported goods and services are not getting cheaper. In theory, a stronger ruble should reduce the cost of imported goods, but instead prices from March and April – when the ruble was at its weakest – have proved sticky. For example, before the war an iPad Air cost approximately $1,100; the price soared during the initial sanctions panic, and at the current exchange rate it costs $2,500.

Russian Opinion on Businesses Leaving
(click to enlarge)

Ruble Rollercoaster

Currencies are always very sensitive to geopolitical disruption. Russia introduced a floating exchange rate, meaning the Russian central bank does not directly assign the value of the national currency. The central bank can change the exchange rate only by indirect methods – for example, foreign exchange interventions – while market conditions primarily set the value. At the start of the war, the ruble predictably depreciated sharply. In addition to high uncertainty, many Russians rushed to the banks to buy currency or change existing savings, which further increased the exchange rate. The panic was one of the main reasons for the increased price of goods.

Fluctuating Ruble Exchange Rates
(click to enlarge)

Today, the ruble is the strongest it’s been against the dollar since 2015. This is due to two main factors: high global oil and gas prices, and capital controls. The war, proposed and enacted embargoes on Russian energy, and the throttling of Russian gas supplies to Europe (the Kremlin blames sanctions, the West blames the Kremlin) have pushed up oil and gas prices. Natural gas prices in Europe exceed $1,450 per thousand cubic meters, and Brent crude is trading at nearly $120, the highest since April 2011. Prices are likely to remain high for quite some time.

Amid this backdrop, a huge influx of foreign exchange earnings from exports of high-price commodities strengthened the ruble and gave the Russian economy a boost. Russia’s revenues from oil and gas exports are at record highs. Income from oil exports reached 4.75 trillion rubles (approximately $90 billion) in four months, half the sum Moscow expected to make all year. Previously, this foreign exchange inflow was compensated by purchases of foreign currency by the Ministry of Finance and capital outflow, but because of sanctions there’s been a drop in demand for foreign currency for imports and investment.

Moreover, Russia is requiring foreign firms from sanctioning countries to open accounts with Gazprombank to pay for gas and converting the dollars or euros into rubles, equivalent to a 100 percent sale of foreign exchange earnings. According to central bank forecasts, Russia will run a current account surplus of $145 billion this year, 19 percent higher than in 2021.

Domestically, Russia tightened its foreign exchange controls and introduced temporary changes to foreign currency transactions. To maintain the ruble exchange rate and reduce inflation, the Ministry of Finance obliged Russian exporters to sell 80 percent of their foreign exchange earnings. (Now that things are more stable, the ministry has lowered that figure to 50 percent.) Temporary restrictions on buying foreign currency were imposed on Russian citizens too. Dividing countries into “friendly” and “unfriendly” governments – as Moscow has done – has dramatically complicated money transfers even from banks not under sanctions. For residents of Russia and non-residents from friendly countries, the central bank introduced restrictions in April – cross-border transfers could not exceed $10,000 per month, a figure that grew to $150,000 in June – but the policies of individual banks muddied the waters by implementing commissions for servicing foreign currency accounts, transfers and receiving transfers, simply because the demand for dollars and euros has fallen.

Paradox

In theory, a strong ruble benefits importers and consumers alike because it makes imported goods cheaper and more accessible. It would be good for Moscow too, since import substitution is a long process that needs to be as cheap as possible. A strong ruble, moreover, helps the Bank of Russia to fight inflation, which stands at more than 15 percent. And it should help lower the prices of imported goods that some sectors of Russia still depend on – which would reduce inflationary expectations, make money cheaper and support economic growth.

But the paradox of the ruble is that as it strengthens, imports do not become cheaper and inflation doesn’t fall by much. Annual inflation dropped only to 16.7 percent in June compared with 17.1 percent at the end of May and 17.8 percent at the end of April. Under the current batch of sanctions and the uncertainty of supply chains, prices aren’t dropping even with a strong ruble. Home builders are in no hurry to sell products at a low price, guided here more by the usual principles of trade than by sanctions pressure. Real household income, meanwhile, is expected to fall by nearly 7 percent, further reducing the purchasing power of ordinary citizens.

A strong ruble, then, is bad in the short term and the long term. Russia is a vast and unevenly developed country, the maintenance of which historically requires financing and redistribution of funds. But it has to have funds to redistribute them. Total budget revenues for 2022 are expected to reach just over 25 trillion rubles, including oil and gas revenues of nearly 4 trillion rubles, even as it keeps some $155 billion in the National Welfare Fund. Taxes ensure a steady flow to these coffers, a large share of which are taxes from oil and gas companies and proceeds from the sale of energy resources abroad. Moscow’s primary job under the sanctions, then, is not only to maximize import substitution and preserve the economic situation of the population but also to make sure there’s money in the treasury through the sale of goods abroad. With a strong ruble, this becomes more difficult. That’s because exporters’ profits fall when the ruble’s value relative to other currencies increases, meaning the value of Russian exports will also decline.

Put simply, the ruble is too strong, a sentiment shared recently at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Under tough sanctions but requiring large expenditures, a rate of 70-75 to the dollar is likely the sweet spot. Moscow’s job for the next half-year is to weaken the ruble, and the government is already discussing instruments that will allow the currency to return to the range of 65-80 to the dollar, like it was before the war. But Moscow understands that in the face of severe restrictions on the movement of capital, the ruble may continue to strengthen. The central bank and the government began to soften their plans earlier than expected, but so far it has had no effect on the ruble. In the face of sanctions pressure, it will be difficult to achieve demand for the currency at the same level as before the crisis. It’s an unusual case when a strong ruble, like a very weak ruble, becomes a challenge for the Russian economy.

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #597 on: June 28, 2022, 06:04:34 AM »
Yes, yes, we shall see, but worth noting.

In a related vein, this from WT:

SPAIN

Many NATO members fear Russia’s rise in Africa

Spain, others push issue at summit in Madrid

BY JOSEPH WILSON ASSOCIATED PRESS BARCELONA, SPAIN | While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is certain to dominate this week’s NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, and other member nations are quietly pushing the Western alliance to consider how mercenaries aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin are spreading Moscow’s influence to Africa.

As the host of the summit taking place from Tuesday to Thursday, Spain wants to emphasize its proximity to Africa as it lobbies for a greater focus on Europe’s southern flank in a new document outlining NATO’s vision of its security challenges and tasks.

The Strategic Concept is NATO’s most important working document after the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949, which contained the key provision holding that an attack on one member is viewed as an attack upon all. The security assessment is updated roughly every decade to reset the West’s security agenda.

The current version, approved in Lisbon in 2010, stated the risk of a conventional war on NATO territory was “low.” It did not explicitly mention concerns about instability in Africa. At the time, the alliance viewed apathy as its biggest military threat; U.S. complaints that some European members were not paying their due featured heavily in summit talks.

Fast-forward a dozen years, and the view looks very different from NATO headquarters in Brussels. After Russia brought war close to NATO’s eastern borders, the alliance has worked to provide Ukraine with an assortment of more powerful weapons and to avoid the very real risk of getting drawn into the fighting.

But there appears to be a consensus among NATO members heading into the Madrid summit that while Russia remains concern No. 1, the alliance must continue to widen its view globally. Spain’s position for an increased focus on “the South” is shared by Britain, France and Italy.

In their view, the security challenges in Africa arise from a Mr. Putin apparently dead-set on restoring the imperial glories of Russia as well as from an expansive China. Russia has gained traction thanks to the presence of its mercenaries in the Sahel region, a semiarid expanse stretching from Senegal to Sudan that suffers from political strife, terrorism and drought.

“Each time I meet with NATO ministers, the support of the allies is total due to the instability that we see on the alliance’s southern frontier and especially the situation in the Sahel region right now,” Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Albares said.

The Kremlin denies links to the Wagner Group, a mercenary force with an increasing presence in central and North Africa and the Middle East. The private military company, which has also participated in the war in Ukraine, has developed footholds in Libya, Mali, Sudan and Central African Republic.

In Mali, Wagner soldiers are filling a void created by the exit of former colonial power France. In Sudan, Russia’s offer of an economic alliance earned it the promise of a naval base on the Red Sea. In Central African Republic, Wagner fighters protect the country’s gold and diamond mines. In return, Mr. Putin gets diplomatic allies and resources.

French President Emmanuel Macron has long called for a “greater involvement” from NATO in the Sahel region, where Paris was once the dominant colonial power. Now that Wagner has moved into Mali, French authorities underlined that Wagner mercenaries were accused of human right abuses in the Central African Republic, Libya and Syria.

Former NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said that Russia’s brutal military campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad during his country’s long civil war left it emboldened.

“Syria gave [the Russians] the sentiment that they could be more active in that part of the world,” Mr. Solana said in an interview.

With the Sahel, Morocco and Algeria at risk of worsening instability, “the southern part of NATO, for Portugal, Spain, Greece, etc., they would like to have an eye open to that part of the world,” he said.

Italy is another NATO member attuned to the political climate across the Mediterranean Sea. The country hosts NATO’s Joint Force Command base in Naples, which in 2017 opened a south hub focusing on terrorism, radicalization, migration and other issues emanating from North Africa and the Middle East.

« Last Edit: June 28, 2022, 06:34:41 AM by Crafty_Dog »

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GPF: Poland and Hungary
« Reply #598 on: June 28, 2022, 06:51:35 AM »
second

June 28, 2022
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Warsaw to Budapest
By: George Friedman
The trip from Warsaw to Budapest is a trip between two realities. Warsaw is not quite on a war footing but exudes a desire to be there. For the Polish, Ukraine is their war too, eager as they are to support the Ukrainians and engage the Russians, hoping the U.S., which has troops based in Poland, will join them. They have a visceral hatred of the Russians that precedes communism, and they share a sense of identity with the Ukrainians, who were welcomed into Polish homes when they fled their country at the outset of the war. Partly that’s because Poland is deeply embedded in European history. Linguistically, it is linked to Europe. The Polish say they will sacrifice for Ukraine, and though they seem to mean it, I can’t help but notice that Russian artillery fire hasn’t hit Warsaw yet. Even so, certainly the war is near to Warsaw’s heart.

Poland and Hungary
(click to enlarge)

It’s about an hour’s flight to Budapest, where the mood is very different. The government isn’t convinced that the war will come to Hungary, a sense that reflects the alienation rooted in Hungarian identity. Unlike Poland, Hungary has no ethnic bond with Ukraine, or with any other European country for that matter. Hungarians are not related to any other European nation or ethnic group. All European languages – except for Hungarian – descend from Indo-European, a language of a people lost in the mists of time. The Hungarians arrived from Central Asia. They settled where they are in 800 A.D. Hungarians may have personal affinities to other European countries, but ethnically and linguistically they are disconnected. It’s true that Hungary once controlled the area of Ukraine just to its east, but they occupied it as Hungarians, not as equals, and in any case, Budapest lost this territory in the Treaty of Trianon after World War 1. The country remains genuinely angry about it, and some are passionate about regaining that region.

If you have been wondering where I am wandering, I am trying to understand the geopolitics of Poland and Hungary. Poland was built out of the framework of Europe. Hungary was never part of Europe. Poland has a deep historical connection with Ukraine. Hungary does not. Poland has been involved in Ukraine as its borders changed over the years. Hungary remains a small country centered on the Great Hungarian Plain (a good name), an area east of Austria, south of Poland, and north of Romania. This has been its core for 12 centuries.

Poland lies on the North European Plain, a vast, flat area running from France to Moscow. The traffic on this plain was heavy and varied, and it has defined the history of northern Europe. Save for the Danube, Hungary was outside that flow. Poland was part of Europe. Hungary is just located there.

North European Plain
(click to enlarge)

The different conversations to be had in Warsaw and Budapest require explanation, but that is hard to come by. Two cities, nearly neighbors at just 500 miles (800 kilometers) apart, are strangers to each other. The languages are not easily transferrable. One is part of Ukraine’s war, and the other is distant, even indifferent. Poland is like much of Europe; Hungary is its own entity. It stands to reason, then, that Poland is comfortable with contemporary Europe and America’s role in it. Hungary is uneasy with it, much to the agitation of its neighbors. Budapest stands between Warsaw and Bucharest yet they seem to have more in common than either has with Budapest.

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #599 on: June 30, 2022, 05:34:09 AM »
RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR

Russian forces announced they had abandoned the strategic Black Sea outpost of Snake Island, in a major victory for Ukraine that could loosen the grip of Russia's grain export blockade.

Russia's defense ministry described the decision to withdraw from the outcrop as a "gesture of goodwill" that showed Moscow was not obstructing United Nations efforts to open a humanitarian corridor allowing grains to be shipped from Ukraine's ports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin still wants to seize most of Ukraine, but his forces are so degraded by combat that they likely can only achieve incremental gains in the near term, the top U.S. intelligence officer said.

Putin said that Russia would respond in kind if NATO deployed troops and infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after they join the U.S.-led military alliance.

Trade through Lithuania to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad could return to normal within days, sources said, as European officials edge towards a compromise deal with the Baltic state to defuse a row with Moscow.

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https://www.euronews.com/my-europe/2022/04/19/which-country-has-given-the-most-money-to-ukraine?fbclid=IwAR2qBuDU1Wp25UQI9H_7VsawSZZ7zfc0eidibzrWvLf6ka2gYqX4EUWiSFc
« Last Edit: June 30, 2022, 05:37:57 AM by Crafty_Dog »