Link back to the discussion thread
- Europe’s plans to replace Russian gas are deemed ‘wildly optimistic’ — and could hammer its economy CNBC
The European Union’s best shot at replacing Russian gas imports this year is likely to miss the mark, analysts predict, exerting further pressure on the region’s economy.
The EU plans to replace two-thirds of Russian gas imports by the end of the year, as Russia’s war in Ukraine continues to wage on.
The shift away from the country’s gas supplies became even more urgent after the country’s state-backed Gazprom reduced flows to Europe by 60%, citing a delay to repairs on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that runs to Germany beneath the Baltic Sea.
The European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, will meet with EU energy ministers on Monday to discuss potential coordinated measures, including demand reduction and contingency plans should the situation deteriorates further.
However, the EU’s current plan to replace Russian gas looks to fall short.
In 2021, the EU imported around 155 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas from Russia. The bloc’s proposed gas replacements by the end of 2022 – which include LNG (liquefied natural gas) diversification, renewables, heating efficiency, pipeline diversification, biomethane, solar rooftops and heat pumps – amount to around 102 bcm annually, according to data from the EU Commission’s REPowerEU, aggregated in a recent report from economic consultancy TS Lombard.
Christopher Granville, managing director for EMEA and global political research at TS Lombard, said in the report that the European Commission’s aims to replace Gazprom’s gas this year look “wildly optimistic.”
- Europe must give developing nations alternative to Chinese funds, von der Leyen says EU Reporter
Europe will mobilize €300 billion in public and private funds over five-years to finance infrastructure in developing countries in the G7’s fight against China’s Belt and Road project. This was announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“It is our responsibility to give a positive, powerful investment impulse to all countries to show our partners in developing worlds that they have a choice” von der Leyen stated at a news conference with the leaders from Japan, Canada, Germany and Italy.
- Russia endorses Argentine, Iran joining BRICS MercoPress
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Tuesday said his country would welcome the enlargement of the BRICS bloc made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa by adding Argentina and Iran to the list of member nations.
“Of course, both Argentina and Iran are worthy and respected candidates, as well as a number of other countries that are also mentioned in the discussions,” Lavrov told the Russian news service TASS. The top diplomat made those remarks from Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, where he was on an official trip.
“The most important thing is that the preliminary process has started,” he added.
- Tire manufacturers leaving Russia RT
French tire manufacturer Michelin announced on Tuesday it has decided to cease its business in Russia and transfer activities to local management. The company cited supply chain problems as the main reason behind the decision.
“After suspending its manufacturing activities in Russia on March 15, Michelin now confirms that it is technically impossible to resume production, due in particular to supply issues, amid a context of general uncertainty,” a statement from Michelin reads. “The Group is therefore compelled to plan the transfer of all of its Russian operations by the end of 2022.”
- Smirnoff vodka leaving Russia RT
UK-based alcoholic beverage producer Diageo is leaving Russia due to the Western sanctions pressure on Moscow over Ukraine, company representatives told the press on Tuesday.
“We made a difficult decision to force a gradual reduction in commercial activity in [Russia],” a representative said, as cited by Interfax news agency.
- Support for rail strikes rises after week of working from home Telegraph
Public support for rail strikes has increased after commuters spent a week working from home, a poll found.
Office buildings were last week showing just 22 per cent occupancy as the train network was crippled by the biggest walkout for 30 years.
But despite the travel chaos, a poll by Opinium for ITV’s Good Morning Britain has found that support for the strikes has increased by eight percentage points.
Before the walkout just 37 per cent of the public backed the action. Now 45 per cent of people support the strikers.
Although it led to frustration for those heading to Glastonbury and the third test at Headingley, many had welcomed the return to working from home.
Social media was filled with pictures of people working in their sunny gardens and welcoming “Lockdown 2.0”. It comes as the RMT union has threatened further walkouts if its pay demands are not met.
The organisation, which is responsible for Britain’s railway tracks, has offered 2 per cent plus a further 1 per cent later in the year if productivity targets are met.
- Government policies will not get UK to net zero, warns damning report The Guardian
Holy shit, really? But they promised! They said that they’d do it by 2050, which definitely isn’t just code for “Fuck off, here’s something to make you calm down a bit while we continue to accelerate the rate of global exploitation until we fly off to our bunkers in New Zealand and billions have died”!
The government is failing to enact the policies needed to reach the UK’s net zero targets, its statutory advisers have said, in a damning progress report to parliament.
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) voiced fears that ministers may renege on the legally binding commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, noting “major policy failures” and “scant evidence of delivery”.
- Russian hacker group says cyber attacks continue on Lithuania Reuters
Russian hacker group Killnet told Reuters that it was continuing a major cyber attack on Lithuania on Tuesday in retaliation for Vilnius’s decision to cease the transit of some goods under European Union sanctions to Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave.
Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte told reporters in Vilnius her government institutions are working 24 hours per day to “fix the problems as they are found”.
- One in four Germans fears losing job due to Ukraine crisis RT
Nearly a quarter of German workers are afraid to lose their jobs due to the impact of the conflict in Ukraine, and related anti-Russia sanctions, on the country’s economy, the Berliner Zeitung newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing a survey by the market research institute Trendence.
According to the survey, 23.3% out of the 1,830 working Germans interviewed said they were concerned about losing their employment “because of the war in Ukraine,” while nearly half (44.8%) of those surveyed are forced to work from home due to high gasoline prices resulting from the sanctions war between Russia and the West.
Furthermore, 49.2% of respondents also said they experienced mental stress because of the photos appearing in the media from the war zone, and every second respondent said their employer should support Ukrainian war refugees.
Asia and Oceania
- Australia’s Liontown inks lithium deal with Ford after Tesla, LG agreements Reuters
Liontown Resources Ltd signed a lithium supply agreement with Ford Motor Co, the Australian miner’s latest after similar deals earlier this year with Tesla and electric vehicle (EV) battery maker LG Energy.
Liontown said on Wednesday it will supply Ford with 150,000 dry metric tonnes (DMT) of lithium spodumene concentrate each year for five years from its flagship Kathleen Valley project in Western Australia. The concentrate is a source of lithium essential for making EVs.
- Chinese Stocks Are On The Rise Following Unexpected Covid Shift Oil Price
China’s move to ease quarantine rules for inbound travelers from three weeks to just one week has bolstered sentiment for Chinese equities.
Bullish calls are rising on Chinese stocks as the CSI 300 Index inches near a bull market.
Fred Hu, the founder of China-based investment firm Primavera Capital Group, told Bloomberg that he believes Chinese tech firms have turned the corner after a $2 trillion rout sparked by Beijing’s yearslong technology crackdown.
NASDAQ Golden Dragon China Index plunged more than 76% since its peak in early 2021, coinciding with Beijing’s crackdown start. The index hit a low in March and has since bounced 67% – because the crackdown fears show signs of softening.
Hu believes “this could be the beginning of a new era for China tech … There’s a lot of value to be discovered,” adding that investors still need to be selective in picking stocks.
Adding to support is the People’s Bank of China’s accommodative monetary policy, which is the opposite of global central banks that aggressively tighten interest rates to prevent the surge in inflation from turning into dreaded 1970s-style stagflation. Today’s quarantine reduction news, tech crackdown abating, and PBOC easing have produced a more optimistic outlook for Chinese stocks.
However, a lingering threat of a US slowdown could be problematic for all investors.
- On China-Russia border, new bonds are forged against U.S. over Ukraine WaPo
Around the world, ideological lines are hardening. In the United States, politicians and lay citizens alike increasingly view international affairs through the lens of great-power competition against China and Russia. The same is the case in China, where many see the Ukraine war as a proxy conflict with the United States.
Western governments have rallied to the cause of Ukraine, in Europe, and Taiwan, in Asia, calling them bastions of the “free” world that must not fall. In China, these moves are seen as worrisome attempts to ramp up the Western sphere of influence on the doorsteps of Russia and China.
The widening ideological gulf is grist for China’s government to shore up its standing at home by playing to nationalist sentiment, galvanizing citizens against an overseas enemy to distract from domestic troubles.
"…which is definitely not what those Western countries are doing, and have done for decades."
It also raises the risk of further international conflict, as governments and militaries boost preparations for any great-power confrontation.
In Heihe, many residents’ views on the Ukraine war don’t stray far from Beijing’s official stance, and it’s hard to say where government propaganda ends and where grass-roots opinion begins. The effect of propaganda is particularly strong in China, where news programs are closely controlled, many international websites blocked and social media comments censored.
"… which is definitely not the case in Western countries. By the way, if a media outlet is pro-Russia, we’re blocking them."
People are regularly punished in China for political speech that diverges from the official line, and some in Heihe were wary of saying too much about the war in Ukraine. “We shouldn’t talk about it in the countryside,” said Chi Xiude, a 78-year-old who grows cabbages on the city’s outskirts. “It’s a war. It hurts the average people.”
… which is definitely not the case in Western countries. By the way, we’re imprisoning and probably killing Julian Assange."
Wang, though, could hardly contain her anger over U.S. geopolitical interventions abroad. She named her toy poodle “Trump,” after former president Donald Trump, so she can scold the dog: “Can’t you behave? What are you biting now?”
While sympathetic to the plight of Ukrainian civilians, she put the blame on Ukraine’s leaders for not pacifying Moscow.
“Once a little brother, always a little brother,” Wang said. “You should help each other. What are you doing, running around with the United States and those scum of the Earth?”
China-Russia relations have long been tenuous. After close cooperation between the Soviet Union and Mao Zedong’s China in the early 1950s, relations turned bitter, leading to military clashes along the northeastern border in the 1960s.
In recent years, Moscow and Beijing have found common cause against the West, with China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, touting a “no limits” relationship in February. Still, the two countries do not have a formal alliance, and the bond is often described as a marriage of convenience.
China has been wary of violating Western sanctions on Russia that could trigger secondary sanctions on its companies. Nor is it willing to relax its “zero covid” measures for the sake of trade. Russian tourists have yet to be allowed back into Heihe, leaving the tourist town ghostly quiet. The two sides sometimes wave to each other as their boats pass at a distance over the Amur’s coffee-brown waters.
Chinese purchases of Russian oil and other commodities have soared, and Xi recently pledged trade with Russia will reach new records. But China’s exports to its northern neighbor remain well below prewar levels, according to a study from the Peterson Institute of International Economics. Beijing has pushed back against Moscow’s requests for greater support in recent weeks, according to Chinese and U.S. officials, The Washington Post reported.
Fishing on the bank of the Amur River, a Heihe resident who would only give his surname, Wang, said the Ukraine war had little to do with them, except for higher gas prices. But he said Heihe locals followed the news and knew what was going on.
“There’s no way we’d support Ukraine,” he said. “The Americans are trying to cause trouble.”
Another Heihe resident, 57-year-old Liu Hongyao, agreed, saying China’s fate was linked to Russia’s, so the two needed to hang together. He called Ukraine “cannon fodder,” saying he thought Western countries had somehow provoked it into a self-destructive confrontation with its powerful neighbor.
“If America wipes out Russia, then China is toast too,” he said.
- Extreme weather breaks 147-year-old Tokyo record RT
The Japanese government has urged people not to turn off air conditioners as Tokyo experiences the worst June heatwave since records began.
- Can Saudi Aramco Meet Its Oil Production Promises? WaPo
If the oil market was a religion, its central article of faith would be the maximum production capacity of Saudi Aramco, a tenet based on confidence in what we hope to be true and belief in properties we have not yet witnessed. The market is about to have its epiphany.
Aramco, the state-owned Saudi Arabian oil giant, claims it can sustainably pump 12 million barrels a day, well above the kingdom’s OPEC+ August target of 11 million barrels. For the global economy, Saudi spare capacity is the last line of defense against more energy inflation. But apart from a few top company executives and a handful of Saudi royals, no one knows for sure whether Aramco can deliver. The rest either have blind faith in Aramco — or simply don’t believe.
On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron was caught at the Group of Seven summit relaying second-hand information to US President Joseph Biden that suggests the Saudis don’t have as much oil production capacity as they claim. Call it French secularism.
The truth will emerge in the next few weeks. On Thursday, OPEC+ will greenlight the final of its series of monthly output increases, giving Riyadh a target of almost 11 million barrels a day for August. Aramco has only pumped at that level for a grand total of eight weeks in its entire history, in late 2018 and early 2020. Now, it faces the prospect of sustaining that level or higher, for several months, perhaps even longer, for the rest of 2022 and through 2023.
Over the last eight weeks or so, there has been frenetic activity inside Aramco to prepare for an output surge. “MSC,” as maximum sustainable capacity is known at the company’s headquarters in Dhahran, has been the key topic of discussion. Company insiders, speaking in private, say it can reach 12 million barrels a day within 30 days and sustain that level for at least 90 days. What about longer? Aramco is simply confident it will prove skeptics like Macron wrong. Have faith, is the message.
The company is taking steps to boost its MSC to 13 million barrels from 12 million. But the first increase, a tiny extra 25,000 barrels a day, won’t arrive until 2024. The bulk of the expansion, including boosting production at three key oilfields known as Zuluf, Marjan and Berri, is slated for 2025 and 2026.
Aramco’s maximum capacity is a mystery because it hasn’t ever been tested for an extended period. In April 2020, Riyadh reported its highest ever monthly average, at 11.55 million barrels a day. Back then, Aramco briefly — for a few days, I hear — pumped 12 million barrels a day. Aramco executives, including Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser, took selfies in front of a giant screen wall showing production hitting the record level. At one point, it surged to 12.3 million barrels. Smiles all round.
Behind closed doors, however, things were more complicated. In private, Saudi oil industry executives describe that effort as a real challenge and express concern about having to sustain that output. It’s one thing to briefly hit the target, quite another to keep pumping and pumping at that level for a year, the internal thinking goes.
Oil executives and energy officials who’ve spoken to the Saudis in recent months have received conflicting signals about Aramco’s capabilities. Many have been told, in no uncertain terms, that the company will do as promised: the 12-million level is guaranteed. But I’ve heard a different version from a few others who have intimate connections with the kingdom and say anything above 11.2 to 11.3 million barrels for more than a few months would prove difficult.
- Why did Turkey lift its veto on Finland and Sweden joining NATO? Al Jazeera
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the terms of the deal involved Sweden intensifying work on Turkish extradition requests of suspected fighters and amending Swedish and Finnish law to toughen their approach to them.
Stoltenberg also said that Sweden and Finland would lift their restrictions on selling weapons to Turkey.
Ankara hailed the agreement as a triumph. The Turkish president’s office said that Turkey had “got what it wanted” from the deal, and that it meant “full cooperation with Turkey in the fight against the PKK and its affiliates,” including the YPG.
Finland and Sweden also agreed “not to impose embargo restrictions in the field of defence industry” on Turkey and to take “concrete steps on the extradition of terrorist criminals”.
A senior US administration official told Reuters that Turkey had not linked its longstanding request for American F-16 fighter jets to secure the deal. The US has previously blocked Turkey from acquiring F-35 fighter jets after Ankara purchased the S-400 missile defence system from Russia in 2017.
Erdogan said before leaving for Madrid that he would push US President Joe Biden on a deal for the F-16 fighter jets. Biden is expected to meet Erdogan during the summit.
- Russia will work to ‘normalize’ Afghanistan—Putin Inquirer
Russia is working actively to “normalize” the situation in Afghanistan, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday during a visit to neighboring Tajikistan, evoking Moscow’s responsibilities in the area.
“We are doing everything to normalize the situation (in Afghanistan) and we are trying to build relations with the political forces that control the situation,” Putin said during talks with Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon.
But their starting point was that Afghanistan’s ethnic groups should take a full part in running the country, he added, in comments broadcast by Russian media.
“Here, you know best… what needs to be done to ensure that the situation in the region, in this zone where we have a common responsibility, is stable and threatens no one,” he told Rakhmon.
- Presence of Russia in North Africa is increasing - Spanish Foreign Minister Reuters
The presence of Russia in North African countries is increasing in a region where political instability and militant activity are spreading, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Tuesday, defending a foreign policy shift towards Africa.
“There is a growing Russian presence in Africa, in North African countries,” he told Antena3 TV station in Madrid hours before a NATO summit opened in the Spanish capital.
Spain is shifting its foreign policy towards Africa while lobbying the EU and NATO for support to address migration from the continent, aggravated by the Ukraine invasion, two senior government officials and two diplomatic sources told Reuters.
Albares said on Tuesday the epicenter of world terrorism is in Sahel, an area with very weak institutions, more and more military juntas, a food crisis and migratory movements.
- Sudan’s military strikes disputed region bordering Ethiopia Al Jazeera
Sudan’s armed forces fired heavy artillery during clashes in the disputed eastern region of al-Fashaqa bordering Ethiopia, an Ethiopian official said, the latest salvo in a long-running feud over their shared border.
Sudan was able to capture Jabal Kala al-Laban, an area near the contested border, on Tuesday following an artillery barrage and an air raid, according to an anonymous Sudanese military source speaking to Reuters news agency.
On Monday, Ethiopia denied Sudan’s accusation that its army had captured and executed seven Sudanese soldiers and a civilian, instead blaming the killings on a local fighter group.
Sudanese government sources said Sudan had filed a formal complaint with the United Nations Security Council over the killings.
Sudan’s army fired long-distance artillery from Monday morning until Tuesday afternoon, but nobody was injured, said Assefa Ashege, a senior security official in Ethiopia’s Amhara region.
- South Africa: Eskom Workers Expected Back at Work All Africa
Eskom workers are expected back at work this morning following violent industrial strike action, which plunged the country into an electricity supply crunch over the past week.
The power utility was forced to implement Stage 6 load shedding on Tuesday when up to 90% of staff could not or did not report for duty because of strike action at power stations across the country.
“Following a productive meeting earlier [on Tuesday] between Eskom and union leadership, Eskom can confirm that it has agreed in principle with the recognised labour unions on the way forward in the wage talks on Friday at the Central Bargaining Forum.
- U.S. Popular Support for Ukraine Aid Declines Amid Ongoing Economic Woes Newsweek
While governments have committed to supporting Ukraine until diplomatic terms can be negotiated, the domestic politics of an extended war are less straightforward.
And as the war reaches its 125th day, polls suggest that Americans are growing anxious about the its rising costs.
The Devex Funding Platform found that the U.S. and other foreign governments gave more than $100 billion in economic and military aid to Ukraine between February 24 and June 7. Data from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy reveals that the U.S. has given more than all other donor nations and institutions combined.
But considering the rising inflation and political uncertainty at home, Bruce Stokes, Visiting Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said the European experts he has spoken with are worried that both American and European resolve to support Ukraine will eventually waver.
“Europeans are asking questions about America’s steadfastness and their own,” he told Newsweek. “There seems to be an uncertainty about America’s political system, which might translate into uncertainty about America’s role in Ukraine.”
Some 86% of American voters are at least somewhat concerned about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the Russia-Ukraine Crisis Tracker. However, only 46% of American voters currently agree that the government should impose sanctions on Russia, even if it causes the price of goods to rise — down from the 56% who agreed with the statement in April.
Data also showed that for the fourth straight week, the share of U.S. voters who say their government should impose sanctions on Russian oil and natural gas, even if it causes energy prices to rise, are now in the minority, down from a high of 55% in April to just 46% this week.
Compared to Democrats, approval for these policies among Republicans is even lower. While 55% of Democrats support it, only 39% of Republicans support sanctions regardless of the rising prices of goods. And while 55% of Democrats support sanctions despite rising gas prices, just 42% of Republicans feel the same way.
Dow Plunges Nearly 500 Points, Recession Fears Resume As Consumer Confidence Hits New Low Forbes
Oil Tanker Is Stopped by U.S. in Transit From Russian Port to New Orleans WSJ
U.S. authorities have stopped a ship traveling from Russia to Louisiana with a cargo of fuel products, say people familiar with the matter.
The Daytona tanker is owned by Greek shipowner TMS Tankers Ltd. and was chartered by Vitol, a commodity trading house headquartered in Switzerland. It sailed from Russia’s Taman peninsula in the Black Sea in early June carrying fuel oil and vacuum gasoil, the data showed, and was planning to arrive in New Orleans on Sunday.
The ship was prevented from discharging its cargo, according to people familiar with the matter and shipping data. It is undergoing checks by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, one of the people and an official at the U.S. Coast Guard said.
“Vitol operates its business in full compliance with all relevant laws and regulations, including sanctions,” a spokesperson said by email. She declined to comment further. Officials at TMS Tankers declined to comment.
- Canada May Expand Energy Infrastructure To Help Europe OilPrice
Canada could expand its energy infrastructure in order to help Europe cut off Russian gas dependence in the medium term, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the G7 summit in Germany.
“We will be there in the short term with any support we can,” Trudeau said, referring to possible Canadian support in energy supply to Europe.
- Ecuador’s Lasso survives impeachment vote, halts protest talks Al Jazeera
Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso has survived an attempt by opposition lawmakers to remove him, and has insisted his government will not negotiate further with an Indigenous leader to end more than two weeks of protests after a soldier was killed in an attack on a fuel convoy.
The opposition-led congress had sought to remove right-wing Lasso on Tuesday over “the serious political crisis and internal commotion” caused by the protests.
But the motion garnered only 80 of the 92 votes needed, according to results read aloud by the parliament’s secretary, Alvaro Salazar, in a virtual session broadcast on social media.
“In spite of the coup attempts, today the country’s institutions prevailed,” Lasso said after the vote. “It is evident who works for the political mafias. Meanwhile, we continue to work for Ecuador.”
Earlier in the day, Lasso had accused Indigenous protest leader Leonidas Iza of self-serving politics, saying: “We will not negotiate with those who hold Ecuador hostage.”
The protests, largely by members of the South American nation’s Indigenous population – which make up more than a million of its 17.7 million people – have come in reaction to rising living costs and economic hardship.
- Bolsonaro says Brazil might buy diesel from Russia MercoPress
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has hinted he might purchase diesel from Russia after a telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin, who had reportedly vowed to guarantee the South American country a steady supply of fertilizers despite the ongoing war with Ukraine.
The two leaders had met only a few days ago during a Summit of BRICS, the informal bloc bringing together Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
“We have food security and energy security, there are chances that we will buy diesel from there, which is at a more convenient price,” Bolsonaro said Monday evening from his residence in Brasilia.
Brazil is undergoing a domestic fuel crisis with the state-run company Petrobras adjusting prices at pumps in line with global variations while local salaries do not follow the same pace, thus creating unease among the population ahead of the Oct. 2 presidential elections where Bolsonaro will be running for a second term in office but trails former head of state Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva in all polls.
- US blacklists Chinese, Pakistani companies for supporting Putin IndiaTV
The United States on Tuesday (local time) blacklisted 36 companies, including those from China and Pakistan, for supporting Russia in the Ukraine conflict. According to the details, the US has added five companies in China to a trade blacklist for supporting Russia’s military and defense industrial base.
The agency also added another 31 entities to the blacklist from countries that include Russia, UAE, Lithuania, Pakistan, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, according to the Federal Register entry.
Of the 36 total companies added, 25 had China-based operations, a media report said.
The Commerce Department, which oversees the blacklist, said the targeted companies had supplied items to Russian “entities of concern” before the February 24 invasion, adding that they “continue to contract to supply Russian entity listed and sanctioned parties”.
“Today’s action sends a powerful message to entities and individuals across the globe that if they seek to support Russia, the United States will cut them off as well,” Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security Alan Estevez said in a statement.
The firms' blacklisting means their US suppliers need a Commerce Department license before they can ship items to them.
The Ukraine War
- Russian telegram:
The LPR says that 30% of Lysychansk has been taken.
There are also reports that some Ukrainian forces are retreating to Seversk, as the cauldron has not fully encircled the city yet. The Institute for the Study of War has called this a “fighting withdrawal”.
- NATO tells Ukraine to fight on RT
“We make it very clear that this war can only be won on the battlefield and we should continue to support President Zelensky and the Ukrainian population as much as possible to be able to win the war on the battlefield,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told journalists on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid.
- Ukraine attacks Crimean oil-drilling platform for second time in a week, Tass reports EU Reporter
Climate and Space
- Nearly 1 In 4 People Worldwide At Risk From Flooding, Study Warns Forbes
An estimated 1.81 billion people around the world are at risk of inundation from a 1-in-100 year flood—a term experts use for floods with a 1% chance of striking every year—according to the peer reviewed study from World Bank researchers.
The vast majority—1.24 billion people—live in South and East Asia, the researchers said, with India and China collectively accounting for more than a third of global exposure.
An analysis of economic data reveals that flood risk coincides with poverty and vulnerability, the researchers said, with nearly nine out of every 10 people at risk from flooding living in low- and middle-income countries and some 780 million at-risk people living on under $5.50 a day.
Despite the risk faced by low- and middle-income countries, these nations are the least likely to benefit from flood defenses, risk management measures and support after disasters strike, the researchers warned.
Even where comprehensive defenses are in place—the researchers point to Vietnam’s extensive dike system as an example—they are unlikely to withstand more severe events and would likely be overwhelmed by a 1-in-100 year flood.
Climate change and “risky urbanization patterns” are likely to intensify the risks from flooding, the researchers said, stressing the need for large-scale investment in flood defenses and developing more considered policies for settling at-risk areas.
- Nations can no longer be ‘prisoners of petrostate dictators’ — US envoy Kerry Inquirer
Kerryposters feeling good right now I bet. They knew the future, where John Kerry became a climate hero.
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said on Tuesday Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a warning to nations around the world that they cannot be hostage of oil-rich autocratic governments to meet their energy needs.
Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the U.N. Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Kerry said Russia has been using energy as a weapon and would continue to do so in the future but Europe was committed to put an end to its dependency.
“It’s a warning to everybody that you do not want to be prisoners of petrostate dictators who are willing to weaponize energy,” Kerry said.
I agree, but I think we’re talking about different petrostates.
Dipshittery and Cope
- How Putin’s invasion of Ukraine could drive advances in energy technology Fortune
No one would accuse Vladimir Putin of being a green energy advocate. However, by invading Ukraine, the Russian leader may inadvertently become one of the most critical actors in the world’s shift to new energy technology. And that’s not all. Other sectors like transportation, manufacturing, infrastructure, agriculture, and human augmentation are also going to see huge breakthroughs in the coming years because of Putin’s reprehensible actions in Ukraine.
The European Union imports about 45% of its gas, 47% of its coal, and 30% of its oil from Russia. Europe is now in a mad dash to free itself of this dependence on Russia. The EU’s phased oil embargo against Russia is the first of many steps that are going to accelerate the development of new breakthrough technologies that will make the world—not just the EU—less dependent on oil and gas.
Of course, in the short term, we can expect a greater reliance on fossil fuels and higher gas prices. However, in the long term, this will drive an incredible surge in the deployment of new clean energy technologies across solar, the electric grid, energy storage, batteries, and electric vehicles.
I-I’m not owned! I’m not owned! Putin’s owned! Russia is so owned! The West isn’t being owned! Yeah, we m-might be signing decades-long deals with petrostates and moving back to coal, but we’ll d-definitely move to renewables after that! W-we’ll break free from the fossil fuel corporations that virtually own most western countries via corruption and lobbying and then w-we’ll have a lot of solar panels!
- How HIMARS Rockets Can Help Turn The Tide In Ukraine Forbes
How many times will they write the same title but with different weapons inserted before they accept Ukraine’s fate?
Former U.S. Army Commander for Europe Ben Hodges predicted on LinkedIn this week that the tide of war in Ukraine will begin shifting against Moscow in July, and Russian forces will “crack” as tactical challenges mount.
- Ukrainian Artillery Is About To Get A Lot More Accurate Forbes
It’s official. The United States has provided, or soon will provide guided artillery shells to the Ukrainian army.
The 155-millimeter-diameter Excalibur shells, which home in on GPS coordinates and can strike enemy vehicles in forests, revetments and alleyways, could help the Ukrainians to chip away at the Russian army’s firepower advantage in Ukraine.
An unnamed U.S. Defense Department official confirmed the Excalibur provision in comments to reporters Monday. “So as you know, we’re conducting training out of Ukraine and Germany and England,” the official said.
“And so, we’ve got everything from maintenance courses that we’re running, continuing to train on the employment of artillery systems, both HIMARS [rocket launchers] and howitzers. We’re working on Excalibur employment, and that’s our big stuff.”
Despite its high cost—$100,000 per shell—Excalibur is a natural fit for the Ukrainian army as it transitions to Western-style artillery. The Ukrainians already are adept at using locally made guided shells with their existing, ex-Soviet guns.
The Ukrainian army steadily is inducting hundreds of new artillery pieces that its foreign allies have donated. Most of the new guns, including the 126 M-777 howitzers the United States has pledged, fire 155-millimeter shells. M-777s with the right GPS equipment are compatible with Excalibur.
The same M777s that keep breaking down and can’t be easily repaired?
The combination of new guns and new shells could help the Ukrainians to mitigate the 10-to-one artillery advantage the Russians possess in eastern Ukraine. The Russian army has its own guided shells, but most of the time the Russians simply lob lots of rounds inaccurately—and count on raw rate-of-fire to compensate for a lack of power and precision.
The Ukrainian army doesn’t have enough guns or ammunition to match the Russian army shell for shell. But the Ukrainians in theory could achieve the same, or better, results by directing a small number of more powerful—or more accurate—shells to achieve hits at the same, or better, rate that the Russians can do with their own, less individually potent artillery.
“New shells are more effective than their Soviet equivalents, and hence their consumption is lower,” Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov explained.
New guided shells are even more effective. The Russians might be able to fire 10 shells for every one the Ukrainians fire. But they’re not necessarily likely to get more hits once the Ukrainians have Excaliburs.
Alrighty, when this doesn’t work and David Axe is back in a month writing the next article, what weapon will it be next?
- A top UK general compared the invasion of Ukraine with Hitler’s aggression before World War II Business Insider
“Now, as then, our choices will have a disproportionate effect on the future,” Chief of the General Staff Gen. Patrick Sanders said during a Tuesday speech at a conference in London. “This is our 1937 moment. We are not at war, but we must act rapidly so we aren’t drawn into one through a failure to contain territorial expansion.”
Sanders said he believes the world is living through a period of history as “profound” as the one leading up to World War II — before the Nazi war machine waged total war and occupied much of Europe — and said that the British army will “not mobilizing to provoke war; it is mobilizing to prevent war.”
“For us, the visceral nature of a European land war isn’t just some manifestation of distant storm clouds on the horizon — we can see it now,” he said.
- Ukraine wants to win today, the West is looking at 2023 Politico
President Joe Biden and European leaders are converging on the Spanish capital Wednesday for a show of support for Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion. But beneath the surface of unanimity, there is tension in planning the next steps in the war.
Despite NATO’s upcoming expansion and continued commitments to funnel massive amounts of weapons into Ukraine, there is a growing public divergence as to how long the war will last and to what extent the Western governments supporting the effort are willing to commit to helping Ukraine win — even what victory might look like.
Ukrainian leaders are eying the calendar as they ask allies for more weapons, fearful that without a major push this summer, Russia will be able to use the winter months to solidify captured ground in the eastern Donbas region.
At the same time, Western leaders are increasingly settling in for the long haul, talking about building up Ukrainian stocks of ammunition and training programs for what they see as a drawn-out struggle that will last well into next year, at the least.
One Western diplomat told a group of reporters before the Madrid summit that “we need to think longer term, beyond just what’s in front of us right now. We’re very much into that stage of thinking about next year and beyond, what Ukraine needs to recapture some of the initiative” by next spring.
“The sooner that the Ukrainians can turn the Russian tide, the better,” the diplomat said, but there isn’t a clear time frame for when that might happen. “Whether that’s before the winter or not we can’t predict, but what we are seeking to do is get them the weapon systems now that they need — including before the winter — but also help them to build during those winter months” for renewed offensives once the weather warms up.”
That scenario is exactly what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned against on Monday. Speaking virtually to the leaders of the G-7, Zelenskyy said that he needs more military support — now — to push the Russians back before winter, a plea that was met with approving nods but no new commitments.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan appeared to have heard the message, telling reporters after the G-7 gathering in Bavaria that Zelenskyy “was very much focused on trying to ensure that Ukraine is in as advantageous a position on the battlefield as possible in the next months as opposed to the next years, because he believes that a grinding conflict is not in the interest of the Ukrainian people, for obvious reasons.”
Zelenskyy’s strategy centers on “pushing the pace of both assistance and operations on the battlefield,” Sullivan said, “as opposed to letting things just drag out indefinitely.”
But while U.S. and allied leaders at the NATO summit in Madrid may have acknowledged Zelenskyy’s urgent requests, they aren’t biting on Kyiv’s timeline. Although Russia has suffered massive losses of troops and equipment in the four-month-old war, Ukraine’s forces have also been severely bloodied, leaving both sides hard-pressed to launch any troop-heavy offensives or gain much ground.
The Russian capture of Severodonetsk in Ukraine’s east came after weeks of devastating artillery barrages and vicious street fighting that netted the Kremlin the husk of a city, but did very little to actually move the front lines by any significant margin. The defending Ukrainian forces retreated across the Donets river to the city of Lysychansk on the far bank, where they’re digging in on higher ground.
“The war can go on for a long time,” Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hulqvist told POLITICO at the Madrid summit. “We must be sustainable in our support to Ukraine because if they don’t get this support they will be in a very problematic situation. It’s of interest for all of us that Ukraine be successful because there is a big risk that Russia will continue to attack other countries” in Europe.
The slower pace being described by European leaders belies the reality that stocks of weapons are limited, and NATO and its partner nations have yet to publicly clearly outline an endgame in Ukraine. Officials in Kyiv have stuck to the maximalist position of ejecting Russian forces from every inch of occupied territory to include Crimea, which Moscow has held since 2014. Western leaders have not gone that far, and have spoken in more general terms of defeating and deterring Russia.
- The G-7 turns out to be Swiss cheese in the German mountains Politico
Incredibly, another decent article by Politico on the G7. Again, some brainworms, but it’s about as much criticism as a mainstream media outlet will ever express towards it.
This year’s G-7 summit may have been held in the Bavarian Alps, but the results of the high-profile gathering of leading democracies looks a lot more like Swiss cheese — full of gaping holes.
President Joe Biden arrived in Germany for two days of refuge and luxury in the embrace of like-minded allies, leaving behind MAGA-world, a polarized Congress, and a radical Supreme Court undercutting his presidency. Autocrats weren’t invited; protesters were kept on the other side of the mountain.
Biden wasn’t alone in breathing a sigh of relief to be away from home: just one G-7 leader arrived with a net positive approval rating, Italy’s Mario Draghi.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has it worst of all. He boasts just 26 percent approval and has used three back-to-back summits — plus a side trip to Kyiv — to keep on the run from party colleagues determined to toss him out of Downing Street.
In this alpine refuge, no one can hear you scream, including when you want to be heard.
This week, the G-7 issued statement after statement but did not agree to plans that might fundamentally alter the course of Russia’s war in Ukraine, limit runaway global inflation or avert a looming famine.
As the leaders convened, domestic problems drowned out their piecemeal actions, and Russian missiles struck a Ukrainian mall filled with civilians.
Sometimes the problem was a lack of ambition: food security plans that fail to tackle root causes of today’s food insecurity.
Other times it was a lack of detail: a $600 billion infrastructure partnership that will supposedly see the U.S. contribute $200 billion, though no one bothered to check with Congress.
The most radical idea agreed by leaders — a cap on the price of Russian oil — flies in the face of the leader’s criticisms Tuesday of China’s “non-market policies,” and possibly their own national laws.
Instead of listening to their own lectures about the value of rules-based trade, the G-7 instead engaged a desperate move to blunt Moscow’s profits and address the runaway inflation hurting families across the world.
It’s understandable, perhaps, but it’s also a price-fixing scheme that is typically illegal under U.S. and EU antitrust law. This isn’t a group of governments using their collective buying power to get a good deal. This is — whisper it — a cartel.
And while the G-7 is busy trying to put fixes into oil markets, it says that food markets must remain open and free from interference.
That’s part of a G-7 commitment to food security that sounds impressive but is full of holes upon closer inspection.
The leaders acknowledged Tuesday that “up to 323 million people globally will become acutely food insecure or are at high risk, marking a new record high.” The White House defined the Horn of Africa as the region most at risk, where “as many as 20 million people may face the threat of starvation by the end of the year.”
The G-7’s willingness to “reaffirm our goal to lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030,” will not feed those people.
Getting Ukrainian grain to the world via ships would surely help, but the G-7 doesn’t have a plan for that.
Leaders are unwilling to consider providing military escorts to Ukrainian grain shipments from the port of Odesa because of the risk of an escalating conflict with nuclear-armed Russia.
Despite protestations, the task is logistically possible: Operation Earnest Will — the largest naval convoy operation since World War II — protected Kuwati oil exports from Iranian attacks in 1987 and 1988, under the direction of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, and supported by six other NATO navies.
In other words, the West has protected its oil sources in the past — but isn’t protecting the grain needed by the world’s poorest now. It’s not a shining advertisement for democracy that delivers better than autocracy.
The leaders did promise an extra $4.5 billion to reduce food insecurity across 47 countries and regional organizations. Assuming all that money is delivered rapidly — and donations of this kind almost never are — the promise amounts to just $13.93 for every person at risk of starvation or malnutrition this year.
If the G-7 underplayed the food security issues, it’s partly because the people most affected weren’t fully represented at the table.
India’s Narendra Modi, the African Union’s Macky Sall and Indonesia’s Joko Widodo joined for the second day of the summit. But to really dig into food problems, you need to assemble the G-20, or the United Nations.
Therein lies the G-7’s permanent problem: In a world of interlocking crises, a few rich democracies cannot on their own provide the solutions the world needs anymore.
And by prioritizing the comfortable G-7, the Biden administration also risks demoting the G-20 in the global pecking order.
While it is tempting for democrats to keep China and Russia at a distance, EU leaders have been at pains this week to encourage Western leaders to attend the November G-20 summit in Indonesia — to avoid putting a chill on cooperation with developing economies.
The most concrete step leaders took on Monday was a pledge from the U.S. and EU to install 1.5 million smart thermostats in European homes this year to ramp up energy efficiency. It’s not a move anyone would argue with: but is that really something the leaders of the free world should be high-fiving over?
Indeed, the final G-7 communiqué made clear that leaders failed to overcome Japanese objections to setting a goal of making 50 percent of new car sales zero-emission vehicles by 2030.
Good Takes that are Dope
- Ukraine Is the Latest Neocon Disaster Common Dreams
The neocon movement emerged in the 1970s around a group of public intellectuals, several of whom were influenced by University of Chicago political scientist Leo Strauss and Yale University classicist Donald Kagan. Neocon leaders included Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Kagan (son of Donald), Frederick Kagan (son of Donald), Victoria Nuland (wife of Robert), Elliott Cohen, Elliott Abrams, and Kimberley Allen Kagan (wife of Frederick).
The main message of the neocons is that the US must predominate in military power in every region of the world, and must confront rising regional powers that could someday challenge US global or regional dominance, most important Russia and China. For this purpose, US military force should be pre-positioned in hundreds of military bases around the world and the US should be prepared to lead wars of choice as necessary. The United Nations is to be used by the US only when useful for US purposes.
This approach was spelled out first by Paul Wolfowitz in his draft Defense Policy Guidance (DPG) written for the Department of Defense in 2002. The draft called for extending the US-led security network to the Central and Eastern Europe despite the explicit promise by German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher in 1990 that German unification would not be followed by NATO’s eastward enlargement. Wolfowitz also made the case for American wars of choice, defending America’s right to act independently, even alone, in response to crises of concern to the US. According to General Wesley Clark, Wolfowitz already made clear to Clark in May 1991 that the US would lead regime-change operations in Iraq, Syria, and other former Soviet allies.
The neocons championed NATO enlargement to Ukraine even before that became official US policy under George W. Bush, Jr. in 2008. They viewed Ukraine’s NATO membership as key to US regional and global dominance. Robert Kagan spelled out the neocon case for NATO enlargement in April 2006:
“[T]he Russians and Chinese see nothing natural in [the “color revolutions” of the former Soviet Union], only Western-backed coups designed to advance Western influence in strategically vital parts of the world. Are they so wrong? Might not the successful liberalization of Ukraine, urged and supported by the Western democracies, be but the prelude to the incorporation of that nation into NATO and the European Union—in short, the expansion of Western liberal hegemony?”
Kagan acknowledged the dire implication of NATO enlargement. He quotes one expert as saying, “the Kremlin is getting ready for the ‘battle for Ukraine’ in all seriousness.” The neocons sought this battle. After the fall of the Soviet Union, both the US and Russia should have sought a neutral Ukraine, as a prudent buffer and safety valve. Instead, the neocons wanted US “hegemony” while the Russians took up the battle partly in defense and partly out of their own imperial pretentions as well. Shades of the Crimean War (1853-6), when Britain and France sought to weaken Russia in the Black Sea following Russian pressures on the Ottoman empire.
Kagan penned the article as a private citizen while his wife Victoria Nuland was the US Ambassador to NATO under George W. Bush, Jr. Nuland has been the neocon operative par excellence. In addition to serving as Bush’s Ambassador to NATO, Nuland was Barack Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs during 2013-17, where she participated in the overthrow of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, and now serves as Biden’s Undersecretary of State guiding US policy vis-à-vis the war in Ukraine.
The neocon outlook is based on an overriding false premise: that the US military, financial, technological, and economic superiority enables it to dictate terms in all regions of the world. It is a position of both remarkable hubris and remarkable disdain of evidence. Since the 1950s, the US has been stymied or defeated in nearly every regional conflict in which it has participated. Yet in the “battle for Ukraine,” the neocons were ready to provoke a military confrontation with Russia by expanding NATO over Russia’s vehement objections because they fervently believe that Russia will be defeated by US financial sanctions and NATO weaponry.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a neocon think-tank led by Kimberley Allen Kagan (and backed by a who’s who of defense contractors such as General Dynamics and Raytheon), continues to promise a Ukrainian victory. Regarding Russia’s advances, the ISW offered a typical comment: “[R]egardless of which side holds the city [of Sievierodonetsk], the Russian offensive at the operational and strategic levels will probably have culminated, giving Ukraine the chance to restart its operational-level counteroffensives to push Russian forces back.”
The facts on the ground, however, suggest otherwise. The West’s economic sanctions have had little adverse impact on Russia, while their “boomerang” effect on the rest of the world has been large. Moreover, the US capacity to resupply Ukraine with ammunition and weaponry is seriously hamstrung by America’s limited production capacity and broken supply chains. Russia’s industrial capacity of course dwarfs that of Ukraine’s. Russia’s GDP was roughly 10X that of Ukraine before war, and Ukraine has now lost much of its industrial capacity in the war.
The most likely outcome of the current fighting is that Russia will conquer a large swath of Ukraine, perhaps leaving Ukraine landlocked or nearly so. Frustration will rise in Europe and the US with the military losses and the stagflationary consequences of war and sanctions. The knock-on effects could be devastating, if a right-wing demagogue in the US rises to power (or in the case of Trump, returns to power) promising to restore America’s faded military glory through dangerous escalation.
Instead of risking this disaster, the real solution is to end the neocon fantasies of the past 30 years and for Ukraine and Russia to return to the negotiating table, with NATO committing to end its commitment to the eastward enlargement to Ukraine and Georgia in return for a viable peace that respects and protects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.