Don’t Fall for Putin’s Propaganda About Ukraine

Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin listens during a meeting in Voronezh, August 5, 2014 (Kremlin)

With Russia possibly on the verge of escalating the Donbas War, it’s worth repudiating Vladimir Putin’s justifications for invading Ukraine.

This summer, Putin explained at length why he believes Russia and Ukraine are inseparable. His is a selective version of history that is illuminating insofar as it reveals Russian attitudes toward Belarusians, Ukrainians and other Slavic peoples in Eastern Europe; it’s not an excuse for denying Ukrainians their right to self-determination. Read more “Don’t Fall for Putin’s Propaganda About Ukraine”

Don’t Blame Russia for High Gas Prices

Amur gas plant Svobodny Russia
Gazprom workers at the Amur natural gas plant outside Svobodny, Russia, June 9, 2021 (Gazprom)

The price of natural gas is skyrocketing. In the United States, it’s up 100 percent from a year ago. In parts of Europe, 500 percent. Japan and Korea are paying record prices for liquified natural gas imports.

Nick Ottens explained the reasons behind this surge here. I will focus on one: Russia’s role.

Russia has been accused of market manipulation by various countries: forcing the price of gas up in order to accelerate the completion of Nord Stream 2. This accusation is unsurprising, given the history of price and supply disputes between Europe and Russia.

But it is wrong. Read more “Don’t Blame Russia for High Gas Prices”

Europe’s High Energy Prices, Explained

Eemshaven Netherlands power plant
Power plant in the Eemshaven of the Netherlands, April 17, 2020 (Unsplash/Untitled Photo)

Electricity prices are hitting records across Europe. In Portugal and Spain, wholesale energy prices have tripled from half a year ago to €178 per megawatt-hour. Italy is not far behind at €176. Dutch households without a fixed-price contract could end up paying €500 more this year. In the UK, prices peaked at €247 per megawatt-hour earlier this week.

The main culprit is the high price of natural gas, up 440 percent from a year ago. But Europe is facing something of a perfect storm involving accidents, depleted reserves and a higher carbon price.

Here are all the reasons prices are up — and what governments are doing about it. Read more “Europe’s High Energy Prices, Explained”

EU Must Send Strong Message to Belarus — And Russia

The interception of a Ryanair plane by Belarus is a breach of international right.

The crew was told by Belarusian officials there was a bomb threat, and they needed to divert to Minsk. It was a ploy to kidnap opposition blogger Roman Protasevich, who was traveling on the flight from Greece to Lithuania.

The Western response has so far been one of shared indignation. This must be followed by concrete action against dictator Alexander Lukashenko — not in the least to send a strong message to his protector in Moscow. Read more “EU Must Send Strong Message to Belarus — And Russia”

Allegations of Russian Meddling Resurface in Catalonia

Sagrada Família Barcelona Spain
Aerial view of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Carles Rabada)

Allegations of Russian interference have swirled around the Catalan independence movement for the last three years.

I cautioned against exaggerating Russia’s role in 2017, when two million Catalans voted in a referendum that had been deemed illegal by the Spanish state to break away.

I still believe what I did then: that Russia is a convenient scapegoat for Spaniards who don’t want to understand why nearly one in two Catalans prefer their own republic.

“Easier to blame foreign manipulation than examine the root causes of Catalan separatism and the events which led to the current crisis,” I wrote — from the 2010 Constitutional Court ruling that overturned parts of Catalonia’s autonomy statute to former prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s years-long refusal to negotiate a revision of the charter to current prime minister Pedro Sánchez slow-walking his promise to do just that. Read more “Allegations of Russian Meddling Resurface in Catalonia”

Pressure Mounts on Merkel to Cancel Nord Stream 2

Vladimir Putin Angela Merkel
Russian president Vladimir Putin speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Moscow, May 10, 2015 (Kremlin)

Pressure is mounting on Chancellor Angela Merkel to cancel the almost-completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which could double Russian gas exports to Germany.

Merkel has accused the Russian government of poisoning opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is recuperating in a Berlin hospital.

The obvious response, her critics say, would be to withdraw from a €10 billion project that makes Germany — Europe’s largest gas importer — more dependent on Russia. Read more “Pressure Mounts on Merkel to Cancel Nord Stream 2”

What Biden Would Mean for Russia

Joe Biden
American vice president Joe Biden listens during a meeting in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington DC, February 2, 2015 (White House/Pete Souza)

With Joe Biden favored to win the American presidential election in November, Vladimir Putin’s days of comfort may be coming to an end.

Unlike Donald Trump, who has coddled the Russian leader, accepted his denials of 2016 election interference and lifted sanctions on Putin ally Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch who funded pro-Russian political parties in Ukraine (which were advised by later Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort), the Democrat considers Putin a “thug”, a “dictator” and a threat to “the foundations of Western democracy.”

Unlike Trump, who has given up America’s power to shame, Biden insists America should lead “not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.” Read more “What Biden Would Mean for Russia”

Pulling American Troops Out of Germany Is Another Gift to Putin

American transport aircraft Germany
Two American C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft fly in formation over Germany, May 27, 2014 (USAF/Jordan Castelan)

Donald Trump has done his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, another favor by withdrawing almost 12,000 American troops from Germany, a third of the current deployment.

Fewer than half — 5,600 — are sent to other NATO countries, including Poland. Most will be pulled out of Europe altogether. An F-16 fighter squadron will be rebased in Italy.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper claims the decision is the outcome of long-term strategic planning and will somehow enhance “deterrence of Russia”.

President Trump revealed the real reason on Twitter:

Germany pays Russia billions of dollars a year for Energy, and we are supposed to protect Germany from Russia. What’s that all about? Also, Germany is very delinquent in their 2% fee to NATO. We are therefore moving some troops out of Germany!

This is nonsense. There is no NATO “fee”. Germany has for decades underinvested in its defense, relying on American protection, but until recently neither the United States nor Germany’s neighbors objected to the lack of German remilitarization. In 1990, the Western Allies and Russia conditioned their support for German reunification on the country keeping its defense force under 370,000 men. That ceiling remains in place. Read more “Pulling American Troops Out of Germany Is Another Gift to Putin”

Macron’s Idealistic Russia Pragmatism

Sebastian Kurz Emmanuel Macron
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz and French president Emmanuel Macron speak on the sidelines of a summit in Brussels, April 10, 2019 (BKA/Arno Melicharek)

The 2020 Munich Security Conference saw French president Emmanuel Macron reaffirm his eagerness to turn Russia into a security partner, suggesting that “we have to restart a strategic dialogue.”

But Russia hasn’t been a part of Europe for a while and doesn’t belong in a conversation about European autonomy. The only thing that ties it to Europe is geography. Read more “Macron’s Idealistic Russia Pragmatism”

Trump’s Presence Will Be Felt When Merkel and Putin Meet

Vladimir Putin Angela Merkel
Russian president Vladimir Putin and German chancellor Angela Merkel attend a conference in Moscow, November 16, 2012 (Bundesregierung)

German chancellor Angela Merkel is traveling to Moscow on Saturday, officially to discuss the conflicts in Libya, Syria and Ukraine, as well as the tension between Iran and the United States, with Vladimir Putin.

Hanging over the meeting will their countries’ deteriorating relations with the United States. Read more “Trump’s Presence Will Be Felt When Merkel and Putin Meet”