Tag Archives: European Union

Russia vs Ukraine, or, the Perils of Overdoing Historical Analogies

A hard-nosed piece by Edward Lucas at the Center for European Policy Analysis, Washington, D.C.:

History Matters

But not as much as you think

Are we living in 1914 or 1939? Or 1918? These seemingly abstruse questions are at the heart of European countries’ policy (or lack of it) towards Ukraine. For some German thinkers, the danger is of “sleepwalking” into a big war, just as European leaders did, supposedly, in 1914. Nobody actually wanted a conflagration that would destroy prosperity, order, and security. But the decisions made in Berlin, Moscow, Vienna, and Paris made it inevitable.

This thesis is advanced in a thought-provoking book called “The Sleepwalkers”, published in 2012, by the Australian historian Christopher Clark [excellent book, he’s a professor at Cambridge–an earlier post: “The Start of the Great War, or, Sh.. Happens“]. Angela Merkel was a big fan. As my friend from the New Statesman, Jeremy Cliffe, notes in his latest column, so are many of her successors. Chancellor Olaf Scholz exclaimed in a recent meeting “I am not Kaiser Wilhelm”. What he meant was that he was not going to lead Germany into war by accident. He also fears the disruptive consequences of a protracted conflict.

Another common historical frame of reference is 1918, and the specter of the Versailles peace treaty. Its punitive treatment of defeated Germany sowed the seeds of the next conflict. Some people, such as the Moscow-based foreign-policy pundit Sergei Karaganov, believe that Russia already experienced a Versailles-style humiliation in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse. Others, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, believe that it is vital to avoid such an outcome when the Russia-Ukraine war ends. Either way, the lesson is clear: treat Russia better if you want good behavior in the future [emphasis added].

Another school of thought sees 1939 as the reference point. The West’s failure to stand up to Mussolini over Abyssinia in 1935, and to Hitler when he marched into the Rhineland in 1936, and took over Austria and the Sudetenland in 1938, paved the way for the attack on Poland in 1939. This is, seemingly, mirrored by more recent appeasement of Kremlin aggression against Estonia, Georgia, and other countries.

History is a useful stimulus to thought. But it is a poor guide to the present. The “Sleepwalker” thesis is flawed: it lets off bellicose Prussian militarism too lightly [see “PREDATE” tweet at bottom of the post; on the other hand see this post using a review by Prof. Clark: “Wilhelm the Jerk, Part 2: How Truly Determinative?“], and blames Serbian nationalism excessively [I disagree, see this post: “Serbia, Sarajevo and the Start of World War I“]. Its relevance to the Ukraine war is absurd, as pointed out by none other than Clark himself. Nobody wanted war then. But Putin clearly wants one now. The question is how we react to it.

The Versailles references are flimsy. The West did not humiliate Russia in the 1990s. It pampered and pandered to the Yeltsin Kremlin. If the war with Ukraine ends in disaster, the blame lies with Vladimir Putin, not those who resist his aggression [emphasis added]. The Russian leader can stop whenever he wants, and the sooner he does, the better for everybody.

Nor do the 1930s provide a template. The landscape was quite different then. Nazi Germany was an economic superpower. Russia is not. The Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939 has no modern counterpart (thank goodness [see this post: “Bad Vlad: 1939, or, Just Screw the Poles and Balts“]). We do not need historical analogies to know that we have left it perilously late to wake up to Russian neo-colonialism [emphasis added].

Germans are also far too ready to imbibe other mistaken historical lessons, such as Kremlin myths about the Second World War, which supposedly creates an eternal debt from Germany to modern Russia. Just for the record, the biggest losses as a share of population were in what is now Ukraine and Belarus [emphasis added–see this review of Timothy Snyder’s superb history, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin]. Any feelings of guilt or historical responsibility should be directed there, not used to justify greed and cowardice.

Rather than searching fruitlessly for analogies, our modern sleepwalkers should wake up to the pressing injustices of the present, and consider how future historians may judge their response.

Europe’s Edge is an online journal covering crucial topics in the transatlantic policy debate. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.


Earlier tweet–Count Harry Kessler was a member of the German elite, scroll up thread for more:

Recent relevant post:

Russia vs Ukraine: A Realist View–and Don’t Forget The Tsar’s Southwestern Front in 1914

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Russia’s War vs Ukraine: Latvians to Demolish Soviet World War II Monument

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Police vehicles in front of the Soviet ‘Victory Monument,’ in Riga, Latvia, on May 24. Police have been guarding the Soviet war monument and barriers have been erected around it to prevent any further clashes at the site. Gints Ivuskans/The Globe and Mail”.)

Lots of chickens coming home to roost in countries incorporated by the Soviet/Russian communists. From a story by a Globe and Mail man in Riga for the moment:

In Latvia, the battle over a Soviet monument sparks tensions across the Baltic country

Geoffrey York

Some time in the next six months, workers will begin demolishing a massive 79-metre-tall Soviet war monument that has loomed above Latvia’s capital city for decades. Then the country will brace for Moscow’s angry retaliation.

The newly approved plan to tear down the monument is the Baltic country’s latest response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And it is already heightening emotions and political clashes here.

Riga’s mayor, Martins Stakis, said in an interview that he expects a wave of Russian reprisals, including cyberattacks, when the city dismantles the concrete obelisk and bronze statues of the Soviet memorial.

”Our security agencies are monitoring it very carefully and preparing for potential provocations from inside and from outside,” Mr. Stakis said. ”We just have to take a brave decision, deal with these provocations and move forward.”

But the damage won’t be inflicted only on concrete and bronze, and the danger is not merely from Moscow. The battle over the monument is sharpening ethnic and political tensions, fuelling hard-liners and driving a wedge between the country’s Latvian-speaking majority and its Russian-speaking minority, who represent about 25 per cent of its population [emphasis added].

…Many Latvians are still unhappy with the compromises that were made to placate Moscow after the Soviet Union’s collapse – including a 1994 agreement to preserve Soviet memorials, despite the emotions they evoke in Latvia, where many consider them symbols of Kremlin occupation.

That agreement was finally torn up in mid-May, when the demolition plan was approved. But many Latvians want speedier action.

On May 20, about 5,000 people marched to a park near the Soviet obelisk, demanding the immediate demolition of all such monuments. They also called for the expulsion of “disloyal” people who support Russian President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine.

“Enough is enough,” said Ralfs Eilands, a popular Latvian musician who helped organize the march…

The march was a response to the events of May 9 and 10, when hundreds of Russian-speaking people laid flowers at the Soviet monument to mark the traditional Victory Day holiday. When a city tractor removed the flowers, a group returned defiantly with more. Some waved Russian flags, sang Soviet army songs, drank vodka and battled with police.

Many Latvians saw the flag-waving as an insult. Some, including Mr. Eilands, are demanding “local sanctions” – some form of direct action against those who support the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine…

The flag-wavers are only a tiny fraction of Latvia’s Russian-speaking population. Polls show that Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has weakened his popularity here…

But even if the number of Kremlin supporters in Latvia is shrinking, the polarization between the pro-Moscow side and the Latvian nationalist side is worsening. Assaults on pro-Ukrainian demonstrators, apparently by Russians, have been reported in Riga recently. Some Latvian media have accused pro-war Russians of being a traitorous “fifth column” inside the country. At the May 20 march, some demonstrators carried a sign proclaiming: “Latvian land, Latvian rules [emphasis added].”

Authorities, fearing more clashes, have banned two planned rallies in support of the Soviet monument. Several Russian-speaking politicians were briefly detained when they tried to defend the monument. The obelisk is now surrounded by police cars, to discourage any further clashes…

“The tensions now are worse than they were even in the early 1990s,” said Miroslav Mitrofanov, a city councillor in Riga and a leader of the Latvian Russian Union, a political party that is largely supported by Russian-speaking voters.

His party is increasingly marginalized from the political mainstream. Riga today is filled with Ukrainian flags and pro-Ukraine banners, and even the city’s flower beds are arranged in the yellow-and-blue colours of the Ukrainian flag. The Russian embassy in Riga is surrounded by Ukrainian flags and anti-war placards, which portray Mr. Putin as an evil demon.

Mr. Mitrofanov tried to organize a march to defend the Soviet monument, but the city banned the event after the state security agency warned it could cause “public disorder” and national-security risks.

The bans on pro-monument marches have fuelled the feeling of victimhood among many Russian speakers here [emphasis added]

The government has found an effective way to weaken local support for Mr. Putin: After the war began, it banned all Russian state television channels in the country. The percentage of Russian speakers who support the invasion of Ukraine has dropped from 21 per cent in March to barely half of that number in late April [emphasis added].

Yet many people are still managing to watch Russian television, using illegal connections and satellite dishes. Many older people, in particular, are unwilling to quit their lifelong habit of watching Moscow’s nightly propaganda broadcasts – a habit that began in Soviet days…

“Many of us have lost our parents to Putin’s media,” said Deniss Hanovs, a Latvian professor who studies intercultural communication.

His 74-year-old mother, a devotee of Russian television, remains a supporter of the Kremlin’s war today, despite all his attempts to dissuade her. “I feel that I’ve lost her,” he said. “She was kidnapped by Putin, symbolically. It’s dangerous to let Putin into the brains of people.”

He believes, however, that Latvian nationalists are adopting the same intolerant tactics that the Soviet Union used against Latvia in the past. By demolishing monuments and threatening to deport Russians, they are damaging the inter-ethnic dialogue that Latvia desperately needs, he said…

Latvians take part in a march on May 20, in response to celebrations of the Russian Victory Day holiday.Gints Ivuskans/The Globe and Mail

Bad Vlad sure is a master strategist who knows how to win friends and influence people.

Canada leads NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup in Latvia–NATO webpage here, Canadian Armed Force’s Op REASSURANCE here.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

No Realistic Prospect of Canadian LNG Supplies to EU–and PM Trudeau’s Gov’t Likes it That Way

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “An LNG tanker is guided by tug boats at the Cheniere Sabine Pass LNG export unit in Cameron Parish, La., on April 14, 2022.”)

Further to this February post,

Odds on Canadian LNG some Day for Germany/EU?

the answer still looks like very poor, in the face of current federal government’s apathy, if not downright (covert) hostility. From the Globe and Mail:

Natural-gas prices under pressure from soaring U.S. demand

Brent Jang

U.S. natural-gas prices have hit their highest level in 14 years as North American producers scramble to replenish supplies with demand soaring and storage levels declining.

As Europe seeks to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, the United States has been increasing its exports of liquefied natural gas to European markets. U.S. spot prices have almost tripled over the past year, spiking even higher after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

“Europe is very hungry for natural gas, especially since they have to displace Russian gas,” said Darren Gee, chief executive officer at Calgary-based Peyto Exploration and Development Corp…

The United States, the world’s largest producer of natural gas, edged out Qatar and Australia earlier this year to become the planet’s biggest exporter of LNG.

Demand for natural gas is expected to continue rising in the years ahead in North America, with the fuel going to additional LNG export terminals in the United States and the first one set to open in Canada.LNG Canada’s $18-billion terminal is under construction in Kitimat, B.C., with the goal to begin exports to Asia in 2025 in what would be Canada’s first site for shipping the fuel on ocean-bound LNG vessels…

On the East Coast, Pieridae Energy Ltd. is hoping its much-delayed Goldboro LNG project in Nova Scotia will finally forge ahead with construction within a year and begin exporting LNG to Europe in 2027 [see post noted at start of this one].

Industry analysts say East Coast proposals hinge largely on whether the federal government intervenes and provides incentives for TC Energy Corp. to upgrade and expand its pipeline system in Ontario and Quebec, in order to make it possible to transport sufficient amounts of natural gas from Alberta to the East Coast.

Canada is the world’s sixth-largest natural-gas producer, yet LNG proposals are stalled. Pieridae CEO Alfred Sorensen said Ottawa could help speed up the regulatory process on the pipeline side. “The federal government has to do something to convince TC Energy,” Mr. Sorensen said.

But the federal government has indicated that it’s up to LNG proponents to figure out ways to overcome pipeline constraints [emphasis added].

“Project investment decisions will be made by proponents based on their ability to comply with federal and provincial regulatory standards while competing within the global market,” said Ian Cameron, director of communications for Jonathan Wilkinson, the federal Natural Resources Minister.

Follow Brent Jang on Twitter: @brentcjang

Pitiful eco-warriors in in-action. Relevant tweets:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Germany, Ukraine and Russia: What Is To Be Done? The Habermas Factor

Extracts from an article, by a favourite historian and (to use a horrid term) public intellectual, with some complex argumentation and moral considerations–at the New Statesman:

After the Zeitenwende: Jürgen Habermas and Germany’s new identity crisis

The 92-year-old philosopher has warned Germans not to allow anger at Russia and admiration for Ukraine to displace their country’s hard-won focus on dialogue and peace.

By Adam Tooze [his webpage here]

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has upended world politics and nowhere more so than in Germany. Addressing an emergency session of the Bundestag on 27 February, German chancellor Olaf Scholz declared a Zeitenwende, a turning point in history. Russia’s attack on Ukraine meant Europe and Germany had entered a new age…

More than anywhere else in the West, the entire German intellectual class, and every TV talk show and newspaper has been mobilised to debate and criticise Germany’s performance. The situation has been aggravated after Volodymyr Zelensky’s attack on Germany’s long-running détente with Russia in a speech to the Bundestag in March and a stream of remarkably forthright comments from Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin. You can tell matters are becoming really serious because Jürgen Habermas, the 92-year old doyen of German philosophy and political commentary, has entered the ring, for once on the side of the government.

Russia’s aggression poses such fundamental questions for Germany because the nation in its current form owes its existence to the peaceful end of the Cold War that enabled reunification. The success of 1989-90 was prepared by almost two decades of Ostpolitik, in which trade and détente with the Soviet Union worked to draw back the Iron Curtain. Maintaining good relations with Moscow has always meant making a pact with the devil, first with the repressive Soviet regime in the 1970s and 1980s and then with Vladimir Putin since the 2000s. After Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and after the poisoning of Alexei Navalny in 2020, Berlin has repeatedly shrugged and carried on. But Putin’s assault on Ukraine and Ukraine’s remarkable resistance have made that approach impossible.

The question is particularly explosive because in the late 1960s it was Chancellor Scholz’s party, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), then led by the charismatic Willy Brandt, that launched Ostpolitik. Détente runs deep in the SPD, as personified by Gerhard Schröder, ex-chancellor and unrepentant chairman of the board at Russian state oil firm Rosneft [a recent post: “Gorgeous Gerhard’s Embrace of Bad Vlad“]. But the attachment is not confined to the social democrats. Voices on the German right have long favoured a modus vivendi with Russia, whether under the Tsar, the Soviets or now under Putin. For them, Bismarck is the model in balancing between East and West…And, as has become embarrassingly clear in recent months, there is a general disregard on many sides in Berlin for the national rights of “smaller” east European states – notably Poland and Ukraine – that have the misfortune to find themselves wedged between Germany and Russia [emphasis added]. Meanwhile, German industrial firms such as Siemens look back on 150 years of doing profitable business in Russia, relations which they are unwilling to have disrupted by a bagatelle like the annexation of Crimea.

…In 2022, Habermas…again fears a recrudescence of the right under the mantle of enthusiasm for Ukraine’s resistance. And once again his long and thoughtful article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on 28 April has been met with a storm of disapproval. As has often been the case, this outrage has been given a platform in the pages of the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. This time Habermas stands accused of defending a battered and discredited tradition of West German politics, conniving with Putin, and clinging to old nostrums about nuclear war while patronising the Ukrainians and their supporters among younger generations of Germans.

…Every right-thinking person can clearly agree that Putin’s aggression must not be allowed to succeed. But we should also agree that a war with Russia is unthinkable. Russia is a nuclear power and escalation is an appalling risk. Any good-faith political intervention, Habermas insists, must squarely face this dilemma.

For the West, Habermas wrote, “having made the decision to not intervene in this conflict as a belligerent, there is a risk threshold that precludes an unrestrained commitment to the armament of Ukraine… Those who ignore this threshold and continue aggressively and self-assuredly to push the German chancellor towards it have either overlooked or not understood the dilemma into which this war has plunged the West… because the West, with its morally well-grounded decision to not become a party in this war, has tied its own hands.”

In light of this dilemma, the impatience of Scholz’s critics, who include not just Ukrainian spokespeople and right-wing hawks, but many former pacifists in the ranks of the Green party, is not innocent. What is being called into question, Habermas fears, is “the broad pro-dialogue, peace-keeping focus of German policy”, which should never be taken for granted. It was hard won and, as Habermas notes, has “repeatedly been denounced from the right”…

Ukraine is at the stage of making a nation state, Germany is well beyond that. In checking their spontaneous reactions of enthusiasm and solidarity with Ukraine, Germans and the rest of us in the West would be well advised to consider this gap and what it implies. We thrill to the heroism of the Ukrainians, which puts into stark relief the deflated state of our own politics. But our post-heroic culture cannot simply be cast off in disgust. It is a logical historical effect of the Nato umbrella that we continue to live under. Ukraine’s desperate courage, on the other hand, is a reflection of the fact that it does not. Under those circumstances, Habermas asks, “is it not a form of pious self-deception to bank on a Ukrainian victory against Russia’s murderous form of warfare without taking up arms yourself? The bellicose rhetoric is inconsistent with the bleachers from which it is delivered.”

…One might say that Habermas is urging us to figure out the politics of allyship on the international stage and under the shadow of the nuclear threat.

What is clear is that we must find a constructive way out of the dilemma posed by the war, a way out that must, as Habermas says in his final line, be defined by one basic aspiration: “Ukraine ‘must not lose’ this war.” Its project of building a nation state must continue.

For Europe itself the task is different. What the contrast with Ukraine ought to reveal is not so much the lack of a properly heroic national identity, but the lack of post-national capacities at the EU level. As Habermas remarks, there is a reason why those who have declared a historic turning point are those who have for a long time argued that Europe must be able to stand on its own feet militarily if it wants to ensure that its “social and political way of life” is not destabilised from without or hollowed out from within. That would not answer Ukraine’s heroism in kind but it would at least allow Europe to decide on its policy independently both of the US and Russia. Right now, American politicians are falling over themselves to provide tens of billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine in its fight with Russia. That they can agree on that and not on healthcare or climate change policy is a sign of America’s own dysfunction. But what US politics will bring in the near future is anyone’s guess. Soon Europe may be facing a disorientating clash of historical temporalities and political time not in eastern Europe but across the Atlantic. As Habermas reminds us, Macron’s re-election opens another window of opportunity. Will Europe seize it?

Has Putin unintentionally but effectively ended a particular German Sonderweg (the article at the link, by a German, is a very good companion to Adam Tooze’s piece)? Meanwhile, can the EU ever really get its defence/foreign policy act together?

UPDATE: Very relevant tweet:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

No Exit, or, the Absurdities of Northern Ireland’s Existential Realities

From an article in The Atlantic by a northern Englishman (County Durham):

The Truth About Irish Unity

The knottiness of Northern Ireland is by design. Remaining stuck is the only way the place works.

By Tom McTague

Three seismic events have occurred in one go in Northern Ireland. One, for the first time in Northern Ireland’s 100-year existence, an Irish nationalist party placed first in an election—and not just any nationalist party, but Sinn Fein, the longtime political wing of the Irish Republican Army. Two, the Alliance Party, which challenges the traditional Protestant-Catholic division that has defined Northern Ireland since its inception, scored its best-ever result and has now established itself as a genuine third force in Northern Irish politics [more on the elections here]. And three, the great political row that has dominated Northern Irish politics since Brexit—over the so-called protocol establishing new border controls—was tested with the public, and while those that oppose it have hardened in their opposition, a majority voted for parties that are fine with it.

The truth of Thursday’s [May 5] elections, then, is surely that the reunification of the island of Ireland is now more likely, and that Northern Ireland will finally be able to put to bed the divisions over Brexit and move on. Right? Wrong [emphasis added].

…The knottiness of Northern Ireland is by design. Remaining stuck is the only way the place works.

Two inescapable truths continue to govern Northern Ireland. The first is that while Sinn Fein emerged ahead of all other parties in Thursday’s election, a sizable majority of the electorate is still in favor of remaining part of the United Kingdom rather than joining the Republic of Ireland [emphasis added]. The second is that the Northern Ireland that exists is a strange, unfair, and largely dysfunctional place that works only when both its nationalist and unionist communities consent to the system governing it. While more people are now voting for the third-way Alliance Party, which argues that other bread-and-butter issues matter more than unionism or nationalism, for now, Northern Ireland’s political and constitutional reality remains unchanged.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, power must be shared between the two largest designations elected to the Northern Irish Assembly, which has thus far been made up of blocs identifying as unionist and nationalist. Until those that declare themselves “other”—such as the Alliance Party—finish in the top two, it doesn’t matter whether a nationalist or union party finishes first or second, because they must share power with the other.

This reality most directly affects the future of the Northern Irish protocol agreed upon by the United Kingdom and the European Union in 2019 as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit divorce deal. Under the terms of this agreement, a trade-and-customs border was erected between Northern Ireland and mainland Great Britain (that is, within the same country), in order to avoid one being imposed between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (that is, between two different states that share the same island). Ever since, Northern Ireland’s unionist parties have fiercely resisted this protocol, arguing that it is unfair because it prioritizes the wishes of one community in Northern Ireland (nationalists) over the other (unionists). In Thursday’s elections two things happened, each pulling in the opposite direction. First, parties that supported the protocol won more votes than parties that opposed it. But second, among the unionist parties that oppose it, it was the most hardline of the parties that increased its share of the vote at the expense of the others [emphasis added–on the unionists: “Many of the DUP’s votes were lost to Jim Allister’s Traditional Unionists Voice (TUV). This hard-line unionist party increased their share of the vote by 5.1% to reach a total of 7.6%].

And so we are back to where we have always been when it comes to Northern Ireland, with everything upended in theory but nothing changing in practice. Once again, we have fallen down the rabbit hole of the Northern Irish border problem into a world of the absurd…

One side, led by the EU, holds up the protocol as an almost sanctified document that must be adhered to in order to keep the peace in Northern Ireland. Without it, this side argues, checks on goods moving between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland would have to take place on the land border, stirring up the resentment of Irish nationalists, and therefore undermining support for the political settlement established by the Good Friday Agreement. Yet the protocol has never been implemented in full, because to do so would cause such disruption that it would further stir up the resentment of unionists, therefore undermining support for the political settlement established by the Good Friday Agreement.

In essence, then, the protocol is held up by one side as an agreement necessary to keep the peace, but has never been implemented in full because to do so would undermine the peace [emphasis added]. (The truth is, neither the U.K. nor the EU has ever fully implemented the protocol: The British government has unilaterally extended “grace periods” for businesses to avoid disruption, while the EU has agreed not to implement parts of the protocol that would restrict the flow of medical supplies from Britain to Northern Ireland.) Yet because it has not been implemented in full, the situation has never become so intolerable that anyone has actually changed it. This is a look-the-other-way solution where everyone acknowledges that the agreement cannot be enforced or scrapped.

The fear, though, is that the situation cannot last much longer. As of today, Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party, the most successful unionist bloc in Thursday’s election, have six months to set up a new power-sharing executive (a Northern Irish government, essentially) before the British government imposes direct rule from London and sets a date for another round of elections to break the deadlock. Again: The British government would call elections to break a deadlock over a deal that is essential to security but that cannot be implemented because it would undermine security [emphasis added].

To find a way through the crisis, Johnson is flirting with the idea of passing a law giving the British government the power to bypass bits of the protocol it considers intolerable. Such a move, critics argue, would be a breach of international law. Proponents counter that the British government has obligations to two international agreements that are now in conflict: the Good Friday Agreement and the protocol. To maintain the former, the latter will have to change. To balance such a move, some experts believe the British government will offer concessions to Irish nationalists that have, so far, been blocked by unionists. By granting concessions to both sides, officials hope that a route through the crisis might be found. If you’re confused, that is because the whole issue is so fiendishly complicated that nobody has managed to solve it in the six years since Britain voted to leave the EU.

The truth, as has always been the case in Northern Ireland, is that the choice is between compromise and chaos…The final compromise itself matters less than the fact that everybody—the EU, Britain, the Republic of Ireland, and the two (or three) sides in Northern Ireland—must be equally unhappy with it. Only once everyone is somewhat aggrieved will the solution be somewhat tenable.

Northern Ireland can feel like a land where raw power and violence still matter in a way that should not be the case in a modern state. Yet in many ways, it is also a deeply unreal place, where the politics of make-believe is the only thing that works: where democracy is real, but not really; where peace settlements rule, but do not settle anything; and where sectarian division is lamented, but entrenched by the system lauded by all. It is a place where Irish nationalists win but are no closer to Irish unity; where unionists lose but are no less powerful; and where clean, rational solutions that look good on paper need to become dirty, irrational compromises that look terrible on inspection if they are to stand a chance of working.

Another way to sum up Northern Ireland (following a theme in the title of the post): “Brexit but no Brexit”. Simultaneously. Nationalists and Unionists trapped together. Crazy, man. Good luck squaring all those circles without violence at some point.

UPDATE: Latest on results at the BBC, note Sinn Fein did not actually gain seats:

NI election results 2022: What does Sinn Féin’s vote success mean?

Plus aJuly 2021post based on a piece by the superb Fintan O’Toole:

Northern Ireland, or, BoJo is Making a right Mash of Brexit, Links to Bangers Section

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Theme song, with “the echo of the Thompson gun”:

Angela Merkel: Despite All the Skill and Achievement, Failing to Grasp the Big Putin Picture

Extracts from an article at the New York Review of Books by an exceptional Irish journalist:

The Last of Her Kind

Fintan O’Toole

Angela Merkel emerged from the ruins of the Eastern bloc as a spectacular example of the way the collapse of an old regime might create a much more benign sense of opportunity.

…there is something magical in the way a young woman who had never had a meaningful vote, who had no political experience and no rhetorical skills, could, scarcely more than a year after the fall of the wall, be a full member of the federal cabinet governing the European Union’s most powerful state…

The Chancellor, Kati Marton’s elegant, concise, and accessible biography of Merkel, is a portrait not just of a person but of a kind of centrist and consensual politics that once seemed drab but now has the fascination of an almost extinct species. Merkel made a kind of decency that could be viewed as dull feel almost exotic. Once, it might have seemed in postwar Europe that careful, patient, managerial politicians who wanted nothing more or less than to make things work as well as possible without threatening existing structures were a dime a dozen. Now the fear that hangs over Western and Central Europe is that Merkel was the last of that tribe. She has departed in a cloud not of glory but of anxiety. Putin made sure that Merkel’s era would recede into the past with dizzying rapidity.

…Her father, Horst Kasner, a stern and idealistic Lutheran pastor, moved his family [from Hamburg] to the East just after she was born, settling in the small town of Templin, fifty miles north of Berlin, in 1954…

…Merkel’s entire personality is that of a survivor (rather than a dissident) in a totalitarian state: careful, nonconfrontational, watchful. Her gift for political compromise was that of a girl who learned how to function simultaneously as a loyal believer in her father’s Lutheran Church (an awkward presence in an atheist state) and as a member of the official Communist youth movement. Living in a country with perhaps the most thorough system of official surveillance ever created in Europe, she learned to have an inner life, a secret self that she almost never betrayed, even when she had one of the most public jobs in the world.

…She entered the Western world as an immigrant among “foreign company,” with all the alertness and self-control of the émigré. And she deployed the cold cunning of the supreme political opportunist. This was learned, no doubt, in the GDR, where she developed the habit of steely calculation in order to avoid the dangers of being either an informer or a dissident.

Certainly by the time she entered public life, in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the wall, Merkel had a knack for cool political patricide. Lothar de Maizière, the first and last democratically elected prime minister of the GDR, brought her into high-level politics by making her deputy spokesperson for his government. It was he who recommended Merkel to Kohl, who was then looking for an East German woman to fill the “soft” position of minister for women and youth in the federal government of the newly united state. These were, as de Maizière wryly noted, “two subjects Angela really did not care about at all,” but the position nonetheless made her, at thirty-six, the youngest minister in German history. Yet when de Maizière was falsely accused of having been a Stasi informant, Merkel did nothing to help her mentor. And in 1998, when Kohl was caught up in a scandal concerning illegal donations to his campaigns, it was Merkel who acted as his political assassin. Kohl had patronizingly referred to his protégée as his Mädchen—girl. He learned the hard way that she was a girl with a razor up her sleeve.

The mastery of these weapons made Merkel the most formidable democratic politician in Europe and allowed her to accumulate the authority with which she held the EU together…

…this self-image as a hardheaded pragmatist, concerned only with the pursuit of the best available outcomes, obscured the importance of her heritage as the daughter of a Lutheran pastor. At one of the crucial moments of contemporary European history, she behaved essentially as a religious moralist. Part of the problem was that she never seemed to understand this about herself.

It is, in retrospect, deeply ironic that Merkel was at her most narrowly pragmatic in dealing with Putin and at her most punitive in her approach toward fellow citizens of EU democracies. With Russia, even after its annexation of Crimea in 2014, she was all business, to the extent of believing that depending on Putin for Germany’s supplies of natural gas was just a commonsense calculation of mutual economic interests. Yet in the crisis of the eurozone following the great banking crash of 2008, Merkel treated an economic and political problem as if it were a test of moral righteousness. She threw her weight behind a division of the EU into good creditors (Germany and the other Northern European nations) and bad debtors (the so-called PIIGS: Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain). Marton usefully reminds us that in German, the word for debt—Schuld—is the same as that for guilt. Those countries whose banks had borrowed recklessly were guilty; those (like, of course, Germany) whose banks had lent recklessly were innocent. And the sinners must be punished—ordinary citizens of the debtor nations should be made to suffer so they would learn a lesson they would never forget.

This way of defining the crisis suited Germany, but it had nasty consequences for Merkel’s larger ambition to unify Europe. The imposition of drastic austerity measures prolonged and deepened the economic recession. Merkel, meanwhile, did very little to counter the impression that Germany was taking charge and dictating terms…

…the moralization of the debt crisis could also feed, in Germany itself, a self-pitying narrative in which the frugal, responsible Germans were being taken for a ride by the feckless Southern Europeans. This was the founding mentality of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which emerged to challenge Merkel in 2013, and it subsequently fused with anti-immigrant sentiment to create a more virulent form of grievance that propelled the far right into the Bundestag for the first time since the fall of the Nazis.

Hence the larger paradox of the Merkel era: the leadership of a centrist Christian Democrat as the undisputed first among equals in the EU coincided with the loss of Christian Democracy’s dominance of the right-of-center space in European politics. The rise of far-right parties like the AfD, the League in Italy, Poland’s Law and Justice, the National Rally in France, Spain’s Vox, and Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz in Hungary has created a profound identity crisis in what used to be the dominant conservative parties, leaving them unsure whether they should fight against what Orbán calls “illiberal democracy” or shore up their own support by embracing it. In a short essay on Merkel’s departure, Orbán claimed that while Kohl had been “a dear, old friend, a Christian brother,” Merkel had created a “rupture” on the European right by supporting the “migratory invasion” of 2015…

The wider question Merkel has left unanswered is whether it is possible, in the new wartime that Putin has inaugurated, for a leader of the democratic world to combine ambition and vision on the one hand with modesty and decency on the other. She mattered so deeply because she had no interest in what has animated Putin and so many of his fellow nationalist authoritarians: the pursuit of greatness. The promise to make Russia (or America or Britain or China) great again has been at the core of reactionary politics over the past decade.

Merkel always knew that Germany, above all, must not be great…

Must, however, the eschewal of greatness involve the loss of any sense of large-scale and long-term purpose? Merkel once described herself as being “as focused and as concentrated as a tightrope walker, only thinking about the next step.” No one walked the high wire as sure-footedly as she did—and even after sixteen years she had not fallen off but chose to dismount gracefully. But that exclusive focus on thinking about the next step also meant that she had little sense of what might await at the end of the rope.

Nowhere was this more true than in her relations with Putin. In the crisis that followed his annexation of Crimea in 2014, Merkel became the West’s Putin whisperer. She spoke to him, according to Marton, thirty-eight times during that crisis and did more than anyone else to create the Minsk accords, which established the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty as a mutually recognized goal. They were a great testament to her skill, tenacity, and selfless care for the lives of those who would be threatened by a wider war. But they barely outlasted her chancellorship.

It has not taken long for Europe to pay Merkel the tribute of becoming painfully aware of both what she achieved and what she left unresolved, of what she meant to the defense of democracy and the fragile condition in which she left it. In The Life of Galileo, her compatriot Bertolt Brecht has the young Andrea sigh, “Unhappy the land that has no heroes!” and Galileo reply, “No. Unhappy the land that needs heroes.” For much of her remarkable career, Merkel was the marvelous exemplar of happily unheroic leadership. Now Western Europe finds itself very unhappily in need not of a swaggering hero, but of someone who can, in a suddenly altered world, fill her silences with urgency and purpose.

Meanwhile on the Macron front:

Earlier posts based on Mr O’Toole are here

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds


How Putin Has Made Ukraine Truly Ukrainian (plus Bad Vlad vs the EU too)

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “…Odesa…where The Globe met restauranteur Daniel Salem, a volunteer with Ukraine’s National Guard. The patch on his gear reads ‘don’t make Mama nervous,’ a common phrase in the city.Anton Skyba/The Globe and Mail”.)

Further to this post in late January based on a story by Mark MacKinnon, the Globe and Mail’s excellent senior international correspondent,

Ukraine: With Whom Might Kharkiv Stand?

we had had a very clear answer. This post provides selections from a major article by the same correspondent:

It took 20 years of covering Ukraine to prepare me for three weeks of war. I’ll be back to see what happens next

After dangerous assignments from Kyiv to Odesa, it was time for me to take a break – but leaving was still agony. This is what I saw, and how Ukraine’s hopes for freedom and Putin’s dreams of a ‘Russian World’ brought them to this moment

Mark MacKinnon Senior International Correspondent

Odesa and London

The first time I landed in Kyiv was in December of 2002. Back then another war loomed – the U.S. invasion of Iraq – and I had been sent to the Ukrainian capital to investigate reports that then-president Leonid Kuchma’s Russian-backed government had sold sophisticated radar systems to the regime of Saddam Hussein, in contravention of United Nations sanctions.

I remember the reporting less than I do wandering through Kyiv in the evenings. I watched an outdoor concert in the city’s historic Podil neighbourhood, where the musicians played songs by Russian bands like DDT, Kino and Splean. Then I strolled back to my hotel along the city’s main Khreshchatyk Street, past protest stickers that read “Ukraine without Kuchma” – a call for the country to hold free and fair elections.

With its blocky Soviet architecture, domed Orthodox cathedrals and a population that primarily spoke Russian, it was easy to see why many Russians considered Kyiv (or Kiev, as we spelled it back then, using the transliteration from Russian) to be a lost part of their own country. Mr. Putin certainly felt that way, as did the man he and Mr. Kuchma were both supporting to be the next president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.

It’s arguable that 20 years ago, shortly after Mr. Putin first came to power in the Kremlin, something of a “Russky Mir” – a “Russian World” that looked to Moscow for leadership – existed across much of the former Soviet Union, including Ukraine. Mr. Putin believes this is what the U.S. and the West, with their meddling and their democracy promotion, stole from him over the past two decades. And this is perhaps the main reason he has chosen to go to war against a country and a Ukrainian people that Mr. Putin referred to as being “one” with Russia and Russians in an essay published last summer.

In laid-back Kyiv, it always felt like it was Mr. Putin, with his autocratic and imperialistic politics, who was pushing Ukraine away [emphasis added]. One of his first visits to the country as Russian President was to oversee a Soviet-style military parade through the streets of Kyiv, a city that associated the USSR with murderous repression.

Standing in the gently falling snow one evening during that first reporting trip to Ukraine, I called my foreign editor and jokingly suggested that we move our bureau from Moscow – where I lived at the time – to Kyiv, a city I had quickly fallen in love with. We both laughed. There wasn’t enough news happening in Ukraine to justify it.

…Along with Ukrainian photographer Anton Skyba, I flew in late January [2022] to Kharkiv, a Russian-speaking city in the east of the country that military analysts felt would swiftly fall to Mr. Putin’s forces, which had been amassing around the country since April last year.

The Kharkiv I discovered [note post at start of this one] was determinedly preparing a resistance that has since stunned Russia and the world. We met businessmen, lawyers and scientists who were learning to handle weapons and defend their homes. The city’s high-tech industry was pumping out drones for use against Russian tanks and artillery. Kharkiv, just 30 kilometres from the Russian border, knew well what life was like on Mr. Putin’s side of the frontier and didn’t want to be a part of that. The city’s fierce resistance has helped change the script of this war, from an expected Russian blitzkrieg to a war of attrition that’s taking an enormous toll on both sides [emphasis added].

Later, we drove to the northern city of Chernihiv, near Ukraine’s border with Belarus, and watched more civilianshold automatic rifles for the first time as they prepared for a Russian assault from the north, through Belarus, a country where many in Chernihiv have relatives. The city’s refusal to capitulate, despite an increasingly cruel siege, has prevented Russia from fully encircling Kyiv, just 150 kilometres to the south…

Every now and again, someone asks me what the happiest story I’ve ever reported on was. My answer has long been the Orange Revolution in 2004, which saw Ukrainians take to the streets to demand a genuine election, rather than the sort of stage-managed farce that Mr. Putin’s regime in Russia had by then already perfected.

The revolution was slow to get going – I remember an awkward conversation in October of that year with my editor, who wondered what had happened to the massive popular uprising I predicted – but it rapidly swelled as more and more Ukrainians realized they were not alone in their disgust with Mr. Kuchma, Mr. Yanukovych and Mr. Putin.

Many years before air-raid sirens became the standard wake-up call in Kyiv, I would open my eyes each morning in November and December of 2004 to chants of “Yush-chen-ko!” for Viktor Yushchenko, the pro-Western politician who had become the face of the uprising after surviving a poisoning attempt that many believe was masterminded in the Kremlin. The Orange Revolution was named after the colour used by Mr. Yushchenko’s campaign.

After more than two months of non-stop peaceful protests on Kyiv’s central Independence Square, better known now as the Maidan, Mr. Yushchenko and his supporters got what they wanted – a fairly held runoff vote, which gave Mr. Yushchenko a clear win over Mr. Yanukovych.

The celebrations on the Maidan were joyous. Though Western embassies in Kyiv had provided behind-the-scenes support to the pro-democracy demonstrations [emphasis added], it was nonetheless fair to say that people power and hope had won out over cynicism and authoritarianism.

If you looked at geopolitics as a real-life game of Risk – as many in Washington and Moscow did and do, overlooking the will of the Ukrainian people – the West had wrested an important country out of the Kremlin’s orbit and moved another chip into the territory of the former Soviet Union [emphasis added–and Putin has never forgiven]. But the modern struggle for Ukraine was only beginning…

After [recently] leaving Ukraine on foot, I was given a seat on a second minibus that took 10 of us – six women, three girls and me – to the first refugee camp inside Moldova, another corner of the former Soviet Union…

The Russian World that Mr. Putin dreams of existed here, or at least it could have [see this post from Dec. 2021: “Those Exceptional Americans just don’t get that Exceptional Russian Mentalité–plus Bad Vlad on the History of Russians and Little Russians (er, Ukrainians)“]. But rather than building a Russia that the former Soviet republics looked to with admiration, Mr. Putin repeatedly resorted to intimidation and violence. If there is a Russian World now, it detests the Russia they see attacking its cities, destroying its treasures, killing its people and forcing the survivors to flee their homes.

I sat on a bench in the refugee camp and watched as the Russian-speaking Ukrainians – the very people Mr. Putin sent his armies to “rescue” – clambered onto the waiting buses. All of them were headed west.

Plus from another Globe correspondent on heading west broadly conceived:

The freedom and wealth of the EU threaten Putin as much as NATO does

Eric Reguly European bureau chief



Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Odds on Canadian LNG some Day for Germany/EU?

I wouldn’t wager on it however sensible it may be economically and in terms of foreign policy–but at least the current government is making some non-negative noises (UPDATE: no longer, see tweets at end of the post).

Further to this post,

Ukraine Crisis: No Canadian LNG Exports, or, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”

an opinion piece at the National Post:

John Ivison: How Canada can keep Europe’s lights on

John Ivison

…Russia supplies one third of the gas that heats homes across Europe.

Even as Putin cleared the way for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Western countries were still purchasing hundreds of millions of dollars of oil and gas from Russia. Germany has halted approval for the NordStream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea but NordStream 1 is still piping gas and Putin has promised “uninterrupted supply” — for now at least.

Germany, which relies on Russia for 27 per cent of its natural gas (even as it decommissions its nuclear plants and ends coal-fired electricity generation) knows that Putin could weaponize the supply of gas at any time. The solution to this point has been to pay a premium to divert an armada of American LNG that was bound for Asia.

But Germany and others have been desperate to seek out long-term alternatives, providing Canada with the opportunity to strengthen the weak hands of the democracies aligned against the Russian leader [Canada is the world’s fourth largest producer of natural gas but all our exports go to the US by pipeline–one facility to export LNG might be ready on the west coast in 2023, but aimed at Asian market].

The read-out from a call between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Germany’s new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, revealed that the two men discussed “the potential for future cooperation on liquified natural gas [emphasis added].”

That was curious because Canada has no ability to export LNG from its Atlantic (or Pacific) coast.

It also suggested a less dogmatic approach to fossil fuels from a Liberal government that has been openly hostile to the energy industry in recent years, creating an environment of such regulatory uncertainty that investment has shrivelled.

There have been other signs of a new-found enthusiasm for fossil fuels. Jonathan Wilkinson, the natural resources minister, told the Empire Club this month that supplying LNG to a country like Germany is an area where Canada could “potentially fill a huge void in a manner that actually helps security and stability [emphasis added].”

The heightened interest in LNG comes just as a Calgary-based company, Pieridae Energy, is reviving plans to build a floating LNG facility at Goldboro, off the coast of Nova Scotia, six days closer to Europe than the Gulf Coast refineries in the U.S.

Thom Dawson, senior VP marketing and business development at Pieridae, said the project would employ under-used existing pipeline capacity that formerly connected the old Sable offshore energy project shutdown by ExxonMobil three years ago. An original $10 billion proposal to build a land-based facility to supply Germany with seven per cent of its daily needs was abandoned as the price of gas slumped, but it has been re-instituted as a more modest, floating $2-billion project, as prices have recovered.

Dawson said the biggest single issue for everyone in the industry in North America is regulatory risk and so the company is seeking indications from the federal government that the project would be considered in the national interest [emphasis added].

“We would like the government to be upfront about what it is going to support or not support before spending that kind of money,” he said.

All the pipelines exist to get the gas from Alberta to Nova Scotia, Dawson said, but, depending on the volume of natural gas to be shipped, certain parts of the pipeline infrastructure may need additional capacity.

Some approvals might prove more problematic than others, given the hard line taken by François Legault’s Quebec government on fossil fuel projects. The $14 billion GNL Quebec gas pipeline in the Saguenay region was nixed after the province decided it would not lower greenhouse gas emissions [see tweet at bottom of the post].

Pieridae believes it could ship enough LNG to Germany within 48 months to supply three per cent of its gas requirements [emphasis adder, bit of a drop in the bucket]

One senior federal government source said the Pieridae project is considered “real and viable” but it is too early to give a definitive answer.

…there are…voices around the federal cabinet table who want the government to depress demand for Canadian fossil fuels.

Back in the real world — the one where Canada has promised to act in solidarity with its allies in the face of Russia’s brazen violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty — helping to keep the lights on in Europe should be a foreign policy priority.

Another relevant post:

Europe over an LNG Tank–Pity None Available from Canada

And that Quebec tweet:




Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Putin vs Ukraine and the West? When will Europe Wake Up?

Julian French-Lindley opens this piece with a horrifically graphic account of the start on an all-out war begun by Russia and follows with three scenarios as to how the current crisis may go. He then discusses the X factor of the PRC and the dilemma presented by ongoing major threats in both the Indo-Pacific and Europe. The following in his conclusion:

Frozen War: The Whiff of Munich?

Ukraine, Europe and the fall of Singapore

Eighty years ago today British Imperial and Dominion forces surrendered to their Japanese conquerors.  It was perhaps the worst British military defeat in history.  Much has been written about the fall of Singapore and the incompetence that led to it. The real reason was that by 1942 Britain was heavily engaged in multiple theatres from the Atlantic to North Africa and was simply unable to defend the eastern Empire [and Australians have never forgotten and have relied on the US for security back-up ever since–see this piece at the Australian Strategic Policy Instute]… 

Singapore became a metaphor for decline and marked the real beginning of the end of the British Empire which by 1942 had become a hollowed out façade of power. Ukraine? In late 2010, I sat on a podium next to British Minister of Defence Philip Hammond at the Riga Conference. In my hand was an empty tube of Pringles crisps (chips in American) which I held upside down. David Cameron and Hammond had just slashed the British defence budget right in the middle of a major campaign in Afghanistan in which British forces were engaged in perhaps the most dangerous province, Helmand. The empty tube was to demonstrate the fate of European defence if Western European powers continued to load tasks onto their hard-pressed armed forces whilst slashing their budgets.  Five years ago I made a short movie for the Johann de Witt Conference in Rotterdam to demonstrate to the politicians and others present what a major war in Europe would look like.  Last year, I published a major new Oxford book Future War and the Defence of Europe which warned of just such a crisis.That Putin is even contemplating such a war – frozen or hot – is due in no small part to the strategic illiteracy of too many Western European leaders. Yes, there was the 2008-2010 financial and economic crisis and, yes, we have just faced the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is the disastrous pieties of the post-Cold War which for too long Britain, France and Germany have clung to, which has led Europe into this new age of danger which has just dawned.  It is the profoundly mistaken belief to which for too long political leaders have clung that geo-economics will trump the dark side of geopolitics.  That they need recognise only as much threat as they thought they could afford politically or financially. It is the absence of leadership in Europe which has created the opportunity for Putin to impose his fiat on other Europeans. One can only hope that if Russia does force such a dreadful war upon Ukraine it would finally begin the long overdue bonfire of strategic illusions that has underpinned the denial which has afflicted Western Europe and its leaders. 

The West will not intervene with force in Ukraine but Putin must be seen to pay a heavy price and that means real sanctions and the strengthening of NATO’s defence and deterrence posture so that there is no Alliance bluff Putin can also call. If President Putin succeeds in destroying Ukraine do not for a moment think his ambitions will stop there. Ukraine may be not be the whiff of Munich, but it has the scent of Singapore. It is time for democracies to stand firm, and together.

Plus a related post from September 2021 also based on a piece by Mr French-Lindley:

NATO, the EU and the US in the Not-So-Brave New World after Afghanistan (note UPDATE)

British strategic analyst Julian Lindley-French (his rather impressive “About me” is here) takes on Western European elites in his latest piece. You will note that Canada receives (deservedly in the circumstances) no mention at all; I would hold that what is said about those Euro elites applies to ours in spades…

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Europe over an LNG Tank–Pity None Available from Canada

Another of the Globe and Mail’s excellent foreign correspondents reports from Rome–excerpts (another story in the “Report on Business” that could well be in the main news section):

Europe, fearing war, scours the planet for LNG, but not enough is available to cure the energy crunch

Eric Reguly European bureau chief

Europe is suddenly obsessed with liquefied natural gas, a minor but growing source of imported fuel that could play a key role in keeping the lights on if a Russian invasion of Ukraine triggers a sanctions battle.

Energy-starved Europe is already scouring the planet for LNG shipments to build its gas reserves and try to stop already painful prices from climbing even more. But energy analysts say there is no way Europe would be able to find enough LNG to meet its demands if Russia were to eliminate, or even reduce, gas exports.

“Even before the Russia-Ukraine geopolitical tension, the global LNG market was very tight,” said Jack Sharples, a research fellow with the gas research program at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, in an interview. “We in Europe are not suffering from a physical shortage of gas at the moment, though we are aware that if any particular source of supply were to falter, we would find it difficult to replace it.”

*Canada has the natural gas, but can’t get LNG to Europe [see also tweet at bottom of the post]

LNG is largely an American, Qatari and Australian export phenomenon [emphasis added]

Canadian LNG, he said, would be welcomed in the European and Asian markets. So far, only one Canadian export project, LNG Canada, in Kitimat, B.C., is under construction [see the recent story here, production supposed to start around 2025, and note the problems with some First Nations with construction of the associated Coastal GasLink pipeline]. “If more Canadian projects were to receive the green light, they would find markets with no problem,” he said. “The displacement of gas, a fossil fuel, in the world economy will take decades.”..

Europe, including Britain, is highly dependent on imported gas to meet its energy needs – from heating homes and factories to generating electricity and producing ammonia-based fertilizer. Last year, Europe imported 84 per cent of the gas it required, a third of which came from Russia, its biggest single supplier (Norway is No. 2, followed by Algeria). Most of the gas arrives through pipeline [emphasis added]. According to the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, less than a fifth comes in the form of LNG.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is far more dependent on Russian gas than the rest of the continent. It typically buys 50 per cent or more of its imported gas from Kremlin-controlled Gazprom [emphasis added], the world’s largest stock market-listed gas company, making it Gazprom’s single biggest client.

Were Russia to invade Ukraine, gas would land at the centre of the sanctions campaign…

There simply is not enough LNG worldwide to solve Europe’s problem if a gas war breaks out with Russia. Germany, alone among the big European economies, even lacks an LNG import terminal, suggesting the country took the view that Russian gas would be forever reliable and cheap.

While LNG production and exports are increasing – the United States became the leading exporter of the fuel in December [emphasis added], although Qatar is expanding production quickly, too – most of the world’s LNG plants and import terminals are operating at capacity or close to it.

Europe still imports the vast majority of its gas by pipeline, so even if global LNG supplies were to rise suddenly, there is no guarantee the extra shipments would overcome the continent’s energy shortages. In 2019, total U.S. and Qatari exports of LNG to all markets was less than the amount of gas exported by Russia to Europe.

The European energy crisis will trigger the construction of LNG import terminals. Germany has at least two proposals that could get under way soon, after years of delays…

That tweet (second one):

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds