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Editor's Choice

From the desk of the editor-in-chief
A background for understanding the importance of energy in geopolitics

Henry Kissinger’s World Order

Reading the epilogue of Henry Kissinger’s most recent book World Order, published in August, one realizes why Kissinger the historian is dominated and steered by Kissinger the man of politics. As he writes, “the crisis in the concept of the world order (is) the ultimate international problem of our days.” This thesis, according to its author, has driven him to investigate thoroughly the various forms, institutions, and understandings of world order that have unfolded historically – e.g. the European, the Islamic, the Chinese, the American – alongside the ways in which these have interacted with and clashed with one another, their transformations, and their effects and legacies, in many cases lasting into the present. 

Formally, Kissinger is tracing a historical development, but at its core, his presentation is built around questions of the present put to the past, as if he were combing the historical record for loose ends that could be used to tie future knots and mend future fissures. The politician commands the historian to write, as if the television, with the day’s current events, is left to run in the background. These events are indeed seen in a new light upon reading Kissinger’s exposition. And here perhaps is his book’s special value for Europe, where many still dare not ask the questions already being aired on other continents regarding the new world order or world orders. 

Henry Kissinger "World Order", Penguin Press 2014 (ISBN 978-241-00426-5)

Down-to-earth

American gas to the rescue?

“American Gas to the Rescue? The Impact of US LNG Exports on European Security and Russian Foreign Policy” is the title of a new study released by the SIPA Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, headed by President Obama’s former staff member Jason Bordoff. The study, which in many ways corroborates the findings and analysis in the recently published report “The Russian Energy Matrix,” by the European gas expert Jonathan Stern at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, represents a milestone in this discussion. Its value lies especially in the fact that it dispenses completely with the kind of unsubstantiated, politicized rhetoric that has clouded so much of the discussion on both sides of the Atlantic, and instead realistically analyses the prospects and potential ramifications of future US LNG exports.

Second gas accord between RUSSIA and CHINA

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

In connection with the strategic vulnerability and uncertainty that many expect will increasingly color European reliance on Russian gas in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, experts have repeatedly emphasized that the gas delivery contracts between Russia and China, which will account for up to 38 bcm (billion cubic meters) annually, will be fulfilled with gas stored in eastern Siberia, while gas destined for Europe will be kept in western Siberian tanks. The implication has been that, because Russia needs to offload its western stores exclusively to European customers, Europe will not have to compete with China and will additionally be able to place the Russian government under pressure by diversifying its supply sources. 

However, a recently released transcript of a conversation between Russian president Putin and Gazprom head Alexei Miller indicates that Gazprom plans to sign an additional supply contract with China in November in Beijing, this time for at least 30 bcm, although figures as high as 100bcm have been floated. The novelty here is that this gas will be taken from western Siberia. The clear political message is that Russia, which currently exports 160 bcm into the EU annually, can easily compensate for reductions in demand.   

"...

ALEXEI MILLER: We plan to sign a contract for a volume of 30 billion cubic metres for 30 years, though the talks have also looked at other figures for new contracts concluded for the western route. We are looking at the possibilities for supplying 60 billion cubic metres or up to 100 billion cubic metres of gas to China.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: As far as I know, the western route could be even easier to build and operate than the eastern route.

ALEXEI MILLER: This is certainly the case. The western route has two advantages. First, it would use the existing gas transport system in western Siberia, and second, western Siberia has no need to build gas chemical or gas processing facilities. In this sense, the amount of investment that would be needed for the western route is less than what is needed for the eastern route.

On the other hand, the potential is enormous. It is even greater than in Eastern Siberia and, without a doubt, we can increase the volume of gas supplies very quickly via the western route, depending on the growth in demand in the Chinese market.

..."

Downplaying the Russia-China partnership in the context of gas contracts in May, the Finacial Times has described Putin’s role in this development only as that of the “useful idiot”, today it proposes that Western sanctions have helped Russia overcome its “strategic paranoia” vis-à-vis China.

A political message to be sure, although questions regarding the price China stands to pay for its new gas deliveries as well as its future role in Russian resource exploitation remain open...

Back to the Future

A NEW DIMENSION: RUSSIA AND THE WORLD ORDER

Sergey Karaganov publishes the foreign policy journal Russia in Global Affairs and is one of the Kremlin’s top foreign policy advisors, consistently echoing its official line. In summarizing for the Financial Times his latest article, in which he discusses the current world-political situation and relations between Russia and the EU, Karaganov (“Western delusions triggered this conflict and Russians will not yield”) concludes that the West has lost both its direction and its moral compass. 

For those who want a better sense of (official) Russian perceptions of the current conflict, which will also shape future geopolitical and energy strategy, we recommend this article, together with a piece authored by Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, dealing with the genesis of such perceptions (“The Ukraine Crisis and the Resumption of Great-Power Rivalry”)

Between Hope and Mistrust

The adversary and what he really wants - Muhammad Javad Zarif

“Iran has no interest in nuclear weapons and is convinced that such weapons would not enhance its security. Iran does not have the means to engage in nuclear deterrence—directly or through proxies—against its adversaries. Furthermore, the Iranian government believes that even a perception that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons is detrimental to the country’s security and to its regional role, since attempts by Iran to gain strategic superiority in the Persian Gulf would inevitably provoke responses that would diminish Iran’s conventional military advantage.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister spoke these lines four months ago during an interview he granted me in Berlin. Now, this position has reappeared as the central message of his recent article in Foreign Affairs, “What Iran really wants - Iranian foreign policy in the Rouhani era”, accompanied by an important clarification: “It is imperative for other states to accept the reality of Iran’s prominent role in the Middle East and beyond”. 

Taken together, these statements reveal the two complementary sides of Iran’s thinking going into the 5+1 negotiations over the lifting of Western sanctions. Iran possesses the fourth largest oil reserves and the second largest gas reserves in the world, but in order for these to be intensively exploited a large influx of foreign investment is required–an impossibility under the current sanctions regime. The sanctions, however, cannot be lifted at any price, insists Zarif, who is regarded in his country with a mixture of hopeful admiration and mistrust. Who is this man? 

Coinciding with the appearance of his article in FA, The New Yorker published a fascinating, in-depth profile of Iran’s Foreign Minister: “Zarif faces serious limits. He is too brilliant for the system. He’s dealing with foreigners in English. The hard-liners spent their youth at the war front; Zarif never went to the front. He was studying in the United States. So he’s someone who will never be trusted one hundred per cent, even if he does have the ear of the Supreme Leader. Which I think he does“. In a blend of irony and cynicism, Zarif himself describes the view that many of his peers in the Iranian elite have of him. But the last claim–”which I think he does”–remains most important. 

Both these articles–Robin Wright’s profile in The New Yorker, "The Adversary", and Zarif’s own contribution to Foreign Affairs–promise to shed a revealing light on the current, decisive phase of the 5+1 negotiations. 

"Energy and Geopolitics"

From the editors,

From May, 2014, ENERGLOBE will be strengthening its focus on energy security and geopolitics. “Editor's Choice” will be presenting items gleaned from academic studies and international media, selected by the editor-in-chief as relevant and of interest in this regard. 

»THE CRISIS IN THE CONCEPT OF THE

WORLD ORDER (IS) THE ULTIMATE

INTERNATIONAL PROBLEM OF OUR DAYS.«

Henry Kissinger,„World Order“, August 2014