Grain war in the Black Sea

By Nina Bachkatov

Three months after the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, a new front has been open – about grain’s exports and global food security. The concept was hardly mentioned before the fall of Mariupol, when international attention switched from the fights around Azovstal to the inaccessibility of Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea. The accent has been put on its global consequences, from the prices’ increase of basic food in the West to the risk of famine in poor countries. In a couple of weeks, Westerners preoccupied with energy bills discovered that a third of the 200-300m tonnes of cereals exchanged yearly through the world were coming from Russia and Ukraine.

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Another gas crisis between Russia and Moldova

By Nina Bachkatov 

The latest “gas crisis” between Russia’s and Moldova’s energy companies has offered a good opportunity to measure the evolution of Moscow’s energy diplomacy. The formulation of the final agreement, published after days of bilateral discussions, says a lot. It speaks of an agreement “meeting the interests of both Russia and Moldova” and “showing to Europe and the entire world that Gazprom can come to terms and offer mutually beneficial conditions to its partners”.  In short, better with us that against us. 

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Energy’s latest chapter of EU-Russia relations

By Nina Bachkatov

The present global energy crisis might offer an opportunity for EU and Russian to move towards a softer dialogue after years of tensions, during which gas has been an increasing element of distrust, among many others. Progress will require to move away from mutual accusation of blackmail and of weaponing energy, and a radical change of mindset from two partners entrenched in a zero-sum game.

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Competition in the Arctic

By Nina Bachkatov

Russia seized upon the incident in the Suez Canal to remember the world that it exists another shipping route between Asia and the European continent – along its northern coast. It diplomatically stated the Arctic route as “a complement, not a rival, nor an alternative” to Suez. In the present tense relation between Russia and the West, with China’s growing assertiveness in the background, this shipping route, entirely on Russian territory, was added to the long list of “Russian threats” to the “free world”. Paradoxically, the opening of a complete Northern sea route would result from the global warming that international cooperation is supposed to fight and the consequent acceleration of Northern seas’ melting – not from Kremlin’s plots. Continue reading “Competition in the Arctic”

Belarus lessons

By Nina Bachkatov

Whatever might happen in Belarus, the crisis that shacked the country is teaching lessons about the limits of antidemocratic regimes and the limits of outsiders’ influence. Weeks after his disputed reelection, Alexandr Lukashenko, president since 1994, is still confronted to an unusual form of contestation while his opponents face a president unwilling to follow the path of former Ukrainian president Yanukovich. Continue reading “Belarus lessons”

Political energy again dividing Russia and Belarus – differently

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

The latest energy crisis between Russia and Belarus followed a yearly routine, with partners discovering at the end of December that new contracts for energy deliveries have not been signed for next year. As usually, disagreements concern the prices that the producer wants to obtain and those the clients is ready to pay. From gas deliveries, the clash extended to oil. Continue reading “Political energy again dividing Russia and Belarus – differently”

The odd trio again: gas, Russia, Ukraine

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

The war that never started was averted thanks to an agreement signed ahead of the 31 December deadline. The negotiations concerned gas deliveries, but in fact they have to be seen against a larger background involving Ukraine-Russia bilateral relations; relations of both countries with EU; and divisions inside EU about everything concerning Russia. Continue reading “The odd trio again: gas, Russia, Ukraine”