The search for alternatives to Russian energy pushes the West to strengthen ties with authoritarian regimes | International
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The confrontation with Moscow over the Ukraine war forces the West to secure alternatives to Russian energy supplies. The search for new partners has pushed the European Union to strengthen ties with authoritarian regimes and to avoid political objections to countries that violate human rights. The United States, for its part, has taken a turn in its relationship with Saudi Arabia and has eased sanctions on Venezuela.
Until now, Russia covered 40% of gas imports in Europe, with a transfer of some 155,000 million cubic meters per year, which gives an idea of the titanic task that the community club has to quickly find an alternative. The search has focused on the liquefied natural gas market, which arrives by ship, and on gas pipelines from European countries such as Norway or the United Kingdom. But the largest increase, of up to 70%, has occurred in the arrival of gas from the Caspian Sea area, where most suppliers have a rather poor resume in terms of democratic values and human rights.
This same month of July, the Commission reached an agreement with Azerbaijan to double gas imports from that Caspian country, which would go from 8,100 million cubic meters per year in 2021 to 20,000 million in 2027. Already in this year, according to the agreement, it is expected to reach 12,000 million. The community body has ignored the complaints from non-governmental organizations that accuse the Baku government of exerting a colossal repression on the country’s opposition forces.
The EU has also not hesitated to sign a memorandum with Egypt and Israel to import gas from those two countries or from others in the area through the Egyptian infrastructure of regasification plants. “Under the government of President Abdelfatá al Sisi, Egypt is experiencing one of the worst human rights crises in decades,” is the evaluation of the organization Human Rights Watch on the new energy ally of the EU. In the case of Israel, the same organization denounces crimes against humanity against millions of Palestinians, which has not prevented the EU from considering this month resuming the Association Agreement meetings with that state, abandoned a decade ago.
The calculations of the European Commission suggest that gas will account for 22% of the Union’s energy consumption at least until 2030, so it needs supplies to get through the rest of the decade. Qatar is another country identified as an essential supplier to guarantee security of supply despite criticism of the labor and social conditions that prevail in that country, especially harsh for the immigrant population.
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It is not the first time, however, that the EU practices the realpolitik unceremoniously. In the migratory field, the 27 European partners did not hesitate to reach a million-dollar agreement with Turkey so that the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would prevent the passage of Syrian refugees into community territory. And Brussels has financed the control of migration in Libya despite the continuous complaints about the inhumane treatment of sub-Saharan people who try to cross the Mediterranean from the coast of the African country.
The conflict with Russia has also led the Joe Biden Administration to take a turn in its relationship with some countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. During the campaign that brought him to the White House in 2020, Biden was clear about his position on the desert kingdom by promising during one of the presidential debates that he would make it a “rogue state.” The reason? The direct relationship, proven by US intelligence services, between its leader de factothe crown prince, Mohamed Bin Salmán (known as MBS), and the dismemberment in Istanbul in 2018 of the columnist of the Washington Post Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen residing in the United States.
Biden had to swallow his words on the 15th during a controversial tour of the Middle East, in which he stopped in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) to meet with members of the regime, with the destabilizing threat of the expansion of Iran’s nuclear capabilities floating in the air. the environment. The meeting produced the image of Biden bumping fists with MBS, which will go down in the history of the foreign relations of his Administration and of the realpolitik. What had changed between one moment and another was the war in Ukraine and the global energy emergency unleashed by it.
In the new scenario, the United States – where gasoline has registered record prices in recent months, truly unpopular in a country already plagued by inflation and so dependent on automobiles – also desperately needs to look for oil where before there was only geopolitical tension. In that meeting in Jeddah, between measures to soften Saudi relations with Israel, declarations of support for the fragile truce in Yemen and announcements of technological and defense cooperation, the White House declared, hidden behind the fashionable euphemism in Washington, “security Energy”, that Saudi Arabia had committed to an “increase in production levels by 50% above what was forecast for July and August”. That would allow, according to Washington, “to stabilize the markets considerably.”
And it is true that just over 100 days before the legislative elections in November, in which the Democrats could lose control of both Houses on Capitol Hill, gasoline prices seem to have moderated. The national average of what is paid for a gallon (3.78 liters) has fallen 70 cents from the dollar since its peak, which was above five dollars (4.92 euros) in early June. Analysts expect prices to continue to decline through the end of the year (although they are still $1.17 higher than a year ago).
As part of that same policy of searching for unsuspecting bedfellows in the midst of an energy crisis unprecedented in recent decades, officials from the Biden Administration traveled to Caracas in March to meet with the government of President Nicolás Maduro, as soon as It became clear that Venezuelan crude had acquired a higher value on the world board after the imposition of sanctions on Russia for the war. A few days after that visit, the US veto of Moscow’s oil was announced.
That trip was followed by gestures by Washington to soften relations with the Maduro regime. The United States, which continues to recognize the opposition Juan Guaidó as legitimate president, loosened some of its punishments against Venezuela in order, according to a senior White House official, to try to favor dialogue with the opposition.
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