- Russia’s energy coercion of Moldova
- Putin urges G20 to recognize Russian vaccine
- Biden claims Russia didn’t show up on climate commitments
- Biden to Russia: don’t manipulate gas for political purposes
- Kremlin damage control over high COVID rates and lack of Sputnik recognition
- Migrant crisis as an excuse for NATO build-up
- News from Taipei
Good Old Soviet Joke
In Soviet Russia, you are what you eat. Therefore, you are nothing.
Policy & Research News
Russia’s energy coercion of Moldova
Last Friday, Gazprom and the Moldovan government signed a new five-year contract for Russian gas supply following the dispute in Russia’s raising prices. Russia had been coercing Moldova through a kind of “blackmail” by threatening to cut off supplies and citing unpaid bills for the price increase. Given the situation, Moldova declared a state of emergency last week and started buying gas from other countries in an attempt to withhold Russian energy. Moldova made deals with Ukraine’s Naftogaz and Poland’s PGNiG, who both showed their support in supplying Moldova with reasonable amounts of gas in the presence of Russian economic pressure. Unfortunately, Maia Sandu’s government caved into Moscow’s demands and “will receive approximately three billion cubic meters of gas per year under the terms of a new contract.” Other European states have been alarmed by the situation given the ongoing gas crisis. The situation has shown that Russia can establish its geopolitical influence through economic coercion with European reliance on Russian energy.
Putin urges G20 to recognize Russian vaccine
Russian President Vladimir Putin broadcasted a video message proposing that the health ministries of the G20 countries address “the issue of mutual recognition of national COVID-19 vaccination certificates,” particularly the recognition of the Sputnik vaccine. Putin complained that unfair competition and protectionism from many G20 states have created a negative attitude towards Russia’s vaccine. The vaccine lacks international recognition from the EU and approval from the WHO. Russian cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, with only 32.5 per cent of the population fully vaccinated. Russian authorities have blamed the “spike in infections in Russia in large part on a slow vaccination rate.” Given the rising cases and upcoming lockdown, Putin hopes to pressure the international community with this strategy. The recognition serves as a strong economic incentive to freely export a “safe” vaccine across the global market.
Biden claims Russia didn’t show up on climate commitments
US President Joe Biden blamed Russia and China on Sunday for the “disappointment” over the level of the commitment by the G20 leaders to fight climate change. Speaking at a news conference at the end of the two-day summit, Biden commented on the fact that the leaders of the G20 collectively pledged to stop financing coal power overseas, but failed to strike a deal to phase out domestic coal production because of opposition from a small group of countries, including Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin, participating in the G20 summit by videoconference insisted that Russia was living up to all its commitments, and said it was cutting greenhouse gas emissions faster than the G7 nations. However, a report from Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis of government climate action compliance against the Paris Agreement, rates Russia’s policies and finance as “Critically insufficient” and not consistent with the Paris Agreement. In response to Biden’s criticisms, Russia approved a long-term government climate strategy on Monday, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
Biden to Russia: don’t manipulate gas for political purposes
U.S. President Joe Biden met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, discussing efforts to keep Russia from manipulating gas for political purposes on Saturday. Biden, who was in Rome for the G20 leaders meeting, emphasized the importance of preventing Russia from manipulating natural gas flows for “harmful political purposes.” Russia’s gas exports are being closely monitored at a time when gas prices in Europe are at their highest. The focus is on state-controlled natural gas company Gazprom. Data from a German pipeline operator showed on Saturday that Russian natural gas flows into Europe via part of the Yamal-Europe pipeline had come to a halt. Gazprom has denied this, saying that European customers’ natural gas requirements were being fulfilled. It is estimated that Russia supplies nearly half of the EU’s natural gas imports via major pipelines like the Nord Stream, the Yamal-Europe and the Brotherhood. The International Energy Agency and some European lawmakers have accused Gazprom of not doing enough to increase its supplies to Europe, something that the government vehemently denies.
Kremlin’s Current Narrative
Kremlin damage control over high COVID rates and lack of Sputnik recognition
Peskov has noted that the efficiency indicators of Sputnik V and Sputnik Light are higher than those of many foreign vaccines and that the vaccines can be used for vaccination and revaccination. Peskov commented that “These are two different vaccines, the effectiveness of which has been proven, not only in our country but also in many countries of the world”. These comments come at a time when COVID rates in Russia are incredibly high, reaching a record of 1,158 registered deaths within 24 hours on October 31 and an overall count of 240,000 deaths, the fourth-highest toll in the world. With COP26 ongoing and WHO approval of the Russian Sputnik vaccine still not given, the Kremlin is trying to engage in domestic and international damage control.
Migrant crisis as an excuse for NATO build-up
An RT article reports Belarusian dictator Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s claims that Poland and other Western countries are using the migration crisis as a pretext for building up their military presence on the western borders of Russia and Belarus and are thus putting pressure on Belarus, justifying a “tough reaction” to the “militarization of the region”. Lukashenka claims that “Poles on the border with Belarus will fight illegal migration with the help of Leopard tanks”. Lukashenka’s use of the migration crisis to apply pressure to Western countries began around the time of the imposition of sanctions in May, and thus presents a twisted narrative to justify the dictator’s manipulation of a humanitarian crisis for political leverage.
News From Taipei
Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State (Minister of Foreign Affairs), called for a change in the way the United Nations treat Taiwan. Last week, he openly expressed his wish that the UN member states would soon support Taipei’s participation in the organization itself as well as its affiliated bodies. (At the moment, Taiwan is not a member and this has been so since 1971.) These comments were made in the same week when the new director of the American Institute in Taiwan (which de facto functions as embassy of the US there) stated that Washington stays strongly committed to the island country and will purposely seek to enlarge areas of cooperation, especially in the field cybersecurity and supply chains, and will work to counter China’s “malign” influence. Those statements demonstrate the profound positive change that has taken place in the past year regarding Taiwan’s standing in the eyes of the US and the international community in general despite the threats by China.
The spokesperson of the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense said last week that Taipei will markedly transform the training and equipment of its reserve forces to deter any Chinese aggressive actions in the future. This announcement reflects the rising tensions of recent weeks about record numbers of China’s intrusion in Taiwanese airspace. Mandatory refresher training will be prolonged to fourteen days from the next year on, together with a higher focus on training with weapons and live ammunition. The new approach will regard a formidable part of the reservists’ force, which amounts to 110, 000 men in total. It is a part of the general turn to higher quality and professionalism of the Taiwanese military.
Kremlin Watch is a strategic program of the European Values Center for Security Policy, which aims to expose and confront instruments of Russian influence and disinformation operations focused against the liberal-democratic system.