Why Turkey will not de-escalate its aggression towards Greece. Analysis


Brief

For decades, the Hellenic Republic and the Republic of Turkey have been in dispute about maritime jurisdiction and other issues in the Aegean Sea. With the discovery of large hydrocarbon deposits in some parts of the Eastern Mediterranean, the relationship between the two states has become even more strained. As their continental shelf entitlements in the Eastern Mediterranean overlap to a significant extent, Greece and Turkey also clash over the reach of their sovereign rights and jurisdiction in this region.

The Geography and the Sovereignty Issue

The evolution of the Law of the Sea, which gives countries new spaces of sovereignty and areas of jurisdiction without specifying their delimitation, is the source of the dispute between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean Sea. The disputed areas include the waters south and south-east of the islands of Rhodes, Karpathos, Kasos, and Crete. Another hotspot of the conflict is the island of Kastellorizo (Megisti), which is Greece’s most eastern outpost, located about 330 nautical miles (nm) away from Piraeus and only 1.25 nm from the Turkish coast.

Map of Islands between Greece and Turkey, source Wikipedia 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aegean_dispute#/media/File:Aegean_with_legends.svg

Turkey asserts that its continental shelf extends directly to the outer limits of these islands’ 6-nm territorial sea.  In the view of the Greek government, Turkey tried ‘to usurp Greece’s ipso facto and ab initio sovereign rights over its continental shelf and to deprive the Greek islands of their maritime zones, in blatant violation of international law’.

The list of countries suffering from Turkish aggression during the last years is long. Turkey occupies one-third of Cyprus. It has used its F-16s and Special Forces against Armenians. Iraqi officials say Turkey has now established numerous outposts on its territory, ranging in size from small platoon-level posts to a full-size base. The Turkish Air Force bombs Iraq nightly. Turkey ethnically cleanses entire districts in northern Syria.

Greece and Turkey are members of NATO, an organization that promises to come to the help of a member state if any country threatens its security. But when two member states of NATO are at loggerheads and cannot arrive at any solution to the dispute, the question becomes complicated for NATO and the US to deal with. They are reluctant to choose between the two.

The Treaties and clashes through recent History

Turkish-Greek relations have always been tense and open to conflict and military escalation though there had been smooth times in the past. We should not forget that two countries are historical rivals to each other due to their nation-creation process.  Nonetheless, after Turkey’s victory against invading Greek powers in 1923, two visionary statesmen Atatürk and Venizelos were able to establish friendly relations. Two countries were both acted as United States (U.S.) allies against the expansionism of communism and Soviet Union during the Cold War. However, this did not prevent two countries to engage in a political/diplomatic clash in 1974 when Turkey rightfully intervened into the island of Cyprus as a guarantor state following a military coup organized by Greek Cypriots aiming to annex the island to Greece (an idea known shortly as “enosis”).

Facts:

According to the Treaty of Lausanne concluded in 1923, after WWI, Greece was obliged to keep the islands demilitarized.

Turkey is the only country that refers to and demands the demilitarization of the eastern Aegean islands.

With regard to the militarization of the islands in the Eastern Aegean, various international agreements apply. In particular :
• the status of the islands of Limnos and Samothrace was governed by the 1923 Lausanne Treaty on the Straits, but was been replaced by the 1936 Montreux Treaty;
• the status of the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos and Ikaria, is governed by the 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty; and
• the status of the Dodecanese islands is governed by the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty.

At the same time, civilian shipping passage in the Turkish Straits mandated Turkey to demilitarize the Straits. The warring countries adhered to the clauses of the treaty. After WWII, another treaty of 1947 gave 12 islands to Greece with the condition of their total demilitarization.

Hindsight shows that Greece has agreed to be a member of NATO because it believed that would provide her security against the belligerent neighbor who does not stop short of claiming its right to most islands and islets in the Aegean Sea.

While Turkey recognized both treaties, the stand of Greece was that Turkey gave the wrong interpretation of various clauses of the treaty. Greece argues that the 1936 Montreux Convention on the regime of the Straits supersedes the Lausanne Treaty (on the Straits) as it gives Turkey the power to militarize the Turkish Straits.

Greece has a very valid point. Turkey cannot enjoy the right to militarize the Straits through the Montreux Convention and then ask Greece to stick to the Lausanne Treaty stipulating the non-militarization of islands.

In 1995 Greece ratified the UN Convention on Law of the Sea called UNCLOS. It provided a legal framework to recognize the limits of maritime zones of coastal nations. One hundred sixty countries, except Turkey, became a party to the UNCLOS.

The Current Geopolitical Shifts of the Greco-Turkish relations

Turkey is heading toward a set of twin elections that could have momentous consequences for the country’s future. In June 2023 at the latest, Turkish voters will be asked to choose a new president and a new parliamentary majority. For the past two decades, the Turkish political landscape has been dominated by the Justice and Development (AK) Party and its uniquely successful leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. After having ruled the country single-handedly since 2002, Erdoğan became the first executive president of Turkey in 2018, following a tightly contested constitutional change. He has come out victorious in every round of elections since the start of his political career. And yet, after two decades, his popularity is faltering, raising the prospect of political change. 

Erdoğan’s political alliance with ultranationalists in Turkey has strongly influenced the militarization of Turkish foreign policy, including toward Greece. Since 2015, Erdoğan has relied on ultranationalist political actors to win elections, and he has empowered them at the expense of more moderate factions within the foreign ministry and the military. Also, the prevailing sentiment among opposition parties is that Turkey has lost considerable ground on the diplomatic front in the Eastern Mediterranean and that, conversely, Greece and Cyprus have played their cards more wisely.

The institutionalization of Erdoğan’s presidential system in 2018 has given ultranationalist factions an outsized influence over foreign policy decision-making. In response to tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, such factions fashioned a maximalist and aggressive new doctrine called the “Blue Homeland,” which argues that Turkey is entitled to expansive territorial waters and maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean and encourages the government to defend these rights through military aggression and, when necessary, use of force.

The purpose of the Blue Homeland strategy is that Turkey should dominate the Mediterranean and reclaim the mercantile and maritime power once held by the Ottomans, writes Antonia Colibasanu.

Additionally, in line with the ultra-nationalist, imperialist conception generated since the 19th century by Ziya Gökalp which seeks to create a “Greater Turkey” that would encompass all Turkish people, since October 2020, Erdogan has worked to consolidate an organization with principles and objectives similar to those of NATO, but whose membership would consist exclusively of nations of Turkish origin. This so-called “Army of Turan,” under Turkish leadership, would include Azerbaijan and Turkish republics in Central Asia. In addition to a group whose principles of pan-Turkish cultural affinity could easily take a chauvinist turn, the creation of a new military alliance led by Turkey is, or should be, considered a violation of NATO’s principles, or even as a kind of Trojan horse; that is, a member of NATO that seeks to create and lead a military organization some members of which would also be allies of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) – such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – the opposing military alliance commanded by Russia.

The Treaty of Lausanne and the compulsory exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey became the basis both for the reorientation of their foreign policies and for the establishment of close relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries. But the Cyprus question and the Aegean conflict affected bilateral relations. It had a negative impact on the Treaty of Lausanne.

Conflict between the NATO allies grew stronger and then weakened during the last decades, peaking with crises over the island nation of Cyprus in 1974 and the island of Imia-Kardak in 1995. After the two countries once again came to the brink of war over maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean in 2020, the newly elected Biden administration, seeking to solidify NATO unity, stepped in to encourage dialogue between Ankara and Athens. The intervention appeared to work: At the NATO summit in June 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan praised the revival of diplomatic engagement with Greece.

But that conciliatory tone lasted less than a year. Tensions flared up again in May 2022, when Erdoğan lashed out at Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, saying that the Premier “no longer exists” for him. Then, in September, he explicitly threatened Greece with open conflict, warning ominously that Turkey could “come down suddenly one night.” The following month, Erdoğan created a scene at a private dinner of the European Political Community in Prague, interrupting Mitsotakis’s speech by accusing him of insincerity in settling bilateral disputes, starting a shouting match, and repeating his threats against Greece.

On September 5-6, 2022, the Greek Foreign Minister Mr. Nikos Dendias sent letters to the EU, NATO, and the UN to bring to their attention public statements made by Turkeys President Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose “openly threatening nature and tone are more than obvious, thus dispelling any doubts as to their intended purpose.” More specifically, the letters refer to statements by President Erdogan that Turkey could “come all of a sudden one night” and “What I’m talking about is not a dream … If what I said was that we could come one night all of a sudden (it means) that, when the time comes, we can come suddenly one night.” Such statements and a series of similar remarks are part of Turkey’s political and military strategy towards Greece, signaling the possibility of military action

Why Turkey adopted this aggressive rhetoric toward Greece?

Given the bellicose nature of the statements by Turkish officials, combined with the declared casus belli as well as Turkey’s aggressive acts towards Greece and the hostile relations that currently persist between the two countries, the only reasonable inference from the sum of these concerted statements and acts is that Turkey is threatening Greece with force. Turkey has not put forward any legal justification to support its threats. Instead, the projected use of force is offensive and targets the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Greece. It therefore breaches Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.

The context is the differences between Greece and Turkey regarding the extent of the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf in the Aegean Sea. In 1995, the Turkish Parliament adopted a declaration granting the Turkish government powers to use all means including military forces to safeguard the vital interests of Turkey should Greece extends its territorial sea in the Aegean Sea from 6 nautical miles to 12 nautical miles (for the text see Tsagourias, “The Prohibition of Threats of Force”. See also Art 92 of Türkiye’s Constitution).

President Erdogan seeks to revise—always in Turkey’s favor—the century-old Lausanne Treaty that established Turkey’s borders with Greece and Bulgaria. He falsely claims Greece violates demilitarization agreements, and Turkish politicians up to and including Erdogan coalition partner and nationalist party leader Devlet Bahceli and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar further argue that they should possess all islands east of a median line in the Aegean Sea. Turkey does not limit such provocations to maps. Turkish jets regularly violate the airspace of Greek islands like Kastellorizo. State Department statements infused with bothsiderism make matters worse. Simply put, Turkey is violating Greek airspace and occupying Cypriot territory, not the other way around. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken should make this clear. Moral equivalence and lies are no basis for peace and justice.

Furthermore, the Biden administration has misplayed its hand regarding Turkey’s aggression toward Greece. Whereas Joe Biden entered office more resistant to Erdogan’s whispered charms than Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, or Donald Trump, his team has taken a significant step backward in recent months, especially with its endorsement of an F-16 sale to Turkey.

Perhaps Biden and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan believed this would assuage Erdogan after Turkey’s loss of the F-35 and encourage Turkey to help Ukraine. It has had the opposite effect, though: Erdogan interpreted Biden’s move both as a green light to ratchet up attacks on his neighbors and as a signal Turkey could purchase additional S-400 missiles from Russia without consequence. Meanwhile, Turkey plays a double game with Ukraine, doing as much to help Russia escape the diplomatic and economic consequences of its actions as China, Iran, or North Korea.

In an interview, Constantinos Filis, director of the Institute of Global Affairs, pointed out that, in recent months, Turkey has instead overflown Agathonisi, Farmakonisi, Kandeliousa, and Kinaros. The Turks utilize both manned fighter jets and drones in their overflights, usually probing the islands between three and five in the morning. Each is small. Agathonisi, the northernmost island of the Dodecanese, lies just eight miles off the Turkish coast and is home to fewer than 200 Greeks. The community of Farmakonisi, just under 14 miles to the south, is even smaller. A decade ago, it was home to just ten residents.

While Kandelioussa is uninhabited, it is strategic and part of the Nisyros municipality, which has approximately 1,000 residents. Because Kandelioussa is further west than many other Greek islands, a Turkish outpost would effectively leapfrog over Greek islands to the east, tightening a noose around them and enabling Turkey to blockade. Kinaros, also uninhabited, is still farther West, the second most western Dodecanese island after Astypalea.

Erdogan may land marines or special forces on the island and then dare Greece to remove them. That diplomatic crisis could reinvigorate Erdogan’s religious base and Turkish nationalists. Erdogan could simultaneously insist that any criticism of him or his record was treasonous. Should the crisis lead to a military skirmish, Erdogan could declare a state of emergency and cancel elections entirely.

Too often, the United States and NATO allow themselves to be distracted, a tendency from which other aggressors seek advantage. It is essential that both Washington and Brussels be proactive: Any Turkish move on Greek islands will trigger a military response against the Turkish contingents on those islands that would humiliate Erdogan and hasten his downfall, elections or not. Erdogan may want to be embraced as a sultan and remembered as more consequential than Ataturk, but he must understand today that if he pursues this course of action, his legacy will be that of Argentine dictator Leopoldo Galtieri who fell from power and was imprisoned after failing to seize the Falkland Islands.

Today, Erdoğan has a strong reason to let these hawkish security officials run wild on Greece. He is facing presidential and parliamentary elections in mid-2023, and the country’s economy is in dire straits. As a result of the devastating economic crisis, Erdoğan’s popularity among the electorate has dropped to its lowest point in two decades. To win, Erdoğan needs to distract the electorate from the mess he has made of the Turkish economy. Showing his keen awareness of Erdoğan’s motives, Mitsotakis told reporters this month, “If we had inflation running at 85 percent in Greece, I would also be trying to change the subject.”

A show of force against Greece would not only satisfy the ultranationalists already allied with Erdoğan but also potentially appeal to secular nationalists among the opposition. For years, Turkey’s opposition parties have been using Greece’s militarization of the disputed Aegean islands as a stick with which to beat Erdoğan, while opposition-aligned media have long bashed his government for failing to confront Greece more forcefully on the issue. Such a narrative has helped boost suspicions about Greece across the political spectrum in Turkey. 

As war remains very unlikely, a warm military incident between Turkey and Greece is likely coming, not because of anything Athens has done but instead because Erdogan is desperate to distract from failure and bankruptcy. The questions the Biden administration will likely need to answer within a year are what can be done to prevent Turkey’s aggression, what the United States can do to enable Greece better to blunt Turkey’s drone, aircraft, and missiles, and whether the United States can really sit on the sidelines if one NATO member attacks a faithful NATO ally.

Links:

The Legacy of the Treaty of Lausanne in the Light of Greek-Turkish Relations in the Twentieth Century: Greek Perceptions of the Treaty of Lausanne

Hardly predictable and yet an equitable solution: Delimitation by judicial process as an option for Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean

Political Change and Turkey’s Foreign Policy

Aegean Dispute- Wikipedia

Russian Invasion in Ukraine: Explaining the Identity Crisis and the Energy Wars Over the Shale Gas Reserves Share in Ukraine


At the moment of writing these lines, an Ukrainian soldier falls to the ground, with a bullet piercing his head, while a Russian soldier is losing his life from a fragment of an anti-tank shell. At this time, small children are losing their parents in Ukraine, either they are Ukrainian or Russian orphans. We must end the war on Ukraine and find a way to put an end to perpetual wars.

The catastrophe that was set in motion by the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 cannot be averted on the basis of Russian nationalism, a thoroughly reactionary ideology that serves the interests of the capitalist ruling class represented by Vladimir Putin.Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International

Analysts argue that Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has overturned the post-war world order.  Surely, Putin’s indefensible invasion has been transformative, violating international law and fueling a perilous escalation of violence. We have witnessed the heart-rending suffering of Ukrainians, including the 350,000 already forced to flee; the bravery unfairly required of people lining up to donate blood or organize resistance; the more than 6,000 arrests of anti-war demonstrators in Russia.

If he persists in this mad act of imperial aggression, it will be catastrophic not only for Ukraine but for Russia and all of Europe — and maybe even the entire world. With his forces encircling Kyiv but bogged down after five days of heavy combat, Putin placed Russia’s nuclear forces on alert.

The Imperialist war between Russia and the United States into the Ukrainian territory.

Since 2014, the Russian regime has become more nationalistic and chauvinistic, while nationalism in Ukraine has become more civic, and yet some western writing on Ukraine and Russia since 2014 gives the opposite impression.

A successful overthrow of the current regime in Ukraine would increase the threat to the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, all NATO members, and encourage China to consider a military conquest of Taiwan.

Russia has demanded since the mid-1990s that Eurasia be recognized as Russia’s exclusive sphere of influence where countries cannot integrate with, or join, NATO and the EU. Russia has also been opposed to Eurasian countries using UN peacekeepers in frozen conflicts artificially manufactured by the Kremlin to thwart pro-Western countries integrating into NATO and the EU. Ranked by the human rights monitoring think tank Freedom House as a “consolidated authoritarian regime”, Russia aggressively opposes the spread of democracy in Eurasia. The existence of a successful democracy in Ukraine is viewed by the Kremlin as a threat to the autocracy built by President Vladimir Putin.

The US Biden administration, by refusing to discuss Russia’s objections to Ukraine’s integration into NATO, used Ukraine as bait. It incited the invasion, which will now be used as a pretext for escalating confrontation with Russia.

The claim, repeated by Biden, that “our forces are not and will not be engaged in a conflict with Russia in Ukraine,” has no credibility. The US and NATO powers have funneled billions of dollars in military equipment into Ukraine and have armed its fascistic paramilitary forces with the aim of prolonging the conflicts and exacting significant Russian losses. “History has shown time and again,” Biden said, “how swift gains in territory eventually give way to grinding occupations, acts of mass civil disobedience and strategic dead-ends.”

Biden again declared that in a confrontation involving Russia with any NATO country, the US will use the “full force of American power.” This can only mean that not only is nuclear war possible, but the danger is far advanced and greater than at any previous time in history. Biden stated today that relations between the US and Russia have completely broken down, declaring that, amidst the danger of a catastrophic European and global war, he has no plans to call Putin.

(source)

Language Map of Ukraine
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ethnolingusitic_map_of_ukraine.png

Putin Wants to Reinstate the Soviet Bloc Influence in East Europe

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and fall of Communism as a major global ideology, observers across the world were optimistic that “political ideologies” would never again determine great power competition. However, the spread of ethnic conflict in Ukraine between Russian-speaking minorities and the Kiev government since 2014 has demonstrated that the Communist political ideology, which was promoted by the Soviet Union for over seventy years, was being replaced by a new narrative, “identity politics”, which emphasized ethnolinguistic identities as fundamental pillars of society rather than socioeconomic categorizations.

Back in February of 2015, representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the leaders of separatist-held regions Donetsk and Luhansk signed a 13-point agreement called Minsk II.

The Minsk II deal set out military and political steps that remain unimplemented. A major blockage has been Russia’s insistence that it is not a party to the conflict and therefore is not bound by its terms Al-Jazeera reports.

Considering Ukraine’s own problems with corruption and the rule of law and given the active war in its east, it is impossible that the country joins either the EU or NATO in the near future. Russia, for one, demands that the latter remains completely off the table by a mutual agreement between Moscow and Washington. But part of the problem is that although Ukraine is not in NATO, Ukraine’s security is treated by EU and NATO member states (like Poland and Lithuania) as a matter of their own security.

What is the ‘Minsk conundrum’?

Ukraine sees the 2015 agreement as an instrument to re-establish control over the rebel territories. It wants a ceasefire, control of the Russia-Ukraine border, elections in the Donbas, and a limited devolution of power to the separatists – in that order.

Russia views the deal as obliging Ukraine to grant rebel authorities in Donbas comprehensive autonomy and representation in the central government, effectively giving Moscow the power to veto Kyiv’s foreign policy choices. Only then would Russia return the Russia-Ukraine border to Kyiv’s control.

After Minsk II and the implication of Russia in the Syrian conflict, Russian identity warfare has helped Moscow to advance her regional policies and to deter strategic threats. Following the 2014 Ukraine revolution, Russia was concerned about the expansion of NATO to Ukraine, though the pro-Russian separatist movements in Luhansk and Donetsk successfully established a buffer zone between Russia’s mainland and pro-west Kiev.

However, it is hard to believe that Russia and its proxies withdrew from their territorial ambitions solely to assist the Minsk II process. In reality, there were other issues that might have convinced the Kremlin to put a hold on its territorial ambitions. Moscow’s incursions against Georgia and Ukraine have also altered the attitudes of other traditional allies of Russia in Central Asia and East Europe. Following the occupation of Crimea by Russia, both Belarus and Kazakhstan were increasingly worried that they might be the next targets of Russian expansionism. Many in Kazakhstan started to fear that Russia might attempt to bring regions populated by ethnic Russian speakers in northern Kazakhstan back within its borders. Also, in Minsk, a growing fear began among elites over Russian intentions towards Belarus. Hence, despite the many achievements of Russia’s identity warfare, it also presented Moscow with new challenges.

One the other hand, Russian identity warfare has not been cost-free, Russia’s policy has led to the growth of xenophobic nationalism in Russia to the extent that many of the country’s minorities have started to consider themselves as persona-non-grata in Russia. In a way, the current emphasis on the Orthodox religion and Slavic ethnicity as the core elements of Russian national identity has raised concerns among non-Slavic minorities that Russia is moving toward a cultural nationalism that discriminates against these minorities. Hence, it seems that while identity warfare can be an efficient sword in Russia’s weaponry, it is also double-edged one that can be hurtful to Russia.

The Question of the Ukrainian Identity according to Ukrainians

Most people think of Ukraine as an Eastern European country. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba isn’t one of them. “I am deeply convinced that Ukraine is and has always been a Central European state: historically, politically, and culturally,” he said in a speech last year. “Central Europe is where our identity belongs.”

This was not a statement of geographical fact but one of historical and cultural perspective. Ukraine’s future, like its past, lies not with Russia but with the Central European countries firmly ensconced in NATO and the European Union: Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, and especially Poland.

Over the past 20 years, Poland has influenced Ukraine’s cultural and political development more than any other country besides Russia. It has been its staunchest supporter within the EU and NATO; welcomed millions of Ukrainians to live, study, and work there; and provided an alternative model of what Ukraine could become as a truly Central European country: European, patriotic, openly anti-Russian, and economically successful—all under the safety of the U.S. security umbrella.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014‚ Kyiv has steadily built itself up as a nation state on the Polish model. It is a process that Russia itself set in motion, and one that—as Russian troops again amass on Ukraine’s border, with talk of war imminent—is all but impossible to reverse.

In 2020, leaders of Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine met in Lublin, Poland, to make a joint declaration announcing a new alliance called the “Lublin Triangle,” dedicated to strengthening cultural, economic, political, and military ties as well as supporting Ukraine’s eventual EU and NATO integration. Pro-Kremlin propaganda labeled the formation part of an “Anglo-Saxon proxy war” with Russia. This year, Poland and Ukraine entered yet another trilateral alliance aimed at protecting Ukraine’s sovereignty, this time with the United Kingdom.

Fracking Shale Gas Reserves in Ukraine and the role of Presidents Biden and Putin since 2014

The vast shale gas reserves in the separatist-held Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions are an important element not to be overlooked when analysing the Ukraine crisis!

Concerns that Russia is using its gas supplies as a weapon to achieve its political aims are well founded. Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, noted that Russia’s decision to drop gas supplies to Europe by a quarter came as it was heightening tension towards Ukraine. “I hope this was only a coincidence,” he told the Guardian.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Ukraine has third-largest shale gas reserves in Europe at 128 trillion cubic feet (3.6 trillion cubic metres). As of 2011, approximately 22 domestic and foreign-owned companies have been engaged in hydraulic fracturing in Ukraine. Excluding Russia’s gas reserves in Asia, Ukraine today holds the second biggest known gas reserves in Europe. As of late 2019, known Ukrainian reserves amounted to 1.09 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, second only to Norway’s known resources of 1.53 trillion cubic meters. Yet, these enormous reserves of energy remain largely untapped. Today, Ukraine has a low annual reserve usage rate of about 2 percent. Moreover, more active exploration may yield previously undiscovered gas fields, which would further increase the overall volume of Ukraine’s deposits.

In addition, if we put the map of the conflict on the one of Ukraine’s shale gas fields, the Donetsk region is an obvious overlap.  Besides sitting on an allegedly huge deposit of shale gas known as Yuzivska, perhaps not surprisingly, it is also the hotbed of the fiercest fighting between the government’s armed forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Yuzivska is believed to contain up to four trillion cubic meters of shale gas, according to the Ukrainian government. To tap this, energy giant Shell signed a production sharing agreement in January 2013, opening way for a potential $10 billion investment in the field. In an optimistic scenario before the armed conflict, Yuzivska alone was supposed to produce up to 20 billion cubic meters of gas annually (bcm/y) by 2030, which equals Ukraine’s 2011 overall gas output.

It is not hard to see why this would be a quite a scary scenario for Moscow. An energy independent Ukraine, let alone if it decides to export its gas to Europe, would mean enormous losses for Gazprom.

Foreign Policy reported in June 2014 that the Russian president and his inner circle have been covertly backing European movements that demonise fracking, in order to maintain the Russian stranglehold on European gas imports. FP notes that strong environmental opposition to fracking is present in countries like Bulgaria and Ukraine, which are heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies.

According to Russia’s TASS, the residents of Slavyansk, which is the centre of the Yuzivska deposit, organised several protests against development of the deposit. They even planned to have a referendum on the issue.

Another TASS report even allegedly cited Pavel Gubarev, the self-proclaimed leader of pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, admitting in an interview with Russian television Rossiya 24 on 19 May 2015 that one of the key reasons for the fighting is Kyiv’s push to “continue development of shale gas on the territory of Ukraine”.

In 2015, Vice President Joe Biden announced that the United States would bring in technical experts to speed up Ukraine’s shale gas development.

In fact, the Biden family was so interested in Ukraine, that his son Hunter was appointed to the board of directors of Ukraine’s largest private gas producer, Burisma Holdings. This has put Ukraine’s shale gas question into a new perspective – at least from the American viewpoint.

Burisma holds licenses covering the Dnieper-Donets basin in the eastern Ukraine and Biden Jr. is not the only American with political ties to have recently joined the company’s board.  Devon Archer, a former senior advisor to current Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and a college roommate of Kerry’s stepson, signed up with Burisma in April 2014.

Shale Gas Reserves in Ukraine

Contemporary Russian Nationalist (Imperialist) Imagining of Ukraine and Ukrainians

The following was also repeated during President’s Putin speech before starting the war in Ukraine

First, Ukraine is an artificial country and a failed, bankrupt state. Putin (2008) raised this in his 2008 speech to the NATO-Russia Council at the Bucharest NATO summit. Ukraine as a failed state is one of the most common themes in Russian information warfare and appears in many different guises (Zolotukhin 2018, 302–358). Political collapse in 2014 required Russian intervention, Ukrainian authorities are incapable of dealing with their problems, Ukraine is not a real state and will not survive without trade with Russia, western neighbours put forward territorial claims on western Ukraine, while the east is naturally aligned with Russia, and Ukraine was artificially created with ‘Russian’ lands. Ukraine is a land of perennial instability and revolution where extremists run amok, Russian speakers are persecuted, and pro-Russian politicians and media are repressed or closed down.

Russia’s long-term inability to come to terms with an independent Ukraine and Ukrainians as a separate people became patently obvious when Putin’s regime rehabilitated Tsarist Russian and White émigré views of Ukraine and Ukrainians (see Wolkonsky 1920; Bregy and Obolensky 1940). Igor Torbakov (2020) traces the continued influence of Tsarist ‘liberal’ and White movement supporter Struve’s view of what constitutes an ‘All-Russian People’ to contemporary Russian leaders.

In the USSR, there was a Ukrainian lobby in Moscow, while under Putin there is no such thing (Zygar 2016, 87). In the USSR, Soviet nationality policy defined Ukrainians and Russians as close, but nevertheless separate peoples; this no longer remains the case in Putin’s Russia. In the USSR, Ukraine and the Ukrainian language ‘always had robust defenders at the very top. Under Putin, however, the idea of Ukrainian national statehood was discouraged’ (Zygar 2016, 87) and the Ukrainian language is disparaged as a Russian dialect that was artificially made into a language in the USSR. (source)

Sources:

Borders of Identity: Ukraine’s Political and Cultural Significance for Russia : https://www.jstor.org/stable/40869778

Fracking is Dangerous: The High Cost of Cheap Gas | ENDEVR Documentary


What is fracking and why it is bad?

Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand, and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure allowing the gas to flow out to the head of the well.


Why is it bad? Well, in addition to the waste, fracking can cause subsurface geological shifts in the ground, causing settling, small earthquakes, or the release of other trapped gasses underground. For example, methane.


But most importantly, fracking requires use of huge amounts of freshwater. The environmental problems causes by fracking in America have been well-publicized.
This documentary, explores how fracking plants quietly invade some of the most protected places on the planet. What is the price we pay for cheap gas? This documentary answers the question.

fr:

Qu‘est-ce que la fracturation hydraulique et pourquoi est-ce si mauvais pour l’être humain ?

La fracturation est le processus de forage dans la terre avant qu’un mélange d’eau à haute pression ne soit dirigé vers la roche pour libérer le gaz à l’intérieur.

De l’eau, du sable et des produits chimiques sont injectés dans la roche à haute pression permettant au gaz de s’écouler vers la tête du puits.

Pourquoi est-ce mauvais? En fait, en plus des déchets, la fracturation peut provoquer des changements géologiques souterrains dans le sol, provoquant un tassement, de petits tremblements de terre ou la libération d’autres gaz piégés sous terre. Par exemple, le méthane.

Mais surtout, la fracturation nécessite l’utilisation d’énormes quantités d’eau douce. Les problèmes environnementaux causés par la fracturation hydraulique en Amérique ont été largement médiatisés.

Ce documentaire explore comment les plantes de fracturation envahissent tranquillement certains des endroits les plus protégés de la planète. Quel est le prix que nous payons pour du gaz bon marché ? Ce documentaire répond à la question.

The dry Limpopo River in Botswana, where fracking companies have started to drill for natural gas in protected areas.

How The Dystopian New Era of Capitalism has Come to Stay!


The Covid-19 pandemic has caught most countries unprepared! It is not just the poor, less economically developed countries that have also been badly hit. The economically advanced countries—the US and the core European Union countries—have also been equally, if not worse hit. With the help of science ,I hope that humanity will eventually overcome the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Many theories and philosophies will emerge. Many interpretations will be presented before the people and the governments.

We found ourselves in a transformed world sometime in the beginning of 2020. For the first time globally we saw empty streets, closed shops and unusually clear skies, with climbing death tolls being reported daily: something unprecedented was unfolding before our eyes.

One may ask if the difficult days we are going through but also the severity of the effects of the new pandemic is the result and the impact of the new globalized capitalist practices, not only on the economic situation, but also on our poor diet, our alienated new human lifestyle, our immobility in front of our TV screens watching Netflix, obesity, junk food or even drugs overdose . Have they degraded our biological resilience?

If, in the end, it turns out that the Covid pandemic was caused by a leak from a lab in Wuhan, China, it will rank among the greatest scientific scandals in history: dangerous research, possibly involving ethically dubious techniques that make viruses more dangerous, carried out in a poorly safeguarded facility, violently covered up by a regime more interested in propaganda than human life, catastrophic for the entire world.

It is depressing it has taken so long for the world of science, supported by most journalists and politicians, to start accepting the basic truth that no theory should be discounted without evidence — especially given the seriousness of the issues at stake and history of leaks from laboratories. A spate of strong articles seems to have suddenly changed the media narrative, despite mostly reheating material familiar to those of us who have been tracking this story for months. Among these a Wall Street Journal story, for example, about three Wuhan researchers allegedly falling suspiciously sick in November, builds on facts revealed by David Asher, former lead investigator for the State Department.

Nonetheless, the main question is whether the post-COVID 19 world will be the same as before or will it change, whether the capitalist order will become more inhuman and exploitative.

“All philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways. However, the point is to change it” Marx wrote in Thesis on Feuerbach. This was the fundamental premise of the philosophical pursuit of Marx and his lifelong companion Friedrich Engels. They analyzed human existence, the relationship between human beings and nature and the ways in which production and the reproduction of the human species and the economy take place.

While asserting that “labour is the source of wealth and prime basic condition for human existence,” Marx and Engels analysed the dialectics of nature. They pointed out how the harmony among people, land, water and air leads to changes. In Capital, Marx explained that “labour is in the first place a process in which both man and nature participate”. Marx went on to explain that labour process was nothing but the production process. He showed how labour is the source of wealth and how labour power keeps producing surplus value. In the same work, he explained how under capitalism, surplus value is appropriated by capitalists, who are the owners of the means of production. He also explained how this appropriation of surplus value leads to accumulation of wealth at one pole and the pauperisation of the working people at another. Such inequality is reflected in the miserable working and living conditions of the working people.

In addition the new era of Capitalism comes with more surveillance practices. Drawing on Shoshana Zuboff’s (2019) sustained investigation in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism along with sources infrequently highlighted in the social work literature, the focus is on some of the main imperatives driving forward new surveillance practices. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism describes how global tech companies such as Google and Facebook persuaded us to give up our privacy for the sake of convenience; how personal information (“data”) gathered by these companies has been used by others not only to predict our behavior but also to influence and modify it. This results on how this has had disastrous consequences for democracy and freedom. This is the “surveillance capitalism” of the title, which Zuboff defines as a “new economic order” and “an expropriation of critical human rights that is best understood as a coup from above”.

It seems likely that the future is going to witness intense class struggles for political power so that a new social order emerges in which the state shall ensure housing, healthcare, education and all means of livelihood to all its citizens, and equality, justice and dignity of all citizens are upheld.

A number of questions have arisen as we see the progression of the pandemic. Why is it that such a pandemic was not foreseen, when warning signs with avian flu, swine flu, SARS and MERS, all within the last two decades, were clear? Why is it, that with such advances in medicine, vaccines and healthcare, infections have spread so rapidly and the health systems collapsed?

The political implications of COVID-19 will continue to unfold for months, perhaps even years.

The pandemic hit after four decades of neoliberalism had depleted state capacities in the name of the ‘superior efficiency’ of the market, fostered deindustrialization through the ‘globalization’ of production and built fragile financial structures secured by magical thinking and state guarantees, all in the name of short-term profitability. The disintegration of the global economy left the wealthiest and most uncompromising neoliberal economies, the USA and the UK, exposed as being unable to produce enough face masks and personal protective equipment for their health staff, not to speak of ventilators to keep their hospitalized population alive.

These insufficiencies were caused not only by the lack of productive capacity due to changing technologies or China’s trade policies but also by deliberate policies: from universities to labs to manufacturing, neoliberalism actively promoted the fragmentation and disarticulation of a wide range of systems of provision as individual firms scrambled for short-term profits. The ensuing shortcomings were exacerbated by the destruction of state planning capacity and the disinclination of neoliberal governments to use all necessary means to mobilize industry, labour and private capital for a common purpose during the pandemic. Under pressure from the pandemic, service provision was transformed beyond recognition; online work became the norm in countless areas in a matter of days rather than the years that this transition would have normally taken, while the neoliberal worship of consumption dissolved into empty supermarket shelves, scrambles for hand sanitizer, pasta and sardines and fistfights for toilet paper.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the Achille’s heel of capitalism. Underfunded and ageing health systems across the capitalist world are crumbling whilst the global economy has entered a recessionary spiral.

Initially, the western world leaders adopted the same strategy as China by downplaying the lethality of Covid-19, but then once the crisis was out of control, they started reacting by proclaiming that the fight against the pandemic is likened to that of a World War and does not discriminate between rich and poor. At present, nearly two years after the spread of Covid-19 was detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the question of how the virus first emerged remains a mystery due to the unwillingness of the Chinese regime to give us clear answer and take its own responsibilities instead of orchestrating propaganda worldwide and trying to divide the leftists at one hand and then the rest of the world!

Today, after months of ‘state-imposed quarantine’, it should be recognized that whatever the exit strategy, ‘normality’ might be a word with an ‘elusive’ meaning. The question therefore that begs an answer is rather simple: What’s next?

Photo credit: Pawel Kuczynski

Observation et Analyse Indépendante pour le Proche Orient

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