European Union headquarters is laying blame squarely on Minsk, saying Lukashenko is engaged in a form of "hybrid attack" using migrants as a weapon, with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen urging more sanctions on Belarus for the escalation.Polish authorities reported that the situation on the border was calm overnight and earlier Tuesday, but authorities said they were bracing for any possibility. Poland’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday that a large group of Belarusian forces was moving toward the migrant camp.
The ratcheting rhetoric, blame-game, and continued finger pointing is now resulting in more direct means of muscle-flexing as on Wednesday Russia sent a pair of long-range bombers over Belarus in coordination with Minsk.There are many examples, the spokeswoman said. "The destruction of the Iraqi statehood, which happened due to the actions of the US administration and allied states, caused tectonic shifts in the region.
The West-sponsored ‘’Arab spring,’’ the NATO campaign against Libya, the interference of the collective West in the affairs of Syria and the support of international terrorism there and, most importantly, the emergence of ISIS (the former name of the IS terrorist group, which is banned in Russia) on the ruins of the Iraqi state - all that has led to a mass exodus of refugees and migrants from that part of the world to Europe...," Zakharova said.
Russian energy giant Gazprom operates the Yamal-Europe pipeline which runs across Russia, Belarus, Poland, and into Germany. The 2,600 mile natural gas transit line has significantly increased its volume to Europe in recent days, according to Lukashenko."We deliver heat to Europe, they still threaten us that they will close the border. And what if we cut off natural gas? Therefore, I would recommend that the Polish leadership, Lithuanians and other heedless people think before speaking," Lukashenko told a meeting of his cabinet in Minsk.
View: https://twitter.com/Ozkok_A/status/1458692229472604161?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1458692229472604161%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_c10&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.zerohedge.com%2Fgeopolitical%2Flukashenko-floats-cutting-key-gas-transit-pipeline-western-europe-we-deliver-heat-they"But it is up to them. If they close it (the border) let them do it," Lukashenko said. At the same time, he ordered the Foreign Ministry "to warn everyone in Europe: if they introduce additional sanctions that are 'undigestible' and 'unacceptable' for us, then we should respond."
"How to respond, we agreed with you about it half a year ago," the President of Belarus said.
In addition to another round of EU sanctions, Poland closed one of the main border crossings with Belarus earlier this week. One of the remaining border points is reporting trucks have to wait more than 50 hours to cross.
"We should not be intimidated, of course, by Lukashenko's threats," Gentiloni told a news conference presenting the Commission's new economic forecasts.
And on NATO encroachment in eastern Europe and around the Black Sea, he said:"This is very serious and could push Ukrainian politicians, the culprits of this widespread corruption, into a headlong rush action, for example into a hazardous military offensive in Donbass or an armed provocation of Russia in the Black Sea."
The statements appeared to back provocative statements made days ago by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who said, "This is an almost constant attempt to test us, to check how ready we are, how much we have built the entire [defense] system off the Black Sea coast.""NATO should have been dismantled at the same time as the Warsaw Pact was suppressed in the last century and the present expansion, and projection by NATO of military forces to the whole world is very alarming."
European federalists increasingly have called for building an autonomous EU military force:"The Brussels buzzword is now 'strategic autonomy,' an effort to wrestle the word 'sovereignty' away from nationalists and make the case that only a strong EU can make Europeans truly sovereign in relation to Russia, China, and the United States."
France, which has just under 300,000 active-duty personnel, has the largest military in Europe. Still, it remains a regional power, not a global one. In September 2021, the RAND Corporation, in a major study — "A Strong Ally Stretched Thin: An Overview of France's Defense Capabilities from a Burdensharing Perspective" — concluded that the French military suffers many shortcomings that render as "limited" its capacity to sustain a high-end, conventional conflict."With Merkel on her way out, fixing the Bundeswehr will likely be up to her successor. Until then, plans for a 'European Army' that includes Germany have about as much chance of getting off the ground as the German Air Force."
So far, however, only Italy and Greece have come out in support of Macron's calls for an autonomous EU military force."We could turn a blind eye and act as if nothing had happened. We think that would be a mistake for all Europeans. There really is an opportunity here."
Meanwhile, the British newspaper, The Telegraph, on September 22 reported that Macron had offered to put France's seat on the United Nations Security Council "at the disposal of the European Union" if its governments back Macron's plans for an EU army. The French Presidency later denied the report:"I think it is important to say, in relation to the discussions that are taking place right now in Europe, that I experience U.S. President Joe Biden as being very loyal to the transatlantic alliance.
"I think in general that one should refrain from lifting some specific challenges, which will always exist between allies, up to a level where they are not supposed to be. I really, really want to warn against this."
France assumes the EU's six-month rotating presidency on January 1, 2022. During that time, Macron is sure to continue pushing for "strategic autonomy" from the United States, including at a "Summit on European Defense" scheduled for the first half of 2022."Contrary to the assertions reported this morning, no, France has not offered to leave its seat on the United Nations Security Council. It belongs to France, and it will remain so."
A senior Tory MP, Bob Seely, warned:"Strategic autonomy might sound empowering, but it remains little more than a distraction and irritant to the transatlantic community and the real issues. European nations need more national defense capacity. Europe needs a strong, innovative, and productive defense industrial base, and Europeans need to take collective security and its role in a Europe whole, free, prosperous and at peace seriously. These problems can be better addressed by building the militaries the Europeans need than the fantasies Brussels wants."
EU affairs expert Dave Keating noted:"If the EU Army undermines NATO, or results in the separation of the U.S. and Europe or produces a paper army, Europe will be committing the most enfeebling and dangerous act of self-harm since the rise of fascism in the 1930s. An EU Army will amount to European de-arming."
In an interview with France 24, the French state-owned television network, Richard Whitman, a professor of politics and international relations at the University of Kent, said:"The problem is that while leaders like Macron have tasked the Commission to make the EU more geopolitically strong, he and others still refuse to give the Commission the tools that would make it strong. For the last decade, the European Council has consistently opposed measures that would strengthen the Commission, because it would mean diluting the power of national governments....
"EU national leaders are all well aware of the need for Europe to speak with one voice if it ever wants to be taken seriously on the global stage. But their natural instinct to preserve their own power gets in the way of achieving this goal."
Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Walter Russell Mead noted that the entire premise of European leaders that the United States was "disengaging" from international affairs was based on a "significant misunderstanding." He wrote:"It will be hard to convince some member states that collective EU defense would bring the same security as NATO's U.S.-backed defense arrangement. Nobody in the EU has ever been able to come up with a decision-making arrangement that takes national divides into account while facilitating expeditious decision-making; it's either the lowest common denominator or grand rhetorical comments tied to absurd propositions. Military action is politically defensible only when taken by national leaders and parliaments — and it's difficult to see that being worked around."
Polish analyst Łukasz Maślanka tweeted that the French arguments for "strategic autonomy" from the United States are lacking in substance:"Many Europeans, including some seasoned observers of the trans-Atlantic scene, believe that if the U.S. sees the Indo-Pacific as the primary focus of its foreign policy, it must be writing off the rest of the world. These observers look at the American withdrawal from Afghanistan and imagine that this is the kind of headlong retreat they can expect from America in Europe and the Middle East.
"This is unlikely. American interests are global, and American presidents, like it or not, can't confine their attention to a single world theater."
The London-based magazine, The Economist, wrote that Europeans feel "unnerved" by Macron's push for "strategic autonomy" from the United States:"French reports from the European Council summit in Slovenia assess Macron's chances of convincing Europeans to EU defense. A critical tone prevails against the reluctant Balts and Poles who still stubbornly believe in NATO despite the U.S.'s allegedly inevitable withdrawal from Europe.
"However, it is French observers who lack lucidity: the U.S. presence in Central Europe has been growing, not diminishing in recent years. It is many times greater not only than what France currently delivers, but what it could ever deliver.
"Finally, if the U.S. really did intend to turn its back on Europe, the dismay in Paris would be no less than in Warsaw. It's harmful to drive something that can finally become a self-fulfilling prophecy."
John Krieger, writing for the UK-based The Spectator, noted:"Most of them, especially those near the Russian border, are happy to rely on America's security guarantee. Few share France's willingness to splurge on defense, or its expeditionary military culture. (Germany, especially, does not.) Nobody agrees what 'strategic autonomy' actually means. Low odds, however, seldom deter Mr. Macron. After the latest snub, the unhugged French president will doubtless conclude that he has little choice but to keep trying."
Kristjan Mäe, head of the Estonian defense ministry's NATO and EU department said:"Given that Emmanuel Macron has nailed his colors to the mast on driving European integration deeper, a refusal by European member states to follow suit would be embarrassing and not a good omen for his forthcoming presidency of the EU in January."
Analyst Brooks Tigner, writing for the Atlantic Council, concluded:"The EU is not a credible substitute for what NATO represents. You will not see any appetite for the European army amongst member states."
European Army: Rhetoric Versus Reality | ZeroHedge"Even if national capitals wanted to lunge for a common army, there are so many technical, legal, and administrative differences between their militaries that it would take decades to produce a smoothly functioning force.
"Those differences boil down to some of the most mundane things such as soldiers' rights. Strong unions representing military personnel in rich Scandinavian countries, for instance, ensure that their soldiers enjoy levels of physical comfort, hardship pay, and access to medical care that their equivalents in poorer southern EU countries can only dream of for an exercise, much less an actual operation. Whose union rules would govern a common European army? And how would that be financed?
"The differences are even sharper at the strategic level when it comes to intelligence. As a whole, the EU countries (and those of NATO as well) do not trust one another with sensitive information: it is parceled out very parsimoniously from one capital to a few trusted others. It would never work for a truly common army. Changing that alone via twenty-five-way trust for intelligence-sharing within PESCO would take years and years. Some deem it impossible.
"Conclusion: any talk of creating a fully-fledged common army, even within the next generation, is just that: jaw-jaw and not real-real."
Despite the Kremlin not commenting on the statements when pressed by Western reporters, there's little doubt that it's the most inconvenient moment possible to open up such a discussion as provocative as nuclear weapons - again given it appears Russia is trying to distance itself from some of Belarus' leaders' most outlandish statements.
Meanwhile, perhaps sensing that Europe's was going to make things complicated, late on Monday Goldman Sachs' Samantha Dart wrote that "today's auction of Yamal pipeline capacity for December points to no bookings from Gazprom, vs our 45 mcm/d expected." And while "booking volumes do not guarantee flow, as illustrated by Yamal flows for October and thus far in November at 14 mcm/d and 10 mcm/d, respectively, vs bookings at just over 30 mcm/d for both months" she added that the lack of bookings "keeps supply uncertainty elevated into the end of the year.""Increasingly, it's looking like it may not start up until the second half of next year.
"The lack of gas in storage and the lack of Russian supplies mean we essentially have to cut into industrial demand in order to preserve crucial gas supplies for the power and heat networks. Europe is having to heavily reduce industrial gas demand in a way we haven't seen in decades," Waddell said.
Some really bad juju gonna come from this!
German Regulators Suspend Nord Stream 2 Approval; European Gas Prices Surge
BY TYLER DURDEN
TUESDAY, NOV 16, 2021 - 07:20 AM
European natural gas prices surged as much as 12% Tuesday after Germany's energy regulator unexpectedly suspended a key steop in the approval process for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. According to Bloomberg, the Federal Network Agency halted the Nord Stream certification process necessary to pump natgas directly from Russia into Germany. It was initially expected the certification would've been completed in early 2022, but that now appears to be unlikely.
The move comes as Nord Stream 2 AG, the operator of the pipeline, decided to set up a German subsidiary in a bid to meet European Union rules requiring gas producers to be legally separate from entities transporting the fuel. Russia’s Gazprom PJSC is the owner of Nord Stream 2.
The German regulator said the entity "must then meet the requirements of the Energy Industry Act for an independent transport network operator." It added, "the certification process remains suspended."
The announcement sent benchmark European gas prices surging as traders fear the decision means Europe won’t get much needed gas to ease tight supplies this winter. Dutch month-ahead gas, the European benchmark, soared as high as 12% to above 88 euros a megawatt-hour.
“If one believes that flows could only start after certification has been completed, this means that flows via Nord Stream 2 will be further delayed, with negative implications for European gas balance over winter,” said Katja Yafimava, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.
The timing of the suspension comes at the worst possible moment. Europe faces a massive energy crunch as natgas stockpiles are the lowest in a decade just as Europe faces its first cold winter blast. Widespread below-average temperatures continue to plague parts of the continent, as the following chart of NW Europe Heating Degree Days shows.
Meanwhile, Europe's natgas storage levels are the lowest since 2013.
The suspension deprives Europe of fresh supplies upwards of 55bn cubic meters of gas per year transited in an undersea pipeline across the Baltic Sea from Gazprom facilities in Russia to Germany then distributed throughout Europe, effectively bypassing pipelines running through Ukraine.
James Waddell at Energy Aspects, a consultancy, told FT, "any remaining hopes that this pipeline would be available for the winter are completely dashed now."
Meanwhile, perhaps sensing that Europe's was going to make things complicated, late on Monday Goldman Sachs' Samantha Dart wrote that "today's auction of Yamal pipeline capacity for December points to no bookings from Gazprom, vs our 45 mcm/d expected." And while "booking volumes do not guarantee flow, as illustrated by Yamal flows for October and thus far in November at 14 mcm/d and 10 mcm/d, respectively, vs bookings at just over 30 mcm/d for both months" she added that the lack of bookings "keeps supply uncertainty elevated into the end of the year."
Delaying Nord Stream 2's certification indefinitely, especially if coupled with further Russian supply cuts, could be a disaster for Europe which is now facing the first cold blast of the season, as energy inflation and supply chain disruptions due to the energy crisis and pandemic could metastasis into a "winter of discontent," fueling socio-economic instabilities. As much as European officials oppose the pipeline and want energy independence from Russia, the continent desperately needs Gazprom to survive this winter.