EU Commission Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said on December 15 the proposed measures will reinforce solidarity between Member States in the event of gas supply emergencies. Saudi Arabia and Russia could also hit records if remaining OPEC+ cuts are fully unwound. Urquhart Stewart noted that like people trying to de-risk their companies by having shorter supply chains and local developments, governments will be doing the same in terms of trying to stockpile more basic commodities, if they possibly can. In that case, global supply would soar by 6.4 mb/d next year compared with a 1.5 mb/d rise in 2021,” the IEA report read. As this upward trend extends into 2022, the US, Canada and Brazil look set to pump at their highest ever annual levels, lifting overall non-OPEC+ output by 1.8 mb/d in 2022. Concerns that Russian could invade of Ukraine disrupt energy supplies over the winter also fueled prices. “Rising gas prices push up the cost of electricity in EU,” European Commission Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a tweet on December 16 “Almost all EU Member State have taken measures to shield the most vulnerable people, as recommended by EU Commission. If it gets colder it could get worse
Cold weather in Europe has lifted demand while Russian gas giant monopoly is reportedly waiting for a permit to start shipping gas through the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The International Energy Agency (IEA) said on December 14 demand for oil is set to be lower than expected in 2022. “And the fear is interruption of supply with geopolitical threats over Ukraine and the Belarusian issue over immigrants expected to be difficult for the EU so whilst nervousness there that price is not going to come down any time soon and there will be countries who will be demanding more and building up stockpiles,” he said. However, rising cases of the COVID variant Omicron could lead to more restrictions across Europe, slowing economic growth and reducing energy demand. The benchmark front-month contract on the Dutch TTF hub climbed as high as €120 per megawatt hour (MWh) on December 14, close to record intraday levels seen in early October, according to Reuters. Electricity prices have surged across Europe. On average, oil demand has been revised down by around 100 kb/d since last month’s Report for both 2021 and 2022. Prices in Europe had jumped this year by as much as 700% by October, with British prices up around 500%. “Global oil production is poised to outpace demand from December, led by growth in the US and OPEC+ countries. “A surge in new Covid cases is expected to slow the recovery in global oil demand, with air travel and jet fuel most affected. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>High gas prices push up electricity cost in EU

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

A worker of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom

GAZPROM

Fears of energy supply interruption, geopolitical threats over Ukraine

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High energy prices in recent months have drawn attention from the European Commission, highlighting the importance of energy security, especially in times when global markets are volatile. Europe’s energy crisis
Europe’s gas storage levels could hit record lows by the end of the winter heating season due to an early cold spell and muted Russian flows, leaving consumers and companies with much higher prices for longer, Reuters reported, citing Gas Infrastructure Europe data. On December 12, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the Nord Stream 2 pipeline could not be permitted in its current form because it did not comply with EU law, FT reported. “It is up to the Member States to decide the parameters of the joint action and to inform the Commission, who will ensure that energy market and state aid rules are respected,” Timmermans said. “Today we are proposing measures to reinforce solidarity between Member States in the event of gas supply emergencies,” Timmermans said, adding that the package also requires EU countries to consider gas storage considerations in their risk assessments and create a framework for voluntary joint purchase of strategic stocks. Storage sites in European countries and Britain were only 75% full at the start of the winter heating season in October, and have fallen to around 63% full by early December, data from Gas Infrastructure Europe shows, Reuters reported. Global oil demand is now set to rise by 5.4 mb/d in 2021 and by 3.3 mb/d in 2022, when it returns to pre-pandemic levels at 99.5 mb/d,” the IEA said in its latest monthly report, which was released on December 14. Spot natural gas prices trading in the Netherlands soared this week near to record highs seen in October. “This is fear,” Justin Urquhart Stewart, co-founder of Regionally in London, told New Europe by phone on December 17. follow on twitter @energyinsider
 
  This week, we presented proposals make our energy system more robust as well as more sustainable.”
The EU Commission proposed on December 15 to improve the resilience of the gas system and strengthen the existing security of supply provisions, as promised in the Communication and Toolbox on Energy Prices of October 13, and as requested by EU Member States. It will also foster a more strategic approach to gas storage, integrating storage considerations into risk assessment at regional level, the Commission said, adding that the proposal also enables voluntary joint procurement by Member States to have strategic stocks, in line with the EU competition rules. “In case of shortages, no household in Europe will be left alone, with enhanced automatic solidarity across borders through new pre-defined arrangements and clarifications on controls and compensations within the internal energy market,” the Commission said in a press release, noting that the proposal extends current rules to renewables and low carbon gases and introduces new provisions to cover emerging cybersecurity risks.

The projects’ commercial parallel lender is DNB ASA, with Denmark’s ECA EKF providing guarantee for a portion of the term loan.  
 
  EPA/ADAM WAROAWA/FILE PICTURE

Loans will support new Grajewo and Sulmierzyce wind farms

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The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said on December 16 the bank will lend PLN 175 million (€38.9 million equivalent) for the development, construction and operation of two wind farms in Poland with a total capacity of 63.1 MW. The EBRD works extensively in Poland, where it has invested more than €11 billion in 463 projects. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Poland’s wind power secures EBRD financing

By New Europe Online/KG

A wind-propelled power-generating plant in Losino near Slupsk, northwestern Poland. The projects, which are expected to generate more than 182.4GWh of renewable zero-carbon electricity a year, leading to carbon emissions savings of almost 140,000 tonnes per year, will support Poland’s ongoing energy transition as it shifts away from its reliance on coal. Poland currently uses coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, for over 70% of its electricity generation. In December 2020, the European Council agreed to increase the bloc-wide emissions reduction target from 40% to 55%. Keeping up the momentum of its green energy transition is vital for Poland as European Union ambitions grow. According to the bank, the EBRD financing makes up half of a bigger loan package for Grajewo and Sulmierzyce wind farms, which are ultimately owned by funds managed by DIF Capital Partners, an independent global infrastructure fund manager expanding its renewables investment footprint in Poland. An ambitious renewable energy programme supported by policy dialogue with the EBRD allowed Poland to hold its first large-scale renewable energy auctions in late 2018 and achieve 12.2% of final energy consumption from renewables by the end of 2019. It faces one of the most significant energy transition challenges of all the EBRD’s countries of operation as it moves to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement on limiting global warming to no more than 1.5C. Despite economic crosswinds in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, Poland aims to meet a demanding target of 23% by 2030.

However, a temporary derogation will allow Cyprus and Malta to have one hydrogen-ready gas project each funded with a view of connecting them to the EU network, under strict conditions. The ITRE will vote on the text on January 26 next year. The aim is to align the existing regulation to the Green Deal objectives of the Union. Ending Cyprus and Malta’s energy isolation
Projects based on natural gas will no longer be eligible for EU funding. The cost of projects will have to ensure that consumers are not disproportionately burdened, especially if that could lead to energy poverty. The selected projects will have to help EU countries to move away from solid fossil fuels such as coal, lignite, peat and oil shale. According to the European Parliament, MEPs reiterated that eligible projects have to be in line with the “energy efficiency first” principle, which stipulates that energy savings are the easiest way to save money for consumers and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The revised TEN-E framework will encourage investments in hydrogen and CO2 networks, as well as offshore grids development” he added. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET/FILE PICTURE

MEPs secure funding for projects that repurpose existing natural gas infrastructure for hydrogen transport or storage

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The updated rules to select which energy projects will receive EU support were informally agreed between Members of the European Parliament and the Slovenian Presidency of the Council on December 15, according to the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE). Boost hydrogen, phase out natural gas
During negotiations, MEPs supported including the funding of the development of hydrogen infrastructure as well as carbon capture and storage, the European Parliament said, adding that eligible projects should also drive market integration and increase security of supply, the agreed text says. “We are not only improving the infrastructure planning process, but also pushing for new types of projects of common interest, in line with the climate objectives. Finally, the legislation will not affect a country’s right to determine how to use its energy resources and define its own energy mix. “We managed to achieve a balanced agreement in line with our mandate,” Polish MEP Zdzisław Krasnodebski said. The informal agreement will now have to be formally endorsed by Parliament and Council to come into force. MEPs secured funding for projects that repurpose existing natural gas infrastructure for hydrogen transport or storage during a transitional period. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>MEPs reach deal with Council on EU-backed energy projects

By New Europe Online/KG

A general view of a plenary session of the European Parliament. These projects would be eligible to receive EU financial assistance until 31 December 2027. The draft legislation sets criteria and the methodology for selecting energy projects of common interest (PCIs), such as high-voltage transmission lines, pipelines, energy storage facilities or smart grids, which would benefit from fast-track administrative procedures and be eligible to receive EU funds. MEPs also secured a stronger involvement of stakeholders in the cross-border infrastructure planning and PCI selection process and a wider representation of different sectors in the consultations. They also pushed for boosting offshore renewable energy projects and facilitate their integration into the EU networks with the aim of reaching the EU’s climate neutrality goals and the 300 GW objective, the European Parliament said.

Consumers should be able to choose renewable and low carbon gases over fossil fuels. One of the main aims is to establish a market for hydrogen, create the right environment for investment, and enable the development of dedicated infrastructure, including for trade with third countries. The market rules will be applied in two phases, before and after 2030, and notably cover access to hydrogen infrastructures, separation of hydrogen production and transport activities, and tariff setting. It should be aligned with National Energy and Climate Plans, as well as EU-wide Ten Year Network Development Plan. Gas network operators have to include information on infrastructure that can be decommissioned or repurposed, and there will be separate hydrogen network development reporting to ensure that the construction of the hydrogen system is based on a realistic demand projection.   This will ensure a level playing field in assessing the full greenhouse gas emissions footprint of different gases and allow Member States to effectively compare and consider them in their energy mix. The European Union needs to decarbonise the energy it consumes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and become climate-neutral by 2050, and these proposals will help to deliver that goal, the Commission said. We want Europe to lead the way and be the first in the world to lay down the market rules for this important source of energy and storage. As a second step, to effectively tackle emissions of imported fossil fuels along the supply chain to Europe, the Commission will engage in a diplomatic dialogue with our international partners and review the methane regulation by 2025 with a view to introducing more stringent measures on fossil fuels imports once all data is available. “Our proposals also strengthen the security of gas supply and enhance solidarity between Member States, to counteract price shocks and make our energy system more resilient. Another priority of the package is consumer empowerment and protection. According to the Commission, the new rules will make it easier for renewable and low-carbon gases to access the existing gas grid, by removing tariffs for cross-border interconnections and lowering tariffs at injection points. EUROPEAN UNION, 2021/EC – AUDIOVISUAL SERVICE

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The European Commission adopted on December 15 a set of legislative proposals to decarbonise the EU gas market by facilitating the uptake of renewable and low carbon gases, including hydrogen, and to ensure energy security for all citizens in Europe. The new rules would require companies to measure and quantify their asset-level methane emissions at source and carry out comprehensive surveys to detect and repair methane leaks in their operations. “A key element of this transition is establishing a competitive hydrogen market with dedicated infrastructure. As requested by Member States, we improve the EU’s gas storage coordination and create the option for voluntary joint purchase of gas reserves,” she added. Tackling Methane Emissions
In parallel, in a first-ever EU legislative proposal on methane emissions reduction in the energy sector, the Commission said it will require the oil, gas and coal sectors to measure, report and verify methane emissions, and proposes strict rules to detect and repair methane leaks and to limit venting and flaring. They also create a certification system for low-carbon gases, to complete the work started in the Renewable Energy Directive with the certification of renewable gases. In order to avoid locking Europe in with fossil natural gas and to make more space for clean gases in the European gas market, the Commission proposes that long-term contracts for unabated fossil natural gas should not be extended beyond 2049. The Commission’s regulation and directive proposals create the conditions for a shift from fossil natural gas to renewable and low-carbon gases, in particular biomethane and hydrogen, and strengthen the resilience of the gas system. EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson noted that the proposals presented on December 15 create the conditions for the green transition in the EU gas sector, boosting the use of clean gases. To address methane emissions, we are also proposing a solid legal framework to better track and reduce this powerful greenhouse gas, helping us to fulfil the Global Methane Pledge and tackle the climate crisis,” he said. The proposal foresees that the national network development plans should be based on a joint scenario for electricity, gas and hydrogen. Member States should also establish mitigation plans, taking into consideration methane mitigation and measurement of abandoned mine methane and inactive wells. First, importers of fossil fuels will be required to submit information about how their suppliers perform measurement, reporting and verification of their emissions and how they mitigate those emissions. The proposal would establish a new EU legal framework to ensure the highest standard of measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) of methane emissions. The Commission is also following up on the EU Methane Strategy and its international commitments with proposals to reduce methane emissions in the energy sector in Europe and in the global supply chain. Mirroring the provisions already applicable in the electricity market, consumers may switch suppliers more easily, use effective price comparison tools, get accurate, fair and transparent billing information, and have better access to data and new smart technology. “Europe needs to turn the page on fossil fuels and move to cleaner energy sources,” EU Commission Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said, adding that this includes replacing fossil gas with renewable and low carbon gases, like hydrogen. We are also proposing strict rules on methane emissions from gas, oil and coal, to reduce emissions in these sectors by 80% by 2030 and to trigger action on methane outside the EU,” Simson said. A new governance structure in the form of the European Network of Network Operators for Hydrogen (ENNOH) will be created to promote a dedicated hydrogen infrastructure, cross-border coordination and interconnector network construction, and elaborate on specific technical rules. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>New EU framework to decarbonize gas markets, promote hydrogen, cut methane emissions

By New Europe Online/KG

EU Commission VP Frans Timmermans and Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson give a press conference on a package of proposals on energy and climate action, Brussels, December 15, 2021. The Commission said it will establish two transparency tools that will show the performance and reduction efforts of countries and energy companies across the globe in curbing their methane emissions: a transparency database, where the data reported by importers and EU operators will be made available to the public; and a global monitoring tool to show methane emitting hot-spots inside and outside the EU, harnessing our world leadership in environmental monitoring via satellites. “Today, we are proposing the rules to enable this transition and build the necessary markets, networks and infrastructure. Finally, with respect to the methane emissions of the EU’s energy imports, the Commission proposed a two-step approach. It also puts forward global monitoring tools ensuring transparency of methane emissions from imports of oil, gas and coal into the EU, which will allow the Commission to consider further actions in the future. In addition, the proposal bans venting and flaring practices, which release methane into the atmosphere, except in narrowly defined circumstances.

Petkov revealed Bulgaria would be offering unspecified economic incentives to reach a quick compromise in the joint economic working group. Regarding the bilateral dispute, Prime Minister Petkov’s novel approach appears technocratic and results-oriented, something that has been welcomed by North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski, who noted that “the approach of the new Bulgaria PM, that history should not be the only venue of communication is acceptable to me.”
Time will tell how Petkov’s approach plays out and whether his diverse coalition including some strongly nationalist elements can move the issue forward considering the turmoil in Skopje. Facebook

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While Bulgaria’s November 14 elections managed to break the political logjam that had paralyzed the country for most of 2021, which required three consecutive elections, the incoming government in Sofia has indicated it hopes to see progress, but will not remove its longstanding veto on North Macedonia’s EU entry without compromise. His diverse coalition is comprised of the right-leaning anti-corruption group Democratic Bulgaria, the left-leaning Bulgarian Socialist Party, and the anti-elite “There Is Such A People” party. Bulgarian Presidency website

Another EU presidency, this time Slovenia, passes with no measurable progress for the Western Balkans. Also, there was no decision on the controversial idea of separating the accession processes for Albania and North Macedonia, leaving Albania effectively a hostage to the dispute. However, Petkov did not indicate that he was willing to give away much of anything on the core issues, noting “once we put the upsides on the table… While not fielding a huge majority, Petkov’s new coalition government will comfortably control slightly above 130 MPs in the country’s 240 seat parliament, which will contain a total of seven parties. Petkov has indicated his intention to bring the country fully back into synch with the EU and NATO. In presenting his coalition cabinet which contains a number of new and relatively unknown personalities drawn from the coalition parties, Petkov explained that “zero tolerance for corruption” will be the working motto of his government. However, one needs to ask the question as to whether Zaev would be an asset in these negotiations if he remains in place. On procedures, he noted, “let the two populations start talking about the benefits of working together.”  
Petkov said the working groups he was proposing would cover joint economic activity, infrastructure, culture, and history. Petkov told the Financial Times earlier this week “we will propose a new process, very fast, with a limited timeframe, just six months long” which that publication interpreted as a U-turn in Bulgarian policy and predictably focused its coverage on this issue over the real issues the country faces, which is Petkov’s challenging domestic agenda. Zaev’s “long farewell” continues
In North Macedonia, Zaev had previously offered to resign after his party performed poorly in the October municipal elections, opening the way for months of political uncertainty in Skopje including a no-confidence vote in Zaev’s government that was cancelled for lack of quorum, with one MP missing. Up to now, the calculus has assumed that in his weakened state, Zaev would quickly sign up to anything the Bulgarian side put in front of him. The former governing GERB party led by ex-Prime Minister Boyko Borisov retains 59 seats in parliament. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Bulgaria’s new government maintains Enlargement veto

By Alec Mally
Director for Global Economic Affairs at IPEDIS

Incoming Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov. A new Bulgarian Government forms up
Kiril Petkov was confirmed (134-104) as Bulgaria’s new Prime Minister on December 13, after his new anti-corruption “We Continue the Change” party (PP) sealed a coalition deal with several smaller parties the week earlier. Sofia’s firm position has essentially demolished the “fantasy scenario” being sold by a few politicians and a number of Western diplomats in Skopje, who have argued that only Prime Minister Zoran Zaev could bridge the chasm with Bulgaria and somehow magically re-energize the country’s now-frozen EU accession process in short order. The last two of those subjects cover the political minefields that have kept the dispute alive over the years. It produced yet another repeat of Brussels’ usual formula — encouraging words for the aspirant countries but no dates in sight. He said “Once this is all achieved … discussions about compromises are much easier to have.”   Bulgaria will not drop its requirement that North Macedonia must amend its history textbooks and remove all references to Bulgarian troops as the “Fascist occupying force.”
Of course, Petkov dangled the necessary political carrot but perhaps offended Greece by forgetting an important geographical component of the neighboring country’s name. Bulgaria’s former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. For most, the issue that matters is Bulgaria’s deep ongoing dispute with North Macedonia over the nature of that country’s political, linguistic, and cultural evolution, all of which Bulgaria views as recent and politically motivated deviations/separations from core Bulgarian roots. This is all being seen as a cynical political maneuver, since Zaev now claims he must stay on to resolve the language and ethnicity dispute with Bulgaria, even after handing the leadership of his social democratic party (SDSM) to a handpicked successor. What has been revealed up to now about the new Bulgarian approach including multiple working groups is based on Petkov’s own statements to the media. I believe we can happily sign Macedonia into the EU.”  Eye on North Macedonia dispute
It is doubtful that most foreign observers will do more than gloss over Petkov’s domestic initiatives. Petkov announced that accelerating the country’s unimpressive COVID-19 vaccination program and devising new measures to shield citizens from the surge in energy costs would be his top priorities, along with yet another overhaul of Bulgaria’s anti-corruption agency. That is simply not happening as the European Council meeting on December 16 was once again unable to establish any kind of date for the start of accession negotiations.

The West is always reacting to Russia rather than forcing and focusing on the issues that would be both in the national interests of Ukraine and the Western democracies. His maneuver proved that in the issue regarding Ukraine, he is not only allowed to control the agenda, but is also allowed to frame the issue to his advantage. Ukrainian military forces near the Maiorske checkpoint in the country’s war torn eastern Donbass region. To grow in maturity to that of a sovereign and independent European nation that cannot succumb to the geopolitical interests of other nations, but to ensure that it is the main determiner of its national fate. Putin does not want Ukraine’s security to be guaranteed by the NATO alliance. A strategy that would ensure Ukraine’s stated goal of joining NATO from being realized. Empires know how to wait to get what they want, democracies are restless because they are formulated to solve one issue and then move on to another. Sanctions, he said, would be expanded beyond individuals. In reporting on the summit, there was no indication that any progress was made in dealing with the details of Russia’s original invasion of Ukraine in direct violation and spirit of international law. It could well be argued that had those types of sanctions been then imposed, the world may have not come to this point and that close to 15,000 Ukrainians would not be dead and almost 1.6 million people would not have been displaced internally. New Europe's Ukraine correspondent. It is unfortunate that this issue did not have greater prominence because, for Putin, this is his greatest strategic interest and objective. And so, the discussion was not about dealing and attempting to resolve the fundamentals of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine 8 years ago, but on issues that act as a distraction from negotiating the original transgressions for the conflict. In the case of Ukraine, an adequate formula has not been found. Facebook

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Although it is stating the obvious, Russia has been at war with Ukraine since 2014. The summit, when being summarized, said that Putin should expect severe sanctions that were being discussed, but not implemented 8 years ago. To date, and in the present, one way in which Putin has succeeded was to force the West to respond to military threats, making that the ‘threat’ the issue, rather than have the focus being the dealing with the issue of his illegal invasion of Ukraine and the occupation of 7% of its land, including Crimea. Empires such as Russia and China should also be added to the list, always rely on and exploit the passage of time over its democratic adversaries on the assumption that democratic memories are short, while being subject to impatience as a result of democratic presidential terms and the inherent desire to solve an issue. This means that Putin must leave Ukraine in accordance with international law. It thrust Russia’s interests once again to the forefront of international discussion on his terms, and furthermore, forced the United States to acquiesce to his desire to discuss Ukraine in a head-to-head scenario. The second being, not imposing even greater sanctions when Russia disregarded his threat and went ahead with its invasion of Ukraine. President Obama made two fateful mistakes whose lessons for Biden have not been lost. By Yuri Polakiwsky
Canadian-born political analyst. Authoritarians are only limited by the timing of their death. It’s time to move on. In dealing with Putin, the West must always focus and frame their discussions with Putin not only being aware of his long-term strategic objectives, but to ensure the uncompromised sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.  The first being the “drawing a line in the sand” in Syria and not following through, thus allowing for Putin to invade Ukraine in the first place. Those interests are based on seeing the removal of Russia’s invading forces from the Lugansk and Donetsk regions and the return of Crimea. The issue into which Ukraine has been thrust should be clear: the respect of its sovereignty and independence and the willingness to assuage Russia’s security interest. President Biden clearly articulated his will to act in a tough and clear manner of the ramifications if Russia would invade Ukraine on yet another front. The Minsk Agreement is not the framework. That may be well and good, but it must be remembered, he is threatening a country that survived the devastation of Stalingrad and which has not been forgotten. However, in the reporting on Russia’s response to the talks, one major aspect was not adequately reported on in Western media. Russians are a suffering people, and furthermore, how would one judge the efficacy of severe economic sanctions on a people whose leadership doesn’t really care about them? Putin’s recent tactical actions both illustrates and reveals his greater strategy, that being to ensure the continuation of a “frozen conflict” in Eastern Ukraine and to make Russian occupation of Crimea a fait accompli. In both general and specific terms, it is to reestablish the Ukrainian government’s autonomy of its internationally recognized lands and borders and establish an order in the region based in accordance with the principles of international rule of law. Putin’s strategy is to hinder, if not to totally stop the integration of Ukraine into the democratic world and free-market sphere, as well as prevent Ukraine’s consolidation into rules-based Western institutions. That being that Putin asked for a written guarantee that Ukraine not be allowed to join NATO. But in addition, it is to ensure that Ukraine remains divided both politically and socially, as well as weaken its resolve to attract Western foreign investment while destabilizing the country economically. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Biden and Putin talk, but about what? The recent video summit between president Biden and Putin as a result of Russia’s large military buildup at Ukraine’s border was once again a reaction to a potential threat of further invasion. In defining its national narrative, Ukraine must articulate, both to Russia and its western partners that its uncompromising quest, as a nation and as a people’s, is to proceed along a path to freedom. This focus should always be paramount in any discussion with Russia. In any search for an agreement where there is a dispute, it is imperative that the parties find a mutual language, and an agreed-to framework, for which to resolve their dispute. As Ukraine gravitates to its rightful place within the family of the democratic West, it expresses its resolve in rejecting Russia’s sphere of influence and the authoritarianism of Putin. It is not to respond to any minutiae, however dire, which would force deviation from this strategic objective. For Putin, this was a momentary tactical achievement. He reminded Putin that further sanctioning would occur and that the consequences for Russia would be devastating. It also proved that just a “show” of a military threat could illicit a reaction from Western competitors. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu (far right) has been accused by Ukrainian authorities of helping to mastermind the creation of armed pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine.