The US-Iran clash, regardless of how the exchange of strikes in January will culminate, is definitely a new type of war in a new international setting.
The Black Sea region is becoming more and more subject to geopolitical and geo-economic confrontation.
On Tuesday, January 14, the Valdai Discussion Club hosted an expert discussion, titled “US-Iran: The Limits of Escalation”. In addition to Iranian issues, the experts discussed in detail the situation in Libya. As a result of recent events, these two countries are now in the focus of Middle East experts.
In December 2019, the US Congress approved the European Energy Security and Diversification Act of 2019; the first paragraph of the bill states that this proposed legislation will help the United States reach its global energy security goals, and encourages countries in Central and Eastern Europe to diversify their energy sources and supply routes in order to increase Europe’s energy security.
The aggravation of the troubled relationship between the United States and Iran has an impact on events on the Korean peninsula, which affect the South far more than the North.
In 2020, for the first time since he took office, Kim Jong-un did not make the New Year’s speech, an event which foreign analysts have come to regard as the key event where the DPRK’s supreme leader sums up the results of the past year and plans for the future. These statements have always been distinguished by a certain sincerity in the sense that they were not declarative in nature. His failure to provide this annual message was due to the fact that its place was taken by the final theses of the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), which was held from 28 to 31 December 2019 (Juche 108) at the headquarters of the party’s Central Committee.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s first trip abroad of the new decade was to Moscow, where she met with Vladimir Putin on Saturday. This was symbolic: Russia and Germany discussed how to re-stabilise the fragile world order. In this multi-polar system, appealing to the United States no longer makes sense for Merkel: President Donald Trump does not give advice, he only orders his allies around; if they do not obey him, he punishes them with sanctions. Whatever he does in the Middle East, he puts Europeans ahead of him. Trump also does not need European diplomacy to compete with American policymaking in the region. If Europe wants to play a key role in the Middle East, it has to come to an understanding regarding the regulatory power of Russia there.
On December 10 President Trump announced that the United States, Mexico, and Canada had successfully negotiated a new regional trade accord, the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA). Three weeks later Trump indicated that the United States and China had agreed on a “phenomenal” “phase one” trade deal on January 15 and that he would travel to Beijing later in the year to commence negotiations on a “phase two.” What do these developments portend for the future of the Sino-American relationship?
The story of Brexit since the referendum vote has so far been that of a stalemate. There are two major factions in the British elite: those that see a strategic interest in remaining with the EU, and those who forecast the EU’s decline and thus believe that Britain is better abandoning a sinking ship sooner than later. The current situation with regards to Brexit can be boiled down to a simple fact: neither of these two factions so far currently holds the resources to defeat the other.
On January 8, Gazprom launched Russia’s first FSRU to ship liquefied natural gas to the Kaliningrad region. The vessel Marshal Vasilevskiy, constructed by South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries, is able to transport up to 3.7 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas to Kaliningrad which is enough to cover any potential increase in the regional gas demand. Russia’s western exclave is a dynamic and rapidly growing regional gas market – last November Governor Anton Alikhanov said the regional gas consumption would reach 2.48 bcm in 2018. Furthermore, gas demand is expected to reach at least 3 bcm/year in the near future, while pipeline transiting via Lithuania has a (limited) operational capacity of 2.5 bcm/year. Therefore, a new source of gas – in the form of LNG – will mitigate potential deficit in the region.