Space, gas, and food: Russia bears the brunt of the leverage, escalating the war, pressuring the West

Moscow is breaking with Western solidarity and leveraging its leverage from space to global energy markets in a new effort to punish the United States and Europe for supporting Ukraine militarily in the more than five months since Russian forces invaded Ukraine. is trying

The latest salvo saw Russian officials announce on Tuesday that their country would leave the International Space Station (ISS) in 2024, ending decades of cooperation with the US and its allies in space. And the future of this facility will be thrown into doubt.

The announcement came a day after Russian energy giant Gazprom said it would cut gas flows to Europe through the key Nord Stream 1 pipeline by just 20 percent – a move that has fueled European energy concerns. Prices immediately jumped and added fresh urgency to Europe’s efforts. To reduce consumption and save fuel.

In response to Gazprom’s move, the European Union on Tuesday approved an emergency plan calling on countries to cut gas consumption by up to 15 percent in the coming months. Europe has already dramatically reduced its dependence on Russian energy since the war in Ukraine began, but Russian fuel still accounts for about 15 percent of the continent’s gas consumption.

European officials say they are now preparing for what could be a painful winter.

“I know the decision was not easy, but I think, in the end, everyone understands that this sacrifice is necessary,” Czech Industry Minister Josef Sekila said after an emergency EU meeting in Brussels on Tuesday. “We have to share the pain, and we will.”

‘Proceedings are ending’

As Europe stocks up on gas, Russian warplanes hit targets near the strategically important port city of Odessa in Ukraine’s Black Sea region on Tuesday. The attacks sparked fears that a breakthrough deal Moscow and Kyiv reached over the weekend to allow grain shipments from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to resume could be in jeopardy.

Speculation swirled on Tuesday that the Kremlin was poised to hold the world food supply hostage as part of its broader war plan in Ukraine, and that any deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government would Cannot be trusted.

But the Kremlin seems happy to push its advantage on multiple fronts this week, boasting that the US and Europe can do little about it. As Russia announced it would abandon the ISS, top Kremlin officials claimed on Tuesday that the West is rapidly running out of ways to hold Russia accountable for the bloody conflict in Ukraine.

“We can see that EU countries and North American countries are literally fighting each other to take unfriendly measures against Russia,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Russia’s official Tass news agency. Competing.”

“However, we can also see that they are running out of measures that they expect will put pressure on us and we will change our position,” Mr. Peskov said.

The US and its NATO allies have relied on unprecedented financial sanctions to punish Russia for invading Ukraine. The sanctions have undoubtedly hurt the Russian economy, but they appear to have had relatively little impact on Mr. Putin’s broader strategy.

But Russia’s real goal in Ukraine remains a matter of debate.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday that his goal was to topple President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government, laying out the Kremlin’s war aims in somewhat blunt terms yet allowing its forces to target parts of Ukraine with artillery and air strikes. Targeting through attacks.

Mr Lavrov’s comments were at odds with the Kremlin’s line earlier in the war, when he repeatedly stressed that Russia did not want to topple the Zelensky government, even as Moscow’s forces closed in on Kyiv. Russia later withdrew from around the capital and turned its attention to seizing Ukraine’s industrial Donbass region in the east.

Russian troops have made slow but steady gains in the region over the past several months and now control almost all of Luhansk, one of the two provinces that make up Donbas. The other, Donetsk, is facing a massive Russian ground and artillery attack.

In Washington on Tuesday, President Biden faced renewed criticism for his administration’s handling of the controversy.

While the U.S. has sent billions of dollars in military aid to Ukrainian troops, Republican critics say the White House could have taken stronger steps sooner to stop the Russian blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Such a strategy, they say, could help alleviate global food shortages that have resulted from disruptions in wheat and grain shipments.

“The Biden administration says its decision-making throughout the process has been deliberate and meticulous. History will probably judge otherwise,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the chamber floor Tuesday. Arguing that the U.S. should have acted more quickly to give Ukraine long-range rockets, anti-ship missiles, and other weapons capable of inflicting significant Russian damage. forces.

Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, said that “the months before Putin’s rise clearly called for courage and determination, to say nothing of the months after.” “But often the administration’s first instinct has been to go slow. The Ukrainians, despite being underpowered and outgunned, have fought valiantly to stop the Russian advance. Think they were early in the war. What could have been achieved with more American aid?

Flexing his muscles

Russia’s decision to abandon the ISS will certainly have significant implications for global cooperation in space, which has been a feature of the post-Cold War international landscape.

The ISS, jointly operated by Russia, the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan, has been continuously manned for 22 years. The $100 billion complex serves as a key research facility where crews test advanced technology that could eventually be used in future human missions to the Moon or Mars.

NASA did not immediately comment on the implications of the Russian announcement.

But Moscow has made clear it plans to launch its own space program, perhaps igniting the 21st-century US-Russian space race that helped define the Cold War.

Yuri Borisov, the newly installed head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, said his country plans to launch its installation by 2024. “I think by then we will start building a Russian orbital station,” he said during a meeting with Mr. Putin on Tuesday.

It is unclear what the US and its European allies might offer Russia to continue ISS support. So far, the US and NATO have insisted they will maintain economic sanctions on Moscow until all Russian troops leave Ukraine.

Russia says sanctions are the main motivation behind its decision to cut gas flows to Europe. Russian officials said this week that the Nord Stream 1 pipeline is in need of repairs, but Western sanctions have made it extremely difficult to obtain the necessary equipment and parts.

European officials reject those explanations, saying Mr. Putin is determined to use energy as a weapon.

German Economy Minister Robert Haebeck told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that Mr. Putin is “trying to undermine the overwhelming support for Ukraine and drive a wedge into our society.” “To do so, he creates uncertainty and raises prices.”

– This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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