May 30, 2022No Comments

The Geopolitics of the Energy Transition’s Momentum

Authors: Riccardo Bosticco and Michele Mignogna.

Introduction

The main result that Putin has achieved until now with the aggression of Ukraine is a solid stance from the European Member States to halt gas imports from Russia. This and other green commitments have pushed the EU and the whole world to give renewed impetus to renewable energy. Moreover, the relation between climate and industry policies is increasingly evident. In a broader context of power competition trade, investment policies in the energy and climate sectors play an ambivalent role: energy dependencies have been conceptualized as mutually benefitting; yet, the current war unveils their risky nature. After a brief description of the renewables’ geopolitical dimensions, this article outlines what is at stake for the EU’s primary areas of energy cooperation. 

The Impact of Renewable Energy on Geopolitics

Renewable energies have the potential to transform interstate energy relations. Renewables have fundamentally distinct geographic and technological properties than coal, oil, and natural gas. Sources are plentiful but intermittent; their production is increasingly decentralized and utilizes rare earth resources in clean tech equipment and, lastly, their distribution is predominantly electric and entails tight management standards and long-distance losses. This contrasts sharply with fossil fuel resources’ geographically fixed and finite character, their reliance on massive centralized production and processing facilities, and their ease of storage and transit as solids, liquids, or gases worldwide.

The energy transition provides a chance to rethink and revise long-standing trading relationships. It also allows countries to engage in previously closed energy value chains. Significantly, the future of the energy world will likely redefine the concept of energy security. However, in this society, the impulse to produce things domestically will collide with the logic of size and global supply networks. The energy transition will rewire the planet, but how much of it will transcend international borders is still unclear. A crucial element will be the commerce of minerals, distinct from that of oil, gas, and coal in terms of location. Nonetheless, such business will follow a familiar pattern: resources will be harvested in one region of the world, transported to refineries and processing centers, and then transformed into final goods. Diversification, bottlenecks, extraction disputes, and rent-seeking dynamics will all be present, although with different details.

Such developments will require a significant shift in energy strategies, indicating that areas pursuing industrial policies rather than decarbonization may reap climatic advantages. The previous energy map established a link between natural resources and markets. Yet, the new energy map will be much more complex.

The Geopolitics of the Energy Transition and the EU

Bringing together the words ’geopolitics’ and ‘renewables’ leads to the study of renewables and related security risks, the effects of the energy transition on traditional energy relations, possibilities of mutually beneficial ties, and windows of opportunity for countries to move up in the global power hierarchy. The energy transition is indeed a process where the industrial advantage is likely to bring with itself political benefits and leadership status. In the context of the current war in Ukraine, this is becoming clearer every day. Yet, the energy transition is expected to become part of power competition as the most impellent challenge – posed by the war as well as climate change and the security risks with it – of our times and will likely create amities and enmities.

Take the example of Russia. In the past decade, Russia has perceived the EU’s energy transition problematically. The EU-Russia energy relationship was primarily based on gas, oil, and coal. Nonetheless, the association is characterized by different conceptions of energy and energy security, although both actors recognize the potential of energy interdependence. While the EU and European countries are more enthusiastic concerning the transition, Russia’s discourses are more conservative yet try to defend the role of natural gas in the energy transition.

While it is difficult to predict an essential role played by Russia nowadays, given the progressive isolation it is forced to, the energy wire will see China having high stakes in renewable developments and geopolitics. Concerning relations with the EU, some have argued that the energy transition is likely to be the determinant of the future of EU-China relations. Energy in EU-China relations does not play the same role as relations with Russia. While the renewable sector has encouraged interdependence between the two powers in the past, more recently, nationally oriented policies have hindered the precedent path.

Still, the energy transition will significantly shape relations between the EU and the Arab states. While Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are challenged by balancing relating with the US and China, managing regional crises, the pandemic, and containing Iran as the primary regional rival, the last point precisely is preventing some of the Arab states in the Gulf region to act assertively against Russia. Nonetheless, looking ahead to the 2020s, how those countries manage the energy transition will have consequences on internal and external political and economic environments. Especially Gulf countries envision a sustainable future, thus setting the stage for redrawing energy investments. In this context, the EU will play a crucial role, opening to the Gulf’s market interests and advancing regional security interests.

Conclusion

Overall, the current war is not only highlighting the strategic value of energy resources and energy ties but also how the transition to new energy systems is likely to rewire the world. In a context where the main political divide on the global stage is between liberal and illiberal forces and strong energy dependences revealed security threats, future systems of alliances will have to account for this. For the EU, the energy transition will have to deal with Russia, act as cohesively as possible, and strengthen its strategic thinking concerning big partners such as China and the Gulf States. The transitions’ stakes entail a strategic opportunity to avoid past errors.

February 14, 2022No Comments

Jeremy Garlick on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

Dr Jeremy Alan Garlick is an Associate Professor of International Studies and International Relations. Currently, he is the Director of the J. Masaryk Centre of International Studies at Prague University of Economics and Business. His research focusses on the Belt and Road Initiative, China's relations with Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), China-Middle East relations, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He is the author of books, “Reconfiguring the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: Geo-Economic Pipe DreamsVersus Geopolitical Realities” published November 2021 and “The Impact of China’s Belt and Road Initiative: From Asia to Europe” published December 2019. He has also authored various book chapter, peer reviewed articles, book reviews and conference papers. He is also member of the editorial board of the Journal of Current Chinese Affairs since 2018.

In this interview he talks about his recent book "Reconfiguring the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor" and explains how CPEC may not be such a game-changing endeavour for the region as originally hoped. He explains how almost all projects are centred within Pakistan instead of being cross-border in nature. He also highlights the security risks among other factors within Pakistan that have repeatedly hindered development of the CPEC Projects.

Interviewing Team: Sandra Watson Parcels and Carlotta Rinaudo.

November 12, 2021No Comments

Taiwan, the relations of the Strait and the Indo-Pacific

By: Francesco Cirillo 

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/taiwan-flag-roc-republic-of-china-1184108/

In US strategic assessments Taiwan represents the first anti-Chinese containment line in the Indo-Pacific area, which is why it is essential for Washington to guarantee Taipei logistical support to keep its military and deterrence capabilities efficient.

In recent months, Taipei has seen pressure from Beijing increase, both through propaganda and through continuous violations of the Taiwanese air defense zone. In the previous months, the Wall Street Journal had written that US special forces units were present on the Island of Formosa to support and advise the Taiwanese forces, with the aim of preparing the Taipei forces for a possible attack by the PLA forces in Beijing. Over the years, Taiwan has strengthened and modernized its warfare system, with the aim of guaranteeing itself a conventional deterrence to dissuade Beijing from starting a heavy amphibious invasion operation. Called the Doctrine of the Porcupine, it aims to discourage a possible Chinese attack due to the high human and economic costs. For Washington, Taiwan is indirectly part of the strategy of containing Chinese expansionism in the Pacific. It represents a natural barrier to the air and naval forces of the People’s Liberation Army of the People’s Republic, which aims to expand its zone of influence in the Pacific.

Source: https://mapchart.net/

The Taiwan issue is heavily involved in Sino-US relations, especially with the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 and the three joint communiques. The TRA obliges Washington to guarantee Taipei a continuous flow of armaments for defensive purposes, with the aim of guaranteeing the Taipei government military capabilities for its own defense. But Taiwan I'm coming! also that Washington, to respect the One China Policy, would not accept any declaration of Independence by Taipei, preferring to maintain the Status Quo.

Even the Taiwanese defense minister himself has declared that Taipei is equipped for a possible attack by the EPL, which according to Beijing itself could have the logistical and military capabilities to invade Taiwan by 2025.

In recent days, US President Joe Biden himself stated that Washington will intervene militarily in support of Taiwan in the event of an attack by the armed forces in Beijing; later, during an interview on CNN, Taiwan's President Tsa-Ing Wen confirmed the Wall Street Journal's early October rumors about the presence of US military units on the island, with advisory and training duties.

In the months preceding the Think Tank of the Center for the New American Security (CNAS) and the Chinese state TV itself have published simulations of invasion of the island of Taiwan, demonstrating that the issue concerning the Taiwanese issue of the strait is a widely discussed debate. and at the heart of US concerns.

For Washington, the concern will also be linked to the nuclear deterrence capabilities that Beijing could acquire by 2030. According to the Pentagon Report Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China, the People's Republic of China could increase the Chinese’s nuclear arsenal, up to the one thousand nuclear ballistic carriers ceiling for 2030.

For the American political-military leadership, this scenario could compromise US deterrence in the Indo-Pacific area in the coming years.

September 23, 2021No Comments

Richard Aboulafia on the Geopolitics of next-generation fighter aircraft

Richard Aboulafia talks about the intricacies of combat aircraft acquisition and gives us an overview of the development of the next-generation of fighter aircraft. He also discusses what it means in terms of warfare capabilities, European Defense, and the ties between aircraft exports and foreign policy.  

Richard Aboulafia is the Vice President of Analysis at TealGroup. 

Interviewer: Arnaud Sobrero This is ITSS Verona Member Series Video Podcast by the Defense & Procurement Team. 

ITSS Verona - The International Team for the Study of Security Verona is a not-for-profit, apolitical, international cultural associationdedicated to the study of international security, ranging from terrorism to climate change, from artificial intelligence to pandemics, from great power competition to energy security.

July 22, 2021No Comments

From Geopolitics to Geoeconomics: The Importance of Economic Strategy and the Case of China

By: Riccardo Bosticco

World order dynamics and world order itself have changed substantially in the last thirty years. The evolution of it derives from those dynamics that determine the way it works. This article will discuss the specific case of China. 

Nowadays, military conflicts are mostly concentrated in least-developed areas, whilst western and eastern major countries exited the logic of the Cold War - when balance and peace were possible mainly thanks to military deterrence. From those times, conflicts have been substituted by other means of states’ competition. From the ‘90s onwards, commerce has displaced war - as pioneer Edward N. Luttwak states -, with economic and financial capital in place of firepower, civilian innovation instead of military technological progress, and economic incursion rather than military bases building. These are the new tools employed by states to grow their power and spread their influence, and of course, the elements that can explain the relationships among international actors. The logic of war has to be read through the grammar of commerce, but do these new means serve the same interests as artillery pieces used to before? 

Especially among the theorists of interdependence, many believe that the growing importance of industrial and financial entities and economics as the lens through which to understand international relations would imply a shift from “world politics” to “world business”, thus reducing warlike escalations. However, they are still the states that can extract and regulate economic resources; and they are still territorial authorities. In these terms, we can understand geoeconomics: an evolution, and not a revolution, of geopolitics. 

To better conceive this evolution, definitions are of some help. Geoeconomics can be considered applied research, and it can be understood as both an analysis and practice by states and businesses. It is an interdisciplinary subject including geopolitical features, strategic analysis and foresight, and economic intelligence. Saying geoeconomics is an evolution of geopolitics does not mean that the latter disappeared. The relationship between economics and power ever existed throughout history indeed. As an example, starting from the XI century, Venice became a powerful geoeconomics actor. It built its considerable power not flexing muscles, but presenting itself as a strong diplomatic and trading power, mastering advanced naval technologies and using economic espionage. 

More precisely, Soilen defines geoeconomics as “the study of spatial, cultural, and strategic aspects of resources, with the aim of gaining a sustainable competitive advantage”. It is different from geopolitics under two aspects: for the topic, since it focuses on economic means and not military or political; and for the actors, because it does not look only to individuals representing the state, its institutions, or the state as a whole, but to individuals who conduct relevant economic activities, corporations and other national and non-national institutions operating in the economic field. Despite this, they remain very similar to each other. Indeed, they both study how certain instruments can serve national purposes. Strategy is “where we define an optimal plan for our organizational or institutional objectives” SOILEN -1). In a world where war is banned, civilian technology is more strategic than a bomb. 

This means that those actors with hands over new technologies are more inclined to gain additional power and influence. China figured it out during its economic global ascendance and engaged to “master core technologies” in any imaginable area. If from the 80s to the mid-2000s, China’s economic policy was to encourage foreign direct investments in the country through often unfair incentives and advantages to investors; from 2006, China turned to “China Inc” and began promoting “indigenous innovation”, freezing the pursuit of international investments.

Published in 2006, the “MLP”, standing for “The Guidelines for the Implementation of the National Medium- and Long-term Program for Science and Technology Development (2006-2020)” stressed the need to “create an environment for encouraging innovation independently, promote enterprises to become the main body of making technological innovation and strive to build an innovative-type country.” Thus, today’s Chinese economic policy can be considered a long-term oriented pattern focused on the welfare of internal producers. In other words, what China has adopted is a mercantilist set of policies aimed at defeating non-Chinese competitors.

Why is geoeconomics important? Because the means are financial and industrial, and the strategy is mainly territorial. The main example of Chinese current economic policy? The Belt and Road Initiative. For this to be realized, the geographical dimension is vital. In particular, infrastructures in South and Southeast Asia are crucial since they are key to the connectivity envisioned by BRI. These countries are the most likely to allow Chinese naval bases or to serve as strategic pivots for commercial and military needs. This would let China build strong regional power at the first stage, and expand its activities then. Therefore, one might argue that geoeconomics is the evolution of geopolitics and that geoeconomics could serve geopolitical interests. Indeed, the BRI aims to build linkages with other countries and regions through investments, infrastructures, opening corridors, and connecting with them “physically, financially, digitally, and socially”.  


In conclusion, the growing importance of economic connections and tools in this technological era makes it the new paradigm to intend power in the XXI century. Wars have been marginalized, and thereby governments ought to find a new way to propagate their power. Notwithstanding, territorial dynamics still play significant roles, even in times of faster communications and digital transactions. This is the case of China, a growing “territorial ruler” with global ambitions that offers advantageous economic opportunities to bring other countries in its orbit while expanding its own economic, diplomatic, and military projections of power.

May 24, 20212 Comments

On Counterespionage and missed Opportunities: The Biot Case (English and Italiano)

By: Maria Chiara Aquilino and Alessio Moroni.

The Biot case, which has had wide resonance in the Italian as well as in the international media landscape, has generated multiple questions about how the Italian intelligence services have operated. While many of these have been deeply discussed, the alternative roads that might have been taken by the secret services to tackle the case have not been dealt with in-depth. Hence, this article aims to shed light on the missed opportunity for Italy to exploit the case to pursue counterespionage practices which would have allowed the official to become a false deserter selling fake intelligence to the Russian spy. The research on the case was conducted by reaching out to notable professors in the field and asking for their point of view. Thanks to their analysis, the piece attempts to understand if the aforementioned scenario could have been feasible. 

Throughout the debate with the experts, what emerged was that the counterespionage action was hypothesized by some. Indeed, this was the case of Professor Tiberio Graziani, Chairman of Vision and Global Trends at the International Institute for Global Analyses: ‘In the opaque landscape that plays in the background of the espionage and counterespionage operations everything is possible, even that the Biot case was actually a sophisticated way to sneak the Italian official in the alleged spy network of the Russian Federation located in our country. According to this idea, Biot would have been presented as a false deserter, whose objective was to provide fake intelligence, or truthful information, yet not too vital neither for the national security, nor for NATO allies, so as to confuse the Russian intelligence services, while validating the Italian official as pro-Russia agent.

Yet, something doesn’t sound right. Indeed, the scarceness of the money offered, ROS intervention, the mediatisation of the affair’s discovery and of actors’ arrests, even of the naïve declarations made by the official’s wife released to the press on his capture suggest that behind the case lies something else. 

What makes the episode even less clear is in fact the mediatisation of it. Normally, these kinds of episodes are kept away from the media, yet this was not the case. However, the event surely served as a chance for the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to underscore the nation’s loyalty to NATO.’

On the contrary, a notable Italian analyst in the field has claimed that such a hypothesis would have proved to be unfeasible from a geopolitical perspective. ‘The Italian government seemed mainly interested in giving a twofold signal. On one side, the effectiveness and loyalty to Atlanticism. On the other, making a gesture to push for more cautiousness while keeping the dialogue with Russia alive. Therefore, no counterespionage effort could have led to the same results. Actually, it may be possible that Biot’s attempt to share our intelligence has been facilitated.’ 

In between these two viewpoints stands Professor Mario Caligiuri, President of the Società Italiana di Intelligence. When interviewed, he stated that both pathways could have been taken, yet due to a costs and benefits analysis, the second choice was preferred. Moreover, this claim is further developed in his article on the geopolitical web magazine Formiche, where he argues: ‘Espionage is a primary international actor and as others it is subjected to a mediatisation process. It has always existed and nowadays spies are more fundamental than ever as one fights in a fluid and undefined scenario, where the war on information with the aim to conquer minds has become crucial. […] The circumstances confirm how geostrategic interests always see Russia opposed to the United States. It is not by chance that in the US there is a strong geopolitical school of thought that is still considering Russia the chief enemy, even before China. This is because while the latter represents an economic adversary, the former is actually a military one.’ He then concludes with a stance less focused on geopolitics, but eventually more concerned about the whole mediatisation processes that cases like this undergo: ‘Services must constantly legitimize their purpose, above all when operating abroad, thus sometimes they could value as meaningful some small operations that could be ultimately amplified and embellish reporting for the headquarters.’(Caligiuri, 2021).

By exploring the current debate around the potential opportunity for Italy to deliver counterespionage activities, what ultimately emerged is that overall a strong feeling of geopolitical hostility between the Atlantic Alliance and Russia would not allow the pursuit of such a strategy. However, given the uncertainty of details that still casts a shadow on the case, the idea of counterespionage practices does not seem to be unfeasible. Indeed, the analysis offered turns the potential missed opportunity into a likely hypothesis, which is yet hidden by secrecy. As a result, one may eventually be led to think that a counterespionage plan of action has been covertly implemented by Italy, in order to handle the case and exploit the occasion at its best. This way, not only would Italy confirm his Atlanticist stance on the international level, but it would have also benefited from having cleverly sneaked one of its spies in the Russian intelligence network.

Italiano:

Il caso Biot, che ha avuto un'ampia risonanza nel panorama mediatico italiano e internazionale, ha generato molteplici domande su come i servizi segreti italiani abbiano operato. Mentre molte di queste sono state discusse a fondo, le strade alternative che avrebbero potuto essere intraprese dai servizi segreti per affrontare il caso non sono state affrontate in modo adeguato. Quindi, questo articolo mira a far luce sull'opportunità persa dall'Italia di sfruttare il caso per perseguire pratiche di controspionaggio. In questo modo, il funzionario avrebbe potuto essere trasformato in un falso disertore che vendeva informazioni false alla spia russa. 

La ricerca sul caso è stata condotta contattando importanti professori del settore, chiedendo il loro punto di vista. Grazie alla loro analisi, il pezzo ha cercato di capire se il suddetto scenario avrebbe potuto essere effettivamente realizzabile. 

Durante il dibattito con gli esperti, è emerso che l'azione di controspionaggio è stata effettivamente ipotizzata da alcuni. È il caso, infatti, del professor Tiberio Graziani, Chairman del Vision and Global Trends presso Institute for Global Analyses: "Nel panorama opaco che gioca sullo sfondo delle operazioni di spionaggio e controspionaggio tutto è possibile, anche che il caso Biot fosse in realtà un modo sofisticato per infilare il funzionario italiano nella presunta rete spionistica della Federazione Russa situata nel nostro Paese". Secondo questa idea, Biot sarebbe stato presentato come un falso disertore, il cui obiettivo sarebbe stato quello di fornire informazioni false, o veritiere, ma non troppo vitali né per la sicurezza nazionale, né per gli alleati della NATO, in modo da confondere i servizi segreti russi, convalidando il funzionario italiano come agente pro-Russia.

Eppure, qualcosa non quadra. Infatti, la scarsità del denaro offerto, l'intervento del ROS, la mediatizzazione della scoperta dell'affare e degli arresti degli attori, persino le ingenue dichiarazioni della moglie del funzionario rilasciate alla stampa al momento della sua cattura fanno pensare che dietro il caso si nasconda altro. 

Ciò che rende l'episodio ancora meno chiaro è infatti la sua mediatizzazione. Normalmente, questo tipo di episodi viene tenuto lontano dai media, ma non è stato questo il caso. Tuttavia, l'evento è sicuramente servito al Ministero degli Esteri italiano per sottolineare la fedeltà della nazione alla NATO".

Al contrario, un notevole analista italiano del settore ha sostenuto che una tale ipotesi si sarebbe rivelata irrealizzabile dal punto di vista geopolitico. 'Il governo italiano sembrava principalmente interessato a dare un duplice segnale. Da un lato, l'efficacia e la fedeltà all'atlantismo. Dall'altro, fare un gesto per spingere a una maggiore cautela mantenendo vivo il dialogo con la Russia. Pertanto, nessuno sforzo di controspionaggio avrebbe potuto portare agli stessi risultati. In realtà, è possibile che il tentativo di Biot di condividere la nostra intelligence sia stato facilitato". 

Tra questi due punti di vista si colloca il professor Mario Caligiuri, presidente della Società Italiana di Intelligence. Intervistato, ha dichiarato che si sarebbero potute percorrere entrambe le strade, ma a causa di un'analisi dei costi e dei benefici, è stata preferita la seconda scelta. Inoltre, questa affermazione è ulteriormente sviluppata nel suo articolo sulla rivista web di geopolitica Formiche, dove ha sostenuto che: 'Lo spionaggio è un attore internazionale primario e come gli altri è sottoposto a un processo di mediatizzazione. È sempre esistito e oggi le spie sono più che mai fondamentali perché si combatte in uno scenario fluido e indefinito, dove la guerra all'informazione con l'obiettivo di conquistare le menti è diventata cruciale. [...] Le circostanze confermano come gli interessi geostrategici vedano sempre la Russia opposta agli Stati Uniti. Non è un caso che negli Stati Uniti esista una forte scuola di pensiero geopolitico che continua a considerare la Russia il principale nemico, ancor prima della Cina. Questo perché mentre quest'ultima rappresenta un avversario economico, la prima è in realtà un avversario militare". Conclude poi con una posizione meno incentrata sulla geopolitica, ma alla fine più preoccupata dell'intero processo di mediatizzazione che casi come questo subiscono: "I servizi devono costantemente legittimare il loro scopo, soprattutto quando operano all'estero, quindi a volte potrebbero valutare come significative alcune piccole operazioni che potrebbero essere alla fine amplificate e abbellire il reporting per il quartier generale" (Caligiuri, 2021). 

Esplorando l'attuale dibattito intorno alla potenziale opportunità per l'Italia di svolgere attività di controspionaggio, ciò che alla fine è emerso è che nel complesso un forte sentimento di ostilità geopolitica tra l'Alleanza Atlantica e la Russia non permetterebbe il perseguimento di una tale strategia. Tuttavia, data l'incertezza dei dettagli che ancora getta un'ombra sul caso, l'idea di pratiche di controspionaggio non sembra essere irrealizzabile. Infatti, l'analisi offerta trasforma la potenziale occasione mancata in un'ipotesi probabile, che è ancora nascosta dal segreto. Di conseguenza, si potrebbe alla fine essere portati a pensare che un piano d'azione di controspionaggio sia stato attuato segretamente dall'Italia, per gestire il caso e sfruttare al meglio l'occasione. In questo modo, non solo l'Italia avrebbe confermato la sua posizione atlantista a livello internazionale, ma avrebbe anche tratto vantaggio dall'aver abilmente intrufolato una sua spia nella rete dell'intelligence russa.