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Kenyan President William Ruto

Kenyan president will receive White House praise over troops-to-Haiti move − but lack of action across Americas should prompt regional soul-searching

by Jorge Heine

Kenyan President William Ruto will attend a rare U.S. state reception for an African leader on May 23, 2024 – but much of the chat will be about a third country: Haiti. Kenyan troops are preparing to deploy to the Caribbean nation as part of a U.N.-backed mission aimed at bringing stability to a country ravaged by gang violence. The White House event is in part a recognition by Washington of Kenya’s decision to step up to a task that the Biden administration – and much of the West – would rather outsource. Indeed, Haiti has seemingly become a crisis that most international bodies and foreign governments would rather not touch. The U.S., like other major governments in the Americas, has repeatedly ruled out putting its own troops on the ground in Haiti. As someone who has written a book, “Fixing Haiti,” on the last concerted outside intervention – the United Nations’ stabilizing mission known as MINUSTAH – I fear the lack of action by countries in the Americas could increase the risk of Haiti transitioning from a fragile state to a failed one. MINUSTAH was the first U.N. mission formed by a majority of Latin American troops, with Chile and Brazil taking the lead. The outsourcing of that role now to Kenya has sparked concerns from human rights groups. It should also lead to soul-searching questions in capitals from Washington to Brasília, as well as at United Nations headquarters in New York. At the mercy of gangs Haiti’s descent into chaos began almost three years ago with the murder of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. Lawlessness in the nation has seen gangs take control of an estimated 80% of the capital Port-au-Prince and thousands killed in the spiraling violence. Today, the country is not only the poorest in the Americas but is also among the most destitute in the world. About 87.6% of the population is estimated to be living in poverty, with 30% in extreme poverty. Life expectancy is just 63 years, compared with 76 in the United States and 72 in Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole. Recipe for disaster International intervention in Haiti has been long overdue. Yet, until now, the attitude of the international community has, from my perspective, been largely to look away. From a humanitarian perspective and in terms of regional security, to allow a country in the Americas to drift into the condition of a failed state controlled by a fluid network of criminal gangs is a recipe for disaster. Yet governments and international organizations in the region are unwilling to step up to confront the crisis directly despite pleas from Haiti and the U.N. The Organization of American States, which in the past played an important role in Haiti and for which I served as an observer to the country’s 1990 presidential elections, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States have been criticized over their slow response to the Haitian crisis. The Caribbean Community, or CARICOM, has made a significant effort, holding a number of meetings on the Haitian crisis; several member states, such as the Bahamas, Barbados and Jamaica, have committed to sending police forces to Haiti, albeit in small numbers. The United States, in turn, having left Afghanistan in 2021 after a tumultuous 20-year occupation, appears reluctant to send troops anywhere. Rather, Washington would prefer that others take up the role of peacekeeper this time. In response to the offer from Kenya, the State Department said it “commends” the African nation for “responding to Haiti’s call.” Part of this reluctance in the Americas could also be related to the perception – in my view, a misperception – of how past interventions have played out. The United Nations mission from 2004 initially managed to stabilize Haiti after another rocky period. In fact, the country made significant strides before it was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2010. There were bad missteps, for sure, after 2010. A cholera outbreak brought to Haiti by infected troops from Nepal resulted in more than 800,000 infections and 10,000 deaths. Sexual misconduct by some of the U.N.’s blue helmets further tarnished the mission. But the notion that MINUSTAH was a failure is, in my view, quite wrong. And the end of the mission in 2017 certainly didn’t see improved conditions in Haiti. Indeed, after the mission ended, criminal gangs had the run of the country once again and proceeded accordingly. Yet the perceived failure of the U.N. mission has become the basis of a view held by some Haiti watchers that international interventions are not only unsuccessful or misconceived but also counterproductive. Such a view forms the backbone of the notion of Haiti as an “aid state” – as opposed to a “failed state.” In this view, international interventions and the inflow of foreign funds have created a condition of dependency in which the country gets used to having foreigners make key decisions. This, the argument goes, fosters a cycle of corruption and mismanagement. There is no doubt that some previous interventions left much to be desired, and that any new initiative would have to be conducted in close cooperation with Haitian civil society to avoid such pitfalls. But I believe the notion that Haiti, in its current state, would be able to lift itself up without the help of the international community is wishful thinking. The nation has moved too far down the direction of gang control, and what remains of the Haitian state lacks the capacity to change that trajectory. A duty to intervene? Moreover, there is an argument to be made that the international community bears responsibility for the Haitian tragedy and is duty bound to try to fix it. To use one example from the relatively recent past: Haiti, until the early 1980s, was self-sufficient in the production of rice – a key staple there. Yet, pressured by the United States in the 1990s, the country lowered its agricultural tariffs to the bare minimum and, in so doing, destroyed local rice production. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton later apologized for the policy, but its legacy still lasts. Haiti today has to import most of the rice it consumes, largely from the United States. And there isn’t enough of it to go around for all Haitians – the U.N. estimates that nearly half of Haiti’s population of 11.5 million is food insecure. Indeed, from its very beginning as an independent nation in 1804, Haiti has suffered the consequences of its unique place in history: It was simply too much for white colonial powers to see Haiti thrive as the first Black republic resulting from a successful slave rebellion. France retaliated over the loss of what was once considered the world’s wealthiest colony by exacting reparations for a century and a half. Payments from Haiti flowed until 1947 – to the tune of US$21 billion in today’s dollars. The United States took 60 years to recognize Haiti and invaded and occupied the nation from 1915 to 1934. Any thoughts of atoning for past actions, however, seem far from the minds of those looking on as the chaos in Haiti spirals. Rather, many appear to have the kind of mindset expressed in 1994 by current U.S. President Joe Biden when, as a senator discussing the rationale for various interventions, he noted: “If Haiti just quietly sunk into the Caribbean, or rose 300 feet, it wouldn’t matter a whole lot for our interests.”

Rome, Italy - March 22, 2019: Xi Jinping, China's president, speaks as he attends an Italy-China business forum with Sergio Mattarella, Italy's president, at the Quirinale Palace in Rome.

Xi Jinping's "Civilization State" and Anti-Americanism in Europe

by Ihsan Yilmaz , Nicholas Morieson

It is not surprising that China’s Xi Jinping should visit France, Europe’s second largest economy and one of the dominant nations within the European Union. But why should he visit comparatively small and economically less important nations such as Hungary or Serbia? The answer lies not merely in the economic opportunities such a visit may bring to all parties, but in the increasingly anti-American themed politics of the three nations, and their governments’ belief that the future of international politics is a multi-polar order dominated by “civilization states.” These two factors make China, which promises to free the world from American political, economic, and cultural dominance and establish a new multipolar order, an attractive partner for France, Serbia, and Hungary. Equally, it makes them attractive to China, which seeks to divide Europe and the United States, and build greater economic and political ties with European nations desirous of a “new” Europe free of American dominance. Xi portrays China as not merely a nation-state, but a continuation of Ancient Chinese culture merged with Marxism. Xi is adamant that China must draw on its civilizational heritage, and reject the values of Western civilization, which are not – he argues – universal, but indeed particular to the West and thus unsuitable for China. Xi’s remark that China “will work with France to deepen China-Europe mutually beneficial cooperation,” and that the two are “major forces in building a multipolar world, two big markets that promote globalization, and two great civilizations that advocate cultural diversity,” underlines this civilizational perspective on global politics. Civilizationism, as a construct, is thus a tool of liberation through which Xi will free China of non-indigenous values and ideas, and through which it will overcome the United States and make the Chinese nation Asia’s dominant power. The leaders of both China and France, despite their differences, are drawn together due to shared antipathy towards the United States, and their shared civilizational perspective on global affairs, a perspective intrinsically connected with their anti-American politics. Naturally, China and France do not share the same opinion of the United States. China views America as a rival; France views America, perhaps, as a perfidious ally forcing “Anglo-Saxon” culture upon an unwilling French people. Experts have noted the importance Emmanuel Macron places on rejuvenating what he calls European Civilization. Indeed, where right-wing populist Marine Le Pen calls for the protection of France’s Judeo-Christian yet secular civilization, Macron is moving beyond the nation-state paradigm and speaking of centralising power within the European Union in order to protect otherwise moribund European civilization. Macron is very concerned about the future of European civilization, and believes that it represents the best of humanity and must therefore protect its “humanist” values. For Macron, European civilization has many enemies. But perhaps the key enemy is the United States, which is an enemy precisely because it is an anti-civilizational power that defends the nation-state paradigm, insists that its values are universal, and desires a relatively weak Europe. Macron argued that Europeans should take inspiration from the “civilisational projects of Russia and Hungary” and what Macron called their “inspiring cultural, civilisational vitality.” He says European civilization is “humanist,” and that to survive it must reject the “Anglo-American model” which permits the private sector to gain enormous power over human life. This position, of course, also rejects the Chinese model, in which the government is given total control over human life. Hungary and Serbia Victor Orbán is drawn to Xi in much the same way as Macron: both believe the rise of civilization states, such as China, as ineluctable, and both believe that China’s rise provides an opportunity for their respective states – if not civilizations – to free themselves from Anglo-American norms. Although Orbán possesses a civilizational rejuvenation project, it is of an entirely different nature to Macron’s “humanist” plan for Europe. Orbán calls for the re-Christianization of Europe, and for the strengthening of the nation-state and its borders, and he speaks not so much of European civilization but of Judeo-Christian civilization. Orban says, “the US ought to permit illiberal states – such as Hungary – to determine their own futures rather than impose ‘universal values’ upon them in an effort to prevent war.” China’s rise comes at the expense of Orbán’s liberal democratic foes (i.e. Washington and Brussels), decreasing their ability to pressure Hungary to return to liberal democratic norms. Equally, because China is ruled by an authoritarian populist who has a civilizational perspective on international relations, the rise of China legitimises Orbán’s own authoritarianism and his civilizational rejuvenation project. It should come as no surprise that the date Xi chose to visit Serbia coincided with the 25th anniversary of the American-led NATO bombings of Belgrade’s Chinese embassy. The two nations have become increasingly close since the 2012 election victory of the governing populist Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), which sees China as both a source of economic growth and technological development, and also as a partner that is less likely to criticise Serbia’s refusal to sanction Russia, and its often socially conservative politics. Thus, President Aleksandar Vučić received Xi in Belgrade in a ceremony during which he promised the Chinese leader that he would receive in Serbia a degree of “reverence and love” not “found anywhere else.” He further promised that his government would only increase cooperation with Beijing, saying “the sky is the limit.” Xi authored an article in Serbia’s Politika news outlet noting that China and Serbia have similar positions on many important international and regional issues. In the piece, Xi is indirectly calling for Serbia to assist China in challenging US and Western dominance in the international sphere. Experts noted that “Serbia’s hosting of Xi is connected to broader efforts — notably by Moscow and Beijing — to challenge U.S. influence and potentially reshape the international order.” Conclusion Xi’s tour of France, Hungary, and Serbia demonstrates the growing influence of China in Europe. But it also tells us much about how some Europeans are responding to China’s rise as a self-styled civilizational power. This rise has inspired some European leaders to challenge US dominance in international politics and embrace the core values of “European civilization.” Many of Europe’s states thus may seek to emulate China, or help it rise and attempt to politically and economically benefit from it. Moreover, China’s rise seems to demonstrate how by rejecting normative Anglo-American (or more broadly Western) values, and embracing the traditional values and culture of one’s own civilization, these states can overcome American imperialism and cultural hegemony. Whether rejecting Western Anglo-American norms and embracing their own civilizational values can give these entire nations a shared purpose, and inspire reindustrialization, remains an unanswered question. Ihsan Yilmaz is a research professor of political science and international relations at Deakin University’s ADI (Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation). Previously, he worked at the Universities of Oxford and London.  Nicholas Morieson holds a Ph.D. in politics from the Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, and a Masters in International Relations from Monash University. He is the author of Religion and the Populist Radical Right: Christian Secularism and Populism in Western Europe, and a Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation.

Energy & Economics
Hydropower plant in Dubossary, Moldova

Energising eastern Europe: How the EU can enhance energy sovereignty through cooperation with Ukraine and Moldova

by Szymon Kardaś

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Summary • Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the EU has made strengthening energy sovereignty – its own and that of its eastern neighbours – a strategic priority. • Along with Ukraine and Moldova, the EU has created an elaborate legal and institutional framework that provides a platform for energy cooperation. • Through this framework and other measures, the EU and member states have helped significantly strengthen the energy sovereignty of Moldova and Ukraine, in particular helping them to diversify away from Russian fossil fuels and synchronising their electricity grids with that of the EU. • But when it comes to the cleanness and efficiency of their energy, Moldova and Ukraine are still underperforming, despite their potential for green energy generation. Improving the cleanness of their energy would also help strengthen the EU’s energy sovereignty, increasing the mutual benefits of closer energy cooperation. • Ukraine’s vast gas reserves and extensive gas infrastructure, along with its potential for green hydrogen production and the significant development of renewable energy sources in both countries offer opportunities for cooperation with the EU, which could enhance both its energy security and decarbonisation efforts. Introduction Since the beginning of Russia’s war on Ukraine, strengthening energy sovereignty has become one of the most strategic foreign policy goals of the European Union, its member states, and many other countries. Before the war, Russia was the EU’s largest source of imports of crude oil and petroleum products and in 2021 the state-owned energy corporation Gazprom accounted for 41 per cent of the EU’s gas imports. In the aftermath of the invasion, the EU and member states scrambled to reduce their dependency on Moscow for energy supplies, diversifying their suppliers of oil and gas. In 2023, Gazprom’s share of the EU’s gas imports fell to just 8 per cent. But the EU also has a clear interest in strengthening the energy sovereignty of its neighbouring countries, especially of Ukraine and Moldova on its eastern border. The stable functioning of the energy systems of neighbouring countries is one of the cornerstones of their security, and therefore the stability and security of the EU’s immediate neighbourhood. The European Commission has thus identified supporting Ukraine and other countries that are directly or indirectly affected by Russian aggression through long-term international partnerships as among the most important objectives of the EU’s external energy policy. Energy cooperation is also a powerful tool for integration. Energy sovereignty should not be equated with state energy autonomy or autarky; international cooperation within alliances or integration relationships such as the EU is an important component. Political allies can be reliable and secure suppliers of energy resources to import-dependent countries – the United States and Norway, for example, play such a role for many EU countries. The development of energy infrastructure links for gas or electricity between partner states, such as the EU and its eastern neighbours, would enable them to provide mutual support in times of crisis. The EU’s desire to strengthen energy sovereignty throughout its neighbourhood is first and foremost related to the need to reduce dependency on Russia and aid the integration of its neighbours. But strengthening energy sovereignty will also require a reduction in fossil fuel consumption, and is therefore closely linked to achieving one of the EU’s other major strategic goals of climate neutrality by 2050. The diversification of fossil fuel supply sources, while important, is not a long-term solution to the problem of energy sovereignty. Amid the current geopolitical uncertainties and the growing threat of climate change, decision-makers in the EU and in neighbouring countries need to now consider green energy and efficient energy use for a comprehensive approach to energy sovereignty. By strengthening its and its eastern neighbours’ renewable energy potential and optimising energy consumption, the EU can reduce the overall dependence on external suppliers of fossil fuels. The commission’s external energy policy combines these two goals, stating that the EU’s actions should be oriented towards meeting both short-term needs and long-term goals regarding the implementation of the European Green Deal. For this reason, I propose a broader approach to assessing energy sovereignty, which goes beyond the typical prism of security of supply to encompass four elements: • The level of dependence on energy imports, both fossil fuels and electricity; • The cleanness of the energy sector, determined by the importance of renewable energy in a country’s energy mix and the level of decarbonisation of the energy sector; • The level of energy efficiency; • The energy sovereignty narrative used by the state authorities in policy documents, which reflects the strategic direction of the state’s energy sector. This policy brief uses these criteria to analyse the progress that the EU and its eastern neighbours have made towards strengthening each other’s energy sovereignty so far, and sets out the next steps that they should take. It finds that, to date, the EU and its member states have played an important role in strengthening the energy sovereignty of its eastern neighbours by increasing their energy independence, but that Ukraine and Moldova still underperform when it comes to cleanness and efficiency, despite the direction implied by the states’ energy narratives – in part due to setbacks related to the war. Strategic cooperation formats between the EU and its eastern neighbours Over the last decade, the EU has developed a legal framework for cooperation with Moldova and Ukraine, which enables closer cooperation in various spheres, including energy. This approach fits into the EU’s so-called Team Europe external action policy for the two countries, which means that both EU and member state structures and European financial institutions, including the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), are involved in the process. In total, the EBRD has committed to investing $3 billion in 2022 and 2023 to address the Ukrainian economy’s challenges following Russia’s invasion. Both countries are also associated states of the EU, and their bilateral relations with the bloc, including on energy, are governed by the association agreements, which came into force in July 2016 for Moldova and in September 2017 for Ukraine. The European Council’s decision in 2023 to grant both countries EU candidate status and start accession negotiations has further strengthened the relationship. The EU also invited Moldova and Ukraine to join the Energy Community in 2010 and 2011 respectively. The Energy Community’s main objective is to extend the principles and rules of the EU’s internal energy market to the countries of eastern Europe, the Black Sea region, and the Western Balkans, effectively integrating these countries into the EU’s energy market. Members of the Energy Community are obliged to implement EU energy regulations into their own national legal systems and to strengthen energy cooperation with EU countries. Both Moldova and Ukraine have already adopted several important pieces of legislation on the functioning of the gas and electricity markets. Ukraine has successfully implemented regulations liberalising its energy markets, including certifying independent system operators in the gas and electricity markets, and an independent gas storage operator. Furthermore, at the beginning of 2024, the country’s certified electricity operator Ukrenergo joined the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E). Meanwhile Moldova completed the certification of its electricity transmission system operator Moldelectrica as an independent system operator in July 2023 and has taken steps to certify the independent system operator of its gas market. Both Ukraine and Moldova have also adopted the EU’s Regulation on Wholesale Energy Market Integrity and Transparency, which prohibits insider trading and the abuse of market power. In December 2023, Moldova also amended the Law on Natural Gas to help strengthen security of gas supply and storage, further aligning it with the EU’s energy acquis. Towards energy independence The deepening of Ukraine’s and Moldova’s integration with the EU has helped to strengthen their energy sovereignty, helping them in particular to reduce their dependency on Russia. Ukraine and, to an even greater extent, Moldova are dependent on energy imports. In April 2020, Ukraine was able to meet about 65 per cent of its energy needs on its own, while Moldova could only meet about 20 per cent. Although Moldova’s situation has not changed significantly in recent years, Ukraine’s dependence on energy imports fell to 23 per cent in 2022 as a consequence of the decline in the country’s energy consumption due to the war.  Gas Both Moldova and Ukraine have significantly strengthened their energy independence in the gas sector, including through cooperation with the EU and member states. This is particularly the case for Ukraine, whose own gas production now accounts for more than 90 per cent of domestic demand. (As recently as 2010, Kyiv’s dependence on gas imports was over 70 per cent, amounting to 34 billion cubic metres (bcm), which it imported almost entirely from Russia.) According to the 2023 annual data, Ukraine’s gas consumption has fallen by 30 per cent since the start of the war and it now imports gas mainly through Slovakia, but also Hungary, Poland, and Romania (transiting through Moldova). Ukraine’s journey towards independence from Russian gas supplies was, on the one hand, a consequence of political decisions taken by the new authorities in Kyiv, which came to power in 2014 after former president Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown and, in autumn 2015, stopped buying Russian gas. On the other hand, it was made possible by the support provided by EU member states and European financial institutions, which became particularly important following Russia’s full-scale invasion. In the summer of 2022, for example, the EBRD opened a $300m credit line to Ukraine’s national oil and gas company Naftogaz for emergency gas purchases. It also began to cooperate with the Energy Community to provide regular support to Ukraine, including an agreement in June 2023 to guarantee €600m in support for Ukrainian companies operating in the gas, electricity, and hydropower sectors. Unlike Ukraine, Moldova does not produce gas, has no gas storage facilities, and has only trace reserves of its own gas (about 1 bcm as of 31 December 2022), making it completely dependent on gas imports. Chisinau’s success in strengthening its energy sovereignty has nonetheless been impressive: it has significantly diversified its supply sources and achieved complete independence from gas purchases from Russia in December 2022. The EU, European financial institutions, and select member states have played an important role in this regard. The EIB has been financially supporting projects in Moldova since 2008, including those to strengthen energy sovereignty, such as the construction of the Ungheni-Chisinau gas interconnector. But in view of the energy crisis occurring in Europe from 2021 onwards, the EU initiated anti-crisis formats with Moldova as well. For example, the EU-Moldova High Level Energy Dialogue was set up to provide support to Moldova to guarantee the supply of energy resources (especially natural gas) and electricity during the energy crisis, but also to implement long-term energy projects. So far, five rounds of consultations have taken place between the EU and Moldova under this format, through which the partners have discussed crisis support, energy sector reforms, and long-term projects. In October 2021, Poland began supplying gas to Moldova, marking Moldova’s first imports of non-Russian gas in history. In addition to imports from Poland, Moldova managed to launch reverse gas supplies from Slovakia, as well as via the Trans-Balkan pipeline from Romania, and gained access to Ukrainian gas storage facilities, where it could store about 200m cubic metres (m3) of gas. Chisinau’s diversification efforts are continuing, as illustrated by its gas supply agreements with the Greek company DEPA in 2023. Financial support from European institutions, including the EBRD, and member states has also helped to facilitate these diversification efforts by enabling Moldova to finance purchases of gas or electricity from alternative suppliers. In 2022, the EBRD offered a loan of €300m to Moldova, and in October 2023 an agreement was reached for it to provide a further €165m in gas support to the country in the form of loans, with Norway promising an additional €34m gas grant. In addition, in November 2022, the Energy Community Secretariat launched the Energy Community Rescue Scheme initiative to ensure that donors’ financial assistance for Moldova was channelled towards helping the country face the harsh winter ahead. Meanwhile, the Energy Vulnerability Fund, which was established in 2022 by the Moldovan government with support from the EU, Slovakia, and the United Nations Development Programme, played an important role in neutralising the effects of rising gas, electricity, and heating bills in Moldova. Support for Moldova under this mechanism was provided by several European countries including the Czech Republic, Sweden, Italy, and Switzerland. Finally, in 2022 the EU created the energy platform for member states and countries such as Moldova and Ukraine, which is supposed to combine demand, coordinate the use of infrastructure, and facilitate negotiations with international partners for joint purchases of gas and hydrogen. Through this initiative, Ukraine and Moldova have taken part in tenders organised by the European Commission and received 100 per cent and 80 per cent respectively of the volumes requested after the first round of purchases. Oil When it comes to oil, both Moldova and Ukraine are highly dependent on imports, but EU countries have gradually replaced Belarus and Russia as their main suppliers since February 2022, thereby helping to strengthen their energy sovereignty. Moldova is 100 per cent dependent on imports of oil and petroleum products from third countries, with Romania now mainly supplying it with oil products. As a result of the war and Russia’s continued attacks on critical Ukrainian energy infrastructure, including storage facilities for petroleum products and oil, Ukraine has not been able to produce petroleum products on its own – its last operating refinery was closed in April 2022. These products are particularly sensitive for Ukraine, not just for civilian use, but for military needs. Despite its consumption of petrol, diesel, and liquefied petroleum gas falling by 25 per cent, 30 per cent, and 40 per cent respectively from 2021 to 2022, Ukraine has become more dependent on imports – 93 per cent dependent in 2022 compared with 77 per cent in 2021.[1] In 2021, Belarus accounted for about 43 per cent of Ukraine’s gasoline imports, and Belarus and Russia together accounted for about 62 per cent of its diesel imports.[2] In 2022, Ukraine significantly reduced imports from Belarus and Russia, and increased those from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria (these three countries covered 51 per cent of Ukraine’s diesel import needs in 2022), Turkey, Lithuania, Moldova, Greece, Hungary, and several other countries.[3] In 2023, Ukraine did not import petroleum products from either Belarus or Russia.[4]   Electricity Although Moldova and Ukraine are in completely different positions in their efforts to ensure a secure electricity supply, the synchronisation of the two countries’ power grids with the EU system in March 2022 significantly increased their energy sovereignty in this area. This was particularly important for Moldova, where 80 per cent of electricity needs are met by the Russian-owned Inter RAO gas-fired power plant located in the separatist region of Transnistria. In October 2022, following Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Kyiv halted electricity exports to Moldova, leading to some blackouts. Electricity supplies from Transnistria were then completely terminated at the beginning of November. Moldova’s synchronisation with the EU grid allowed it to import electricity from Romania, which in November 2022, met 90 per cent of Moldova’s electricity demand. In June 2023, ENTSO-E increased the capacity of interconnectors connecting the EU with Moldova and Ukraine from 1050 to 1200 megawatts (MW). During the 2022-2023 heating season, around 900,000 households also received subsidies for their electricity bills through the Energy Vulnerability Fund. Although Moldova currently once more imports 70-80 per cent of its electricity from Transnistria, it does so mainly because it is cheaper than electricity from Romania or Ukraine. But the synchronisation of its grid ensures access to alternative sources of supply, minimising the risk of energy blackmail from Russia. In the long term, support from European financial institutions will be important in strengthening Moldova’s security of electricity supply. From 2023 to 2028, the priority of the EBRD’s financial support to Moldova will be fostering energy resilience, including funds for the modernisation of electricity grids. Although Ukraine is essentially self-sufficient in electricity supply, synchronisation with the EU grid has proven important for Kyiv too, enabling it to import electricity from EU countries in crisis situations related to Russian attacks. This has been especially helpful given that in March 2022 Russia captured the important Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which was responsible for 44 per cent of Ukraine’s total generating capacity from nuclear power plants. In 2023, Ukraine also completed the modernisation of a power interconnector with Poland. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism, established back in 2001, proved to be an important crisis mechanism in the context of meeting Ukraine’s short-term energy needs, especially for electricity. As of 31 January 2024, more than 5,900 power generators have been sent to Ukraine via the mechanism, including 2,347 from the EU’s own rescEU reserve stockpiles. In addition to generators, the EU has been delivering other vital energy supplies to Ukraine including transformers, autotransformers, high-voltage equipment, and LED light bulbs. The EIB – which has supported various energy projects in Ukraine since 2007 – has played an important role since the outbreak of the war, funding energy grid projects and repairing the damage inflicted by Russia to energy infrastructure. In December 2023, for example, it provided €133m to enhance the reliability of hydroelectric power plants. Within the Energy Community, the Ukraine Energy Support Fund and the Ukraine Support Task Force have proven to be extremely important in ensuring Ukraine’s energy security during the war, with the Ukraine Energy Support Fund alone providing over €400m in support by December 2023. Under the Ukraine Support Task Force, as of October 2023, 22 EU countries had made nearly 100 deliveries to Ukraine, including power transformers, cables, generators, transportation vehicles, and other equipment crucial for supporting the electricity sector. The Energy Community has also launched the Ukraine Energy Market Observatory, which will closely follow and review all developments related to the broader energy market and corporate governance in Ukraine. Finally, in March 2023, the Energy Community Secretariat signed two memorandums of understanding with the Ukrainian authorities: one on increased cooperation in rebuilding Ukraine’s energy sector and another on the coordination of activities in the area of humanitarian aid for the district heating, water supply, and buildings sector of Ukraine. Green credentials With the help of the EU, member states, and financial institutions, Ukraine and Moldova have been able to dramatically strengthen their energy sovereignty in terms of energy independence. However, their progress towards energy cleanness and efficiency – two other important components of energy sovereignty – has been less impressive. Cleanness Both countries, but especially Moldova, perform poorly when it comes to the share of renewables in their electricity generation. In 2022, renewables accounted for only 15.8 per cent of Ukraine’s electricity generation and 7.1 per cent of Moldova’s electricity – far below the EU and world average of 38.4 per cent and around 30 per cent respectively in 2022. The share of renewables in Moldova and Ukraine also includes the production of electricity from large hydroelectric power plants, whose operation is not fully carbon neutral. However, the development of the renewable energy sources (RES) sector in Ukraine was beginning to gain momentum before the outbreak of the war. At the beginning of 2022, the total installed RES capacity (connected to the grid) reached 9.5 gigawatts (GW) – excluding 0.6GW of RES capacity located in the territories temporarily occupied by Russia before 24 February 2022. About $12 billion was invested in the Ukrainian RES sector between 2009 and 2021 from a variety of sources, including the EBRD, the Black Sea Bank for Trade and Development, and the American International Development Finance Corporation. But, during the first six months of the war, Russia destroyed between 80 and 90 per cent of the generating capacity of wind power plants and around 30 per cent of the capacity of solar power plants in the country, as well as around half of the transmission lines and facilities for the production of electricity in Ukraine. Ongoing military activities, including Russia’s continued attacks on energy infrastructure, are significantly hampering Ukraine’s ability to rebuild these capacities. In an attempt to address this, the G7+ Coordination Group – established in November 2022 and including the Energy Community as well as the EU and its member states – has established a Clean Energy Partnership with the Ukrainian government to support the sustainable recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine, which was officially inaugurated at COP28 in December 2023. Its aim is to support the creation of a modern, secure, decentralised, and cleaner energy system in line with Net Zero in Ukraine and to better integrate the country into the EU. The parties are to support Ukraine in attracting private investors to develop projects to reduce Ukraine’s dependence on fossil fuels, in line with the EU’s energy and climate policy goals. In Moldova, the low share of RES in the energy mix results from a historic lack of interest in projects in this sphere on the part of the authorities. Under the pro-European government led by the Party of Action and Solidarity, which came to power in 2021, this situation has begun to change. The government has expressed interest in accelerating Moldova’s energy transition through the development of renewable projects and is gearing up to initiate the inaugural renewables auctions in the country (between April and June 2024), through which it aims to acquire 105MW of wind power and 60MW of solar projects.  When it comes to the levels of carbon in its electricity, Ukraine boasts much better results. In 2022 the carbon intensity of electricity generated in Ukraine was 271.4 grams of carbon dioxide-equivalents per kilowatt-hour of electricity (gCO2e per kWh), below the EU and global averages of 291.9 gCO2e per kWh and 490.1 gCO2e per kWh respectively. After two years of war, the carbon intensity in Ukraine has dropped further to 194.4 gCO2e per kWh. The large share of nuclear energy in Ukraine’s energy mix (60.5 per cent in 2023) – one of the largest shares globally – primarily accounts for the low carbon footprint of its energy sector. Moldova’s electricity has a much higher carbon intensity, 871.7 gCO2e per kWh in 2022, well above the EU and global averages. Moreover, the energy intensity (the amount of energy required to produce one unit of GDP) in Moldova is 3.4 times higher than the average in EU countries. Buildings account for 58 per cent of the total final energy consumption in Moldova, of which non-residential buildings account for 17 per cent. This makes improving energy efficiency in this sector of crucial importance.  Energy efficiency Both countries also face challenges to improve their energy efficiency, although Ukraine is doing much better than Moldova in this field. According to Energy Community reports, Ukraine’s primary energy consumption and final energy consumption in 2020 were below the targets set for 2030. In the case of Moldova, on the other hand, the 2021 statistics show that both primary and final energy consumption were just over 10 per cent above the 2030 targets. Ukraine’s good performance is largely a consequence of the war and the subsequent drop in electricity consumption of around one-third. Nonetheless, Ukraine is still struggling with high energy intensity in some sectors, notably related to residential buildings, 85 per cent of which date from the Soviet era. Before the invasion, the average level of energy consumption in households was two to three times higher than that in the EU. On top of this, gas plays a significant role in the heating sector, with around 80 per cent of households in Ukraine relying on heat supplies from gas-fired power stations. While the war makes it difficult for Ukraine to implement systemic measures to improve energy efficiency, Ukrainian authorities had integrated this aim into their energy strategy even before Russia’s invasion. In 2018, they established the Energy Efficiency Fund, in close cooperation with the EU and Germany. Since 2014, the EU has also allocated grants under the European Neighbourhood Instrument to support reforms in Ukraine, including those aimed at improving energy efficiency. Ukraine has made significant progress in fulfilling its obligations under the association agreement with the EU regarding the adoption of European energy efficiency legislation. For example, it has developed and enacted a legislative framework to support energy efficiency, including to establish energy-efficient practices across various sectors and reduce energy consumption in buildings. Ukraine is also aligning with European standards by promoting “nearly zero-energy buildings” through the adoption of the Concept and National Plan, which outlines the gradual implementation of regulations over the next five years, followed by new construction requirements after 2025. Moldova adopted an amendment to the energy efficiency law in May 2023, establishing a legal framework for comprehensive planning via the National Energy and Climate Plan. However, it is yet to implement energy efficiency measures, especially according to standards prepared by international institutions. For example, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has prepared a special guide for the implementation of energy efficiency measures and the valorisation of renewable energy sources for public sector buildings. The Energy Community Secretariat has played an important role in the creation of further instruments for energy cooperation between EU member states and the EU’s neighbours which encompass energy efficiency. For instance, EU4Energy – an initiative created jointly with the Council of European Energy Regulators and the International Energy Agency and launched in 2016 – is focusing on Moldova and Ukraine, alongside Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Georgia, in the current second phase of the programme (2021-2025). The initiative is designed to support the aspirations of focus countries to implement sustainable energy policies and foster cooperative regional development of the energy sector. The European Commission’s Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, which aims to bring together European local and regional authorities to voluntarily contribute to increasing energy efficiency and the use of RES, includes many cities and municipalities from Ukraine and Moldova. The EU and member states have also provided support within the framework of the Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership fund, a programme set up on Sweden’s initiative in 2009. Of the total budget (€1,355m), €982m was allocated to 25 projects in Ukraine and €114m to seven projects in Moldova. Funds disbursed under the initiative are used, among other purposes, to improve the energy efficiency of healthcare buildings and other public facilities. Energy narratives The current authorities in both countries have shaped a dominant narrative around strengthening energy sovereignty. In March-April 2023, the European Council on Foreign Relations’ network of associate researchers conducted a survey in all EU member states and Ukraine and Moldova on decision-makers’ approach to energy sovereignty following the outbreak of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Questions included the conceptualisation of energy sovereignty, the main challenges and threats in this area, and the measures taken and planned to strengthen it. Our researchers found that the issue of energy sovereignty gained prominence in political circles and public discourse in both countries after the outbreak of the war. The authorities of both countries are taking a comprehensive and innovative approach to energy sovereignty, viewing it not only through the prism of security of supply of raw materials, but also energy efficiency and climate goals. According to statements made by the Ukrainian government, Ukraine plans to become a leading green energy hub in Europe, integrating energy production with green technology development. Ukraine’s minister of energy has underscored the role of renewable energy in enhancing energy security, citing Ukraine’s experience during the war and its contribution to European stability through the synchronisation of power systems. Although the Moldovan authorities have placed special emphasis on the need to find alternative sources of supply due to their longstanding heavy dependence on energy resources from Russia, in the long term they also see energy transition issues as an important component of strengthening energy sovereignty. The government plans to significantly increase the pace of RES projects, aiming to increase their share to 30 per cent of electricity consumption in Moldova by 2030. The elites of both countries also seem to see cooperation with third countries, including the EU and member states, as an important means of strengthening energy sovereignty, not just responding to crisis situations. This is evident in their long-term plans to cooperate with the EU and member states on further projects to strengthen their energy sovereignty. (This applies in particular to the expansion of infrastructure connections.) Moldova is currently focusing primarily on the construction of a high-voltage line from Vulcanesti to Chisinau. This connection is expected to allow the import of electricity from Romania to Moldova on the right bank of the river Dniester within the next few years. (The completion of the line is scheduled for 2025.) Moldova is also interested in the development of joint power generation projects with Romania and in increasing the capacity of the Ungheni-Chisinau gas interconnector. Ukraine is focused on establishing a hydrogen corridor connecting it with Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany. The corridor would enhance Ukraine’s energy security and integrate it into the European energy network, as well as stimulate the growth of Ukraine’s hydrogen industry and enable Ukrainian-produced hydrogen to seamlessly enter the European energy market. Furthermore, in 2024 both countries (along with Slovakia) joined the Vertical Corridor European gas transportation scheme, which brings together the gas transmission system operators of Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania, and aims to enhance energy security and diversification by upgrading their networks to facilitate gas transport from south to north and vice versa. The mutual benefits of cooperation So far, the eastern neighbourhood countries have mainly benefited from the EU’s and member states’ actions in the context of strengthening their own energy sovereignty. However, they both – and especially Ukraine – have the potential to help strengthen the energy sovereignty of the EU and its member states, thanks to their raw materials, RES development, and infrastructure. Ukraine has great potential in the gas sector. Firstly, Ukraine is home to some of the largest proven natural gas reserves in Europe (after Norway), estimated at up to 1.1 trillion m3 in December 2020 (within the internationally recognised borders of Ukraine, that is, including Crimea and other areas occupied by Russia). Ukraine’s gas production is also the second-largest in Europe after Norway and, despite the war, remains at a relatively high level (18.5 bcm in 2022 and 18.7 bcm in 2023). Secondly, Ukraine hosts gas infrastructure that could be useful for the EU as it diversifies its sources of supply. Ukraine’s extensive gas network, which has already enabled the transit of Russian gas for European consumers, could transport gas from the Black Sea or Caspian region via the Trans-Balkan pipeline. This would especially be the case after the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast – which has been under consideration for over a decade. Ukraine could also help Europe to store gas – the country has the largest gas storage system (30 bcm) in Europe and the third-largest by capacity in the world – behind only the US and Russia. This capacity not only ensures Ukraine’s energy security but could also potentially be used by European customers. Some EU companies are already doing this – at the beginning of 2024, around 2 bcm of gas in Ukrainian storage belonged to EU companies, but the potential for exploitation is much greater. Cooperation with Ukraine on hydrogen could further strengthen the EU’s energy sovereignty. According to Ukrainian researchers, with the appropriate development of wind power, Ukraine could produce up to 19.5m tonnes of green hydrogen per year, which would be twice as much as the EU’s annual production plans by 2030. The EU already considers Ukraine one of the three main potential green hydrogen import corridors (along with the North Sea region and the Mediterranean Sea), and in February 2023 signed a memorandum of understanding with Ukraine on a strategic partnership on biomethane, hydrogen, and other synthetic gases. Hydrogen projects that meet the EU’s safety standards can obtain the status of projects of mutual interest under the EU’s Trans-European Networks for Energy Regulation framework. The European Commission’s first list of projects of mutual interest published in November 2023 includes a generic corridor project aiming to transmit hydrogen from Ukraine to Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany. Both countries, and especially Ukraine, also have high potential for RES development, which could allow the production of clean energy not only for domestic consumption, but in the case of Ukraine also for export to the EU. Theoretically, Ukraine has the greatest RES potential among south-east European countries, although estimates vary. The Ukrainian government assesses the potential for wind energy development in Ukraine off the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov coasts to be 140GW. Ukrainian scholars, meanwhile, calculate that renewable energy sources in Ukraine could provide up to 874GW in total, including solar (83GW), onshore wind (438GW), and offshore wind (250GW). At a conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine organised in June 2023 in London, the Ukrainian ministry for energy presented plans for investments in the energy sector, showing that by 2050 Ukraine wants to have 230GW of solar and wind generation capacity, 38GW of energy storage capacity, and 69GW of electrolyser capacity to produce green hydrogen. Regardless of which of the above estimates is more realistic, it is clear that Ukraine has the ability to produce large amounts of clean energy. According to the UNECE, bioenergy, hydro, solar, and wind generation could account for almost 80 per cent of Ukraine’s total energy generation by 2050. Moldova also has some potential for the development of RES projects, although significantly less than Ukraine. According to a 2017 report from the International Renewable Energy Agency, Moldova could expand its wind power to 21GW and total RES generation capacity to 27GW. From the perspective of the EU, while Moldova will not become a source of clean energy imports like Ukraine, the development of RES projects in Moldova would nonetheless be beneficial, reducing Moldova’s consumption of fossil fuels and thus also relieving the burden on the EU and member states of providing support to maintain Moldova’s gas supply during crises. Ukraine could also develop biomethane projects. According to the Ukrainian National Committee for Energy Regulation, the country could produce 22 bcm of biomethane per year, some of which could be exported to the EU. Indeed, Ukraine already has the necessary resources and infrastructure, including adequate transmission networks that would not require additional upgrades to transmit biomethane. Ukraine also has large feedstock resources and large areas of arable land to develop the potential for agricultural biomethane production. The EU plans to produce 35 bcm of biomethane per year by 2030 and it is estimated that Ukraine could meet up to 20 per cent of this demand. The EU could also benefit from access to Ukraine’s critical raw materials (CRMs), which are important for the EU’s own energy transition. Ukraine holds resources of most of the raw materials on the EU’s latest list of CRMs, including some that the EU recognises as CRMs of strategic importance. For example, Ukraine has the largest reserves of lithium in Europe, used, amongst other things in the production of batteries for electric cars. In 2021, Ukraine also accounted for around 7 per cent of global titanium production and was the world’s seventh-largest exporter of titanium ore. Titanium dioxide is a valuable chemical that can help to improve the efficiency of batteries by extending both their energy-storing capacity and their lifetime, and – alongside lithium – is one of the CRMs that the EU considers to be strategic. Moreover, Ukraine has some of Europe’s largest reserves of graphite, which is used in energy storage technologies like lithium-ion batteries, as well as deposits of nickel and cobalt, which are important in battery production. Its significant potential for green energy production and its status as the country with the largest nuclear generating capacity in Europe mean that Ukraine could also be a source of low-carbon electricity imports for EU member states. Over the last three decades, Ukraine has exported electricity, and continued to export small amounts to Moldova, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and Hungary even in the first year of the war. Due to Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Kyiv was forced to suspend electricity exports in October 2022, but resumed exports of small amounts of electricity to Moldova and EU countries in April 2023. In the long term, especially when the war ends, the EU expects to be able to import clean electricity from Ukraine as part of its REPowerEU initiative. Finally, Ukraine can provide important insights into protecting energy infrastructure across Europe based on its experiences of Russian attacks, which could further strengthen the EU’s energy sovereignty. The security of the EU’s energy infrastructure has become an area of concern, particularly after the damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, the Baltic interconnector, and the cyber-attacks on Danish energy infrastructure. Hurdles ahead Several factors clearly favour closer energy cooperation between the EU and member states and their eastern neighbours, which would strengthen the energy sovereignty of all parties involved. Both the societies and the current authorities in Moldova and Ukraine are unequivocally in favour of the closest possible integration into Western structures, including the EU. In Ukraine, this has been the case since the victory of the “Revolution of Dignity” against the government’s growing ties to Russia and the ensuing fall of the Yanukovych administration in 2014, while Moldova began to take an unequivocally pro-European course in 2021. Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and aggressive policy towards Moldova have further embedded this trend and mean it will likely continue in the long term. The EU has also re-evaluated its strategic thinking, prompting a new focus on its own energy sovereignty and that of its eastern neighbourhood. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU worked rapidly to reduce its dependency on Russian energy supplies and to help its eastern neighbours do the same. However, the ongoing war in Ukraine is hampering the intensification of long-term energy cooperation. In the case of Ukraine, the key issue is the scale of the war damage and the estimated amount of money needed to rebuild Ukraine. The World Bank estimates the total cost of reconstruction at almost $486 billion, which is more than two times the size of Ukraine’s pre-war economy. According to the UN, rebuilding Ukraine’s energy sector alone, which has been seriously damaged by constant shelling, will require an outlay of approximately $47 billion. The EU has announced an additional €50 billion in support between 2024 and 2027 through a new financing instrument, the Ukraine Facility. However, these funds relate to investments in all spheres of state functioning, and it is unclear how much, if any, of this sum will be allocated to energy. Considering Kyiv’s plans regarding investments in green energy (RES and hydrogen) and the development of other sectors, including nuclear and gas, the Ukrainian authorities estimate that the country’s investment needs will reach $400 billion by 2050. Yet Moldova and Ukraine have relatively weak investment climates. Before the war, regulatory instability in Ukraine, including changes in taxation rules for the gas extraction sector, among other factors, made it difficult to attract investors. Moldova also finds it difficult to attract investment, particularly from private actors. And, although positive developments are taking place in Ukraine even during the war (for example, a law adopted in Ukraine introducing favourable conditions for investment in the biogas and biomethane sector, including exemption from income tax for five years, land tax, and VAT and customs duties when importing new equipment and components), it remains unclear how easy it will be to introduce and apply legal regulations after the war. Progress in the implementation of energy and climate policy will also be one of the fundamental challenges in the context of Ukraine’s integration with the EU. In addition to this, specific sectors face further challenges. Despite having great potential for hydrogen production, for example, Ukraine so far has neither a hydrogen strategy, nor a legal framework for the development of hydrogen projects, nor adequate infrastructure. The next steps To achieve the greatest possible synergy in the efforts of the EU and its eastern neighbours to mutually reinforce energy sovereignty, both sides will need to continue taking strategic steps in the coming years. For eastern neighbours Adopt a progressive approach to energy sovereignty Ukraine and Moldova need to translate their narratives about energy sovereignty into a determination to implement them in reality. The eastern neighbourhood countries should permanently change their approach to energy sovereignty and think of it not only in terms of security of supply – energy independence from Russia and diversification of supply sources – but also in terms of clean energy and energy efficiency. This applies especially to Moldova, which should aim to finally and permanently sever its energy relations with Russia not only in the electricity sector, but also in the gas sector, in particular by removing Gazprom from the ownership structure of its largest gas company Moldovagaz (in which Gazprom still holds 51 per cent of the shares). The EU and its eastern neighbours should make the improvement of energy efficiency one of their common strategic goals. Moldova and Ukraine should use the funds made available through the EIB and EBRD to implement steps to improve energy efficiency. In particular, they should exploit and expand the opportunities for projects under the Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership. They should also strengthen bilateral cooperation with selected EU member states that have declared their willingness to share their experience in this field. On a bilateral level, France, Germany, Poland, and Sweden are implementing or planning cooperation with their eastern neighbours to improve energy efficiency. Meet Energy Community regulations Ukraine and Moldova should continue to implement reforms in the energy sector, including those stemming from their membership in the Energy Community or related to the process of deepening their integration with the EU. Following the end of the war in Ukraine, it will be important that the two countries take measures against the monopolisation of markets by fully liberalising the electricity and gas markets, ensuring OECD-appropriate governance standards for state-owned energy companies, and making further progress in tariff reforms and subsidy provision by phasing out public service obligations and replacing them with social support for vulnerable energy consumers. These measures will serve to deepen the integration of Moldova and Ukraine with the EU and, consequently, help to increase the resilience of their energy systems. Make infrastructure flexible Both Moldova and Ukraine should prepare for new uses of their transmission infrastructure under the new geopolitical conditions. This is particularly important for Ukraine, which for a decade has acted as a transit country for EU countries’ gas and oil imports from Russia. In December 2024, the transit agreements between Russia and Ukraine will expire, and Ukraine will need to find a new use for its significant gas pipeline network in order to maintain it. The Ukrainian gas pipeline network could be used to export Ukraine’s surplus gas production or to transit gas from other sources. For example, Azerbaijani gas exported via the Trans-Balkan pipeline could travel via Moldova and Ukraine to Slovakia or other EU countries. The Ukrainian government was already considering using it to transport imported gas via a potential LNG terminal on the Ukrainian Black Sea coast before the war. Ukraine and Moldova also need to modernise and expand their electricity grids. In the case of Ukraine, this is necessary due to the continuing destruction associated with Russia’s aggression. However, Moldova also needs grid investments, especially if it is to expand its RES potential in the future. Indeed, the expansion of RES potential requires a sufficiently developed grid capable of absorbing electricity produced by wind or photovoltaic installations into the system. Make use of international cooperation formats Given the multiplicity of cooperation formats in which the eastern neighbourhood countries are involved, it is important to build synergies between them. In addition to the formats already in use in relations with the EU, Kyiv and Chisinau should make use of other, supra-regional cooperation formats that have emerged in central and eastern Europe in the last decade, within which some countries have placed a very strong emphasis on strengthening sovereignty. An example of this is the Three Seas Initiative, a project initiated in 2015 by the presidents of Poland and Croatia that brings together 13 central European countries with the strategic aim of preserving and strengthening the unity of the EU and the Euro-Atlantic space through three pillars: transport, energy, and digital. Poland and Romania have already declared their interest and political will to cooperate with countries such as Moldova and Ukraine under the initiative. For this purpose, Ukraine and Moldova could also make use of the European Political Community, to which 47 European countries belong, including non-EU countries such as the United Kingdom and Turkey. For the EU Ensure comprehensive support to Moldova and Ukraine prior to accession In the dynamic geopolitical situation related to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the EU should be determined not only to pursue the EU integration process of Moldova and Ukraine consistently, but also to strengthen its own capacities to respond to Russia’s attempts to destabilise these eastern neighbours. Only the accession of Ukraine and Moldova to the EU can create a sustainable foundation for strengthening cooperation and using the full potential of all parties to strengthen energy sovereignty. The EU therefore needs to demonstrate its determination to meet this political commitment to Moldova and Ukraine. It should use all existing multilateral formats available to it to tighten political and economic (including energy) cooperation with its eastern neighbours. Individual member states should also look to strengthen their bilateral cooperation with their eastern neighbours. Poland can play a special role in this respect, above all because it is Ukraine’s largest neighbour and is interested in participating in the reconstruction of Ukraine and particularly committed to supporting Moldova’s reform. The new pro-European government formed in December 2023 could also build a coalition for energy cooperation with its eastern neighbours together with Germany or perhaps more broadly with Germany and France as part of the recently reactivated Weimer Triangle. Initiate joint energy projects The EU should plan further joint energy projects with its eastern neighbours. It is a major weakness that, apart from the hydrogen corridor with Ukraine, the list of projects of common and mutual interest published by the EU in November 2023 does not include others concerning the enhancement of infrastructure links between the EU and Ukraine and Moldova. These are notably lacking in the electricity sector. The implementation of these projects will be important for electricity trade between the EU and neighbouring countries, which could strengthen the energy sovereignty of both the EU and its eastern neighbours. At the same time, it is in the interest of the EU and member states that progressive integration, for example in the sphere of electricity markets, is carried out under fair competition conditions between EU players and companies from Ukraine and Moldova. Contribute to security of energy supply Although the EU’s own raw material potential is limited, some countries have resources that could be used to meet part of the needs of the eastern neighbourhood countries. Romania, which has among the most energy resources in Europe, could play a particularly important role in this context. Its gas resources on the Black Sea shelf are estimated at 80-200 billion m3, which would allow it to secure its own needs for about 20 years or, in the medium term, act as an alternative to Russian supplies to other countries in the region, such as Moldova. When it comes to electricity production, Romania boasts a diversified energy mix and a well-developed network of interconnections with neighbouring countries that can operate in two directions (for import and export purposes). Due to its location, Romania could also play the role of a transit country for the transmission of energy resources (for example, gas via the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline) or electricity from third countries. EU member states should support Ukraine in continuing to diversify its nuclear fuel supply sources. Those that have nuclear power in their own energy mixes, including Bulgaria, France, Romania, Slovakia, and Sweden, can provide logistical support for the transport of nuclear fuel from alternative sources, and be partners for enhancing cooperation in the nuclear sphere after the end of the war. The so-called nuclear alliance that has emerged in the EU under the informal leadership of France could be useful in this regard, supporting partnerships with Ukraine to implement joint nuclear projects. Improve eastern neighbours’ energy efficiency In its external energy policy strategy, the EU calls for energy saving and energy efficiency to become priorities on a global scale. It should therefore support neighbouring countries to improve energy efficiency. As postulated, among others, by participants in the Green Deal Ukraine project, the EU and its member states should help their eastern neighbours to develop robust standards for energy efficiency and building materials for both new and renovated buildings, spanning residential and non-residential sectors and the entire construction process. These standards should include monitoring energy efficiency for components and the building process to align with evolving EU efficiency regulations, promoting sustainable practices and long-term decarbonisation goals. Increase investments in the region Energy should become one of the key areas of cooperation to strengthen Moldova’s and Ukraine’s sovereignty and thus their resistance to aggressive, destabilising actions by Russia. Although the EU has so far provided significant financial assistance to Ukraine and Moldova, both directly and in cooperation with European financial institutions, the scale of the needs (especially in Ukraine) requires further efforts in this area. Investment either directly by the EU or by companies from EU countries in Ukraine’s RES sector, the hydrogen corridor, or Ukraine’s gas infrastructure could strengthen EU energy sovereignty by ensuring a secure supply of clean electricity or gas supplies, which will still be needed by EU countries over at least the next decade. To this end, the EU should make use of and provide organisational and expert support for recently created instruments such as AidEnergy – an electronic platform established in March 2023, whereby the EBRD in partnership with other donors and international financial institutions and the Ukrainian Ministry of Energy create a centralised list of energy sector needs. The platform is intended not only to identify the current needs of the Ukrainian energy sector, but also more long-term needs. Considering the long-term investment needs of Ukraine’s energy sector, the EU could also provide support through financial guarantees for the most strategic projects. EU member states and institutions should also continue efforts to confiscate frozen Russian assets, which could be used for the reconstruction of Ukraine, including investments in the energy sector. The law adopted by the EU in February 2024 to set aside windfall profits made on frozen Russian central bank assets is a move in a right direction in this regard. Acknowledgments The author would like to thank experts and people working in the energy sector in institutions and companies in Poland, but also in Ukraine, Slovakia, and Germany, for discussions on the topic covered in this policy brief. Special thanks are also due to those who provided comments on the first version of the text, in particular Susi Dennison. The author would particularly like to thank Flora Bell for her pleasant and fruitful collaboration in editing the final version of the text, especially for her very valuable suggestions, questions, and comments. Thanks are also due to Nastassia Zenovich for the beautiful graphics included in the text. References [1] Argus Eurasia Energy (, weekly report, by subscription, 23 February 2023. [2] Ibid. [3] Ibid. [4] Argus Eurasia Energy (, weekly report, by subscription, 22 January 2024. This policy brief was first published on 11 March by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)

Pedro Sánchez

Spain recognizes the Palestinian state and reaffirms its friendship with Israel despite genocide in Gaza

by Redacción El Salto

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Although the gesture from Spain, Ireland, and Norway has been welcomed by Palestinian authorities, the past week has highlighted the Zionist determination to obliterate any possibility of a genuine Palestinian state. Pedro Sánchez announced early this morning what has been awaited since it was announced almost a week ago: the recognition of the Palestinian State, which, in the words of the Prime Minister, "must be a viable state, with the West Bank and Gaza connected by a corridor, with East Jerusalem as its capital, unified under the Government of the Palestinian National Authority," he stated. The president also sought to appease Zionist opposition and dispel accusations of supporting Hamas: "This is a decision that is not against anyone, least of all against Israel, a friendly people whom we respect and appreciate, and with whom we want to have the best possible relationship. This decision reflects our outright rejection of Hamas." The announcement of the recognition of the State of Palestine will be made, as the president communicated in the press conference, after it is approved today by the Council of Ministers. Meanwhile, the coalition government partner, ‘Sumar’, has welcomed this step, reminding that other actions are still necessary. "Arms embargo, suspension of diplomatic relations, supporting ICJ measures, and supporting the South African denunciation," have been enumerated in its X account. Today, May 28, 2024, was the date that Spain, Norway, and Ireland had marked on the agenda to take this diplomatic step in support of the Palestinian people. Ireland, for its part, will proceed with the recognition of the State of Palestine following a parliamentary debate to be held during the day. The decision taken by these three European countries, made public last Wednesday, May 22nd, joins them with the 144 countries that already recognized the State of Palestine within its 1967 borders, following the commitment to the coexistence of two sovereign states that can peacefully coexist, a principle underlying the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993, and which, however, three decades later, seem unrealistic given Israeli policies of colonization of the West Bank, isolation of Gaza, and appropriation of East Jerusalem, the territories that should compose an already disjointed Palestinian state. The Spanish recognition of Palestine as a state — a recurring commitment made by the PSOE that has taken time to materialize — coordinated with Ireland and Norway, implies that European countries, traditional allies of Israel, are joining what the Global South and colonized peoples had largely done decades ago. In Europe, Sweden took that step in 2014, many years after several countries in Eastern Europe recognized the Palestinian state in 1988, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The former Czechoslovakia is a striking case; while the Czech Republic considers this recognition no longer valid, Slovakia reaffirms the decision made in the 1980s. Currently, Belgium, Malta, and Slovenia are other European states that have expressed their intention to recognize the Palestinian state, without specifying a specific date. For Israel, it is important that this trend does not spread. Zionist Foreign Minister, Israel Khan, wasted no time in attacking the Spanish government (again) on social media for its decision, accusing the prime minister of being complicit in "inciting the murder of the Jewish people and war crimes." The decision of the heads of government of Ireland, Norway, and Spain came after the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution for the recognition of the Palestinian State, calling on the Security Council to accept Palestine as a full member after the US veto. The gesture of these three European countries has been welcomed by the Palestinian authorities, it responds to a historical demand, and contributes to put pressure on those countries that claim to advocate for the two-state solution but have not yet recognized Palestine as such. But beyond its symbolic value, for now, it doesn't seem likely to change the reality of the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank, or East Jerusalem. In fact, Israel has punished Palestinians precisely after the decision of the three European countries: for example, by prohibiting the Spanish consulate in Jerusalem from assisting Palestinian individuals. On the other hand, the fact that most states recognize a Palestinian state has not translated into anything resembling its materialization: many of these states are also important allies of Israel, as emphasized by Sánchez himself this morning, recalling their closeness to the Zionist state. However, Israel, with its foreign minister at the forefront, has not ceased its attacks on Spain, Ireland, and Norway in the last week: in addition to recalling their ambassadors for consultations in the European states, there has been a constant response on social media, with videos accusing the three states of collaborating with Hamas. Meanwhile, violence against Gaza and the West Bank has intensified. Last Sunday, Israel attacked refugee camps in Rafah, leaving around fifty Palestinians dead and causing global outrage at the images of people burned alive, including children. It seems that in response to the symbolic gesture of recognizing Palestine, Israel continues with its plan to make a real Palestinian state impossible. In yesterday’s report (May 27th), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) pointed out that one million people have been forced to flee again, following Israel's ground invasion of Rafah on May 6th. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health in Gaza has already reported over 36,000 deaths and more than 80,000 injuries, which, along with the missing persons, would account for 5% of the Strip's population. The United Nations has warned that it will take at least 80 years to rebuild Gaza. The fact that Israel is ravaging Palestine doesn't seem to concern the opposition as much as the worsening of bilateral relations with the Zionist state. While the leader of the opposition, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, stated yesterday that the government's decision "empowers" Hamas, Isabel Díaz Ayuso echoed a similar sentiment, saying, "They are calling for the extermination of Israel and are justifying what Hamas terrorism intends against that state. The offenses from the Government are continuous (...) The State [of Israel] will not respond with flowers," said the president of the Community of Madrid yesterday after the publication of a video released by Israel in which, with flamenco music in the background, it was reiterated that Hamas appreciates Spain's decision. But the recognition of the Palestinian state is not the only open front against the Zionist state: following the ICJ's order to halt the offensive against Gaza, the EU convened a meeting with Israel for the first time yesterday, and mentioned a tool that the EU has had from the beginning, the review of the preferential agreement between Brussels and the Zionist state. Meanwhile, civil society expands its mobilizations; yesterday, demonstrations condemning the bombings in Rafah took place worldwide, overflowing in cities like Paris. Meanwhile, the momentum continues from the encampments, which, as seen in yesterday's action at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, are bringing to light all the ties with Israel, achieving concrete victories, and exposing the extent of the economic interests and networks of influence that Israel has deployed in the university sphere. The article was translated and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 ES (Atribución-CompartirIgual 3.0 España).

Defense & Security
Taunggyi, Myanmar - 10 March 2021: Military officers on duty before the crackdown on protests

In Myanmar, the military government is faltering

by Morten Hammeken , Pedro Peruca

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Three years after a coup d'état reinstated military rule in Myanmar, armed rebels are on the offensive. The country's civil war is often described in terms of ethnic conflict, but opposition forces are the only ones keeping the hope of an inclusive democracy alive. The military seized power and controlled the country with an iron fist. They are backed by a superpower that benefits from a friendly military junta, prioritizing stability and trade over human rights or democracy. It's a familiar story. At first glance, Myanmar's political situation could easily be compared to that of Egypt (supported by the United States), Belarus (supported by Russia), or Syria (supported by Iran). But while the struggle for freedom and national self-determination seems stalled in many cases around the world, change is happening in Myanmar. Here, the rebels continue to fight against the Tatmadaw, the country's infamous military junta whose claim to power is backed by China. In October 2023, the rebels launched a major offensive, known as Operation 1027, which has been pushing the military government to its limits. So, what is different in Myanmar? "The rebels have been gradually wearing down the military since the fighting began," explains pro-democracy activist Michael Sladnick, who is currently in Myanmar. He started doing solidarity work, donated money to resistance groups, and learned Burmese while speaking online with rebel groups. He left the comforts of Chicago and moved to the borderlands between Thailand and Burma in July 2023. Now, he works with people from different rebel factions united with the goal of ending the dictatorship. According to Sladnick, the military has suffered devastating losses. A patient strategy of death by a thousand cuts is depleting their forces and explains the current success of the resistance. "The military losses number in the tens of thousands. Our estimates put the regime's dead soldiers at fifty thousand, but the actual numbers could be even higher. The junta is simply trying to control an area that is too large for its capacity, and it is finding it difficult to recruit new soldiers. The Tatmadaw has lost several bases on the border with Thailand, where the Karen National Union (KNU) is gaining strength. Just a few weeks ago, Myawaddy, not far from here, was besieged," says Sladnick, who is currently in an undisclosed village near the Thai border. The military, the Three Brothers, and the Revolution Since February 2021, Myanmar has been governed by General Min Aung Hlaing, the self-proclaimed Prime Minister. Before the coup, he commanded the Tatmadaw junta, which has controlled Myanmar since the 1962 coup that followed independence from British colonial rule in 1948. In the 20th century, communists (dominated by the Bamar ethnicity) and ethnic armed organizations fought against the military dictatorship, often at odds with each other. The communist resistance resisted the Tatmadaw until 1989 before collapsing. In this sense, the current insurgency didn't start in 2021 but it is the culmination of decades-long clandestine struggle for democracy. A brief attempt at democratization produced a new government between 2016 and 2021, led by the liberal National League for Democracy. However, the military never relinquished power. The democratic constitution of 2008 still reserved 25% of parliamentary seats for the Tatmadaw, enough to veto constitutional changes. The military remained a State within the State, with no oversight from the civilian government, retaining broad powers over the education sector and public officials, and a monopoly on matters of "national security." This also granted them emergency powers to overthrow even the limited elected government, a prerogative they exercised on February 1st, 2021. As evidence of the Junta's control over the judicial system, in December 2022, Myanmar's former elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was sentenced to twenty-seven years in prison on fabricated corruption charges. The spark that ignited the Arab Spring is often traced back to December 2010 when Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest the confiscation of his vegetable stall. In Myanmar, a similar story unfolded when the regime committed a massacre in mid-March 2021, killing dozens of women union leaders in Hlaingthaya, the industrial district of Yangon, the country's largest city. This sparked an unprecedented outpouring of anger in the countryside, where most of the population still resides. For the first time, the rural population rose in support of the workers in Yangon. This formed the basis of a popular uprising, which also helps to explain the intensity of the confrontations. "Hundreds of thousands of workers left the cities and returned to their native villages to organize the revolution there," explains Sladnick. He adds, "When the regime attempted to replicate the repression tactics that had previously worked in the cities, the masses immediately began to take up arms and counterattack. A new generation directly supporting the People's Defense Forces (PDF) emerged in the heart of the country." Three of the largest organized resistance groups joined forces and formed the Three Brotherhood Alliance. They consist of larger, more centralized rebel groups among a mosaic of local autonomous forces. Their power is stronger in the eastern region of Shan state, where the junta also faces both rebel forces and powerful drug cartels. The UN estimates that 25% of the world's opium is produced in Myanmar, and 80% of that figure comes from the Golden Triangle in the eastern Shan state. In Shan state, you can also find the National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta'ang National Liberation Army, two of the three "brothers" fighting to overthrow the Junta. Other Shan ethnic militias, previously supported by China and Thailand, paint an even blurrier picture of internal power struggles and a labyrinth of different factions. When the third brother, the Arakan Army, launched an insurgency in the Rakhine state in 2019, Aung San Suu Kyi's democratically elected government initially tried to appease the military by siding with them against the demands of armed ethnic organizations. Past mistakes like these continue to strain the relationship between the Brothers and the forces of the National Unity Government in the PDF. But for now, they remain united against General Min Aung Hlaing. In Sagaing, on the other side of the country and bordering India, the struggle took on a different path. Here, Sladnick sees a movement that resembles more of a mass revolution supported by the National Unity Government in exile and its armed wing. Sladnick says: ‘The Sagaing People's Defense Forces have universal support. Myanmar's urban working class grew significantly in the 2010s, but it originates from the rural mass of the population. They provide much of the funding to the PDF groups by sending money to their villages. The uprising in the countryside, which began in 2021, was sparked by the anger over the massacre of women leading protests in Yangon's textile factories.’ The military used to suppress dissent through punitive expeditions, with entire villages burned to the ground. Among the most brutal massacres were the Tatmadaw's reprisals in hundreds of villages like Let Yet Kone and Tar Taing, which were razed. It is estimated that at least six thousand civilians — 160 of them children — were killed by the junta just in 2022, with millions displaced since the 2021 coup. This adds to the millions of people already displaced by the decades-long war the army has been waging against ethnic and religious minorities, culminating in the Rohingya genocide in the 2010s. But the army has been worn down to the point that local militias of the PDFs were able to take control of small towns practically unopposed. As contemporary Myanmar comprises a diverse range of ethnicities, many foreign observers rushed to characterize the ongoing insurgency as "ethnically motivated." Two-thirds of the country's fifty-five million inhabitants are of Bamar descent, while the Shan (9%), Karen (7%), and Rakhine (4%) constitute significant minorities. This impression of a "melting pot of races" is further compounded by descendants of Chinese and Indians, the southern Mon, and the heavily persecuted Rohingya. However, presenting the conflict solely in ethnic terms is overly simplistic, as explained by Sladnick. ‘In Western media, things quickly get reduced to ethnic struggles. This overlooks the fact that all major rebel factions have declared that their offensive is part of a united Spring Revolution. The common denominator is the agreement that the regime must be uprooted in favor of a federal democracy. This is the shared vision of the movement that is gaining traction and spreading from the Shan state to the rest of Myanmar, including the Irrawaddy Valley, dominated by the Bamar, in the central part of the country.’ The protests began to spread even to Rohingya refugee camps, leading the Junta to specifically target Muslim activists during their bloody crackdowns in the cities. This "divide and conquer" approach was met with huge crowds from all backgrounds attending their funerals in displays of solidarity. China’s shadow The fact that the deeply unpopular Junta has been able to stay in power for three years is largely due to China. The northeastern superpower views Myanmar as a strategic partner, even amidst deteriorating relations with many other neighbors. For now, Beijing refrained from military intervention, which is surprising, explains Sladnick. "Since our revolution began, I feared that China would directly intervene and save the Tatmadaw as Russia and Iran did with [Syrian dictator Bashar] al-Assad. But China seems to have somewhat accepted the resistance," he states. In Myanmar, there were even rumors circulating that the Beijing government had given up considering the junta as a stable long-term partner and had started supporting the rebels. But this is likely an illusion, and it may be premature, explains Sladnick: "If China were really supporting the rebels, we would have won by now. The insurgency has achieved some significant gains, especially in Shan state, but the rebellion has not yet reached the larger cities. One of my fellow fighters from a local militia in the city of Loikaw [in central Myanmar] told me the other day that they have plenty of weapons but not enough ammunition or medical supplies." In reality, the Chinese intervention, or lack thereof, can be seen from a more pragmatic standpoint. China tacitly allowed the entry of arms from the black market into the Shan state, which enabled the Three Brothers to gain control over large areas of the region. Some view this as punishment for the government's inability to shut down Myanmar's infamous scam centers, which have generated billions of dollars for Chinese underworld syndicates. In a recent offensive, numerous centers were closed. It's no coincidence that weapons also stopped reaching the hands of rebels in Shan state once this issue was addressed, pressuring the Brothers to reach a ceasefire agreement with the government. "China gave a lot of leeway to the rebels and used it to force concessions from the Tatmadaw," explains Sladnick. This is also evident in the Junta's growing interest in maritime trade. For China, one of the strategic advantages of having a friendly government in Naypyidaw is access to the trade routes of the Bay of Bengal. This is also why the Beijing government has been pressuring the Junta to accelerate the construction of a new deep-water port in Rakhine, despite objections from local fishermen who fear it will destroy their livelihoods. The same dynamics are observed in the western province of Sagaing, where disgruntled workers shut down the Letpadaung copper mine in Salingyi, operated by the Chinese. Like hundreds of thousands of teachers, railway workers, and other public servants, the miners have been on continuous general strike since the 2021 coup. According to one of the miners' leaders, the Junta is now pressuring to resume operations there to appease China. "If you ask ordinary people in Myanmar, they have a very clear understanding of this relationship," Sladnick states. "Everyone sees that the ceasefire in Shan state was necessary because China demanded it. What else could the militias have done? They have been fighting alone for decades, and if they had refused to sign the agreement, China would have completely cut off their arms supply. The hope now is that they will continue to finance other resistance groups," Sladnick concludes. A desperate move Although things have recently calmed down somewhat in Shan state, through an uneasy truce, the pressure on the Junta remains intense. The Arakan Army accepted a ceasefire in Shan state but made no similar promises in Rakhine, where fighting continues. To the Tatmadaw's troubles are added the new resistance groups joining the revolutionary struggle. A few weeks after Operation 1027 ended in a temporary ceasefire, the Kachin Independence Army, which has been fighting since 1960, launched Operation 0307 in the Kachin state, quickly seizing control of dozens of cities and bases similar to the Brothers' offensive in the Shan state last fall. The Pa-O National Liberation Army (PNLA) broke the ceasefire in the Shan state, while the New Mon State Party split in the Mon state to the south, prompting a large number of people to join the resistance. The PDF is also gaining ground in Bamar ethnic regions, while Kalay, on the border with India, was nearly completely taken by insurgents. As the Junta weakens, the strategy becomes bolder. PDF forces in central Burma, still largely reliant on homemade weapons, are invading cities, a clear indication that the authorities' resources are dwindling, and their casualties cannot be replaced. So, how much control has the Junta lost? Although it's difficult to obtain precise information in Myanmar, where access to the internet has been cut off in large swathes of territory, some analysts estimate that up to 48% of the country is now controlled by resistance groups. Myawaddy, on the Thai border, was liberated in early April, while a Junta offensive to reclaim the border town was recently repelled. A drone attack was launched against the capital, Naypyidaw, a few weeks ago, and although Yangon remains firmly under the Junta's control, their authority here could soon deteriorate as well. In February, the Tatmadaw announced nationwide conscription to bolster their depleted ranks. "It's a desperate move," Sladnick asserts. Conscription is highly unpopular among ordinary people. It also means that urban middle-class citizens, who could previously pretend that everything was fine, are now forced to confront the truth. The Tatmadaw has been trying to avoid this measure for the same reasons Russia's regime is trying to keep people from Moscow and St. Petersburg out of its war in Ukraine. Don’t close the door From his base on the border between Myanmar and Thailand, Sladnick recently traveled to the Karenni state. There, the Junta completely cut off internet and phones, so Starlink is the only window to the digital world. This also meant that their group was able to witness combat in areas of the country that had not been reported before. After a three-day delay due to the Junta airstrikes, they were able to witness the deterioration of the dictatorship's control over the region. Only four Junta bases remain standing on the outskirts of Loikaw, where Karenni resistance militias and PDF forces are currently advancing. In some of the hill bases captured in February, the recent corpses of the Junta soldiers still littered the ground, while a trip to the village of Hpa Saung placed them directly in the line of fire. In the small town of Mese, twenty police uniforms still lay among the rubble of the former police station, whose occupants presumably perished in the final battle to liberate the city. Mese has now become a refuge for civilians fleeing from the southern Karenni. But while progress is steady, things could move much faster, explains Sladnick: ‘All the resistance fighters tell me they could take the last strongholds of the regime in a week if they had enough ammunition. But every time they advance, they must wait to resupply. It doesn't help that all the villages abandoned by the Tatmadaw forces are full of explosive traps, making it impossible for people to return. This also highlights the paradox of Myanmar's struggle. Despite ongoing successes - in March alone, five thousand square kilometers were liberated, according to researcher Thomas van Linge - the rest of the world seems to have forgotten about them. It might be a deliberate choice. Cooking oil, malaria medication, bullets, and global attention - everything is scarce here. There's even a shortage of raincoats in refugee camps, turning the upcoming seasonal monsoon in a few months into an imminent threat. "I asked one of my colleagues what she would say to the world if she had the chance. She said, 'Don't close the door on us. Open it!'" In Myanmar, enough is happening to fill the news every night, but the internet blackout and the abundance of other conflicts around the world make Myanmar almost invisible to the public," comments Sladnick. In his opinion, the lack of attention may also be due to an outdated image of Myanmar. "People in the West have this image of Myanmar's freedom fighters as rural peasants with an old rifle in their hands. Listen; these people are modern, connected, and very aware of the global struggle between fascism and democracy. They're aware of what's happening in Gaza, Ukraine, and Syria and see themselves fighting for both national self-determination and social justice worldwide. They know this is part of a broader struggle to prevent the spread of authoritarianism and fascism worldwide." With conscription looming, the last pretenses of normalcy under the regime are rapidly fading away. Everyone is forced to take sides, making the conflict even more intense, explains Sladnick. "The other day I had dinner with a former colleague of my wife, a real estate agent with a very sweet demeanor and a pleasant personality. She's not exactly the type of person you'd expect to be an armed rebel. I said to her, 'The revolution is scary.' She replied, 'Yes, but living under the regime is scarier.' I think this is emblematic of the current mood." Despite the challenging road ahead, Sladnick and the resistance fighters in Myanmar remain optimistic. "Everyone I spoke to in Myanmar believes the regime will collapse. Millions of people have already sacrificed everything in the fight for freedom, and I trust that in the end, we will prevail. If we don't receive help from outside, obviously it will take longer, but the regime's days are numbered. It's just a matter of time."

Defense & Security
(From left): Yahya Sinwar, Karim Khan, Benjamin Netanyahu.

No one can act with impunity: ICC arrest warrants in Israel-Hamas war are a major test for international justice

by Amy Maguire

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском The request by Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), for arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders is a significant step in the effort to bring justice to the victims of international crimes in Israel and Palestine. Khan has asked ICC judges to issue warrants on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes against Yahya Sinwar (head of Hamas in Gaza), Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri (also known as Mohammed Deif, the commander of the military wing of Hamas) and Ismail Haniyeh (head of Hamas’ political bureau, based in Qatar). They are alleged to bear responsibility for international crimes on Israeli and Palestinian territory at least since October 7 2023. Khan has also requested arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, again for war crimes and crimes against humanity. They are alleged to be responsible for crimes in the Gaza Strip since October 8 2023. What have they been accused of? Sinwar, Al-Masri and Haniyeh are charged in relation to the attacks on Israeli civilians on October 7, in which an estimated 1,200 Israeli civilians were killed and at least 245 taken hostage. In addition, the Hamas leaders are accused of other crimes in the context of the ongoing conflict in Gaza. These include: • extermination • murder • hostage taking • rape and other acts of sexual violence • torture • cruel treatment Khan said in his statement: I saw the devastating scenes of these attacks and the profound impact of the unconscionable crimes charged in the applications filed today. Speaking with survivors, I heard how the love within a family, the deepest bonds between a parent and a child, were contorted to inflict unfathomable pain through calculated cruelty and extreme callousness. These acts demand accountability. Khan noted his office conducted extensive investigations, including site visits and interviews with victim survivors, and relied on evidence relating to the conditions in which Israeli hostages have been held in Gaza. Netanyahu and Gallant are alleged to be criminally responsible for a number of international crimes since Israel launched its military action against Hamas in Gaza on October 8, including: • starvation of civilians as a method of warfare • wilfully causing great suffering • wilful killing • intentional attacks against a civilian population • extermination and/or murder • persecution. The prosecutor said the alleged crimes: … were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to state policy. These crimes, in our assessment, continue to this day. Noting the horrific suffering of civilians in Gaza, including tens of thousands of casualties and catastrophic hunger, Khan alleged that the means Netanyahu and Gallant chose to pursue Israel’s military aims in Gaza …namely, intentionally causing death, starvation, great suffering, and serious injury to body or health of the civilian population – are criminal. What does this mean in practice? The next step in this process is for three judges in the ICC pre-trial chamber to decide if there are reasonable grounds to believe war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed. If so, they will issue arrest warrants. It could take months for the judges to make this assessment. If arrest warrants are issued, however, they are very unlikely to be executed. And if none of the accused can be arrested, then no trial will take place because the ICC does not try people in absentia. So, why is it unlikely the accused will be arrested? There are several reasons. First, none of the accused will hand themselves in for prosecution. Netanyahu was outraged by Khan’s decision, calling it “a moral outrage of historic proportions” and accusing him of antisemitism. Hamas has issued a statement strongly denouncing the issuing of arrest warrants against its leaders, claiming it equates “the victim with the executioner”. Second, none of the accused are likely to put themselves in a position to be arrested and turned over to the ICC. Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC. Its chief ally, the United States, is also not a member. This would guarantee Netanyahu and Gallant could travel to the US without fear of arrest. Meanwhile, Haniyeh is based in Qatar, which is also not an ICC member state. He may need to curtail travel to other states to avoid risk of arrest. The other two accused Hamas leaders are believed to be hiding in Gaza – they appear more at risk of being killed by Israeli forces than arrest. However, Palestine is an ICC member state, so technically it is obliged to cooperate with the court. In practice, though, it is hard to see how this will happen. Third, the ICC relies on its member states to enforce its actions. It has no independent police force or capacity to execute arrest warrants. The ICC has 124 state parties, while the United Nations has 193 member states. This disparity makes clear the gap between what the ICC seeks to achieve – namely, universal accountability for international crimes – and what it can practically achieve when it lacks the support of implicated or nonaligned countries. What does this mean for the ICC? Khan’s move is unprecedented in one respect. This is the first time the prosecutor’s office has brought charges against a head of state who is supported by Western nations. The move triggered a predictable response from the US. President Joe Biden called it “outrageous” and added: […] there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security. But Khan emphasised the importance of the ICC’s independence and impartiality, as well as the equal application of law. No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader – no one – can act with impunity. The ICC has previously confirmed its jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed by the five leaders this week. The prosecutor will be confident the pre-trial chamber will issue the arrest warrants, based on the highly visible nature of the alleged crimes and the volume of evidence available to show reasonable grounds for prosecution. The request for arrest warrants undoubtedly complicates relations between Israel and its allies that are ICC member states. In such a politically charged context, it is fair to describe this effort as a test of the international community’s commitment to the goal of ending impunity for international crimes.

Defense & Security
Wellington, New Zealand - November 29 2019: HMNZS Wellington, a protector-class off-shore patrol vessel in the Royal New Zealand Navy sailing into Wellington harbour.

New Zealand is waking up to threats

by Tim Hurdle

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском While Australian defence policy looks north, Kiwis focus west. New Zealand has always benefited from strategic isolation and the distance from international conflicts. But as global dangers increase, the reality of the geo-political situation is cutting through in New Zealand’s public discourse. With the active aggression of totalitarian powers like China and Russia causing disruption, New Zealand is waking up the threats they pose to the international order. That’s a good thing for Australia, creating a stronger, more engaged partner to work with in the Pacific and on regional security arrangements. Awareness of the threat that China and Russia pose has evolved in the past 10 years. In June 2022, then Labour prime minister Jacinda Ardern attended the NATO Summit, calling her participation a ‘rare thing’. She condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said ‘China’s increasing assertiveness is resulting in geopolitical change and competition.’ This mild comment provoked the strong rebuke from Beijing that her comments were ‘unhelpful, regrettable and wrong.’ Her open criticism was a shift from a foreign policy that had been closely tied to protecting the strong trading relationship with China. This shift continued under Chris Hipkins, who replaced Ardern as prime minister until Labour lost office in November. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade released a strategic foreign policy assessment, ‘Navigating a shifting world’, in July 2023. And Hipkins’s defence minister, Andrew Little, said ‘In 2023, we do not live in a benign strategic environment’ as he unveiled a Defence Policy Strategy Statement that achieved cross-party support. With a three-party centre-right coalition government now in office, there is a growing recognition that New Zealand will need to spend more on defence. This is challenging due to excessive pandemic spending that has left a legacy of a bloated public service and a structural fiscal deficit. But on 10 May the government said money from cost-cutting elsewhere in the Defence budget would be recycled back into Defence rather than being subsumed by fiscal consolidation. All parties in the new government have made positive statements about New Zealand reaching the NATO standard of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defence. New Zealand last achieved this level in 1992, and spending has continued to decline in recent decades. Currently sitting just above 1 percent of GDP, the fraction is significantly less than Australia’s. New Zealand’s GDP per capita is only three-quarters of Australia’s, meaning its defence spending per person is much lower. The inaugural Australia–New Zealand Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations in February bought a new focus to the trans-Tasman relationship. Ministers of both countries said the meetings had taken place amid the most challenging global strategic environment in decades. They committed to increasing military integration. The debate in New Zealand has become sharper as the country has considered joining Pillar 2 of AUKUS, the part of the Australian-British-US defence partnership that deals with technology other than nuclear submarines. Active military collaboration for international security marks a strong shift away from the view of then Labour prime minister Helen Clark, who said in March 2001 that New Zealand was ‘very lucky to live in one of the most strategically secure environments in the world’ and that New Zealanders ‘would like other nations to experience the peace of a benign strategic environment too.’ For as long as her view dominated foreign policy circles, attention was on trade policy; there was little focus on national security or defence issues, beyond a fascination with nuclear disarmament. Clark and her generation promoted a so-called independent foreign policy. Encouraged by the anti-American and anti-nuclear lobby, this amounted to a shift away from the Western alliance. The more modern view in New Zealand is that, as a small country, it must help to uphold the international rules-based system and contribute to stability and security efforts. New Zealand has engaged with Asian-centred regional collaborative security frameworks. More spending is needed. The government will release a new Defence Capability Plan in June or July, setting out procurement priorities. There is no longer a sense that spending on defence will be unpopular. The main challenge will be renewing the fleet of the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN). Key units that need replacement are the two Anzac-class frigates, and there are clear signals that New Zealand will consider buying ships of the general-purpose frigate class that is intended for the Royal Australian Navy. Using the same design would promote interoperability and economy. The Royal New Zealand Air Force has modernised with the recent purchase of P-8A Poseidon maritime patrollers and C-130J Hercules airlifters. New naval helicopters are likely to come soon. New Zealand can provide better awareness of the eastern approaches to Australia with Poseidons. A runway extension on the Chatham Islands, 800km east of mainland New Zealand, was opened in January to handle aircraft of the size of Poseidons. These assets are vital to supporting ongoing participation in collective security efforts. The first international deployment of a New Zealand Poseidon was to Japan in April, to help enforce UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea. Kiwi gunners have trained Ukrainian soldiers in Britain. The RNZN is vital to Pacific relationships. New Zealand’s strategic isolation is becoming less apparent amid cyber attacks on the parliament in Wellington, great-power competition in Antarctica and acceptance that the country’s trade routes are exposed. Global conflicts feature on Kiwis’ screens daily, showing that the world is a more dangerous place and that foreign policy must change. It’s understood that stepping up will come at a cost. New Zealand needs to have defence capability that can integrate and enhance Australian forces in the Indo-Pacific. The new government knows that Australia, as New Zealand’s only formal defence ally, is the most important partner.

Paris, France, 25-04-2024 : Visit of the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, for a major speech on Europe at the Sorbonne.

2024 Election Watch: France, the European Union, Germany, and Mexico

by Collin Chapman

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Elections in Europe demonstrate the growing popularity of far right parties as key outsiders gain on critical votes. In France, President Emmanuel Macron has moved to dampen Marine Le Pen’s success in the European Parliament with a snap national election. The election calendar for June has already thrown up some surprises, particularly in the northern hemisphere. To be sure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was re-elected, though with a much-reduced majority which will place limits on his power. But the biggest shock is in Europe where French President Emmanuel Macron decided to call a snap election for 30 June after his most notorious far-right rival, Marine Le Pen, pulled off a decisive victory in the French election for the European Parliament. Macron is taking a massive gamble—that in a national election he can recover some of the popularity he has lost since his re-election as president in 2022, squashing Le Pen’s challenge to his leadership. The initial reaction of the commentariat is that Macron will manage a return to the Élysée palace, largely because the centrist parties holding the middle ground were the overall winners and the Left and the Greens failed to increase, or lost, shares of the vote. “I’ve decided to give you back the choice,” Macron said in an address to the electorate from the Elysée palace. In France, the Rassemblement National (RN) party led by Le Pen won 31.5 percent of the country’s vote, according to early results. In Germany, the three parties in Olaf Scholz’s fragile coalition—the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens, and the liberal FDP—were all overtaken by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which came in second behind the conservative CDU-CSU opposition. Significant gains by nationalist and ultra-conservative parties were also anticipated by exit polls in Austria, Cyprus, Greece, and the Netherlands. In Italy, prime minister Giorgia Meloni cemented her position in her governing coalition, and potentially her hand in negotiations with other European leaders, with her hard-right Brothers of Italy party taking over 28 percent of the vote in the European parliamentary elections. Attention will now turn to the campaign by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, to win another five-year term in office. She has a good record and currently no obvious challenger. Nonetheless, her re-election will hinge on her ability to make uncomfortable choices and deals, taking into account the EU’s clear shift to the right in parliamentary elections on 9 June. Though her centre-right European People’s party won the election, securing 189 seats in the 720-strong assembly, von der Leyen’s allies fared worse and the hard right surged from a fifth to nearly a quarter of seats. Her fate is likely to be decided at an EU summit on 27 June when she will seek the personal backing of the EU’s 27 leaders and aim to demonstrate to them that she has the required support in the European Parliament. Mexico Another remarkable election result this month was in Mexico where the ruling left-wing Morena party won a landslide victory in presidential, congressional, and state elections. While president-elect Claudia Sheinbaum and Morena’s victory on 2 June was not a surprise, the scale of it was. Sheinbaum won more votes than the centre-right Xochiti Galvez across genders, age groups, and in every state bar one, coming in 31 points clear of her rival. After decades of high poverty, glaring inequality, and low wages, the ruling Morena party more than doubled the minimum wage and expanded social programs, endearing itself to Mexico’s long-neglected have-nots. The result has left Mexico’s conservative elite struggling to understand the left’s landslide win, living as they do in gated communities far removed from the lives and feelings of average Mexicans. There are unlikely to be any surprises in the other major election this month—that of Iran on 28 June. Iranian authorities have disqualified prominent moderates as candidates in the snap presidential election, called following the helicopter crash that recently claimed the life of Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s president, and other senior ministers. The field of candidates has been narrowed to five hardliners and one mid-ranking reformist. The United Kingdom has seen a frenzy of election activity this month following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s surprise decision to call an early election on 4 July. Polls show that there is likely to be a change of government to the opposition Labour party, which is currently holding a 22 percent lead, after 14 years’ Conservative government.

Defense & Security
France and New Caledonia flags.

France, New Caledonia and the Indo-Pacific

by Denise Fisher

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском How France manages the first outbreak of serious violence in New Caledonia in 40 years will affect not only its future role there but its acceptance as a resident Pacific, and Indo-Pacific, power. The violence of indigenous independence supporters, many of them very young, signals that the inconclusiveness of earlier peace agreements risks taking New Caledonia back to the bloodshed of the 1980s. The unrest is targeting the capital, Noumea, and its population of Europeans, who mostly support staying French. The wounds are deep. The peace agreements that ended violence in the 1980s largely succeeded because of difficult and constant compromises by the French state, loyalist parties and independence parties. Mutual trust in the promises of those agreements to work towards self-determination underpinned the French state conducting three referendums in New Caledonia from 2018 to 2021. The first two were impeccably organised and showed, respectively, that 56.7 percent and 53.3 percent opposed independence. But the state dropped the ball in a third referendum in 2021, sticking with an intended voting date despite indigenous requests for postponement. At the time, hundreds of Kanaks had died from Covid-19. Their leaders said they could not ask their people to campaign or vote when their traditions required lengthy mourning rituals. The resulting indigenous boycott saw the count of opposition to independence soar to 96.5 percent. Since then, divisions have deepened. Loyalists, backed by the government in Paris, say all three votes were valid and want to cement the territory as part of France. Independence groups reject the third vote and seek another; some refuse to participate in discussion about the future. They rejected Macron’s offer of a chemin de pardon (path of forgiveness) when he visited in July 2023. They did not attend a meeting he convened, and their supporters did not turn out for his major speech there, sending a strong message of discontent. Macron then threatened unilateral action unless local parties came to an agreement. Informal discussions between some parties from each side in December ended with wide divergences, including over a further independence vote and voter eligibility. To set a deadline, Macron introduced legislation postponing local elections from April 2024 to December 2025, and he put forward another bill that would amend the French constitution, imposing broader voter eligibility and thereby diluting the Kanak voting share, unless locals reached agreement before the end of June. Demonstrations erupted into violence on 13 May, the day France’s National Assembly debated imposing from Paris the enlargement of voter eligibility. The destruction perpetrated by young Kanaks signalled not only to France and loyalist parties who were their targets but also to Kanak leaders and neighbouring countries the depth of distress of a new generation who felt disrespected and excluded from determining the future of their homeland. How France responds will be decisive for its sustainable future in New Caledonia. New Caledonia’s population is about 270,000. In the census of 2019, indigenous Kanaks were 41 percent, Europeans 29 percent and other Pacific islanders and ‘others’ composed the remaining 30 percent. Another census is due this year. Kanaks may now exceed 45 percent, since there have been net departures of about 2000 people a year since 2015, almost all presumably non-indigenous. Moreover, some people in the ‘others’ category, which includes the sub-categories of ‘mixed’ and ‘Caldeonian’, would also be Kanaks. And the Kanak share of the population will rise, especially since recent developments may contribute to an increase in non-Kanak departures. While New Caledonia’s neighbours have quietly supported the peace agreements, they remain concerned about the interests of the islanders in the non-self-governing French territory. Some of them took New Caledonia to the United Nations Decolonisation Committee in 1986, ensuring annual UN scrutiny of the territory and France’s dealings with it since then. The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) has regularly sent missions monitoring implementation of the Noumea Accord and observed each referendum, expressing serious reservations on the third. The Melanesian Spearhead Group (Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia’s FLNKS independence coalition) was formed in the mid-1980s specifically to support Kanak independence claims. With the eruption of violence, their silence has broken. Making Australia’s highest-level statement in decades, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia was closely monitoring the situation and encouraged all parties to work together constructively to shape the institutional future of New Caledonia. PIF Secretary-General Henry Puna said he was not surprised by the riots, noting it was unfortunate that the third referendum had been allowed to go ahead amid the pandemic. PIF chair and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said New Caledonia and French Polynesia had been included in the forum ‘in recognition of their calls for greater autonomy coming from their people’, and supported providing help to prevent conflict. Vanuatu Prime Minister and Melanesian Spearhead Group Chair Charlot Salwai publicly opposed France’s constitutional change and urged a return to the spirit of the peace agreements and the sending of a dialogue mission led by a mutually respected person. France has done much to regain the acceptance and trust of the region in recent decades. Responding to island governments’ visceral opposition to its policies in the 1980s, France abandoned nuclear testing in the region and gave greater autonomy to its Pacific territories. It did so by respecting local governments and people. Macron has articulated an Indo-Pacific vision for France that’s firmly based on its sovereignty in the Pacific. But, to maintain France’s claims as an Indo-Pacific power, he must listen to the large and growing indigenous minority in its pre-eminent Pacific territory, New Caledonia. And he must listen to the appeals of Pacific island governments, so they and France can move forward together with humility and respect.

Defense & Security
2021 Myanmar Armed Forces Day

Myanmar: If sanctions aren’t the solution, what is?

by Morten B. Pedersen

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском The local population invariably pays the price for financial punishment of the regime. So better for the world to directly support communities instead. The decision by Australia in February last year to impose sanctions on 16 members of Myanmar’s ruling junta, as well as two military holding companies, received rare praise from a wide range of Myanmar resistance groups, international activists, and trade unions who had long been dissatisfied with Australia’s Myanmar policy. A year later, in February this year, when two Myanmar government banks and three private companies supplying jet fuel to the military were added to the sanctions list, there were almost standing applause. This is symptomatic of a world where many activists see sanctions on the military regime as the primary measure of “good policy”. Unfortunately, the obsession with sanctions draws attention away from other important issues, notably the nature and quality of international aid to the Myanmar people. Don’t get me wrong. There are strong normative reasons for imposing sanctions on Myanmar’s military rulers. Sanctions signal support for international law and lend weight to the broader policy of ostracising the military regime, which is deeply illegitimate and guilty of mass atrocities. They also provide a measure of symbolic support for the resistance, which has called for sanctions to support their cause. With so many people believing that sanctions are simply the right thing to do, not imposing them also have significant reputational costs for Australia. But as a strategic tool, sanctions are overrated. No Myanmar general is going to be shamed by Western criticism into changing their behaviour or induced by a travel ban to surrender their power and privileges as the resistance demands. In theory, by targeting the flows of arms and finance to the regime, sanctions may weaken the junta’s military capabilities and help tip the balance of power on the battlefield. But the main sources of military revenue are simply out of reach. As the de facto government of the rump state of Myanmar, the junta has inherited the state’s money printing press, as well as its sovereign borrowing rights, and the ability to set foreign exchange rates. Moreover, it is skimming hundreds of millions of dollars annually off the drugs trade and other illicit economic activity through a combination of protection payments and official “whitewashing” of private profits of unknown origin. Sure, sanctions bite. But any pain the military regime feels will invariably be transferred to other groups. Indeed, given the military’s control of key levers of the economy, the term “targeted sanctions” employed by governments such as Australia’s is really a misnomer. Whatever the generals lose in one area, they can take somewhere else. Anyone who thinks sanctions are the solution should take a closer look at daily life in Myanmar. While the population is suffering from run-amok inflation and shortages of vital goods such as medicine, there are no indications that the junta has had to reduce its arms spending. On the contrary, the number of air strikes on resistance forces and local communities continues to rise month by month. But if sanctions aren’t the solution, what is? To answer that question, we need to take step back and look at what is happening on the ground in Myanmar. With the military suffering defeat after defeat on the battlefield and gradually retreating from large parts of the country, resistance groups have started building parallel state structures and providing public services in “liberated areas” outside of central state control. Across Myanmar, new political authorities are claiming jurisdiction to govern significant territories and populations. They are establishing new government institutions; pronouncing better laws and policies; and providing security, health, and education for millions of people. While much of this is still rudimentary, they are effectively building mini states. At the grassroots level, thousands of community-based organisations are delivering humanitarian assistance to conflict-affected populations, while local communities are building their own roads and schools, and hiring their own teachers and nurses. This fragmentation of authority may seem confusing – and even threatening – to many outsiders who see it as a symptom of state failure. But it can also be viewed as the basis for a new kind of state, better suited to unifying and serving Myanmar’s diverse ethnic communities who have suffered greatly from decades of overcentralisation and continuous civil war. When asked, senior Australian government officials invariably say their primary goal in Myanmar is to help its long-suffering population. And many of their critics presumably would agree. By supporting these emerging local governance structures, Australia could help the resistance by increasing its relevance to the daily struggles of local people. It could also help vulnerable communities by expanding humanitarian assistance and basic social services. And it could help the country by supporting longer-term institution-building and establishing the basis for a new federal democratic union. All of this would help the Myanmar people in ways that sanctions never will.