Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 16/08/13


Udo von Massenbach

Guten Morgen.

Cloud is out!

„E-Mail made in Germany“
Handelsblatt: NSA führt Deutschland als Spionageziel
Massenbach* Europe Pulls The Plug On Its Green Future

Date: 09/08/13 Benny Peiser, The Australian

As country after country abandons, curtails or reneges on once-generous support for renewable energy, Europe is beginning to realise that its green energy strategy is dying on the vine. Green dreams are giving way to hard economic realities.

GreenSolar panels in Spain, where 50,000 solar panels entrepreneurs face financial disaster following cuts in government subsidies.Source: AFP

Slowly but gradually, Europe is awakening to a green energy crisis, an economic and political debacle that is entirely self-inflicted.

The mainstream media, which used to encourage the renewables push enthusiastically, is beginning to sober up too. With more and more cracks beginning to appear, many newspapers are returning to their proper role as the fourth estate, exposing the pitfalls of Europe’s green-energy gamble and opening their pages for thorough analysis and debate. Today, European media is full of news and commentary about the problems of an ill-conceived strategy that is becoming increasingly shaky and divisive.

A study by British public relations consultancy CCGroup analysed 138 articles about renewables published during July last year in the five most widely circulated British national newspapers: The Sun, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, which enjoy a combined daily circulation of about 6.5 million.

“The analysis revealed a number of trends in the reporting of renewable energy news,” the study found. “First and foremost, the temperature of the media’s sentiment toward the renewables industry is cold. More than 51 per cent of the 138 articles analysed were either negative or very negative toward the industry.”

More than 80 per cent of the articles appeared in broadsheet titles The Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, the report says, “but 55 per cent of these articles were either negative or very negative about the industry”.

EU members states have spent about €600 billion ($882bn) on renewable energy projects since 2005, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Germany’s green energy transition alone may cost consumers up to €1 trillion by 2030, the German government recently warned.

These hundreds of billions are being paid by ordinary families and small and medium-sized businesses in what is undoubtedly one of the biggest wealth transfers from poor to rich in modern European history. Rising energy bills are dampening consumers’ spending, a poisonous development for a Continent struggling with a severe economic and financial crisis.

The German Association of Energy Consumers estimates that up to 800,000 Germans have had their power cut off because they couldn’t pay the country’s rising electricity bills; among them, German newspaper Der Spiegel reported last October, are 200,000 long-term unemployed.

As The Washington Post writer Charles Lane observed at the time: “It’s one thing to lose your job because a competing firm built a superior mouse trap; it’s quite another, justice-wise, to lose it because a competitor talked the government into taking its side.”

Two weeks ago, the Czech government decided to end all subsidies for new renewable energy projects at the end of this year. “The reason for this law amendment is the rising financial burden for electricity consumers,” Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok said. “It threatens the competitiveness of our industry and raises consumers’ uncertainty about power prices.” In recent years, almost all EU member states also have begun the process of rolling back and cutting green subsidies.

Spain is a particularly cautionary tale. By failing to control the cost of guaranteed subsidies, the country has been saddled with €126bn of obligations to renewable-energy investors.

Now that the Spanish government has dramatically curtailed these subsidies, even retrospectively, more than 50,000 solar entrepreneurs face financial disaster and bankruptcy.

Germany, however, is the nation that has pushed the renewables agenda furthest and is struggling most with the unintended damage of the green energy shift, its so-called Energiewende.

Germany’s renewable energy levy, which subsidises green energy production, rose from €14bn to €20bn in just one year as a result of the fierce expansion of wind and solar power projects. Since the introduction of the levy in 2000, the electricity bill of German consumers has doubled.

German households will pay a renewables surcharge of €7.2bn this year alone. In addition, consumers will be affected by indirect costs because industry, trade and commerce pass on their rising energy costs in product prices. And because green energy subsidies are guaranteed for 20 years, the costs threaten to rise exorbitantly as more schemes are being agreed. Energy bills are going through the roof, fuel poverty is rising and renewable energy policies face a growing public backlash. What is more, governments are increasingly concerned about the threat to Europe’s industrial base.

Germany has the most expensive electricity in Europe, with an average price of 26.8 euro cents (40c) a kilowatt hour. No wonder Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that the rapid expansion of green energy programs is weakening Germany’s competitive advantage in the global economy.

The EU also is quietly rolling back its renewable agenda, which EU leaders now recognise has been raising energy prices across the Continent. At their summit in Brussels in May, leaders indicated that they intended to prioritise the issue of affordable energy over cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The EU summit signalled Europe intended to restore its declining competitiveness by supporting the development of cheap energy, including shale gas, while cutting green energy subsidies.

However, EU environment ministers are alarmed at the prospective rollback. They are seeking to prevent the development of EU shale resources by trying to introduce EU-wide environmental barriers.

Until recently, Europe had positioned itself as the global leader in climate protection and renewable energy, with Germany leading the way with ambitious targets and generous subsidies that boosted solar power and wind energy.

More than half of the world’s solar panels are installed in Germany. On June 6, Germany’s solar power production touched a new record of 23.4 gigawatts, meeting almost 40 per cent of the country’s entire peak electricity demand. But to understand that this record is quite meaningless, consider the grid’s narrow escape last winter. For many weeks in December and January, Germany’s 1.1 million solar power systems generated almost no electricity. During much of those overcast winter months, solar panels more or less stopped generating electricity. To prevent blackouts, grid operators had to import nuclear energy from France and the Czech Republic and power up an old oil-fired power plant in Austria.

Subsidies are extremely generous and guarantee investors an almost 10 per cent annual return for 20 years. Given such an unparalleled offer, it is not surprising that more than a million families already have installed solar panels. This solar boom, however, has saddled the country with obligations of more than €130bn in subsidies, leading to ever increasing energy prices.

As wealthy homeowners and businesses owners install solar panels on their homes and commercial buildings, low-income families, living in rented apartments, have to foot skyrocketing electric bills. Many can no longer afford to pay, so the utilities are cutting off their power.

To stop the solar boom, the government has reduced feed-in tariffs for photovoltaic schemes in the past few years. Since 2010, however, more than 5000 companies involved in the solar business have closed, shedding tens of thousands of green jobs.

Germany’s biggest companies, such as Siemens and Bosch, are abandoning the industry too. Their renewable energy strategies resulted in costly debacles. Siemens, Europe’s largest engineering company, announced in June that it would close its entire solar division, at a loss of about €1bn. Last month the Siemens board fired its chief executive, Peter Loescher. His dramatic dumping was seen in the context of a catalogue of disastrous misinvestments in the green energy sector he presided over.

For Bosch, another German giant, its move into solar ended in disaster too, costing the electronics company even more than Siemens: about €2.4bn.

During the past year, the wave of bankruptcies in solar has devastated the entire industry, while solar investors have lost almost €25bn on the stockmarket.

Now Germany plans to phase out subsidies altogether, its solar industry is likely to disappear by the end of the decade.

Most observers were convinced the energy gap caused by Germany’s decision, two years ago, to phase out nuclear power would be filled by wind and solar power. Hardly anyone realised that the extraordinary boom in renewable energy construction would generate a coal boom too.

In fact, German CO2 emissions have been rising for two years in a row as coal is experiencing a renaissance. But CO2 emissions in the EU as a whole are likely to rise because of increased coal burning at power stations. The revelation has embarrassed the German government and dumbfounded the public, which cannot understand how a nation that has expanded renewable energy more than any other country is building 20 coal-fired power stations.

In much of Europe, coal has become much cheaper than natural gas for power generators. The reason is the collapse of the EU’s emissions trading scheme and the subsequent decline in carbon prices, which make coal plants more economical than gas-fired power plants.

So far Europe’s emissions trading scheme has cost consumers more than €300bn. Massive amounts of green investments originally projected on the back of a high carbon price have been shelved and are no longer feasible. There can be little doubt Europe’s flagship climate policy has turned into an utter failure. In a realistic assessment of Europe’s policy shift, the International Energy Agency recently noted that “climate change has quite frankly slipped to the backburner of policy priorities”.

Of all the unintended consequences of Germany’s Energiewende perhaps the most extraordinary is the detrimental effect of wind and solar schemes on the price of electricity generated by natural gas. Almost 20 per cent of gas power plants in Germany have become unprofitable and face shutdown as renewables flood the electricity grid with preferential energy. To avoid blackouts, the government has had to subsidise uneconomic gas and coal power stations so that they can be used as back-up when the sun is not shining, the wind does not blow and renewables fail to generate sufficient electricity.

The mess is forcing struggling utilities to contemplate even more radical solutions. E.ON, Germany’s biggest energy company, is thinking of dismantling some of its European gas power plants, mothballed because they are no longer profitable, and relocating them outside the EU. Such farcical considerations become symptomatic of the unintended consequences caused by the rapid expansion of renewable energy.

Europe’s manufacturers are rapidly losing ground to international competition. Instead of putting money into the energy-expensive EU, investors are pouring money into the US, where energy prices have fallen to one-third of those in the EU, thanks to the shale gas revolution.

The naive assumption of policymakers that Europe’s main competitors would follow the shift from cheap fossil fuels to expensive green energy has not materialised. Europe, The Washington Post recently warned, “has become a green-energy basket case. Instead of a model for the world to emulate, Europe has become a model of what not to do.”

Europe’s strategy was founded on two fears: first, that global warming was an urgent threat that needed to be prevented imminently and at all costs; and second, that the world was running out of fossil fuels, which meant oil and gas would become ever more expensive. Both conjectures, however, turned out to be wrong.

The result of a fear-driven gamble with the Continent’s industrial future is a costly shambles that threatens to undercut Europe’s economic and political position in a world that is sensibly refusing to follow its lead.

Germany’s green energy strategy is likely to change significantly after federal elections on September 22; Merkel has promised voters to drastically curtail the €20bn burden they have to pay renewable energy investors every year should she win.

Australians would be well advised to watch this green train wreck very closely if they wish to avoid a repeat of the fiasco that is unfolding in Europe.

Benny Peiser is director of the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation.

Policy = res publica

Bärbel Freudenberg-PilsterFreudenberg-Pilster* NZZ: Gefahr für die Pressefreiheit
**Kampagne der US-Justizbehörden**
Peter Winkler, Washington

Im Schatten der Fälle Manning und Snowden hat die amerikanische Regierung ihren Druck auf Journalisten verstärkt, bei der Ahndung von Informationslecks zu kooperieren. Offizielle Beteuerungen, dazu komme es nur im äussersten Notfall, wirken wenig glaubwürdig.

Bradley Manning und Edward Snowden sind Symbolfiguren in einer Debatte über die Balance zwischen dem Anspruch auf Geheimhaltung, den jede Regierung für gewisse Bereiche ihrer Tätigkeit einfordert, und dem Anspruch auf Information der Öffentlichkeit, der seinerseits ein wesentliches Element der Demokratie darstellt. Für die Medien sind diese beiden Fälle attraktiv: hier der klassische Underdog in Uniform, dort der smarte Systemtechniker, der einen unheimlichen Regierungsapparat an der Nase herumführt. Bürgerrechts- und Menschenrechtsorganisationen haben sich auf die Fälle gestürzt, weil sie überzeugt sind, die Administration Obama wolle ein Exempel statuieren. Mit drakonischen Strafen oder deren Androhung sollen allfällige künftige Whistleblower eingeschüchtert werden.

Kein Konsens

Ein Konsens in dieser Debatte besteht nicht, vielmehr sind die Helden der einen die Verräter der andern. Das breite amerikanische Publikum war nicht weniger empört über die Tat der Enthüller als über die enthüllten Tatsachen. Diese Ambivalenz spiegelt sich auch im Kongress in Washington. Ein Vorstoss des republikanischen Abgeordneten Justin Amash, der die Telefonüberwachung der NSA durch Mittelentzug begrenzen wollte, scheiterte im Repräsentantenhaus überraschenderweise nur knapp mit 205 gegen 217 Stimmen. Gleichzeitig erklärten der Republikaner Mike Rogers und der Demokrat Dutch Ruppersberger, die beiden ranghöchsten Mitglieder des Geheimdienstausschusses im Repräsentantenhaus, es sei noch viel Arbeit nötig, um es «Kriminellen wie Bradley Manning und Edward Snowden» schwieriger zu machen, der nationalen Sicherheit Schaden zuzufügen.

Wer sich allerdings um die Informations- oder Pressefreiheit Sorgen macht, hätte guten Grund, seinen Blick weniger auf die fetten Schlagzeilen zu Manning und Snowden zu richten, sondern auf Entwicklungen, die weit weniger Aufmerksamkeit erregten. Bereits vor Monaten wurde bekannt, dass das Justizdepartement Telefongespräche und den E-Mail-Verkehr von Journalisten abhörte, die unter Berufung auf anonyme Insider heikle Informationen verbreitet hatten. Zum einen war die Agentur Associated Press betroffen, zum andern der Hauptstadtkorrespondent von Fox News, James Rosen. Beim Versuch, die Verantwortlichen für Lecks zu eruieren, hatten die Justizbehörden ihre Strafuntersuchung auch auf Medienschaffende ausgedehnt und diese – zumindest im Fall Rosen – als Komplizen einer Straftat bezeichnet.

Erzwungene Zeugenaussage

Präsident Obama und Justizminister Holder beteuerten in der Folge, Journalisten dürften nur dann ins Visier der Justizbehörden geraten, wenn es keine anderen Mittel mehr gebe, um einen schweren Geheimnisverrat ahnden zu können (ultima ratio). Doch die Leitlinien, welche das Justizdepartement dazu vorschlug, sind gummig gefasst, und der Entscheid, ob Journalisten in die Strafuntersuchung einbezogen werden, läge nach wie vor bei jener Behörde, welche die Untersuchung führt. Ein Urteil des Bundesappellationsgerichts in Richmond (Virginia) im Juli machte zudem klar, dass das Justizdepartement den Beteuerungen von Minister Holder keine Taten folgen liess. Die Gefahr für Journalisten, in die Mühlen der Justiz zu geraten, nur weil sie ihren Beruf ausüben, ist durchaus real.

James Risen, ein Journalist der «New York Times» und Autor des Enthüllungsbuchs «State of War», wurde von dem dreiköpfigen Richtergremium in Richmond per Mehrheitsentscheid dazu verurteilt, im Strafprozess gegen den früheren CIA-Beamten Jeffrey Sterling als Zeuge auszusagen. Sterling hatte dem Reporter Informationen über einen hochgeheimen – und offenbar völlig misslungenen – Versuch zugespielt, das iranische Atomprogramm mit falschen Bauplänen für einen Atomsprengkopf zu sabotieren. Die «New York Times» verzichtete auf eine Publikation der Geschichte, doch Risen baute sie in sein Buch ein.

Sterling wurde 2011 unter anderem wegen Geheimnisverrats unter dem Gesetz gegen Spionage angeklagt. Risen soll nun bestätigen, dass er die Informationen vom angeklagten ehemaligen CIA-Mitarbeiter erhielt. Er hat angekündigt, seine Quelle weiterhin zu schützen und die belastende Aussage zu verweigern, was ihm eine Anklage wegen Missachtung des Gerichts und Beugehaft eintragen könnte. Dass das keine leere Drohung ist, zeigt der Fall der ehemaligen Reporterin der «New York Times» Judith Miller. Sie hatte 2005 während 85 Tagen in Beugehaft gesessen, bis sie schliesslich zustimmte, ihr Schweigen zu brechen. Ihre Aussage im Prozess gegen den früheren Präsidentenberater und Stabschef von Vizepräsident Cheney, «Scooter» Libby, wegen der Affäre um die Enttarnung der CIA-Agentin Valerie Plame belastete den Angeklagten schwer.

Kein Recht auf Quellenschutz

Die Mehrheit des dreiköpfigen Richtergremiums in Richmond verneinte mit Bezug auf ein Urteil des Supreme Court aus dem Jahr 1972 ein Recht von Journalisten auf den Schutz ihrer Quellen. Pressefreiheit, wie sie im Ersten Verfassungszusatz garantiert werde, entbinde Medienschaffende nicht von der Pflicht, in Strafverfahren auszusagen und dabei ihre Quellen offenzulegen. Dies gelte auch dann, wenn Journalisten ihren Informanten zugesagt hätten, ihre Namen geheim zu halten. Das einzige Grundrecht, das Medienleute in solchen Fällen in Anspruch nehmen können, ist laut dem Richterspruch der Fünfte Verfassungszusatz, der aber nur garantiert, dass sich niemand selber belasten muss. Dies spielt in diesen Fällen keine Rolle, weil die Journalisten ja nicht als Angeklagte, sondern als Zeugen auftreten.

Besonders stossend am Fall Risen ist die Tatsache, dass die Anklage durchaus genügend Beweise für die Schuld des Informanten Sterling zu haben scheint, die sie unter anderem auch in E-Mails und abgehörten Telefongesprächen zwischen dem Agenten und dem Reporter fand. Darauf machte auch der dritte Richter von Richmond in seiner abweichenden Meinung aufmerksam. Die Richtermehrheit, monierte er weiter, überhöhe die Interessen der Regierung und zertrample jene der Medien in ungehöriger Weise, was die Pressefreiheit und den freien Informationsfluss gravierend behindere. Es sei nicht nötig, den Journalisten Risen vor die Wahl zu stellen, entweder seine Quelle preiszugeben oder ins Gefängnis zu gehen, denn die Beweislage für die Anklage sei auch ohne Risens Aussage genügend.

Da Abschreckung ein erklärtes Ziel der Kampagne gegen Informanten ist (siehe Kasten), scheint auch das Insistieren der Justizbehörden auf der Aussage des Journalisten vor allem darauf ausgerichtet zu sein, allfälligen künftigen Informanten deutlich zu machen, dass sie sich auf den von den Journalisten versprochenen Quellenschutz nicht verlassen können. Ein Nebeneffekt – sei er erwünscht oder nicht – ist zudem, dass Reporter es sich wohl gründlicher überlegen, eine Information auszuwerten – und zwar nicht auf der Basis journalistischer Kriterien, sondern einfach wegen der Furcht vor Sanktionen des Staates.


Justizminister Holder hätte es laut verschiedenen Kommentatoren in der Hand, James Risens Aufgebot als Zeuge zurückzuziehen und ihn damit von seiner Aussagepflicht zu entbinden. Die Reaktion des Justizdepartements auf das Urteil in Richmond lässt allerdings keinen Optimismus zu: Es begrüsste den Richterspruch ausdrücklich. Die Zusage Holders, Journalisten sollten nur als «ultima ratio» in Strafverfahren wegen Geheimnisverrats verwickelt werden, wirkt damit hohl. Möglicherweise wird sich der Supreme Court noch mit der Sache befassen, doch ist natürlich keineswegs sicher, dass die höchsten Richter dieses Mal zu einem anderen Befund kommen als 1972.

Der Eifer der Administration Obama, gegen die Verbreitung von Geheiminformationen vorzugehen, wäre besser nachvollziehbar, wenn sich dahinter nicht eine Portion Doppelmoral versteckte. Gezielte Lecks sind, nicht nur in der amerikanischen Regierung, zu einem festen Bestandteil der Verkehrsregeln im Umgang mit den Medien geworden. Die Kampagne gegen Enthüller gerät damit in den Verdacht, vor allem das Ziel zu haben, die Kontrolle darüber zu bewahren, was enthüllt wird.

Medien ebenfalls gefordert

Auch die Medien haben sich dieser Problematik zu stellen. Sie sind zweifach gefordert. Zum einen müssen sie zur Kenntnis nehmen, dass sie sich für einen Primeur manchmal etwas gar nonchalant instrumentalisieren lassen, wenn sie gezielte Lecks möglichst schnell unter die Leute bringen. Die Frage, warum und unter welchen Umständen sie vertrauliche Informationen von Regierenden erhalten, wird selten erörtert, zumindest nicht öffentlich. Anderseits fällt ihnen auch die Aufgabe zu, journalistische Kriterien anzuwenden, wenn sie die Frage beurteilen, ob geheime Informationen veröffentlicht werden sollten. Dies muss auch die Frage einschliessen, welchen Schaden eine Publikation anrichten könnte, beispielsweise für Streitkräfte in einem Kriegseinsatz oder für verdeckte Operationen gegen Terroristen, Verbrecher und menschenverachtende Regime.

Die enorme Beschleunigung des Nachrichtenflusses mit dem Internet macht diese Aufgabe keineswegs leichter. «All the News That’s Fit to Print», das Motto, das die Frontseite der «New York Times» täglich krönt, hat seine Bedeutung aber nicht verloren, nur weil nicht mehr gedruckt, sondern auf andere Weise veröffentlicht wird.

Kampagne gegen Lecks zur Abschreckung

win. Washington ⋅ Unter Präsident Obama sind, der Fall Snowden eingerechnet, sieben Strafverfahren gegen die Weitergabe von Geheiminformationen durch Angehörige der Verwaltung auf der Basis des Gesetzes gegen Spionage aus dem Jahr 1917 eröffnet worden. Das sind mehr als doppelt so viele wie unter all seinen Amtsvorgängern zusammen. Kritiker sehen darin einen krassen Widerspruch zu früheren Aussagen Obamas, wonach Whistleblower für eine Demokratie wertvoll seien, weil sie oft Verschwendung, Betrug oder Amtsmissbrauch der Regierung öffentlich machten.

Die Administration Obama und das federführende Justizdepartement rechtfertigen sich damit, dass ein klarer Unterschied bestehe zwischen Personen, die Missstände anprangern, und solchen, die Staatsgeheimnisse ausplaudern und damit militärische oder geheimdienstliche Operationen oder Nachrichtenquellen gefährden.

Der frühere Koordinator der amerikanischen Geheimdienste, Dennis Blair, erklärte den Eifer, mit dem die Administration Obama Lecks verfolgt, mit Druck aus den höchsten Stellen im Weissen Haus, aus den Geheimdiensten und aus dem Kongress. Er selbst habe kurz nach seinem Amtsantritt Ende Januar 2009 eine Liste jener Fälle angefordert, die dem Justizministerium wegen Verdachts auf Geheimnisverrat durch Angehörige des Regierungsapparats zugestellt worden seien.

Die Zahlen, so wird Blair in der «New York Times» zitiert, seien «erschreckend» gewesen. Zwar seien 153 solche Fälle in den vier Jahren zuvor dem Justizdepartement zugeleitet worden, doch habe daraus keine einzige Anklage resultiert. Zusammen mit Justizminister Holder habe er daraufhin eine griffigere Strategie zur Verfolgung von Informanten ausgearbeitet. Ziel sei es, eine rechtlich hieb- und stichfeste Verurteilung zu erreichen, die sämtlichen Angehörigen von Regierung und Verwaltung klarmache, dass das Ausplaudern von Staatsgeheimnissen drastische Konsequenzen habe. Abschreckung und Einschüchterung ist – mindestens was die Beamten betrifft – also durchaus das erklärte Ziel der Übung.

Politics: From Vision to Action
Barandat* The Snowden Sideshow

On August 7, the White House finally ended the suspense about whether or not President Barack Obama would visit Moscow after the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg this September. „Following a careful review begun in July,“ a statement by the president’s press secretary read, „we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September.“

The timing couldn’t have been more symbolic. It was five years ago today that the sporadic firefights in South Ossetia and political fireworks between Moscow and Tbilisi devolved into a full-blown war, marking the nadir of post-Cold War U.S.-Russia relations. During the conflict that August, theU.S. principals committee — which includes the president, vice president, and other senior decision makers — considered the possibility of using military force to prevent Russia from continuing its assault on Georgia. Bombardment of the tunnel that Russian troops used to move into South Ossetia and other „surgical strikes“ were among the options that were discussed and subsequently rejected.

Contemplating a war that would likely have resulted in nuclear Armageddon — even if the option was rejected — puts Obama’s snub to Putin in perspective. Clearly, if the cancelation of a meeting represents the low point of relations in 2013, it also signals how far the two former Cold War adversaries have come since 2008.

The usual chorus of reset bashers, led by basher-in-chief Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), will of course seize on Obama’s decision in order to proclaim that they were right all along: The reset was a woefully naïve, pointless exercise in covering up our fundamental differences with a Russian government that is bent on opposing U.S. interests abroad and crushing democracy at home.

Fortunately for the Obama administration, this caricature bears little resemblance to reality. Obama’s Russia policy did produce a long list of important results, from the New START agreement, which verifiably reduced both countries‘ nuclear arsenals, to Russian WTO membership, which signaled Russia’s integration into the global economic order. And while the space for pluralism in the Russian public sphere has narrowed significantly since Putin’s return to the presidency, Russia is not North Korea — or even neighboring Belarus. And despite notable differences over issues like the conflict in Syria, Russia has actually been a crucial partner for achieving U.S. objectives internationally. Just take the agreements Obama reachedwith then Russian President Dmitry Medvedevin 2009 that allowed for overflights and rail-based transit through Russiato support the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Without that northern route, it’s hard to imagine the U.S. risking closure of the other major transit route — through Pakistan — with the operation to take out Osama bin Laden.

So why pull the plug on a summit with Putin — other than the desire to avoid another painfully awkward interaction? (At their last meeting, on the sidelines of the G8 in Northern Ireland, Putin seemed to revel in the opportunity to reject Obama’s attempts at bonhomie.)Although the Kremlin has been quick to frame the cancellation as a U.S. overreaction to its decision to grant temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, the truth is that the summit was on the verge of being scrapped even before the former NSA contractor reached the Sheremetyevo airport transit lounge.

After his reelection last year, Obama made a concerted effort to revive the reset, which had lost steam following a series of setbacks in 2012, including the booting out of USAID and Putin’sdecision to use anti-American rhetoric to mobilize his electorate for his own reelection effort.In April, Obama dispatched National Security Advisor Tom Donilon to Moscow with a letter addressed to Putin outlining a framework for cooperation on missile defense. Secretary of State John Kerry has met several times with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and visited Moscow in May, primarily to push ahead on a political settlement in Syria. Obama even proposed new mutual reductions of deployed strategic nuclear warheads in his Berlin speech in June — immediately following his bilateral meeting with Putin at the G8.

Despite the infamous body language, the tête-à-tête did produce some notable results, including a deal on bilateral cyber confidence-building measures and a successor to the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction agreement, which kept bilateral nonproliferation efforts on track. But beyond that, the bilateral agenda seems as barren as K Street in August. Moscow has yet to present a counterproposal to Obama’s April offer on missile defense cooperationand responded to the U.S. president’s Berlin speech with a pronounced lack of interest — the Kremlin has not even signaled willingness to engage in new negotiations, let alone interest in rapidly concluding a follow-on agreement to New START. And even on an issue that Putin himself says he is interested in — boosting bilateral trade and investment with Washington — there has been a combination of deafening silence and working-level backsliding on commitments made at the top.

So the question of „why bother“ was already hanging in the Beltway’s sweltering summer air before Snowden decided that Moscow would be good spot to cool his heels. Russia’s decision to grant him temporary asylum was just the final nail in the coffin. But the Snowden episode is perhaps more important because it throws into relief the deep-seated pathologies of U.S.-Russia relations. His extended stay in Russia was an outcome that neither government wanted — whatever dividends Snowden’s laptops provided Russian intelligence services aside — but both governments took steps that made it inevitable. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

The Snowden affairconfirmed that both Moscow and Washington are incapable of genuine partnership on politically charged matters. That would require taking into account the peculiarities of the other’s circumstances, accommodating those when possible, and seeking common ground — rather than making demands and expecting concessions. Although the Obama administration’s private communications with the Russian government were likely much more nuanced, Washington’s collective response to Snowden’s initial appearance in Sheremetyevo was heard in Moscow as a petulant ultimatum. The more that voices from inside the Beltway made demands on the Kremlin, the harder it became for Moscow to do anything but flip Washington the bird. Doing otherwise would have been tantamount to caving in to the United States — as politically damaging in Moscow as the reversewould be in Washington.

The irony was that Putin believed he had found a way out — conditioning Snowden’s stay on a pledge not to harm U.S. interests. From his perspective, this was a real concession, even though it seemed ludicrous in Washington. So there was genuine surprise in Moscow when Washingtondid what anyone here could have told the Russians that it would: ridicule, reject, or ignore the move. Indeed, some saw the offer as Putin having a laugh at Obama’s expense. This mutual tone-deafness might seem like material for study in cross-cultural communication — if only the consequences weren’t so serious.

The Snowden affair also exposes the mutual hostility of large swaths of the national security establishment in both countries. Published accounts have alleged that it was the Russian intelligence services‘ instinct to reject any and all U.S. requests — in this case, to block the former NSA contractor from boarding flights, an entreaty allegedly made of all countries to which Snowden could have flown directly from Hong Kong — that explains why Snowden ended up in Moscow. The underlying mutual suspicion was demonstrated again in the early July grounding of Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane: Clearly, the United States believed that Russian intelligence services could have surreptitiously ferreted Snowden onto the plane in the first place.

Finally, Washington’s snickering about the irony of Snowden’s „choice“ of Russia demonstrates the way in which perceptions about Russia’s troubled post-Soviet political transition often hamper bilateral ties. Yes, the Russian government, especially in the last two years, has often cracked down on freedom of expression and imposed limits on civil society. But Russia does not espouse an ideology that is inimical to U.S. civic values in the way that the Soviet Union did. Russian politics and society are still in a state of transformation after 75 years of Soviet communism. The end point remains unknown, and the path has not been linear. But ridicule and finger wagging from Washington are unlikely to nudge it in the right direction.

On the Jay Leno show on August 6, Obama hinted at the next day’s news: „There have been times where [the Russians] slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality,“ he said. „And what I consistently say to them, and what I say to President Putin, is: That’s the past and we’ve got to think about the future, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to cooperate more effectively than we do.“ Obama is certainly right that the two countries should be thinking about the future. But there are reasons — rooted in the past, for sure, but real reasons nonetheless — why the U.S. and Russia do not cooperate more effectively. Until and unless both sides make a serious jointeffort to address the underlying pathologies in the relationship — something way beyond Obama’s reset — setbacks like the summit cancellation will be inevitable.

Samuel Charap is senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, based at the Institute’s Washington office

Suter* Gallup: Most in U.S. Say It’s Essential That Immigrants Learn English

One in five say it is essential that Americans learn a second language

by Jeffrey M. Jones

PRINCETON, NJ — Seventy-two percent of Americans say it is essential that immigrants living in the United States learn to speak English. Meanwhile, 20% believe it is essential that Americans learn a second language other than English. These views have changed little since Gallup first asked the question 12 years ago.

Americans' Views of Learning Second Languages, June-July 2013

These data are from Gallup’s annual Minority Rights and Relations poll. Although it is not uncommon to hear people speak languages other than English in the U.S., or to see signs and storefronts in languages other than English, Americans still believe it is critical that immigrants learn English. In fact, one of the requirements for U.S. citizenship is the ability to speak and write English. And one of the proposed requirements in legislation to create „a path to citizenship“ for immigrants here illegally is to learn English.

Americans in the major U.S. racial and ethnic groups believe immigrants should learn English, though Hispanics are a bit less likely to say this than blacks and especially whites.

How Important Is It That U.S. Immigrants Learn English, by Subgroup, June-July 2013 results

Similarly, Americans who themselves, or whose parents, immigrated to the U.S. are also less likely to believe immigrants should learn English. This is partly a function of Hispanics‘ being much more likely than whites or blacks to be recent U.S. immigrants.

Although a majority of all political subgroups believe it is essential that immigrants learn to speak English, Republicans and conservatives are far more likely to hold this view than are Democrats and liberals.

Whites Attach Less Importance to Americans‘ Learning a Second Language

Hispanics and blacks are more likely than whites to believe Americans in general should learn a language other than English. Thirty percent of Hispanics, 27% of blacks, and 17% of whites say it is essential that Americans learn a second language.

How Important Is It That Americans Learn a Second Language, by Subgroup, June-July 2013 results

Additionally, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to believe Americans should learn a second language. There are modest differences by political ideology and immigrant status.

One in Three Americans Know a Second Language

Thirty-four percent of Americans say they know a second language well enough to hold a conversation. Knowledge of a second language is higher among Hispanics, those with higher education levels, younger Americans, and those living in the East and West.

Do you personally speak a language other than English/Spanish well enough to hold a conversation? June-July 2013 results

Hispanics are nearly twice as likely as whites or blacks to say they know a second language.

Seventy-four percent of Hispanics interviewed in English said they know a second language, almost all of whom identified that second language as Spanish. A much smaller proportion of Hispanics interviewed in Spanish, 23%, said they know a second language. Almost all of those respondents identified the second language as English.

Overall, Americans who speak a second language overwhelmingly identify Spanish as their second language, at 60%, followed by French (18%) and German (12%). At least 1% of Americans claim to know each of 13 other languages.

Which language other than [English/Spanish] do you speak? [OPEN-ENDED] June-July 2013 results

While it is not surprising that a majority of U.S. Hispanics who know a second language say they can speak Spanish, a majority of bilingual whites and blacks also say they can speak Spanish. After Spanish, French is the next-most-common second language among blacks and whites, while it is English for Hispanics. Whites are a lot more likely than blacks or Hispanics to speak German.


Although one in three Americans know a second language, the public generally does not think it is essential that Americans learn to speak a second language. Rather, it is probably viewed as more of a desirable skill than an essential one for those living in the United States.

However, the public does think that those who immigrate to the U.S. should learn to speak English. It is not clear if that view is due to a desire to see immigrants assimilate into traditional U.S. customs and norms, or, more practically, in terms of their being able to function effectively in U.S. society.

Regardless of the reason, government leaders appear to agree that immigrants should learn to speak English, given the immigration-reform legislation proposal to require it of illegal immigrants seeking to gain legal status in the U.S.


Middle East

Energy and Politics: Behind the Scenes of the Nabucco-TAP Competition
Istituto Affari Internazionali

The European Union launched the Southern Gas Corridor initiative with the twofold aim of strengthening the diversification of Europe’s gas sources and transportation routes, and reducing the role of upstreamers in the European gas market.

The clear preference expressed by the European Commission – the corridor’s mastermind – for Nabucco was expected to weigh in heavily, allowing the EU-backed project to easily win the competition. However, other factors, beyond political support, ended up tilting the balance decisively in favour of Nabucco West’s final rival, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).
These do not include only the technical and commercial criteria set out by the Shah Deniz II consortium, but also more mundane considerations.

Nabucco West’s complex organizational and decision-making procedures, the attractiveness of the exemption from Third Party Access (TPA) granted by the EU to TAP, and SOCAR’s specific interest in the Greek market also influenced the consortium’s final decision. An analysis of the Southern Gas Corridor competition suggests that when it comes to energy, political support and institutional involvement do not always represent the decisive element, and may be counterproductive at times.
The Winner is TAP: The EU’s Failed Policy in the South Caucasus
Between the two competitors for the delivery of Azerbaijani gas to Europe ­ Nabucco West and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) ­ the winner is the latter, a project designed to transport Caspian gas via Greece and Albania and across the Adriatic Sea to southern Italy.

The EU welcomed the decision of the Shah Deniz consortium. Yet the political objective of the Southern Corridor was to diversify gas supply to Europe and reduce the energy dependence of some EU member states on Russia. With TAP as the winner, it is questionable whether the EU has truly met these goals.

As for Azerbaijan, the selection of TAP can be viewed as a commercially sound decision and a political balancing act by Baku to gain access to European markets and to avoid angering the Kremlin. Yet this choice came only after President Alyev failed to convince the EU to take a clearer stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution process in exchange for Nabucco West. For its part, the EU has failed to be a credible actor in the region, able to defend its interests by diversifying energy supplies, decreasing the energy dependence of some member states on Russia and contributing to regional security in the South Caucasus.

Italian PM says TAP important not only for Italy but for Europe

Azerbaijan, Baku, Aug. 11 / Trend A. Badalova/

TAP project is important not only for Italy but for Europe as well, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said at a press conference in Baku on Aug. 11.

„We have started good cooperation with Greek and Albanian governments, and of course, Turkey. I am glad to be here and thanks to Azerbaijan for the commercial and industrial choice it has made,“ Letta said.

The Italian PM further spoke on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, noting that status quo is not an option.

„Italy strongly supports the activity of OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs. We are convinced that long-term conflicts serves nobody’s interests,“ Letta noted.

The Italian PM further said that Italy is engaged in working on the solution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

„We will lead the EU next year, and we will work hard on solving such conflicts,“ Letta said.


AFRICOM at 5 Years: The Maturation of a New U.S. Combatant Command

The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), newest of the six U.S. Department of Defense geographical combatant commands (COCOMs), was created in 2007 amid great controversy in both Africa and the United States over its location and mission. Over the last 5 years, AFRICOM has matured greatly, overcoming much of the initial resistance from African stakeholders through careful public messaging, and by addressing most of the U.S. interagency concerns about the Command’s size and proper role within the U.S. national security/foreign policy community. This Letort Paper describes the geostrategic, operational, and intellectual changes that explain why AFRICOM was created, and debunks three myths about AFRICOM: that it was created to “exploit” Africa’s oil and gas riches, “blocks” China’s rise in Africa, and that France “opposes” AFRICOM. The author concludes by raising five issues that are important to AFRICOM’s future: 1) allocated forces to carry out short-term training engagements in Africa; 2) preference to emerging democracies in the selection of the Command’s partner-nations; 3) the desirability of regional approaches in Africa, including helping the African Union and its Regional Economic Communities to establish standby brigades; 4) the location of the Command’s headquarters, which should remain in Stuttgart, Germany, for operational efficiency; and, 5) the need to carry out a top-down “right-sizing” exercise at AFRICOM during a time of severe budget constraints and a real risk for the United States of “strategic insolvency.”AFRICOM at 5 Years: The Maturation of a New U.S. Combatant Command

Water Stress Threatens Future Energy in: W A T E R I N T A K E by Joerg Barandat, Hamburg

Posted by Sandra Postel [… director of the Global Water Policy Project …]

July 18, 2013 When we flip on a light, we rarely think about water. But electricity generation is the biggest user of water in the United States. Thermoelectric power plants alone use more than 200 billion gallons of water a day – about 49 percent of the nation’s total water withdrawals. Large quantities of water are needed as well for the production, refining and transport of the fuels that light and heat our homes and buildings, and run our buses and cars. Every gallon of gasoline at the pump takes about 13 gallons of water to make. And of course hydroelectric energy requires water to drive the turbines that generate the power … In short, energy production is deeply dependent on the availability of water. And, as a report released last week by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) makes clear, as climate change brings hotter temperatures, more widespread and severe droughts, and lower river and lake levels, the nation’s energy supply is becoming more vulnerable … On balance the study’s findings make a strong case for a more rapid shift to renewable energy sources to shore up the nation’s energy security in the face of climate change. If there’s a call to action in the DOE assessment, it’s this: If, by 2050, the United States could get 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources – with nearly half coming from water-thrifty wind and solar photovoltaic generation – then total water consumption in the U.S. power sector would decline by about half …

see our letter on:

Wir wünschen Ihnen ein angenehmes Wochenende. Ihr Team.

Udo von Massenbach – Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster – Jörg Barandat

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Edith.Suter JoergBarandat

iaiwp1327-Energy and Politics- Behind the Scenes of the Nabucco-TAP Competition.pdf

iaiwp1325-The Winner is TAP- The EU’s Failed Policy in the South Caucasus,.pdf