Planet Watch
Tengiz

Ukraine war portends new oil shock

Long-depressed oil prices are suddenly soaring in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with impacts already being felt globally. Exports from Kazakhstan and the Caspian Basin are virtually paralyzed, as the Black Sea pipeline terminal delivering the crude to Western markets is incurring a prohibitive “war risk insurance premium.” Berlin has suspended the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is to carry Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany—and Russia has retaliated by threatening to cut gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 line. In his executive order barring Russian oil and gas imports to the US, President Biden issued a warning to the oil companies, urging that the war should not serve as an excuse for price-gouging. But it is actually the oil futures market that plays a determinant role in fixing the international price. There’s a big psychological element involved, which is why every escalation in the Middle East (without fail) jacks up oil prices. A war in Europe will almost certainly mean another oil shock, with grim implications for the world economy and Biden’s political chances. (Photo of Kazakh oil-field via Wikimedia Commons)

Europe
Turów

Polish-Czech agreement on border coal mine

The government of Poland announced that it has agreed to pay compensation in a dispute over the Turów open-pit lignite mine that lies close to the border with the Czech Republic. In return, Prague has withdrawn its complaint at the Court of Justice of the European Union. The dispute concerns the complaints of local farmers on the Czech side of the border that their water sources are going dry due to the mine’s operations. The Turów Brown Coal Mine, owned by Poland’s parastatal power company PGE, must pump water from the pit into the Lusatian Neisse River, draining the local aquifer. The mine has been expanding closer to the border, further enflaming the fears of the Czech farmers. The deal was protested by Greenpeace for failing to provide sufficient guarantees for protection of the watershed. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Planet Watch
F-35A

Rapid nuclear escalation, East and West

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned that Moscow will deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons if NATO does not accede to demands to stop arming Ukraine and guarantee an end to eastward expansion of the alliance. His remarks come amid tensions over Russian military movements near Ukraine’s borders, where the Kremlin is estimated to have amassed some 100,000 troops. Amid similar tensions over Chinese incursions into the Taiwan Strait, a Pentagon report warns that the People’s Republic is undertaking an expansion and “modernization” of its nuclear arsenal to “provide Beijing with more credible military options in a Taiwan contingency.” And the US is meanwhile replacing gravity bombs with digitally guided nuclear missiles on its new design of the F-35A fighter jet. (Photo of F-35A via Air Force Times)

Europe
poland border

Escalation on the EU’s eastern frontier

Tensions on the European Union’s eastern border escalated sharply as Polish border guards repulsed a wave of some 4,000 asylum seekers and migrants seeking to cross from Belarus. Poland has mobilized 15,000 soldiers to the region to prevent people from crossing, and Belarusian security forces are not allowing the migrants to turn back. The migrants are sleeping rough as temperatures plunge below freezing; a 14-year-old boy froze to death, becoming at least the eleventh person to have died attempting to cross the border. There are fears the situation could result in a military confrontation. (Photo: Visegrad24)

Planet Watch

Podcast: climate change and the global struggle

In Episode 81 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the fast-mounting manifestations of devastating climate destabilization—from Oregon to Siberia, from Germany to Henan. In Angola, traditional pastoralists are joining the ranks of “climate refugees” as their communal lands are stricken by drought. In Iran’s restive and rapidly aridifying Ahwazi region, protests over access to water have turned deadly. These grim developments offer a foreboding of North America’s imminent future. Yet media commentators continue to equivocate, asking whether these events are “linked to” or “caused by” climate change—rather than recognizing that they are climate change. And the opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by last year’s pandemic-induced economic paralysis, when already depressed oil prices actually went negative, is now being squandered. Oil prices are again rising, with the return to pre-pandemic dystopian “normality.” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo of Ahwazi protesters in Iran: Ahwazna)

Syria
CJEU

Syrian draft-resister wins landmark asylum case

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that foreign military draft evaders may be entitled to asylum in the EU. The court held that there is a “strong presumption” that people escaping military service under authoritarian regimes are entitled to asylum, if evasion is motivated by “political opinions, religious beliefs or…membership of a particular social group.” The case, concerning a Syrian national whose asylum claim was turned down by the German Federal Office for Migration & Refugees, has been remanded to an administrative court in Hannover, with instructions to follow the standards laid out in the CJEU ruling. (Image: CJEU)

Europe
Warsaw

Poland: mass uprising for reproductive rights

Warsaw and other Polish cities have seen mass protests since the country’s Constitutional Tribunal issued a ruling that will virtually end legal abortion. Tens of thousands of protesters—the majority of them women—have taken to the streets of cities and towns across the country, in defiance of pandemic restrictions harshly limiting the size of gatherings. Their anger has been directed against the ruling conservative Law & Justice Party (PiS) and the Catholic church, which are seen as being behind the decision. Protesters have disrupted services and sprayed graffiti on the walls of Warsaw churches. Clashes broke out in a number of cities between the demonstrators and far-right groups ostensibly organized to defend churches. Two women were also injured when a car drove through a group of protesters who were blocking a road in Warsaw.  (Photo: Notes from Poland)

Europe
Liebig34

One of Berlin’s last surviving squats evicted

Hundreds of demonstrators confronted riot police in central Berlin to protest the eviction of one of the city’s few remaining squats, a symbol of the German capital’s once-thriving alternative scene. Hundreds of police were mobilized to remove residents of the Liebig34 squat in the hip and gentrifying Friedrichshain district of the former East Berlin. The eviction itself went off peacefully—but after dark, ranks of masked and black-clad protesters marched in a driving rain from the central Mitte shopping district with a banner: “Defend free spaces, remain on the offensive.” Shop windows were smashed and cars set ablaze. Police charges were met with barrages of pelted bottles. (Photo via CrimethInc)

Europe
RKF Jr

RFK Jr joins neo-Nazis in Berlin protest

Hundreds of far-right protesters broke through police barriers and tried to force their way into the German parliament building in Berlin. Many were waving the black, white and red flag of the pre-1918 German Empire that once inspired the Nazis. “The fact that Nazis with imperial war flags try to storm the Bundestag recalls the darkest period in German history,” said Robert Habeck, co-leader of Germany’s Greens party. The action came as part of a broader demonstration against Germany’s pandemic restrictions. The protest, which brought out many so-called “Corona-Truthers” who deny the pandemic altogether, was organized by right-wing parties including the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland and openly neo-Nazi NPD. Some carried signs reading “Trump, please help,” and proffered conspiracy theories about Bill Gates seeking forced vaccinations. Among the speakers was Robert F. Kennedy Jr, who ironically Nazi-baited German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying: “Today Berlin is once again the front against totalitarianism.” (Photo via Daily Kos)

Planet Watch
Warsaw riot

Biological police state preparations advance

As rising strongmen in places like Poland and Ethiopia exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to postpone elections and grab extraordinary powers, even democratic countries are putting unprecedented police-state measure into place in the supposed interest of a return to “normality.” In the latter category is New Zealand, where a bill has been passed giving police sweeping powers to enter homes without warrants while enforcing new “Alert Level 2” rules. The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act creates a new corps of “enforcement officers” to track social contacts among the populace and conduct raids on the premises of suspected violators. (Photo of Warsaw police action via Twitter)

Planet Watch
Ghana soldiers

Growing police-state measures in face of COVID-19

As nations across the globe remain under lockdown, more sweeping powers are being assumed by governments in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing demands for relief from poor barrios running out of resources under his lockdown orders, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to shoot protesters in the streets. Police have opened fire on lockdown violators in Nigeria, Ghana and Peru. In Tunisia, remote-controlled wheeled robots have been deployed to accost lockdown violators. States of emergency, including broad powers to restrict movements and control the media, have been declared from the Philippines to Serbia. Amnesty International warns that the restrictive measures could become a “new normal.” (Photo: Pulse, Ghana)

Europe
refugees

EU court rules three countries violated asylum deal

The European Court of Justice ruled that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic failed to uphold their obligations regarding refugee quotas as required by law. The countries could face financial penalties for their actions. In 2015 EU leaders established a refugee relocation program in response to the large numbers of asylum-seekers from war-torn Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. EU countries were supposed to apportion a share of asylum-seekers among those that arrived in Greece and Italy. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, according to the ECJ, “failed to fulfill their obligations under European Union law” by not accepting the number of refugees they had promised. (Photo: UNHCR/H.Holland)