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19 June, 2024
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Op-ed: Complicated relationships amidst a crisis

The major players in the Ukraine crisis

Nikos Konstandaras

Nikos Konstandaras

The Ukrainian crisis and the diplomatic initiatives of recent days are shedding light on the complex alliances being tested and on the possible new outbreaks of tension. The major players are Russia, Ukraine, the USA, the European Union and China. But the tension is affecting a wider region - with already high energy costs, fears of a war that will cause many deaths, waves of refugees and unpredictable consequences for every country.

The diplomatic mission of French President Emanuel Macron is particularly important: France holds the EU presidency. During this time Macron is in talks with US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Soltz.  France, along with Germany, has been involved in diplomatic negotiations with Russia and Ukraine since 2015 and is by far Russia's largest trading partner.  Thus, the discussions with Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky retain great value and symbolism. Will a common ground be found for an "honest compromise" that satisfies Moscow's demand for "security guarantees" without undermining Ukraine's national sovereignty? Will the point be found where no protagonist will feel that his prestige and credibility are affected at home or abroad? Putin, for example, plays his role as an all-powerful leader, while Biden knows that China is watching closely to see how Russia manages its differences with the United States.  Moreover, the EU does not have the luxury of portraying an image that they continuously fail to solve problems that concern the member states.

It is worth mentioning the size of bilateral trade between Russia and other major players: with China $146 billion, with the US $34 billion and with the EU $220 billion (figures for 2021).  The EU imports 40% of its gas and 26% of its oil from Russia, which accounts for 40% of the Russian budget. Failure of diplomacy will cost both sides dearly. Among the sanctions prepared by Washington is the exclusion of Russia from the international banking system (SWIFT). To avoid this problem, Moscow and Beijing have signed a major gas supply agreement, which is denominated in euros instead of dollars. This, however, will cause headaches in the EU when the time comes for sanctions, and when the US will count on its allies to impose said sanctions. It is important to note that China has not agreed to connect the above-mentioned pipelines from Russia to those supplying Europe. 

This article was translated from its Greek original.

Cyprus  |  Russia  |  EU  |  energy

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