In a context of growing hostility between big powers and trade wars, the European last December's decision of renewing sanctions to Russia suggests that the state of the relationship Russia-EU will remain critical in the coming months. New tensions may arise in case of a deterioration of the war in Ukraine. What are the real perspective for a détente of the relations and, therefore, of the sanctions regime affecting Moscow? What are the real possibilities of cooperation between European and Russian economic operators, beyond sanction?
On 2 December 2019, Russia and China inaugurated the Power of Siberia pipeline, a new gas infrastructure that will boost diversification in China’s gas supply and ensure an enhanced role for Russian gas on the Chinese market. The new, 3000-km pipeline will probably reduce the weight of Turkmenistan and Australia in China’s foreign gas supplies, currently at 35% and 25.7% of total gas imports respectively ,and cover China’s rising demand for additional gas.
In contrast with its assertiveness in Syria, Russia’s role in most conflicts in the MENA region consists of proclaiming its non-alignment and keeping all actors content. Moscow does not shy away from casting itself as a true power-broker in the region. It acts as an allegedly impartial mediator that gets along with all actors and respects each country's sovereignty, while trying to find a middle ground, or at least facilitate dialogue, between the stakeholders it deems reliable and important enough.
Despite the existence of global and regional formats for discussing ways to resolve the Libyan conflict, national reconciliation has not been achieved for eight years. This is largely due to the lack of necessary conditions and the existence of conflict at the local, regional and global levels. Russian influence on Libyan events is often exaggerated. Moreover, the media likes to raise this topic, because it allows the various parties to the conflict to divert attention away from the real problems and lack of agreement between the main players fighting for leadership in the Libyan issue.
Eight years of a bloody conflict, over 5.6 million refugees mostly spread across Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, an estimated $250 billion – according to the United Nations – to rebuild a devastated country, an exhausted population: Syria is undeniably the most consuming crisis in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), whose consequences will long reverberate on the entire region.
Russia’s “return” to the MENA region did not go unnoticed in Brussels. EU-Russia relations, currently at a historic low mainly due to the conflict in Ukraine, found in the MENA region new sources of disagreement as well as potential avenues for cooperation. This situation is likely to remain unchanged in 2020 as elements of friction – especially in Syria – will persist, while some developments may make Russia and the EU converge on a number of issues.
As 2019 comes to close, Russian mercenaries are allegedly shifting the balance of forces in Libya, helping General Haftar to reignite his efforts to take Tripoli.