GIES Occasional paper

The GIES Occasional Paper is an initiative by the Ghent Institute for International and European Politics. 

Taken aback at the shocking acts of aggression by the Russian authorities in Ukraine, our research group aimed to look inwards and build on our expertise to shine a light on the crisis. The contributions of our researchers have been bundled together in our very first GIES Occasional Paper.

A year later, the world is hit by a global energy crisis. Coming together once more, strengthened by fellow colleagues from Ghent University and beyond, the second Occasional paper takes the crisis head-on. From a variety of different angles and expertise, the crisis is broken down into 12 accessible contributions. 

2023 | The Global Energy Crisis

Eds. Hermine Van Coppenolle, Dr. Tim Haesebrouck, Anissa Bougrea, and Servaas Taghon

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Europe's Energy Crunch: No Time for Complacency - by Thijs Van de Graaf

Ten months after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, winter has arrived in an energy-crunched Europe. Professor Thijs Van de Graaf breaks down the dynamics behind European gas politics during the war, explaining how its response has fallen short and what opportunities still remain.

The Case of Algeria: EU short-term energy policy inconsistencies and their possible long-term consequences - by Reinhilde Bouckaert

The invasion of Ukraine had a profound impact on the EU’s energy situation. The Member States’ approach to replace Russian gas has been to stand in line “pleading” other autocratic states, such as Algeria for new (mid to long-term) gas contracts. This is inconsistent with the European Commission’s earlier policies, possibly having long-term unintended consequences such as a carbon lock-in for fossil fuel suppliers as well as a loss of the EU’s climate leadership credibility. Instead, the scarce financial means should be directed towards measures in Algeria having results in the shorter term such as energy efficiency and DSM, clean energy investments and actions to diminish flaring leaving more gas to export.

LNG: Saviour or a New Problem in the Making? - by Moniek de Jong

The invasion of Ukraine has led the EU on the hunt for non-Russian sources of gas and has found this in the shape of LNG. But this liquid gas might not be the solution to Europe’s problems. LNG is used to exert political pressure, as is evident by Qatargate, and LNG from the US might provide less stability than expected. It also raises climate concerns through emissions and carbon lock-in through new investments and long-term contracts. LNG is not the hopeful solution to this crisis, but a potential new problem. Europe will need to focus on increasing energy efficiency and maximizing renewables.

The European radical-Right and the Energy Crisis: a Window of Opportunity - by Jasper Praet

While rising energy prices are a major burden on families and firms, for radical-right parties, they can be a window of opportunity. If these parties adapt their ideology to this new crisis, voters could be persuaded that a radical-right party is more than just an anti-immigration platform. Furthermore, when energy insecurity is perceived as a serious threat, radical-right actors can use this as an excuse to rekindle the relationship with Russia or to hinder climate mitigation efforts. Recent events show that the radical-right indeed appears to connect its ideology and longstanding positions to the energy crisis, suggesting they need not fear (electorally speaking) a political environment where immigration policy is not on top of the political agenda.

The Energy Crisis and Global Climate Goals: Popping Empty Promises? - by Hermine Van Coppenolle

As climate change is felt more and more deeply each year, the need for climate action becomes increasingly pressing. The energy crisis makes for an increasingly tight geopolitical climate for environmental action. Are countries maintaining their trajectory towards limiting global warming, or are their climate plans popping under the pressure of the crisis? Looking into the ambition gap and the implementation gap, this contribution stresses the importance of rapid and concrete climate action.

Another Wage Price Spiral in the Making? A Comparison of the 2020s and 1970s - by Mattias Vermeiren

In the wake of pandemic-induced disruptions of global supply chains and skyrocketing energy prices, inflation soared to levels unseen since the 1970s. This caused concern among central bankers and policymakers that advanced economies might get caught in a wage price spiral – a vicious cycle of rising wages and prices that many believe was at the centre of the 1970s stagflation crisis. Mattias Vermeiren provides a Kaleckian interpretation of the role of central banks in containing inflation, comparing the current episode with the 1970s stagflation crisis.

Hydrogen: A Deus Ex Machina for Today's Energy Crisis? - by Marie Dejonghe

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the announcements of hydrogen projects are accelerating, and hydrogen is put forward to play a key role in transitioning away from (Russian) natural gas. Although the role of the molecule in mitigating the effects of today’s energy crisis may be limited, hydrogen serves as a good candidate for reshaping today’s fossil fuel-centered energy market. It is therefore important to start setting up a hydrogen market today and to choose import partners wisely. This will not only increase Europe’s energy security but make an inclusive and sustainable energy transition possible.

The Arctic: Does the North Hold the Solution for the Energy Crisis? - by Berk Vindevogel

Whilst Arctic air masses brought the coldest air of the season to Europe last December, policymakers have been in a hurry to divert away from Russian energy sources and keep the standard of living high. This paper asks what the role of the Arctic has been in the current energy crisis in the European Union and how it can play a part in neutralising future energy crises. The paper concludes that the EU is undergoing an internal shift in the Arctic, whereby it moves away from Russian Arctic fossil fuel resources to resources stemming from Arctic allies, with Norway leading the pack. However, a sustainable solution should be focused on renewable energy, where cooperation with Russia can prove beneficial.

Why raising interest rates to fight off energy inflation is counterproductive - by Hielke Van Doorslaer

After more than two decades of stubbornly low inflation, advanced economy central banks had to abruptly switch from monetary easing to monetary tightening in order to contain newborn inflationary pressures propelled by the pandemic and Ukraine war related supply disruptions and energy price spikes. Whereas in the past, central banks were struggling to bring inflation up to target (2 percent), they are now confronted with the opposite task of trying to curb it. Around the world, inflation-targeting central banks are under pressure to demonstrate their commitment to low inflation and restore their anti-inflationary credentials. What is overlooked in all of this is that inflation is a multidimensional and multifaceted phenomenon that often has many other causes than excess demand or an economy ‘running hot’. As such, interest rate hikes will not address the root causes of today’s inflation. 

The Return of Industrial Policy in the European Union - by Ferdi De Ville

Industrial policy is making a surprising comeback in the European Union. This return is a response to industrial policies of others, the Union’s increased climate ambitions, and reinforced geopolitical tensions. While the EU for some time has tried in vain to create the world economy in its own image, has more recently started to assertively protect its model against the policies of others, it is now embracing industrial policy itself. A new European industrial policy could democratize, accelerate, and render more just the green and digital transitions. To achieve these benefits, it requires funding from the European rather than national level, needs to boost additional investment rather than the profits of established firms, and needs to happen in a transparent, conditional, and inclusive way.  

From the Energy Crisis to (Re)Imagining the Energy Transition - by Kimberley Vandenhole and Erik Paredis 

Tackling climate change and realising the deep decarbonisation required for remaining within the 1,5°C climate target of the Paris Agreement is impossible without a huge transition in the energy system. Does the current energy crisis provide an opportunity for such an ambition? In theory yes, but we fear that today’s energy crisis is framed in such a way that it does not contribute enough to a process of reimagining the energy system. An important reason is that the current framing leads to policies that mainly focus on technological options and rising energy supply instead of on structural long-term demand reduction and redistribution.

A Place of Greater Safety? The EU’s Clean Energy Security During the Clean Tech Race - by Mathieu Blondeel

Energy security has risen to the top of political agendas since the war in Ukraine. As a consequence, one of the main pillars of the EU's REPowerEU plan is now to accelerate the clean energy transition. This paper highlights that the transition to a renewables-based energy system does not automatically ensure energy security. However, with the right strategy and incentives, the EU could become a place of greater safety.

2022 | The War in Ukraine

Eds. Dr. Tim Haesebrouck, Servaas Taghon and Hermine Van Coppenolle

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The End of Globalisation As We Know It - by Ferdi De Ville

While it is impossible to predict the outcome of the war in Ukraine in the short term, we can more confidently assess its medium-term consequences. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the unprecedented sanctions with which the west has responded will be a watershed in the trajectory of the global economy. The consequences of the economic isolation of Russia will long outlive the duration of the war and the sanctions. Globalisation will never fully recover from this blow.

Putin is Afraid of Europe - by Klaas Wauters and Hendrik Vos

It is still said here and there, even in academic circles: we must understand the Russian president. This contribution looks at Putin, the history of the Soviet Union and the strength of the European Project.

Putin Is Creating the Multipolar World He (Thought He) Wanted - by Sven Biscop, Bart Dessein and Jasper Roctus

Up until the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s and China’s worsening relations with the European Union and the United States meant that the world order was at risk of falling apart into two rival blocs, as during the Cold War: Europeans and Americans against Russians and Chinese. Since 24 February 2022, that is not so clear anymore. The more Russia escalates the violence in Ukraine, but also the strategic anxiety (by putting its nuclear forces on alert), the more difficult it becomes for other powers to stay completely aloof, let alone to simply align with Russia. The more EU and US sanctions reverberate throughout the global economy, the more it becomes impossible for other powers to avoid going at least partially along. China in particular has in fact already made a defining choice.

How the War in Ukraine Affects Countries That Depend on Russia - by Karolina Kluczewska

Karolina Kluczewska was doing field research in Tajikistan when Russia attacked Ukraine. In a country where people usually are not concerned about world affairs, the war suddenly became a frequent topic of discussion, and a major preoccupation of many people whose livelihoods depend on Russia. This post-Soviet Central Asian country is tied to Russia in many ways: historically, politically and, most importantly, economically. In this paper Karolina sketches how the first weeks of the war in Ukraine affected Tajikistan.

The War in Ukraine and Turkey's Hedging Strategy Between the West and Russia - by Dries Lesage, Emin Daskin and Hasan Yar

In the face of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Turkey takes a cautious position in line with its hedging strategy between the West and Russia, with the aim to maintain positive relations with both sides. Turkey has armed Ukraine and condemned Russia’s aggression. But it does not join Western sanctions against Russia. Due to traumatic historical experiences, Turkey does not want to be caught up in a conflict between major powers/blocs and prefers to retain its strategic autonomy. Recent crises of confidence between Turkey and the West reinforce this stance. Due to its geographical location and bad economic situation, Turkey has a direct interest in a rapid end to the war. This explains its active mediation role, where theoretically a more passive stance was possible. In addition, this high-profile mediation might also enhance Turkey’s international standing and help stem the decline of popularity of the incumbent leadership domestically.

Europe's Energy Transition Will Disarm Putin - by Moniek de Jong and Thijs Van De Graaf

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a watershed moment for Europe’s energy policy. This paper looks at Europe's energy and gas dependency on Russia, its history and the valence of the green energy transition.

Russia After the Cold War and Germany After World War I, a Cautious Comparison - by Goedele De Keersmaeker

From a new friend of the West to a resentful Weimar-Russia and beyond. 

In the Winter 1990/1991 issue of Foreign Affairs, Charles Krauthammer published a famous article that was the start of a whole school of academic and non-academic analyses describing the world after the Cold War in terms of American unipolarity, primacy, hegemony or even empire. Though the article was entitled ‘The Unipolar Moment’ Krauthammer and his followers were convinced that American dominance in international politics was there to stay for many decades. More particularly he considered the ‘emergence of a reduced but resurgent, xenophobic and resentful “Weimar” Russia’, as an extremely formulated speculation. Such threats to American security could develop, he acknowledged, but they could not be predicted in 1990, just as it was impossible to predict Nazism in 1920. Thirty years later we are there.

Freezing Russia's Central Bank Reserves: Much Ado About Nothing? - by Mattias Vermeiren

Western countries have responded to the invasion of Ukraine with a plethora of sanctions that seek to completely isolate Russia from the western-dominated international financial and monetary system. This paper discusses the possible objectives behind the western sanctions, as well as the possible consequences of Russia's isolation from the financial system.

Russia's Invasion in Ukraine: What Happened Before? - by Servaas Taghon and Tim Haesebrouck

On February 24th 2022, Russia launched a full-scale military invasion into Ukraine, causing a horrific humanitarian tragedy for the Ukrainian people and what might become the most consequential geopolitical conflict since the end of the Cold War. In this contribution, we describe the key events that happened before Russia’s war on Ukraine, starting in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union and ending with the start of Russia’s aggression. We do not aim to look for the historical causes of the war, nor can we hope to provide a full history of the Russia-Ukraine relationship in this short piece. Our goal is limited to providing some historical background to the conflict.

Between Imperialism and Soft Power: Reckoning With Russia's Past, Present, and Future National Idea -by John Irgengioro

The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine tends to be seen as concerning not only for Ukraine’s existence, but also Russia’s future. Although it seemed that Putin singlehandedly ordered this invasion, his fateful decision is bringing to a crescendo Russia’s long time reckoning with its own national idea over the past three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This war is unravelling deeply existentialist questions about the trajectory of the Russian Federation as a successor state of the USSR: how to reckon itself with its past legacy of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, how to conceptualise its national idea of the present, and what to make of Russia’s paths for its future.

Understanding China's Diplomatic Stances vis-à-vis the Russia-Ukraine Crisis - by Huanyu Zhao and Jing Yu

In this contribution, Huanyu Zhao and Jing Yu map the official Chinese position towards the Ukraine conflict. The paper offers a structured and concise overview of the official Chinese discourse on the conflict.