Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Usually, when we start talking about nuclear weapons, we immediately think of nuclear bombs, missiles, and shells. Invented more than 70 years ago, it became the best lever of deterrence and allowed the world to avoid another world war. The presence in the country of a nuclear arsenal allows to cool today’s aggressive rhetoric and forces the enemy to cede. This weapon exists to protect, and hopefully it will never be actually used. The content of this article will cover a fundamentally different type of nuclear weapons, the use of which is not only welcome, but also allows the owner-country to conduct a more active foreign policy, and to solve in their favor such conflicts that seem to be irrevocably lost.
Why do you think the USA, as soon as they manage to squeeze out Russia from another country will firstly make sure to close any nuclear reactors previously built-in the Soviet Union and energy projects in general?
It’s very simple. Energy is the bloodline of the economy. No superpower in the last 200 years was based on the basis of weaving carpets, iPhones or robots. But all of them had their own twist on energy, the very thing that placed them above opponents.
Britain became the ultimate lady of the seas and the main factory of the world, getting their hands on cheap, high quality Cardiff coal. It became its main competitive advantage over others.
In the second half of the 19th century more than half of the coal being burned in the world was English.
The USA was able to remove the British from the throne thanks to their control of oil. The fatal destiny of not completely-superpowers – like Japan – adds extra colors and shows that there are no exceptions to the rule. A country may have a first-class industry, fanatically faithful to the ideas of a population, but it’s not enough. For true independence, a country needs independent energy. For a country to become a superpower, it needs to impose itself on a considerable part of the world, as a supplier of energy. On the contrary, any country with a dependence on energy from a neighbor is destined to be her faithful ally, or will be turned into an economic ruin.
This is understood perfectly by the United States, and, as was already said, the first thing they did was to push Russia out of the energy markets using newfound satellites, and where this was not possible, they very quickly rolled back away.
Ukraine is doomed to friendship with Russia
Ukraine was to become the main prize for the United States in her campaign in the East, started 30 years ago. Before the decisive dumping and destruction of Russia, Ukraine was assigned the role of a base and supplier of war materials (meaning the people who are ready to die in a war with Russians). During this time the country was embroiled in all conceivable anti-Russian projects, the elite was bought, the population was periodically brainwashed. Time after time Washington made attempts at strengthening but was consistently pushed back. The latest and hopefully final attempt was made in 2013. Kiev and the rest of the territory of Ukraine Pretty quickly was taken under control, except Crimea and several Eastern cities in the country. And then once again Washington was left disappointed.
Let’s leave aside the military campaign and look at the energy aspects of the confrontation. In the beginning of the winter of 2014 Ukraine had to be rescued. It had to be saved so that it did not collapse ahead of time. That is why Moscow helped her out in the difficult for Ukraine winter. They helped because they were not yet ready to return Kiev.
In the following winter the same thing happened, and it is sure that future winters will once again demonstrate that Russia will not let Kiev fall until it is ready for takeover.
If Moscow had brought back Ukraine in late 2014 — already after a few years she would have sifted through the problems of 30 million people, hating her for the fact that her tanks didn’t allow them to fully enjoy European life.
But now she still has plenty of time.
It’s especially because of this the offensive on Mariupol in August 2014 was stopped, and UAF were not finished off, which at this moment represented the remnants of the defeated and completely demoralized units, which were not capable of a long resistance.
Ukraine, obviously, couldn’t have withstood the first winter without the help of its neighbor, that’s why Russia started to “aggressively” provide gas, coal, and fuel for nuclear power plants. Often on credit, realizing that these debts will never be repaid.
2.5 years passed, and Ukraine’s dependence on energy from Russia only increased as a percentage. Neither the program of energy-saving (freezing of the population and the destruction of industry) nor the transition to alternative sources helped Kiev. Russian gas was replaced with Russian coal, which somehow started to be called “South African”, oil and gasoline was replaced by Russian liquefied natural gas (50% of liquefied gas in Ukraine is of Russian origin). And switching to nuclear rods from Westinghouse is associated with a significant number of organizational and technological problems, and cannot even be done in the medium-term.
A technological shift on only one test unit will take a minimum of 8 years, and then at least another 4 years when it will be possible to completely abandon the Russian rods. It can’t be faster in any other way.
But Kiev and Washington apparently don’t have these 12 years. Summing up 25 years of attempts to tear Ukraine away from Russia, we have to recognize that, despite tremendous efforts and well planned hybrid attacks, they have failed. To this day, Kiev is critically dependent on Moscow, and its regime can be brought down by her will during one calendar year. And it will be brought down as soon as everything will be ready for the gathering of the fruits of this collapse.
For now, the date that is visible is no later than 2020. But the regime has to be able to reach this date, and it means that Moscow will continue to help its adversary, despite the rhetoric and demonstrative spitting in her direction from Kiev.
I understand that this sounds crazy, but such is the logic of modern hybrid warfare. To understand it, let’s move on to another case.
Affectionate embrace of Turkey
Yesterday, a significant event took place. In Turkey, an agreement on the construction of the first phase of the “Turkish stream” was signed, according to which Russian gas will go to Turkey and Europe bypassing Ukraine. Today it is easy to formulate in our heads frenzied plans about the benefits that Russia will receive in the future. And on 24th November, 2015, it seemed to many that the Russian policy in the Middle East had suffered defeat and that the country will have a long and tough confrontation with the Turkish Republic, which, in this case, of course, all of “progressive humanity” will help.
It was apparent to many, but not to those who for a few years before made such a turn… impossible.
The Turkish economy critically depends on imports from energy carriers. Surrounded on all sides by enemies, she’s couldn’t lean on a reliable ally. The Turkish “double vector” attitude at this time, in fact, was no different from the Ukrainian one, with one exception: initially, all of her energy projects were not connected with Russia. But gradually, step by step, Moscow entered the energy market of Ankara. In the beginning, it provided Turkey with independence from the West, allowing her to become impudent and do practice the implementation of its neo-Ottoman vision of its project. At the same time, the country’s power consumption was growing, and before the beginning of the crisis in the Middle East (2011) this growth amounted to 9% per year. The energy system did not have time to fulfil all the requests of a rapidly growing industry and services sector, which is why the constant blackouts in the provinces was a normal practice. It was obvious to the Turkish leadership that they needed a breakthrough, otherwise the Turkish economic miracle must be forgotten. In 2010, Turkey, after long hesitation and searching, concluded with Moscow an agreement for the construction of the four-unit “Akkuyu” Nuclear Power Plant installation with a capacity of 4.8 GW.
At that time the whole energy of Turkey had a total of only 21 MW being generated.
And given the fact that half the energy generation in the country is accounted for in thermal power plants, and also counting imports of a significant proportion of the coal and gas from Russia, the energy dependence of Turkey became critical and even strategical. All of this played its role during the crisis of 2015. Despite the desperate attempts by the US to break this new economic tie between Moscow and Ankara, and pitting the two countries together, they got nothing at all.
Moreover, it should be understood that this state of affairs will last 5 or even 10 years. The timing of the operation of the new nuclear units will be 50-60 years old, and the gas pipe is at least 30 years. And all this time Turkey has very good reasons will not have the desire to put a spoke in the wheels of Russian diplomacy, but if the chance arises, she will quickly regret it, as happened at the end of 2015.
Hybrid energy war
What will be the energy of the future? Whoever is first to correctly answer this question, will have every reason to apply for the role of future superpower.
Today there are exactly four applicants. Rather, to be more precise two, and the two should be kept in mind.
Here are two of the non-determined players – Europe and China.
Europe placed its stake on two main directions. The first is the wind and the sun, and the second is a new generation of nuclear power plants from AREVA. Everything is not yet good with the new nuclear power plants as developers would like, but the wind and the sun simultaneously with the decommissioning of old nuclear power plants in Germany has resulted in a lack of basic facilities for the continent, and the increasing of the cost price of electricity, which starts to slow down its economy.
China is growing very rapidly. Its energy needs are so great that for a very long time they cannot be met through internal resources (if at all). For a while the country is totally dependent on foreign energy technologies (nuclear power plants) and fossil fuels. China is not able to avoid this dependency in the foreseeable future, thus Beijing will be vulnerable and dependent for a very long time, and it can’t become a superpower in the full sense of the word.
Rather, it will just be a “pro-Russian” and a very large version of Japan.
So, the first real player is the current sole superpower – USA. She opted for a more complete extraction of conventional oil and gas and is developing these areas. Their calculation is that fields with cheap prime cost will soon be over, and their shale will be in demand and will feed the country for a few decades and they’ll become a trendsetter, being a source of technology that will provide them with benefits. That’s not to say that they tried only in this direction. Also the United States is also among the first to sit on the nuclear power industry. This was done using political levers and the achievements of Westinghouse. But the latter’s attempt has not yet managed to develop the construction of a new generation of reactors, and probably will not succeed anytime soon. In any case, in the nuclear industry they are already far behind Russia and are unlikely to catch up. At the same time the political leverage of Washington is loosening and countries one by one are leaving their control, going begging to their geopolitical opponents.
The second player is Russia. She, like no other, has all the opportunities for a breakthrough. And in different areas. Possessing tremendous amounts of energy (from hydro to coal, oil and gas) and having made a qualitative leap in nuclear energy (having overtaken competitors), she today offers the world (especially Eurasia) a lot of unique energy projects.
Asian super ring: a new 15 GW energy cluster for the connection into one of the power systems of Russia, China, Japan and South Korea is being created. This not only tied to the three leading economies of Asia, but also allows the development at its expense of future infrastructure projects.
Traditional oil and gas fields in the Arctic and the far East are being developed. This allows Russia to not only win new customers, but also prevent the the American shale strategy from working (the fight of which today is across all fronts).
And finally, new nuclear power plants are being constructed around the world. As of today, 36 contracts for atomic units (plus 8 units under construction in Russia) have been signed and thus are being built. It is about half of the world market (if you count American and European unfinished constructions). Moreover, the geography of the construction is remarkable: Turkey, Hungary, Belarus, Iran, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, China, and Finland. Agreements were also concluded with Egypt and Jordan. A number of projects are still on the way.
What does this mean for Russia
The construction of plants and their servicing are 60-70 year projects (with extension of the resource blocks – up to 100 years). During a hundred years, countries that built nuclear power plants, like Ukraine, will be dependent on Russia in the energy sector.
And this will bring her money. A lot of money.
And during this time the probability of conflicts between countries – partners of Rosatom of Russia – will decline due to the construction of nuclear reactors. The example of Turkey today is very telling. If we look again at the geography of nuclear construction projects, we can see that Russia surrounds herself with countries that are nuclear-dependent on her, as well as building new nuclear power plants in critically important regions. This is an atomic hybrid weapon that can and should be used. And it is already in use. The current gains in the new nuclear race allows Moscow to pursue a more forward policy in the world and is an important lever for solving its geopolitical problems. Today we see this very well in the examples of Ukraine, Turkey, Iran, Hungary and Finland. Tomorrow it will be other countries in Asia and the Middle East, and the day after “Rosatom” will actively work in Africa and South America.
Even the United States has not escaped this fate. Very soon Russian nuclear fuel will start to conquer the market of its main political adversaries.
Meanwhile in Russia a new ambitious project is in the finishing straight: the loopback of the nuclear cycle, which in the prospect of a couple of decades will allow to rapidly develop the industry without increasing the resource base, will dramatically reduce problems with spent nuclear fuel and the cost of electricity. And, in the event of the successful promotion of this concept in the world, it will not only provide a huge financial income for decades, but will become another strategic nuclear shield for the country.
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