Ukraine war
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Surplus gas burns at the PCK Petroleum Refinery in Brandenburg, Schwedt, Germany on May 2. Last year, Rosneft took over a large part of the refinery which processes 12 million tonnes of crude oil annually, making it one of the largest processing sites in Germany. Photo: dpa

LettersGermany’s seizure of Rosneft assets sets a bad precedent in Ukraine war

  • Readers worry other European countries will also start seizing Russian assets, criticise Nato’s ‘Goldilocks’ approach to supporting Ukraine, and explain why the conflict is nothing like the 1974 Cyprus war
Ukraine war
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Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, countries in Europe have struggled with Russia and its critical supply of natural gas. Control over this economic lifeline has allowed Russia to stand firm despite the economic sanctions applied by western Europe.

At the end of August, Russian energy giant Gazprom, citing maintenance, suddenly shut down the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which supplies natural gas to Germany and many other European countries. Days later, Gazprom declined to reopen the pipeline as scheduled, citing a leakage.

Since then, it has not said when the pipeline can resume operation. Germany has slammed this as “part of Russia’s psychological war”.

Weeks later, Germany seized Russian oil firm Rosneft’s German operations, which include stakes in three German refineries, to secure its energy supply and cut its dependence on Russia. According to Al Jazeera, Germany can run the refining operations itself using supplies from countries other than Russia to counter its energy crisis.

According to UNCTAD, such seizure, called expropriation, is only lawful when these conditions are met: the property is taken for public purpose, on a non-discriminatory basis, in accordance with due process of law, and accompanied by compensation.

Though clearly taken for a public purpose, Germany’s move is, however, questionable when the other three factors are evaluated. Germany’s position on the war has made it hard to believe it is seizing the oil firm on a non-discriminatory basis.

There has also been no announcement or message showing Germany offering compensation to Russia, and again, that’s unlikely to happen given the German position on the war.

Now that Germany has taken the step, the question is whether other European countries, say the UK, would do the same? Yet such a move is clearly unfair to businesses. No matter how bad the war is or how relationships between governments deteriorate, all expropriation processes must still be based on international law, and respect the spirit of the rule of law.

The war has caused Germany to go to its limits to secure its interest. As the struggle over energy supply intensifies, other countries in Europe may be driven to do the same. This would be detrimental to fundamental rights.

Lew Guan Xi, Selangor, Malaysia

Nato’s ‘just enough’ support is drawing out war

At a regional summit in Uzbekistan, it was appropriate that President Xi Jinping had questions and concerns for President Vladimir Putin on Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Putin has committed Russia’s military to a war he can’t win. His difficulties are compounded by Ukraine’s recent military counteroffensive, which recaptured 8,000 sq km of its eastern territory from Russian forces.
Russia’s military has targeted civilian lives, property and infrastructure. Hospitals, shopping centres, markets, schools, train stations, water supplies, and many civilian homes, including blocks of flats, have been irreparably damaged. There are credible reports of Russian war crimes – rape, execution, theft – and unmarked burial sites. Millions of Ukrainians are displaced. Tens of thousands are dead, injured or deported, and many more are traumatised.

Still, the conduct of Nato and its allies in Ukraine isn’t exemplary. When US President Joe Biden and European leaders told the world they wouldn’t directly intervene militarily in the conflict nor provide vital military capability for Ukraine to reasonably defend its sovereignty, Putin knew that Russia’s military was free to cross into Ukraine.

Western allies have adopted a “Goldilocks” approach to the military support of Ukraine. They’ve given Ukraine just enough weapons to keep Russia ensconced in a protracted and costly war, but not so much support that it would risk Putin ordering a strike on Europe’s emerald cities.

A prolonged war in Ukraine earns super profits for global defence corporations which provide equipment, weapons and the advanced systems to go with them. Nations also jostle over lucrative post-war reconstruction contracts.

Morally, should Western allies give Ukraine the required military capability and increased weapons flow to liberate and protect it from Russian occupation, or continue with its Goldilocks military approach, which extends the conflict?

The war in Ukraine has significantly heightened distrust among nations. Political leaders have a shared responsibility to prevent another global arms race – nobody wants to see a second cold war nuclear arms race. Besides, many weapons of mass destructions being developed can never be rationally deployed because of the risk of mutual self-destruction.

Hardline ideology is humanity’s Achilles’ heel and our likely downfall. Rapidly evolving changes to the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere and biosphere are increasingly affecting its liveability for us. These adverse changes are occurring as nations continue to disagree over ideology. It’s to our detriment that diversity continues to divide rather than define.

Michael Walton, New South Wales, Australia

Ukraine conflict nothing like 1974 Cyprus war

Visiting Cyprus, I found the island to be a paradise on earth with one rather incongruous feature: minefields. The 1974 conflict between Cyprus and Türkiye lasted just four weeks, simply because no side was given military support by either Europe or Russia. It’s a different kettle of fish with Ukraine.

So perhaps Gal Luft (“How Russia’s war in Ukraine could end – with Donbas as the next Northern Cyprus”, September 8) should pay attention to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s words that our army’s aim is to demilitarise Ukraine, not carve it up.

As the West has begun sending its weapons to Nato countries in the area, we are being forced to look at demilitarising those Nato countries as well. The Kremlin is no doubt pleased with the spillover.

And the conflict there (I am not allowed by Russian law to use a more suitable word) is most likely going to end in a much smaller Ukraine, unsupported militarily by the West and unwanted as a territorial acquisition by Russia.

Mergen Mongush, Moscow