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Showing posts from September 12, 2013

The Challenge of Blocking the Suez Canal

By Scott Stewart

The Cosco Asia, a Chinese-owned, Panamanian-flagged container ship, reportedly came under attack as it transited the Suez Canal in the early afternoon Aug. 31. Egyptian authorities said they have arrested three suspects believed to have been involved in the attack, which reportedly occurred approximately halfway between Port Said and Ismailia. The suspects are thought to be affiliated with a militant group based in Bir Rummana in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

There have been conflicting reports as to the weapons used in the attack, with a machine gun and rocket-propelled grenades being mentioned. The head of the Suez Canal Authority, Mohab Mamish, said the attack was intended to impact the flow of traffic in the canal, but was "completely unsuccessful," adding that the attack resulted in no damage to the ship or its cargo.

The attack comes as the Egyptian military is in the midst of a campaign to crack down on militancy in the Sinai. Jihadist militants in Sinai…

Russia Tries to Crack China's Natural Gas Market


Editor's Note: This is the first installment of a two-part series on Russia's attempts to strike a major natural gas supply deal with China.

Oil deals have thus far dominated Russia and China's energy relationship, but now its focus is shifting toward the more complicated sector of natural gas. Russia wants to diversify its energy exports away from Europe -- a feat it has already accomplished with oil. Meanwhile, China's demand for natural gas is growing, and Beijing is looking to increase imports from multiple suppliers and via multiple routes.


The past two weeks have been particularly busy for Russia and China as they discuss energy deals. Last week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin traveled to China and struck a series of deals on behalf of Russian oil giant Rosneft, of which he is a board member. In June, the two sides agreed to a $270 billion oil deal under which Russia, starting in 2015, will export 300,000 barrels per day to China for 25 …

The Other U.S.-Russia Proxy Battle

At a time when the United States and Europe are focused on Russia's position in Syria, Moscow has also been making significant moves much closer to its periphery in Europe. On Thursday, a meeting of representatives from the Visegrad Group expressed "outrage" over increased pressure from Russia on the countries of the European Union's Eastern Partnership initiative not to sign trade and association agreements with the European Union.

What these two groups have in common is that all of their members were once part of the Soviet umbrella. The Visegrad Group consists of ex-satellites Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, while the Eastern Partnership consists of Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The former are all members of the European Union and NATO, while the latter are not. Each of these states has complicated relationships with both Russia and Europe.

The Eastern Partnership program was designed to bring the latter group clos…