More stories

  • in

    Why the U.S. Can’t Quickly Wean Europe From Russian Gas

    The Biden administration’s plan to send more natural gas to Europe will be hampered by the lack of export and import terminals.HOUSTON — President Biden announced Friday that the United States would send more natural gas to Europe to help it break its dependence on Russian energy. But that plan will largely be symbolic, at least in the short run, because the United States doesn’t have enough capacity to export more gas and Europe doesn’t have the capacity to import significantly more.In recent months, American exporters, with President Biden’s encouragement, have already maximized the output of terminals that turn natural gas into a liquid easily shipped on large tankers. And they have diverted shipments originally bound for Asia to Europe.But energy experts said that building enough terminals on both sides of the Atlantic to significantly expand U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas, or L.N.G., to Europe could take two to five years. That reality is likely to limit the scope of the natural gas supply announcement that Mr. Biden and the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, announced on Friday.“In the near term there are really no good options, other than begging an Asian buyer or two to give up their L.N.G. tanker for Europe,” said Robert McNally, who was an energy adviser to former President George W. Bush. But he added that once sufficient gas terminals were built, the United States could become the “arsenal for energy” that helps Europe break its dependence on Russia. Friday’s agreement, which calls on the United States to help the European Union secure an additional 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas this year, could also undermine efforts by Mr. Biden and European officials to combat climate change. Once new export and import terminals are built, they will probably keep operating for several decades, perpetuating the use of a fossil fuel much longer than many environmentalists consider sustainable for the planet’s well-being.For now, however, climate concerns appear to be taking a back seat as U.S. and European leaders seek to punish President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for invading Ukraine by depriving him of billions of dollars in energy sales.The United States has already increased energy exports to Europe substantially. So far this year, nearly three-quarters of U.S. L.N.G. has gone to Europe, up from 34 percent for all of 2021. As prices for natural gas have soared in Europe, American companies have done everything they can to send more gas there. The Biden administration has helped by getting buyers in Asian countries like Japan and South Korea to forgo L.N.G. shipments so they could be sent to Europe.The United States has plenty of natural gas, much of it in shale fields from Pennsylvania to the Southwest. Gas bubbles out of the ground with oil from the Permian Basin, which straddles Texas and New Mexico, and producers there are gradually increasing their output of both oil and gas after greatly reducing production in the first year of the pandemic, when energy prices collapsed.But the big problem with sending Europe more energy is that natural gas, unlike crude oil, cannot easily be put on oceangoing ships. The gas has to first be chilled in an expensive process at export terminals, mostly on the Gulf Coast. The liquid gas is then poured into specialized tankers. When the ships arrive at their destination, the process is run in reverse to convert L.N.G. back into gas.A large export or import terminal can cost more than $1 billion, and planning, obtaining permits and completing construction can take years. There are seven export terminals in the United States and 28 large-scale import terminals in Europe, which also gets L.N.G. from suppliers like Qatar and Egypt.Some European countries, including Germany, have until recently been uninterested in building L.N.G. terminals because it was far cheaper to import gas by pipeline from Russia. Germany is now reviving plans to build its first L.N.G. import terminal on its northern coast.A pier in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, the port where Uniper, a German energy company, wanted to build a liquified natural gas terminal before it was shelved. Now Germany is reviving plans to build it.The New York Times“Europe’s need for gas far exceeds what the system can supply,” said Nikos Tsafos, an energy analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Diplomacy can only do so much.”In the longer term, however, energy experts say the United States could do a lot to help Europe. Along with the European Union, Washington could provide loan guarantees for U.S. export and European import terminals to reduce costs and accelerate construction. Governments could require international lending institutions like the World Bank and the European Investment Bank to make natural gas terminals, pipelines and processing facilities a priority. And they could ease regulations that gas producers, pipeline builders and terminal developers argue have made it more difficult or expensive to build gas infrastructure.Charif Souki, executive chairman of Tellurian, a U.S. gas producer that is planning to build an export terminal in Louisiana, said he hoped the Biden administration would streamline permitting and environmental reviews “to make sure things happen quickly without micromanaging everything.” He added that the government could encourage banks and investors, some of whom have recently avoided oil and gas projects in an effort to burnish their climate credentials, to lend to projects like his.“If all the major banks in the U.S. and major institutions like BlackRock and Blackstone feel comfortable investing in hydrocarbons, and they are not going to be criticized, we will develop $100 billion worth of infrastructure we need,” Mr. Souki said.A handful of export terminals are under construction in the United States and could increase exports by roughly a third by 2026. Roughly a dozen U.S. export terminal projects have been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission but can’t go ahead until they secure financing from investors and lenders.“That’s the bottleneck,” Mr. Tsafos said.Roughly 10 European import terminals are being built or are in the planning stages in Italy, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Cyprus and Greece, but most still don’t have their financing lined up.The Russia-Ukraine War and the Global EconomyCard 1 of 6Rising concerns. More

  • in

    Biden Plans Sanctions on Russian Lawmakers as He Heads to Europe

    A chief goal of the meetings this week is to show that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will not lead to sniping and disagreement among the United States and its allies.WASHINGTON — President Biden will announce sanctions this week on hundreds of members of Russia’s lower house of Parliament, according to a White House official familiar with the announcement, as the United States and its allies reach for even stronger measures to punish President Vladimir V. Putin for his monthlong invasion of Ukraine.The announcement is scheduled to be made during a series of global summits in Europe on Thursday, when Mr. Biden will press Western leaders for even more aggressive economic actions against Russia as its forces continue to rain destruction on cities in Ukraine.In Brussels on Thursday, Mr. Biden and other leaders will announce a “next phase” of military assistance to Ukraine, new plans to expand and enforce economic sanctions, and an effort to further bolster NATO defenses along the border with Russia, Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, said on Tuesday.“The president is traveling to Europe to ensure we stay united, to cement our collective resolve, to send a powerful message that we are prepared and committed to this for as long as it takes,” Mr. Sullivan told reporters.Officials declined to be specific about the announcements, saying the president will wrap up the details of new sanctions and other steps during his deliberations in Brussels. But Mr. Biden faces a steep challenge as he works to confront Mr. Putin’s war, which Mr. Sullivan said “will not end easily or rapidly.”The sanctions on Russian lawmakers, which were reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal, will affect hundreds of members of the State Duma, the lower house of Parliament, according to the official, who requested anonymity to discuss diplomatic deliberations that have not yet been publicly acknowledged.Earlier this month, the United States announced financial sanctions on 12 members of the Duma. The announcement on Thursday will go far beyond those sanctions in what one senior official called a “very sweeping” action. Another official said details of the sanctions were still being finalized.The NATO alliance has already pushed the limits of economic sanctions imposed by European countries, which are dependent on Russian energy. And the alliance has largely exhausted most of its military options — short of a direct confrontation with Russia, which Mr. Biden has said could result in World War III.That leaves the president and his counterparts with a relatively short list of announcements they can deliver on Thursday after three back-to-back, closed-door meetings. Mr. Sullivan said there will be “new designations, new targets” for sanctions inside Russia. And he said the United States would make new announcements about efforts to help European nations wean themselves off Russian energy.Still, the chief goal of the summits — which have come together in just a week’s time through diplomats in dozens of countries — may be a further public declaration that Mr. Putin’s invasion will not lead to sniping and disagreement among the allies.Despite Russia’s intention to “divide and weaken the West,” Mr. Sullivan said, the allies in Europe and elsewhere have remained “more united, more determined and more purposeful than at any point in recent memory.”A damaged residential building in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday.Ivor Prickett for The New York TimesSo far, that unity has done little to limit the violence in Ukraine. The United States and Europe have already imposed the broadest array of economic sanctions ever on a country of Russia’s size and wealth, and there have been early signs that loopholes have blunted some of the bite that the sanctions on Russia’s central bank and major financial institutions were intended to have on its economy.Despite speculation that Russia might default on its sovereign debt last week, it was able to make interest payments on $117 million due on two bonds denominated in U.S. dollars. And after initially plunging to record lows this month, the ruble has since stabilized.Russia was able to avert default for now because of an exception built into the sanctions that allowed it to continue making payments in dollars through May 25. That loophole protects foreign investors and gives Russia more time to devastate Ukraine without feeling the full wrath of the sanctions.Meanwhile, although about half of Russia’s $640 billion in foreign reserves is frozen, it has been able to rebuild that by continuing to sell energy to Europe and other places.“The fact that Russia is generating a large trade and current account surplus because of energy exports means that Russia is generating a constant hard currency flow in euros and dollars,” said Robin Brooks, the chief economist at the Institute of International Finance. “If you’re looking at sanctions evasion or the effectiveness of sanctions, this was always a major loophole.”The president is scheduled to depart Washington on Wednesday morning before summits on Thursday with NATO, the Group of 7 nations and the European Council, a meeting of all 27 leaders of European Union countries. On Friday, Mr. Biden will head to Poland, where he will discuss the Ukrainian refugees who have flooded into the country since the start of the war. He will also visit with American troops stationed in Poland as part of NATO forces.Mr. Biden is expected to meet with President Andrzej Duda of Poland on Saturday before returning to the White House later that day.White House officials said a key part of the announcements in Brussels would be new enforcement measures aimed at making sure Russia is not able to evade the intended impact of sanctions.“That announcement will focus not just on adding new sanctions,” Mr. Sullivan said, “but on ensuring that there is a joint effort to crack down on evasion on sanctions-busting, on any attempt by any country to help Russia basically undermine, weaken or get around the sanctions.”He added later, “So stay tuned for that.”Sanctions experts have suggested that Western allies could allow Russian energy exports to continue but insist that payments be held in escrow accounts until Mr. Putin halts the invasion. That would borrow from the playbook the United States used with Iran, when it allowed some oil exports but required the revenue from those transactions to be held in accounts that could be used only to finance bilateral trade.Russia-Ukraine War: Key DevelopmentsCard 1 of 3A new diplomatic push. More

  • in

    Ukraine War and Pandemic Force Nations to Retreat From Globalization

    WASHINGTON — When the Cold War ended, governments and companies believed that stronger global economic ties would lead to greater stability. But the Ukraine war and the pandemic are pushing the world in the opposite direction and upending those ideas.Important parts of the integrated economy are unwinding. American and European officials are now using sanctions to sever major parts of the Russian economy — the 11th largest in the world — from global commerce, and hundreds of Western companies have halted operations in Russia on their own. Amid the pandemic, companies are reorganizing how they obtain their goods because of soaring costs and unpredictable delays in global supply chains.Western officials and executives are also rethinking how they do business with China, the world’s second-largest economy, as geopolitical tensions and the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses and use of advanced technology to reinforce autocratic control make corporate dealings more fraught.The moves reverse core tenets of post-Cold War economic and foreign policies forged by the United States and its allies that were even adopted by rivals like Russia and China.“What we’re headed toward is a more divided world economically that will mirror what is clearly a more divided world politically,” said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “I don’t think economic integration survives a period of political disintegration.”“Does globalization and economic interdependence reduce conflict?” he added. “I think the answer is yes, until it doesn’t.”Opposition to globalization gained momentum with the Trump administration’s trade policies and “America First” drive, and as the progressive left became more powerful. But the pandemic and President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine have brought into sharp relief the uncertainty of the existing economic order.President Biden warned President Xi Jinping of China on Friday that there would be “consequences” if Beijing gave material aid to Russia for the war in Ukraine, an implicit threat of sanctions. China has criticized sanctions on Russia, and Le Yucheng, the vice foreign minister, said in a speech on Saturday that “globalization should not be weaponized.” Yet China increasingly has imposed economic punishments — Lithuania, Norway, Australia, Japan and South Korea have been among the targets.The result of all the disruptions may well be a fracturing of the world into economic blocs, as countries and companies gravitate to ideological corners with distinct markets and pools of labor, as they did in much of the 20th century.Mr. Biden already frames his foreign policy in ideological terms, as a mission of unifying democracies against autocracies. Mr. Biden also says he is enacting a foreign policy for middle-class Americans, and central to that is getting companies to move critical supply chains and manufacturing out of China.The goal is given urgency by the hobbling of those global links over two years of the pandemic, which has brought about a realization among the world’s most powerful companies that they need to focus on not just efficiency and cost, but also resiliency. This month, lockdowns China imposed to contain Covid-19 outbreaks have once again threatened to stall global supply chains.The Chinese city of Shenzhen was shut down due to Covid concerns last week, threatening the global supply chain.Kin Cheung/Associated PressThe economic impact of such a change is highly uncertain. The emergence of new economic blocs could accelerate a massive reorganization in financial flows and supply chains, potentially slowing growth, leading to some shortages and raising prices for consumers in the short term. But the longer-term effects on global growth, worker wages and supplies of goods are harder to assess.The war has set in motion “deglobalization forces that could have profound and unpredictable effects,” said Laurence Boone, the chief economist of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.For decades, executives have pushed for globalization to expand their markets and to exploit cheap labor and lax environmental standards. China especially has benefited from this, while Russia profits from its exports of minerals and energy. They tap into enormous economies: The Group of 7 industrialized nations make up more than 50 percent of the global economy, while China and Russia together account for about 20 percent.Trade and business ties between the United States and China are still robust, despite steadily worsening relations. But with the new Western sanctions on Russia, many nations that are not staunch partners of America are now more aware of the perils of being economically tied to the United States and its allies.If Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin organize their own economic coalition, they could bring in other nations seeking to shield themselves from Western sanctions — a tool that all recent U.S. presidents have used.“Your interdependence can be weaponized against you,” said Dani Rodrik, a professor of international political economy at Harvard Kennedy School. “That’s a lesson that I imagine many countries are beginning to internalize.”The Ukraine war, he added, has “probably put a nail in the coffin of hyperglobalization.”China and, increasingly, Russia have taken steps to wall off their societies, including erecting strict censorship mechanisms on their internet networks, which have cut off their citizens from foreign perspectives and some commerce. China is on a drive to make critical industries self-sufficient, including for technologies like semiconductors.And China has been in talks with Saudi Arabia to pay for some oil purchases in China’s currency, the renminbi, The Wall Street Journal reported; Russia was in similar discussions with India. The efforts show a desire by those governments to move away from dollar-based transactions, a foundation of American global economic power.For decades, prominent U.S. officials and strategists asserted that a globalized economy was a pillar of what they call the rules-based international order, and that trade and financial ties would prevent major powers from going to war. The United States helped usher China into the World Trade Organization in 2001 in a bid to bring its economic behavior — and, some officials hoped, its political system — more in line with the West. Russia joined the organization in 2012.But Mr. Putin’s war and China’s recent aggressive actions in Asia have challenged those notions.“The whole idea of the liberal international order was that economic interdependence would prevent conflict of this kind,” said Alina Polyakova, president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a research group in Washington. “If you tie yourselves to each other, which was the European model after the Second World War, the disincentives would be so painful if you went to war that no one in their right mind would do it. Well, we’ve seen now that has proven to be false.”“Putin’s actions have shown us that might have been the world we’ve been living in, but that’s not the world he or China have been living in,” she said.The United States and its partners have blocked Russia from much of the international financial system by banning transactions with the Russian central bank. They have also cut Russia off from the global bank messaging system called SWIFT, frozen the assets of Russian leaders and oligarchs, and banned the export from the United States and other nations of advanced technology to Russia. Russia has answered with its own export bans on food, cars and timber.The penalties can lead to odd decouplings: British and European sanctions on Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who owns the Chelsea soccer team in Britain, prevent the club from selling tickets or merchandise.Ticket sales for Chelsea Football Club games were stopped after Britain and the European Union imposed sanctions on the club’s owner, Roman Abramovich, a Putin ally. Andy Rain/EPA, via ShutterstockAbout 400 companies have chosen to suspend or withdraw operations from Russia, including iconic brands of global consumerism such as Apple, Ikea and Rolex.Russia-Ukraine War: Key DevelopmentsCard 1 of 4Russia’s shrinking force. More

  • in

    U.S. warns servicing or refueling some Russian-owned planes may violate trade restrictions.

    The Commerce Department said on Friday that it had identified 100 commercial and private aircraft that violated U.S. export controls by flying into Russia and that their owners, operators and servicers were at risk of substantial jail time, fines, loss of export privileges or other restrictions.The announcement said it was putting the world “on notice” not to repair or refuel the planes, highlighting the scope of the new limitations.Since March 2, the department identified a number of commercial and private flights to Russia that most likely violated the restrictions, including on aircraft owned or operated by Aeroflot, AirBridgeCargo, Aviastar-TU, Azur Air, Nordwind, Utair and Roman Abramovich, a Russian billionaire with ties to President Vladimir V. Putin, according to the announcement. Most of the planes were made by Boeing.On Feb. 24, the department imposed broad restrictions on technology that could be exported to Russia, part of an effort to cripple the country’s military and strategic industries. In addition to semiconductors, telecommunications equipment and sensors, the restrictions bar aircraft and some aircraft parts that are made in the United States from being sent to Russia.As a result of the rules, any aircraft manufactured in the United States, or manufactured in a foreign country that used certain American parts or technology, must receive a license to travel to Russia.And any entity providing services to those aircraft, including maintenance, repair and refueling, would also be in violation of the rules, the Commerce Department said.Because the aircraft are prevented from receiving any service, flights to and from Russia on these aircraft are effectively grounded, the department said.“We will not allow Russian and Belarusian companies and oligarchs to travel with impunity in violation of our laws,” Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo said in a statement. More

  • in

    Ukraine Energy Company C.E.O. Tries to Keep Lights On During War

    Keeping millions of customers in Ukraine supplied with electric power amid the Russian invasion is, to say the least, challenging. Especially when the electrical grid itself becomes a target. “What we see now is that they attack transmission lines, substations, power generating stations,” said Maxim Timchenko, chief executive of DTEK, a large private Ukrainian energy company. In the early days of the war, he said, the Russian military seemed to be wary of wrecking critical civilian infrastructure.Now, he said, “they are not selective anymore.”In a video call from an undisclosed location in western Ukraine, Mr. Timchenko described how DTEK, which supplies about 20 percent of Ukraine’s electricity, and other Ukrainian utilities were scrambling to keep the lights on during the Russian onslaught.Amid the urgency, Ukraine, which is not a member of the European Union, has also managed to achieve something in a matter of weeks that it had worked on for years: a linkup to the power grids of neighboring E.U. countries, including, according to Mr. Timchenko, Romania, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary.“This will help Ukraine to keep their electricity system stable, homes warm and lights on during these dark times,” said Europe’s energy commissioner, Kadri Simson, in a statement. “In this area, Ukraine is now part of Europe,” she added.In case of a major hit to its power system, Ukraine could now apply for emergency electricity supplies from the European system, Mr. Timchenko said. Ukraine also severed its electricity links to Russia and Belarus just before the invasion to establish independence from power sources in hostile countries.When its transmission lines are damaged or severed, DTEK arranges for Ukrainian soldiers to escort its emergency repair crews, dressed in flak jackets, to reach affected sites. Mr. Timchenko said six of DTEK’s roughly 60,000 employees had been killed during the war, although not while performing duties for the company.The Russia-Ukraine War and the Global EconomyCard 1 of 6Rising concerns. More

  • in

    Russia’s Central Bank Projects Economic Decline 

    Russia’s central bank governor, Elvira Nabiullina, said on Friday that the country’s economy would decline in the coming quarters and that inflation would jump further as sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine took their toll. Earlier, the bank’s board of directors held interest rates at 20 percent.The bank said the doubling in interest rates on Feb. 28, from 9.5 percent, and capital controls curbing the movement of money had helped sustain financial stability in Russia and stop uncontrolled price increases. But the latest inflation data shows that, as of March 11, prices in Russia had risen 12.5 percent from a year earlier.Russia’s war against Ukraine has led to strict economic sanctions by the United States and Europe, encouraged a large number of Western companies and banks to retreat from the country, and isolated Russia from much of the global financial system.“The Russian economy is entering the phase of a large-scale structural transformation, which will be accompanied by a temporary but inevitable period of increased inflation,” the Russian central bank said in a statement Friday.Gross domestic product “will decline in the next quarters,” Ms. Nabiullina said later. Two consecutive quarters of economic decline are generally considered to be a recession.The effects of the sanctions are being keenly felt in Russia.“Today, almost all companies are experiencing disruptions in production and logistical chains and in their settlements with foreign counterparties,” Ms. Nabiullina said. Inflation was driven higher, she said, by a rise in demand for cars, household appliances, electronic devices and other goods as people rushed to buy because they feared prices would rise higher and supplies would run out. The ruble has lost about 30 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar this year.President Vladimir V. Putin put Ms. Nabiullina forward for another term as central bank governor on Friday. She has held the position since 2013. Ms. Nabiullina also said on Friday that stock trading on the Moscow Exchange would remain closed but that government bond trading will restart on Monday. Stocks haven’t been traded on the exchange since Feb. 25. More

  • in

    How the War in Ukraine Could Slow the Sales of Electric Cars

    The price of nickel, an essential ingredient in most batteries, has soared because of fear that Russian supplies could be cut off.Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken the global market for nickel just as the metal gains importance as an ingredient in electric car batteries, raising fears that high prices could slow the transition away from fossil fuels.The price of nickel doubled in one day last week, prompting the London Metal Exchange to freeze trading and effectively bring the global nickel market to a standstill. After two years of supply chain chaos caused by the pandemic, the episode provided more evidence of how geopolitical tensions are destroying trading relationships that companies once took for granted, forcing them to rethink where they get the parts and metals they use to make cars and many other products.Automakers and other companies that need nickel, as well as other battery raw materials like lithium or cobalt, have begun looking for ways to shield themselves against future shocks.Volkswagen, for example, has begun to explore buying nickel directly from mining companies, Markus Duesmann, chief executive of the carmaker’s Audi division, said in an interview on Thursday. “Raw materials are going to be an issue for years to come,” he said.The prospect of prolonged geopolitical tensions is likely to accelerate attempts by the United States and Europe to develop domestic supplies of commodities that often come from Russia. There are nickel deposits, for example, in Canada, Greenland and even Minnesota.“Nickel, cobalt, platinum, palladium, even copper — we already realized we need those metals for the green transition, for mitigating climate change,” said Bo Stensgaard, chief executive of Bluejay Mining, which is working on extracting nickel from a site in western Greenland in a venture with KoBold Metals, whose backers include Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. “When you see the geopolitical developments with Ukraine and Russia, it’s even more obvious that there are supply risks with these metals.”But establishing new mining operations is likely to take years, even decades, because of the time needed to acquire permits and financing. In the meantime, companies using nickel — a group that also includes steel makers — will need to contend with higher prices, which will eventually be felt by consumers.An average electric-car battery contains about 80 pounds of nickel. The surge in prices in March would more than double the cost of that nickel to $1,750 a car, according to estimates by the trading firm Cantor Fitzgerald.Russia accounts for a relatively small proportion of world nickel production, and most of it is used to make stainless steel, not car batteries. But Russia plays an outsize role in nickel markets. Norilsk Nickel, also known as Nornickel, is the world’s largest nickel producer, with vast operations in Siberia. Its owner, Vladimir Potanin, is one of Russia’s wealthiest people. Norilsk is among a limited number of companies authorized to sell a specialized form of nickel on the London Metal Exchange, which handles all nickel trading.Unlike other oligarchs, Mr. Potanin has not been a target of sanctions, and the United States and Europe have not tried to block nickel exports, a step that would hurt their economies as well as Russia’s. The prospect that Russian nickel could be cut off from world markets was enough to cause panic.Analysts expect prices to come down from their recent peaks but remain much higher than they were a year ago. “The trend would be to come down to a level close to where we last left off,” around $25,000 a metric ton compared to the peak of $100,000 a ton, said Adrian Gardner, a principal analyst specializing in nickel at Wood Mackenzie, a research firm.A plant owned by Nornickel, the world’s leading producer of nickel and palladium, in Norilsk, Russia.Tatyana Makeyeva/ReutersNickel was on a tear even before the Russian invasion as hedge funds and other investors bet on rising demand for electric vehicles. The price topped $20,000 a ton this year after hovering between $10,000 and $15,000 a ton for much of the past five years. At the same time, less nickel was being produced because of the pandemic.After Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the price rose above $30,000 in a little over a week. Then came March 8. Word spread on the trading desks of brokerage firms and hedge funds in London that a company, which turned out to be the Tsingshan Holding Group of China, had made a huge bet that the price of nickel would drop. When the price rose, Tsingshan owed billions of dollars, a situation known on Wall Street as a short squeeze.The price shot up to a little over $100,000 a ton, threatening the existence of many other companies that had bet wrong and prompting the London Metal Exchange to halt trading.The Russia-Ukraine War and the Global EconomyCard 1 of 6Rising concerns. More

  • in

    Exports to Russia Blocked by U.S. and Its Allies

    To try to halt the war in Ukraine, the U.S. and its allies have imposed the most sweeping export controls seen in decades on Russia. Now they have to enforce them.WASHINGTON — The United States, in partnership with its allies, has hit Russia with some of the most sweeping export restrictions ever imposed, barring companies across the world from sending advanced technology in order to penalize President Vladimir V. Putin for his invasion of Ukraine.The restrictions are aimed at cutting off the flow of semiconductors, aircraft components and other technologies that are crucial to Russia’s defense, maritime and aerospace industries, in a bid to cripple Mr. Putin’s ability to wage war. But the extent to which the measures hinder Russia’s abilities will depend on whether companies around the globe follow the rules.Enforcing the new restrictions poses a significant challenge as governments try to police thousands of companies. But the task could be made easier because the United States is acting in concert with so many other countries.The European Union, Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain and South Korea have joined the United States in imposing their own restrictions. And governments including Singapore and Taiwan, a major global producer of semiconductors, have indicated they will support the rules.“Because we have the full cooperation and alignment with so many countries, it makes enforcement a lot easier,” Gina Raimondo, the U.S. secretary of commerce, said in an interview. “Every country is going to be doing enforcement.”“That’s part of the power, if you will, of having so much collaboration,” she added.Officials from the Commerce Department, which is in charge of enforcing the U.S. rules, have already begun digging through shipping containers and detaining electronics, aircraft parts and other goods that are destined for Russia. On March 2, federal agents detained two speedboats at the Port of Charleston valued at $150,000 that were being exported to Russia, according to senior U.S. officials.To look for any potential violators, federal agents will be combing through tips from industry sources and working with Customs and Border Protection to find anomalies in export data that might point to shipments to Russia. They are also reaching out to known exporters to Russia to get them on board with the new restrictions, speaking to about 20 or 30 companies a day, U.S. officials said.Their efforts extend beyond U.S. borders. On March 3, Commerce Department officials spoke to a gathering of 300 businesspeople in Beijing about how to comply with the new restrictions. U.S. officials have also been coordinating with other governments to ensure that they are taking a tough stance on enforcement, senior U.S. officials said.Emily Kilcrease, director of the Energy, Economics and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said that the level of allied cooperation in forging the export controls was “completely unprecedented,” and that international coordination would have an important upside.“The allied countries will be active partners in enforcement efforts, rather than the United States attempting to enforce its own unilateral rules extraterritorially,” she said.It remains to be seen how effective the rules are in degrading Russia’s military capability or dissuading its aggression against Ukraine. But in their initial form, the broad scope of the measures looks like a victory for the multilateralism that President Biden promised to restore.Mr. Biden entered office pledging to mend ties with Europe and other allies that had been alienated by former President Donald J. Trump’s “America first” approach. A key part of the argument was that the United States could exert more pressure on countries like China when it was not acting alone.That approach has been particularly important for export controls, which experts argue can do more harm than good when imposed by only one country — a criticism that was sometimes leveled at the export controls the Trump administration issued on China.“Because we have the full cooperation and alignment with so many countries, it makes enforcement a lot easier,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.Doug Mills/The New York TimesThe Russian invasion of Ukraine has unified Western governments like few issues before. But even with countries eager to penalize Russia, coordinating restrictions on a vast array of complex technologies among more than 30 governments was not simple. The Commerce Department held more than 50 discussions with officials from other countries between the end of January and Feb. 24, when the controls were announced, as they hashed out the details, senior U.S. officials said.Much of that effort fell to Matthew S. Borman, a three-decade employee of the Commerce Department, who in late January began near-daily conversations with the European Commission and other countries.In mid-February, Mr. Borman and a senior aerospace engineer flew to Brussels for meetings with Peter Sandler, the European director general of trade, and other staff. As a “freedom convoy” protesting coronavirus restrictions attempted to roll into Brussels, they worked from early in the morning until late in the night amid reams of paper and spreadsheets of complex technological descriptions.Each country had its own byzantine regulations, and its own interests, to consider. The European Commission had to consult the European Union’s 27 member countries, especially tech powers like Germany, France, the Netherlands and Finland, on which products could be cut off. Officials debated whether to crack down on the Russian oil industry, at a time of soaring gas prices and inflation.As Russia’s neighbors, the Europeans wanted to ensure that Russia still had access to certain goods for public safety, like nuclear reactor components to avoid a Chernobyl-style meltdown. At least one country insisted that auto exports to Russia should continue, a senior administration official said.The breakthrough came when American officials offered a compromise. The Biden administration planned to issue a rule that would bar companies anywhere around the world from exporting certain products to Russia if they were made using American technology. But those measures would not apply in countries that joined the United States and Europe in issuing their own technological restrictions on Russia.In an interview, Mr. Borman said that American allies had historically been concerned with the extraterritorial reach of U.S. export controls, and that the exclusions for countries that imposed their own rules “was really the key piece.”The Russia-Ukraine War and the Global EconomyCard 1 of 6Rising concerns. More