Morning Brief

Foreign Policy’s flagship daily newsletter with what’s coming up around the world today. Delivered weekdays.

The EU Turns to Baku

Azerbaijan can only replace a fraction of Russia’s gas to Europe, but EU officials are hoping a patchwork of nations can change its dependence on Russia.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks in Brussels on April 27. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at the EU’s gas search in Azerbaijan, the latest from Ukraine, Britain’s next prime minister, and the world this week.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Von der Leyen Prepares EU Gas Deal

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at the EU’s gas search in Azerbaijan, the latest from Ukraine, Britain’s next prime minister, and the world this week.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Von der Leyen Prepares EU Gas Deal

Just days after U.S. President Joe Biden’s fist bump with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman showed the lengths the world’s largest energy consumer will go to secure its supplies, European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen visits another authoritarian regime to help keep the bloc’s energy market afloat.

Von der Leyen visits Azerbaijan today, where she is expected to sign a gas deal to help cover European supplies as the EU seeks to wean itself off Russian gas.

With Russia focused on Ukraine, the European Union has become more engaged in mediation efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. In May, Brussels hosted rare face-to-face talks between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The foreign ministers from the two countries held their first bilateral talks since 2020 just yesterday.

But as EU leaders seek to present a neutral position between the two countries, some Armenians fear a gas-fueled shift toward Azerbaijan, which could have an impact on Nagorno-Karabakh, over which Baku and Yerevan fought their most recent war in 2020.

Gabriel Gavin, writing in Foreign Policy in May, spoke with Artak Beglaryan, the state minister and de facto leader of the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh, Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian enclave within territory internationally recognized as Azerbaijan’s, who expressed concern over Europe’s growing dependence on Azerbaijan. “If democracy and human rights, as well as regional stability, matter to the West, there should be conditions set as part of gas negotiations with Azerbaijan,” Beglaryan said.

Today’s meeting is part of a European plan to diversify its energy imports and decrease reliance on Russian gas. That’s a tall order: Around 40 percent of EU gas imports came from Russia in 2021. So far, EU members have not set out to ban Russian gas entirely, but they have agreed to reduce dependence by two-thirds by the end of this year.

So how much can Baku make up? Russia’s gas deliveries to Europe amounted to 155 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2021, but current EU plans call for Azerbaijan to supply only a fraction of that—just 11 bcm—by the end of this year.

Today’s agreement between EU and Azerbaijani officials plans to change that—but slowly. A draft deal between the two sides says they “aspire” to almost double imports of gas to 20 bcm by 2027 by relying on upgrades to the Southern Gas Corridor, an array of pipelines that moves gas from the Caspian Sea through Turkey and onward into Europe.

Europe’s gas hunt. Where Europe can find the rest of the gas it needs is a question that has taken EU leaders across oceans and in search of both traditional and unorthodox partners: Norway, Israel, the United States, Egypt, and Qatar have all been tapped as candidates to provide increased flows.

New markets are also being considered. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz went to Senegal in May to encourage its government to boost offshore gas production. Italy has recently made gas deals with Algeria, Angola, and the Republic of the Congo.

Heat warnings. Even though Scholz has tried to play down the renewed focus on fossil fuels as “temporary,” the increase in exploration comes at a perilous time.

The International Energy Agency has already sounded the alarm, warning that the world cannot afford any new fossil fuel projects if net-zero targets are to be met—a key consideration in keeping the planet below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. EU officials argue that gas is a better alternative to much dirtier coal, and that liquefied natural gas terminals can later be converted to hydrogen facilities, so the investment does not necessarily tie them to gas.

The reality of a warming planet is already apparent across the world: Dozens of Chinese cities operated under heat alerts this month, wildfires have raged across Southern Europe as well as the United States, and this week the United Kingdom is forecast to record its highest-ever temperature—over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cutting demand. There’s one option Europe has yet to take that doesn’t involve politically fraught deals or investments in infrastructure—simply using less energy. The difference in energy use between a typical Westerner and people in the developing world is vast: An average European uses more than five times as much electricity as the average Indian, while the average American uses 10 times as much as an Indian consumer.

As part of its 10-point plan to reduce dependency on Russian gas, the International Energy Agency recommends reducing home thermostats by 1 degree Celsius, a reduction that would save 10 bcm in gas—or Azerbaijan’s current EU export volume.

Jason Bordoff and Meghan L. O’Sullivan, writing in Foreign Policy in June, argue that “the world has sadly lost sight of one of the most important energy facts: Efficiency investments and demand conservation are often the cheapest and quickest ways to cut the use of oil, gas, and coal—and to reduce the need for replacing Russian supplies (not to mention carbon emissions).”

Bordoff and O’Sullivan echo energy efficiency guru Amory Lovins’s call, made in 1973, for governments to choose the “soft path” of conservation, efficiency, and renewables rather than the “hard path” of mining, extraction, and more industrial construction. “If the best time to have followed the soft path would have been decades ago,” Bordoff and O’Sullivan write, “the second-best time is now.”


The World This Week

Monday, July 18: French President Emmanuel Macron hosts United Arab Emirates President Mohammed bin Zayed in Paris.

Tuesday, July 19: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen begins a two-day visit to South Korea.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi hosts a trilateral summit with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss Syrian peace efforts.

Wednesday, July 20: Both chambers of the Italian Parliament hold votes of confidence in the government.

Sri Lanka’s Parliament votes to select a new president to serve out the remainder of ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term.

Thursday, July 21: The European Central Bank makes its interest rate decision.


What We’re Following Today

Ukraine latest. Russia is preparing “the next stage of the offensive,” with a renewed assault on the eastern province of Donetsk likely in the coming days, a Ukrainian official said on Saturday, as British military intelligence said Russia was fortifying occupied positions across southern Ukraine.

As the war rages on, all is not well behind the scenes. On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the dismissal of Ivan Bakanov, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), the country’s successor to the Soviet KGB. Bakanov had formerly been a close ally of Zelensky but had fallen out of favor over Russia’s initial invasion as well as the fall of the city of Kherson early in the war.

Zelensky also fired the country’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, and accused another 60 SBU officials of working against Ukraine’s interests.

Britain’s next prime minister. Voting continues this week among members of the U.K. Conservative parliamentary party to whittle down the field down to two candidates. A third ballot is set to be held today, with Rishi Sunak, Kemi Badenoch, Liz Truss, Penny Mordaunt, and Tom Tugendhat still in the running.


Keep an Eye On

Khashoggi lawyer detained. Asim Ghafoor, a U.S. citizen and former lawyer for the murdered Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, was arrested by Emirati authorities and sentenced to three years in prison on charges of money laundering and tax evasion.

The Virginia-based Ghafoor was detained by Emirati authorities while changing planes at a Dubai airport, and his arrest was coordinated with U.S. authorities, according to UAE media. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a human rights group that counts Ghafoor as a board member, said the lawyer was unaware of any charges against him and had recently transited Dubai without incident.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

Join the Conversation

Commenting on this and other recent articles is just one benefit of a Foreign Policy subscription.

Already a subscriber? .

Join the Conversation

Join the conversation on this and other recent Foreign Policy articles when you subscribe now.

Not your account?

Join the Conversation

Please follow our comment guidelines, stay on topic, and be civil, courteous, and respectful of others’ beliefs.

You are commenting as .

More from Foreign Policy

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a commission on military-technical cooperation with foreign states in 2017.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a commission on military-technical cooperation with foreign states in 2017.

What’s the Harm in Talking to Russia? A Lot, Actually.

Diplomacy is neither intrinsically moral nor always strategically wise.

Officers with the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) wait outside an apartment in Kharkiv oblast, Ukraine.
Officers with the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) wait outside an apartment in Kharkiv oblast, Ukraine.

Ukraine Has a Secret Resistance Operating Behind Russian Lines

Modern-day Ukrainian partisans are quietly working to undermine the occupation.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron wave as they visit the landmark Brandenburg Gate illuminated in the colors of the Ukrainian flag in Berlin on May 9, 2022.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron wave as they visit the landmark Brandenburg Gate illuminated in the colors of the Ukrainian flag in Berlin on May 9, 2022.

The Franco-German Motor Is on Fire

The war in Ukraine has turned Europe’s most powerful countries against each other like hardly ever before.

U.S. President Joe Biden holds a semiconductor during his remarks before signing an executive order on the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.
U.S. President Joe Biden holds a semiconductor during his remarks before signing an executive order on the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.

How the U.S.-Chinese Technology War Is Changing the World

Washington’s crackdown on technology access is creating a new kind of global conflict.