NYU and U. of Piraeus Program’s Panel Spotlights Ukraine, Energy

ATHENS – Dramatic turns in international relations and the global energy market form a perfect backdrop for the University of Piraeus’ new Master’s program in American Studies: Politics, Strategy and Economics, which was one of the sponsors, along with the Council for International Relations – Greece (CFIR-GR) of a recent panel discussion titled ‘Integration and Disintegration in the Eastern Mediterranean: Energy, Security and Migration.’

The keynote speaker, Carolyn Kissane, PhD, Academic Director of the Center for Global Affairs at the NYU School of Professional Studies, along with Konstantina Botsiou, PhD, professor of Modern History and International Politics at the University Piraeus, who offered introductory remarks at the event, spoke with The National Herald about both the transatlantic energy security situation in light of current developments and Greece’s potential as an international energy hub.

The conversation began with Dr. Kissane – who is one of the American Studies professors – saying how wonderful the city of Athens has become – but it did not take long for pleasantries to yield to the realities farther north, and in particular, the mindset of President Putin. “I think I was part of the camp that said he was becoming increasingly unhinged, but someone asked me ‘is he now unhinged or was he always unhinged from the way we think of rational actors,’ so I now lean toward the latter,” she said. “If you look at his career – even back to his days in the KGB and in 1999 under Yeltsin, 2008 in Georgia, 2014 in Ukraine, in Syria – he is not afraid of intervention, of using Russia’s power levers.”

Carolyn Kissane, Academic Director of the Center for Global Affairs, NYU.

She noted that, “there is also the story of his paranoia, what happened to him during COVID, when he was very isolated – now, in effect, he has isolated Russia.” In addition to the flow of refugees out of Ukraine, which is making Russia a pariah state, she said, “there is an exodus of people from Russia,” especially talented young people, that is darkening its own future.

Kissane addressed the complexities of the process of weaning the world off Russian energy, and oil and gas in general, noting that in the United States “getting permits for LNG terminals is much easier than for offshore wind facilities.” Regarding the West’s Green agenda “there is the ambition, and the reality” – two different things.

Weaning Europe off Russian energy, she said, “is not going to happen overnight. The EU gets 40-45% of their gas from Russia, and even if you could get LNG from the United States and Qatar and other places to Europe tomorrow, they will still come up short. It’s a longer transition – 2030 and beyond for a complete weaning-off.”

Asked about the fear that Russia could cut Europe off abruptly, Kissane said that, “at current prices Russia is bringing in about 850 million euro per day… At this point, when they are being suffocated by sanctions, they are not going to turn it off. There is some political and economic rationality there.”

The subject of the United States pulling back its support for the EastMed pipeline has several narratives according to Kissane, including Washington accommodating Turkey, but also she noted that given the United States’ Green energy agenda, “supporting a gas pipeline” is problematic. She also emphasized, “it’s not an easy pipeline to build” – sections would be two miles deep and there would be high maintenance costs. “But there is probably space given the Ukraine situation, so they may do a ‘180’…the compromise may be ‘we are not going to build a pipeline but we will build more LNG capacity’” related to discovered and potential fields.

Kissane likes Greece’s potential as an energy hub. “I think on the LNG front, If Greece were to build one or two new regassification plants, getting gas from Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, and the United States, I definitely think it’s possible. Again, EastMed could be resuscitated.”

As for the war itself, Kissane said there is reason to believe Putin’s aim is to slice off the east and the south – perhaps to create an independent ‘East Ukraine’ next to a rump state outside NATO but with the EU door open for the future. A major concern is that with all the bloodshed on both sides, it will be difficult for them to compromise. Botsiou noted a face saving route must be opened for Moscow, “but that is the job of China, Turkey, and Israel, who are trying to be interlocutors.”

Botsiou struck an optimistic note on the Aegean front, saying “maybe the energy crisis is an opportunity for Greece and Turkey to come together.”

Kissane and Botsiou touched briefly on the excitement over the new program, whose Director is Aristotle Tziampiris, PhD and is the first of its kind in Greece as well as the second English language program of the Dept. of International and European Relations of U of P. It is run in cooperation with NYU, with Kissane the contact person in New York.

She said, “I’m impressed with how quickly we were able to get it up and running. The proposal predated them, but the conversations began last spring – and we began in the fall 2021 with five NYU faculty teaching. We love the cooperation between U of P NYU led by with Provost Katherine Fleming. Our faculty at NYU are delighted to be part of it. The students and discussions are of high caliber,” she said of the program which next year will probably and online.

Born and raised in the Bronx, NY, Kissane is one of eight children of parents from Ireland, so she understands the diaspora experience – and she has truly global knowledge and experience, having worked in Japan, Leningrad, and Kazakhstan. After consulting and teaching at Columbia, and then Colgate University, she was recruited in 2005 for NYU’s then-new Center for Global Affairs and has been there ever since.


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