Nick Ottens

Freelance analyst, editor, reporter

February 11, 2014
by Nick Ottens

German Green Energy Policy Drives Ally into Russia’s Embrace

One of my most recent articles for the Atlantic Sentinel explains how Germany’s green energy policies are proving a headache for companies in the Netherlands who are turning to Russia’s Gazprom for a steady supply of electricity instead.

German law prioritizes access on the country’s power grid for electricity that is produced by renewable sources such as solar and wind. On days when there is plenty of sunshine or wind, Germany produces an energy surplus. That surplus is partly dumped on the grid of its neighbors who are expected to absorb the fluctuations.

“This has already prompted the Czech Republic and Poland to announce that they will block these unwanted imports at their borders,” I write. “The Dutch do still import electricity and are even expanding their ties with Germany’s power grid.” When that happens, coal and gas plants in the Netherlands will have to regularly shut down and start up again to respond to the fluctuations — an expensive procedure that puts price stability at risk.

The three largest energy providers in the Netherlands — Eneco, Essent and Nuon — are all struggling to cope with the combination of cheap “green” energy imports from Germany and idle coal and gas plants. Sweden’s Vattenfall, which owns Nuon, posted a €1.6 billion loss on its Dutch holdings last week.

Click here to read the whole piece.

October 29, 2013
by Nick Ottens

How Europhiles and Eurosceptics Oversimplify the EU

My latest commentary for The National Interest looks into the simplified rhetoric of both proponents and opponents of deeper political integration in Europe. I argue that while the Euroskeptics certainly exaggerate both the malevolence and the influence of the Europhiles, the latter unfairly treat their counterparts as fanatics.

Emblematic was a declaration put out earlier this month in the name of all major parties in the European Parliament which lumped together “nationalism, anti-Semitism and other forms of ethnic intolerance on the part of movements opposing the European project” and naturally derided them. It described nationalism as “primitive” and argued that Eurosceptics were attempting to undermine the peace that has been achieved since the end of World War II.

The reason fantasies of European federalization will remain just that is that its advocates underestimate the appeal nationalism (“still,” they would say) has. I write, “They not only seek to do away with any sense of national attachment, but honestly don’t understand why anyone would not want to.”

Please, click here to read the whole thing.

August 29, 2013
by Nick Ottens

Russia Expanding Middle East Influence at America’s Expense?

My latest for the Swiss security blog Offiziere examines the “unlikely alliance, of sorts,” between America’s biggest ally in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, and its former Cold War rival Russia. The two have a strong common interest in containing jihadism in the region while the United States seem uncertain what to do.

Whereas the United States is apparently torn between its interests, which should compel it to back the military’s takeover in Egypt as it is more likely than the Muslim Brotherhood to keep the Suez Canal open and the peace treaty with Israel in place, and its values, which explain why so many Americans are appalled by the overthrow of a democratically-elected government, Russia has no such reservations. Its values inspire support for Christians in the Middle East — in Egypt, where Copts were discriminated against while the Muslim Brotherhood was in power, and in Syria, where all non-Sunni Muslims are victims of persecution and violence at the hands of Islamist rebels — while it has a clear interest in fighting radical Islam.

Still, I argue, an outright alliance between the two is unlikely. America won’t relinquish its influence in Egypt and Russia “should think twice before trying to step into its place.”

Improved Russian military relations with Egypt would rightly be interpreted in Washington as a challenge to its dominant role in the region and could compel the United States to contain Russian influence elsewhere. A Georgia in NATO might not be worth the price of pulling Egypt back into Russia’s orbit.

Click here to read the whole article.

August 12, 2013
by Nick Ottens

Zero Problems Abroad Made Many Problems at Home

I’m published in The National Interest today! The website runs a commentary of mine about Turkish foreign policy in Syria, “Zero Problems Abroad Made Many Problems at Home,” in which I argue that the country’s support for the uprising against Assad has exacerbated the Kurdish security problem on its southern frontier.

This is what Turkey’s policy has, if not created, then certainly facilitated: the rise of radical Islamism in Syria and a Kurdish separatism within its own borders that is emboldened by the success of Kurds seeking autonomy in Iraq and Syria as well.

Please, read the whole thing.

July 13, 2013
by Nick Ottens

Germany, Netherlands Resist “Ever Closer Union”

My latest for The Prague Post discusses mounting Euroskepticism in Germany and the Netherlands. While there isn’t majority support yet for leaving the euro, let alone the European Union, almost half of all Dutch and German citizens does believe joining the single currency was a mistake. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’ anti-European Freedom Party is the largest in the polls.

Growing frustration with the whole European project in continental Western European tends to be underestimated, I believe, in most English language press. I devoted a paragraph to that in the article:

The Netherlands’ resistance to deeper European integration must have startled some of the English-language press that last year predicted the incoming Labor-Liberal coalition would pursue a more pro-European policy. The Financial Times described the parties’ spectacular performance in elections that year as “a decisive and surprising rebuke for populist Euroskeptic politics.” The Guardian predicted the country would tilt “the balance of power in the eurozone toward President François Hollande’s socialists in France and away from Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.”

Far from it, the Netherlands, if anything, has acted as a stronger German partner under the coalition government.

Be sure to read the whole article.