The Real Reason For War in the Ukraine: Strategic and Critical Minerals now owned by Russia

The Real Reason For War in the Ukraine: Strategic and Critical Minerals now owned by Russia.

For decades, a country’s relative energy security was defined almost exclusively by its stock of hydrocarbon reserves, its wind-, solar-, and hydropower generation potential, as well as the physical or commercial ties it maintained with foreign partners to ensure security of supply and to meet domestic energy demand.

As environmental concerns have increased, national governments began more methodically steering toward low-emission technologies that could efficiently make use of their countries’ natural resource potential. Critical minerals, such as cobalt, titanium, palladium, and various rare earth metals — essential components for manufacturing these “green” technologies — have, thus, become seminal for advanced economies pursuing an energy transition away from fossil fuels.

Russia’s motivation for invading Ukraine surely encompasses a wide range of strategic, ideological, political, and economic reasons. And while it may not have been a main factor in prompting the full-scale aggression launched on February 24, 2022, one consideration in the Kremlin was likely Ukraine’s large reserves of critical metals and their global strategic importance in the decades to come.

Is Russia’s aggression in Ukraine about mineral resources?

Europe’s long-term strategy to phase out fossil fuel use has endangered Russia’s main source of state revenue, forcing the Kremlin to focus on acquiring, one way or another, a new, future-proof high-value export — critical minerals.

Despite benefiting from the fourth-largest rare earth metals reserves in the world, Russia has always struggled to scale its output in this sector. Although the country is a major global supplier of palladium, scandium, and titanium, as well as an important seller of nickel and cobalt, it was not perceived as one of the main players in global markets, dominated first and foremost by China.

In this context, Russia’s incursions into the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine may not be motivated solely by military calculations, considering that most of Ukraine’s critical materials reserves are located there. Similar reasons were likely at least partly behind the annexation of Crimea in 2014, when Russian military actions also notably targeted Ukrainian natural gas reserves off the coast of the peninsula (totaling up to 13 trillion cubic meters).

Ukraine Strategic and Critical Minerals now owned by Russia

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