For the past several years, the argument from some — most notably Germany — has been that if there is a greater interdependence between Russia and the rest of Europe, Russia would be a more friendly actor. Perhaps we can all just get along? Vladimir Putin had other plans. Aside from not stopping him from invading neighbor Ukraine, the interdependence might have emboldened him. If Europe relied on Russia for core necessities of life — natural gas for heating and oil for petrol/diesel — it couldn’t stand up to Putin when he decided to take Ukraine and others by force. Right?
Hundreds of millions of people are feeling horror and shock as they see what Putin and his low-paid soldiers and mercenaries are doing to babies, children, pregnant women, and others in Ukraine. One response from many of these people is to cut off or cut down on fossil fuels from Russia. In perhaps the most dramatic and powerful response, the EU has pledged to cut imports of gas from Russia by ⅔ in 2022. If achieved, this will be a crushing blow to Russia’s economy, and especially to government revenue.
Currently, “Europe imports bout 40 percent of its gas and more than a quarter of its oil from Russia,” far more than the US or UK import. If the EU can do it, this large cut in demand will have a dramatic effect on Russia. “Most Russian pipelines are heading to Europe,” said Thomas Pellerin-Carlin, the director for the energy center at the Jacques Delors Institute, a French think tank. “The cornerstone of Russia’s economy and of its regime is based on exports of oil and gas.”
As far as completely cutting off its use of Russian oil and gas, the aim is to achieve that “well before” 2030. Part of the solution will be increasing efficiency, part of it is using different sources of heat and energy, and part is simply changing suppliers.
“Some within the E.U. have warned for years about relying on Russian fossil fuels. By mid-February, as Russia continued to amass troops at the Russian border, E.U. officials seemed to take the issue more seriously and sketched out new plans,” the Washington Post writes.
“The full-scale invasion of Ukraine accelerated these and other efforts. Germany quickly halted a controversial project, Nord Stream 2, an undersea pipeline meant to deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany. Since then, there appears to be momentum for more aggressive E.U. moves.”
Of course, if the EU makes these moves and is quickly weening itself off of Russian fossil fuels, Putin may decide to cut the cord even sooner. It would naturally hurt Russia’s finances, but Putin may decide that making Europe suffer — go without natural gas for heating before it’s ready — would be worth it.
We shall see. The wheels are now fully in motion to reverse the growing interdependence based around fossil fuels. The idea that Putin will play nice simply because Russia makes a lot of money off of Europe is dead — not as distinctly dead as thousands of Ukrainian civilians and thousands of Russian soldiers who were somehow duped into fighting for this despot, but dead as a plan and theory of friendship.
Featured image courtesy of Statista.
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