European Energy Trap

The original failure is not the energy dependence of Europeans from Russia

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr

One can imagine how the situation would be now with an American president Donald Trump. Someone in Moscow would rub their hands, and the unity in the appearance of the Europeans would hardly be as determined as it is at present. Hopefully, politicians from Brussels to Berlin and London to Paris remember in this hour that already the next president of the United States might not be a transatlantic friend like Joe Biden.

While his approval rating is dropping dangerously at home, Biden can score points abroad and improve the U.S.’s international standing. But that doesn’t sit well with many of his compatriots, who think along the lines of “America first” and thus in reality support autocratic aspirations – a dangerous path that Trump had already led the U.S. down. Biden’s increasing unpopularity is unlikely to change due to the fact that the Europeans now actually want to buy environmentally harmful fracking gas from overseas.

It is hard to understand why ludicrous sanctions exist against Russian private citizens while the real lever that helps finance Putin’s war on Ukraine is left untouched. Germany, for example – according to Robert Habeck (Alliance 90/The Greens), Federal Minister of Economics and Climate Protection, – is still dependent on Russian natural gas until mid-2024 and is using this argument as justification to continue trading with Russia. A unified and convincing policy against Putin looks different, who now wants the natural gas to be paid for in rubles. Perhaps Germany will experience its decisive showdown next week, when one of the two sides will have to relent. So far, it is hard to imagine that Putin will give in.

A loss of Russian gas supplies would have a devastating impact not only on the German economy and most private households, but also on the entire European market. For the announced gas supplies from America can only cover ten percent of Europe’s demand in the short term.

There has long been criticism that Germany and Europe have become too dependent on Russia, and now we are seeing the consequences. But Germany’s energy agreements – given the country’s long and guilt-laden history with Russia – were seen not least as a guarantee of mutual trust by building reciprocal dependencies. It was assumed that the Russians would have no interest in completely throwing themselves over with us if they themselves have advantages through economic cooperation.

The project has failed. But how to solve the world’s problems without a giant country like Russia? Russia cannot be downgraded or dissolved. Isolated, it would be a constant threat to world peace.

The long-term mistakes were not made in the energy sector, but in geostrategic matters. The West, under U.S. leadership, has not made consistent efforts since the 1990s to integrate Russia into security structures while providing security guarantees to bordering countries without integrating them into NATO and thus not cornering Russia.

From the very beginning there have been no serious efforts to transform the former Soviet Union into a partner after its disintegration. If this had happened, even in America today hardly anyone would be talking about Europeans’ energy dependence on Russia.