There was already a gap between Western rhetoric Russia Sanctions and their measures. Now there is a yawning abyss.
n Monday morning, as the world struggled to process the horrifying images of dead civilians in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, EU imports of Russian gas surged to their highest level since the invasion began.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the “despicable attacks” were evidence that Russia was committing war crimes Ukraine and that Britain would respond with increased sanctions and military aid. He promised to do everything in his power “to starve out Putin’s war machine.”
Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, said further sanctions were imminent. Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht called for an EU ban on imports of Russian gas. The EU ambassadors are expected to meet on Wednesday to discuss the matter. You must agree to turn off the taps.
The sanctions that have already been imposed on Moscow are impressive in their speed, scale and scope. They will likely cause Russia’s economy to contract by 10 percent this year — a painful but bearable contraction.
Western governments continue to send money to a regime whose troops arbitrarily execute civilians and leave their bodies in the streets.
According to Energy Intelligence, state-owned Gazprom made more than $20 billion from European gas sales in the first two months of the year, almost as much as in all of 2020. Russia’s trade surplus has increased over the past two months amid rising energy prices Records broken. The ruble has stabilized and the Moscow Stock Exchange has reopened.
On Sunday evening the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Notably, the former German Chancellor and French President verified: “I invite Ms. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy to visit Bucha to see what the 14-year policy of concessions to Russia has resulted in… to face-to-face tortured Ukrainian men to see and women.”
Their successors want to wean the continent off Russian oil and gas, just as Augustine has yet to do. The moral stain of any delay will take decades to fade. Lithuania became the first EU member state to stop importing Russian oil on Sunday.
The country’s president, Gitanas Nauseda, encouraged his allies to tighten the tendons: “If we can do it, so can the rest of Europe.”
But while the moral imperative of cutting off Russia from the world economy has become unquestionable, the practical logistics remain daunting. When Donald Trump tried to get Europe to swap Russian gas for US shale oil, calling the policy “molecules of freedom,” he was roundly mocked.
EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has now asked US President Joe Biden to deliver a further 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas to Europe this year. But there are major problems with the plan.
The surge would be equivalent to only about a tenth of Europe’s imports of Russian gas in 2021. After years of underinvestment, US frackers are “maxed out” with their production and appear to have no additional capacity to liquefy more gas.
In addition, the main European facilities to ‘regasify’ LNG upon arrival are all in the wrong place – Spain and France – and lack the interconnections needed to get the gas across Europe to where it needs it most is needed.
Germany, the country most in need of weaning from Russian gas, has no LNG terminals at all. There are plans to build two, but that could take years. There is also a global shortage of floating terminals that could serve as a stopgap measure.
One bright spot is that Asian demand for LNG is falling sharply. Chinese, Japanese and Indian imports of LNG fell 11 percent, 14 percent and 25 percent in the first three months of the year compared to 2021.
None of the reasons for this are likely to be good. These include the fact that the new Chinese lockdowns in the wake of Beijing’s disastrous zero-Covid policy are hampering a recovery; many Asian countries are switching back to cheaper, dirtier hydrocarbons; and India in particular is now buying more Russian oil.
However, the drop in demand combined with warmer weather could give Europe some respite.
The push to develop alternative sources – be they nuclear, renewable or imported from slightly less dire regimes – will help improve energy security in the long run. In the short run, the only way to weather a sharp supply shock is to reduce demand.
So the West will have to decide what sacrifices it is willing to make. Of course, it’s easy to call for an immediate embargo when you’re below subsistence level and the prospect of higher energy prices forces you to choose between heating and eating. But collectively, Europe can absorb the shock if it protects the vulnerable.
Politicians are clearly concerned about a public backlash and perhaps even civil unrest if energy prices continue to rise. But the necessary measures – turning down the thermostat a few degrees, reducing speed limits, restricting air travel, making our homes more energy efficient – are certainly tolerable.
Last week, parliaments and chancellerys across Europe debated the question: How can we decouple from Russian oil and gas? Today it must be: how can we not?
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/europe-must-turn-off-russian-gas-taps-to-starve-putins-brutal-war-machine-41525127.html Europe must turn off Russian gas supplies to starve out Putin’s brutal war machine