Russia’s power over Europe 17

 Europe has allowed itself to become dependent on Russia for energy. To put themselves in such a position was folly beyond comprehension, and the Europeans only now beginning to realize it.  From Front Page Magazine:

Growing prosperous and confident on energy proceeds, Russia became increasingly assertive. It did not take the Kremlin long to figure out that it could use natural gas as a powerful lever. The idea is simple, but very effective: Friendly countries receive discounts, the less compliant are charged a premium, and troublemakers risk having their supplies cut off.


The last option especially causes cold shivers in Europe’s capitals given how vulnerable they are to such blackmail. To give an idea, Germany’s imports from Russia account for 43 percent of the country’s natural gas consumption. The figure is 70 percent in Greece and the Czech Republic, 60 percent in Austria, 83 percent in Lithuania, 46 percent in Poland, and 100 percent in Finland.


Three years ago Russia showed how serious it is about wielding its gas stick. On January 1, 2006, following months of bickering, the Kremlin suddenly cut off supplies to Ukraine. Since Ukraine is one of the world’s foremost consumers of natural gas of which a substantial portion was coming from Russia, the supply interruption in the middle of winter portended a national disaster. Even though the valves were reopened three days later, the episode sent a chilling message: “If you cross us, we will leave you out in the cold.”


Europe’s politicians got the point. The prospect of cutoffs and subsequent heat and electricity shortages looms like a nightmare in their minds. If they should be so afflicted in the middle of a winter, there is little chance they could politically survive the anger of their populations.


The situation is likely to grow worse in the years ahead. Should the EU continue in its misguided energy policies – chasing after inefficient renewable energy such as wind power – their dependence on Russian natural gas will only increase in the future. A recent paper by The George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies offered a bleak prognosis:


“Looking 25 years out, it is estimated that 80% of the EU’s natural gas will be imported, with Russia providing up to 60%, equating to one fifth of the overall EU energy mix coming from Russia in the form of pipeline natural gas.”


The Europeans’ cravenness at the Nice summit can thus largely be explained in terms of their dependence on Russian energy. Hard hit by the financial and economic crises, an energy squeeze is the last thing they need. With winter approaching, they know all too well that cutoffs would have devastating consequences. Conscious of its power, Moscow is making high demands even though it would rightly deserve the opprobrium normally reserved for international pariahs. Sadly, its EU “partners” have not choice but to go along, their initial indignation over Georgia discarded for the sake of energy security and political expediency.


The EU’s humiliation should serve as a warning to us. Energy is the lifeblood of modern nations, and countries are not really free as long as they depend on others for their crucial needs. If we fail to make ourselves energy independent, somewhere along the line we will end up just like the Europeans: weak, spineless and pathetic. Like them we will have our strings pulled by some wayward regime, and we will have no choice but to march to the tune of its drumbeat.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, December 9, 2008

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