Russia has always used energy as a weapon to influence, coerce, and terrorize its neighbors and perceived enemies to the West. Now, cornered but far from crippled by sanctions that initially did not include energy exports and still do not in Europe, Putin is using his colossal energy power to retaliate.
Energy, of course, is a weapon of war. Putin’s army is targeting Ukrainian fuel depots, supply chains, and refineries in its brutal assault. Cutting off the other side’s access to gasoline, diesel, and oil is a tried and true tactic to gain a military upper hand. Ukraine may also have targeted Russian fuel storage facilities, according to reports of a strike on an oil depot in Belgorod, Russia.
Putin’s energy warfare is now spilling outside Ukraine. The late April 26 decision by Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom to cut off natural gas supply to Poland and Bulgaria is “blackmail,” as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. But the move was not unexpected for any student of recent Russian history.
The efficacy of energy as a foreign policy tool is something Russia grasped long ago, although it has used it more as the proverbial stick than carrot. It shut off gas to Ukraine and neighboring European countries in 2009, one of numerous such episodes, in an effort to force Ukraine to its knees in the midst of a brutal winter. It worked. Kyiv was forced to accept a deeply disadvantageous ten-year gas transit deal with Moscow, among other concessions. Russia did it again to Ukraine in 2014 over a payment dispute.
The Russia-Europe-U.S. fight over Putin’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, which Germany forswore only after Putin invaded Ukraine, is another of many examples. The 1,224 km, 55 billion cubic meter (bcm) capacity submarine natural gas pipeline from Ust-Luga, Russia (near the Estonian border) to Greifswald, Germany was never necessary for gas transit purposes. Europe already has 245 bcm pipeline capacity connecting it to Russia, with over 100 bcm unused. Rather, Russia wanted to bypass Ukraine as a gas transit country, and to deepen Germany’s dependency on Russian gas so that Europe would be too paralyzed by energy fears to oppose its invasion of Ukraine.
Thus far, Russia is winning at this game. The war he started may not be going Putin’s way, but his gamble that …read more
Source:: Time – World