It’s time for Western leaders to decide if the uncompromising Ukrainian president’s determination to recapture the entirety of his nation from Russia is worth their own citizens freezing to death. Yesterday, Moscow announced it would indefinitely suspend fuel deliveries through the Nord 1 pipeline until NATO lifts sanctions. According to Interfax:
“Problems in pumping arose because of the sanctions imposed against our country and against a number of companies by Western states, including Germany and the UK. There are no other reasons that would lead to problems with pumping,” he [Dmitry Peskov, press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation] told reporters.
He explained that “one unit remained working, and it malfunctions, and breakdowns occur there, and this leads to a stop in pumping.”
“Given that the sanctions continue to work, given that they bring absolute confusion, legal, practical, to everything related to the maintenance of all components and assemblies, now for now we can hope for this single unit that we will somehow be able to put it in order. “
No one believes this is anything other than a political calculation. As of July, the Russian ruble was the strongest currency in the world. China has been buying up Russian oil at a record pace. President Biden vastly exaggerated the predictions of Russia’s immediate demise due to Western sanctions. And the war in Ukraine drags on.
Crushing the energy supply to the West becomes a coordinated effort when OPEC agrees to cut production because oil prices are falling. So much for President Biden’s big win of a 0.1% increase after he visited Saudi Arabia. And you can kiss falling prices at the gas pump goodbye as global supply tightens, just in time for Biden to start restocking the strategic reserve he drained. That’s right: you will compete with the government that uses your money to purchase oil and gas.
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All of these market forces will converge just in time for winter. European nations started sounding the alarm about energy shortages over the summer. Bloomberg reports that the continent’s ability to get through the winter depends on the weather. German officials warned that even with gas storage at 95% full, it would only last two and a half months if Russia switched off the Nord pipeline. As of Sunday, German storage stood at 85%. The coldest part of the season is more than two and a half months away.
Further, the European Union is banking on a voluntary 15% demand reduction for gas. It will become mandatory if necessary. Businesses are already closing, and the euro is sliding. The decades-long war on fossil fuels is coming up short. Now everyone can see it was a bunch of virtue signaling at home while politicians slyly purchased Russian oil and gas to meet demand. And people are taking to the streets.
In Prague, 70,000 came out to protest the government, the EU, and NATO over rising energy prices and growing inflation, projected to peak at 20% in the coming months. According to ABC News, the issue united the far right and the far left, along with everyone else. In an article titled “Heat or Eat?” Reuters describes growing unrest across Europe:
British grassroots group “Don’t Pay UK” is calling for people to boycott energy bills from Oct. 1, while the trade union-backed “Enough is Enough” campaign kicked off a series of rallies and actions in mid-August calling for pay rises, rent caps, cheaper energy and food, and taxes on the rich.
A worsening cost-of-living crisis across Europe has already seen workers in France, Spain and Belgium go out on strike in the public transport, health and aviation sectors, pushing for higher wages to help them cope with rocketing inflation.
The United States trends a few months behind Europe, but President Biden seems intent on pursuing his green agenda amid rising costs and higher interest rates. French President Emmanuel Macron begged Biden to start drilling earlier this summer on an open mic, which had no effect. If the United States will not step in to help mitigate the energy crisis, it is unclear how long the rest of NATO will maintain its resolve amid growing economic and political instability at home.
An intelligent foreign policy would include telling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to stop his virtual publicity tour. This week it included virtually ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. He was pimping Advantage Ukraine’s program, looking for direct foreign investment. Before he worries about rebuilding Ukraine, his Western patrons should direct him to use his troops and the billions in equipment we sent to regain as much land as possible this month. Then it is time to go to the negotiating table with Putin before winter sets in.
Russia invaded Crimea in 2014 without a significant response from the NATO countries. He waited to continue his Ukraine invasion until Joe Biden was president. The debacle in Afghanistan probably encouraged him. Unless the U.S. and the EU rapidly shift their domestic energy policy and stop the insane agricultural policies that will reduce food supplies, negotiation is the only way to end the conflict. The Biden administration is not going to shift, and so far, the EU has been slow to do so.
Putin is not leaving the part of Eastern Ukraine he has held for eight years with almost no objection. And the leaders of Western nations will lose political capital at an alarming pace if they expect their people to go hungry and cold this winter due to their green energy folly. Things go sideways in a hurry when people get cold and hungry. Soon 70,000 people in the streets of Prague could look like the good old days.