Every sanction imposed on Russia, or fear of sanctions, has curbed the supply of gas and oil on the world market that hikes prices. Unfortunately, the European Union, unlike China, is willing to pay this higher price, even though in rubles. Self-assertion and strength is nowhere to be seen in Europe's response, writes Jaak Madison.
Russia has already cut off natural gas supply to Finland, Bulgaria and Poland. This week also the Netherlands joined this noble club of countries that have refused to pay for gas in rubles, and Denmark is expected to be completely cut off soon. Thus the initial agreements not to pay for gas in rubles are in general honored among the European states, but as we can see, there are other European countries, led by Germany and Italy, that meekly acquiesce to Vladimir Putin's blackmail.
Where is the solidarity and unity of Europe? Instead of collectively withstanding to Russia's illegal demands and thus sending out a strong unified message that gas will not be payed for in rubles, as was originally stated, some countries are instead bowing to Putin's demands and leaving the other individual member states uncomfortable about their proclaimed audacity.
However, the apparently unacceptable payments in rubles have been quietly allowed to go through. Even though it is not admitted in so many words, the signal from the European Commission is clear enough: that which is not legally strictly forbidden is actually permitted.
It is absurd that the European Union is handing out guidelines on how to circumvent the sanctions it has itself imposed. Why demand not paying in rubles if it is allowed to open an account in Gazprombank where euros are converted into rubles, which results in the transaction being made in the latter anyway.
In its fear of being deprived of gas, the European Union forgets that Russia needs our payments to keep the country and the army afloat. At the moment, the member states are acting as though Putin does not necessarily need to sell gas to Europe, and so we are putting up with this humiliation.
The European Union buys more than 70 percent of Russia's fossil fuel exports. For Russia, supplying gas to Europe is a matter of survival. However, soon there might be very little demand for Russian gas. Increasing China's supply capacity will take a lot of time and investment, but gas will be sold for a pittance compared to what European countries are prepared to pay now. In that case, Russia would have to cut back on its gas production, which is also damaging in the long term as restarting production later on is time-consuming and expensive.
Putin cannot afford to cut off gas for the whole of Europe, only to some individual states and threaten the others who does not want to dance to his tune. Europe, unlike China, does not understand Russia's weakness and its own strength in this regard.
There has been a lot of blaming of Hungary in recent days for breaking the EU unity. By devising schemes for paying for gas in rubles, Hungary makes the EC look as if scoring an own goal, while the countries that had dignity to resist and so stood firmly by their promises are now pushed into shadows as the talk of a unified response is no longer relevant.
While Viktor Orban's actions in this regard are certainly to be condemned, his influence is minimal compared to that of Germany, Italy and France, the actual real big financiers of the Russian state apparatus. Germany is still paying Putin €200 million a day. It is convenient to focus on the smaller players and so we hide behind Hungary's actions.
Putin is appeased knowing that the flow of bloody money is still filling up his war chest. Despite the sanctions and the slogans of European Union leaders, Russia's revenues from fossil fuel sales have almost doubled since the start of the war.
Even though the volumes of natural sales have fallen, the price peak has at the same time risen precisely because of it. Every sanction imposed on Russia, or even a fear of sanctions, has reduced the supply of oil and gas on the world market and thus pushed the price up. Unfortunately, the European Union, unlike China, is willing to pay this price, even though in rubles. It seems that the self-assertion and strength in holding up to Russia's demands is not something we should expect from the European Union.
Now that the European Council has agreed on the ban of most Russian crude oil imports, there is a risk now that the price will be going up again. During the agreed six-months transition period to move away from Russian crude oil, the EU will be financing Russia's military action in Ukraine. In Estonia, it is no different, Gazprom Neft's subsidiary ship has transported an extraordinary amount of oil to Estonia in recent months that has been used to fuel ships here. Nevertheless, in the press, only Hungary is in the lime light. After all, who wants to see the plank in their own eyes.
Six months is a long time for the European Union to keep financing the war in Ukraine by buying Russian oil. Does Ukraine have six months? The situation on the front line is very difficult and Ukraine needs firm and quick decisions. By the end of the year, the situation could be drastically different from what it is now, and if the war were to be over, I believe, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz would like to carry on doing business with Russia as if nothing had even happened. With this in mind, they are calling Putin regularly to discuss "peace" negotiations, and after agreeing with Putin they could impose these peace terms on Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Russia's gas and oil is like a drug that Europe has been using for a long time, but now it needs to be weaned off it. Yes, it is painful, but because of Europeans' addiction, men, women and children are dying every day in Ukraine. For some, death is agonizing as some women and children have to experience what happened in Bucha. Putin would not be able to attack Ukraine in the way he did if he had not been so sure that the export of fossil fuels, which keeps the Russian economy afloat, would not end.
How could German Chancellor Scholz tell a Ukrainian woman who was raped and whose husband has fallen on the front line that Germany is not able give up Russian gas for fear of a few percentage points fall in GDP?
If Germany really can't give up gas in the near future, it could at least make up for it by supplying Ukraine with more arms. Germany is the world's fourth largest arms exporter. The production potential is there, all that is lacking is the political will. Perhaps Scholz is oscillating because of his Social Democratic Party colleague, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, still wields considerable influence?
Every euro paid for Russian gas or oil should automatically go toward defending Ukraine. To give Putin heaps of money and then to give Ukraine no more than a pinch and talk about solidarity with Ukraine is ridiculous. The biggest addicts among the European Union countries, led by Germany, must compensate for the damage they inflict on the indirect victims of their actions. If you want cheap but bloody gas from Russia, at least absolve yourself from the blame of supporting the war in Ukraine through providing it with money and arms. Even then, would Russian gas and oil still be worth it?
To avoid so-called energy starvation in Europe, we should put the costly and ineffective green revolution on pause at the moment, and invest instead in nuclear power plants and recycle the fossil fuels in our ground. Be it coal or, in the case of Estonians, oil shale. This implies getting our hands dirty, but at least we won't have the blood of Ukrainians on our sleeves.
The current green energy technology does not provide us with energy independence, especially in winter. Let's not forget, the green revolution is partly to blame for European countries becoming dependent on Russian gas. Germany has shut down its nuclear power plants at the insistence of the Greens and Russian gas was considered then ideal transitional energy. We now face the result of that judgement.
Editor: Kristina Kersa