The longer this conflict drags on, the more dangerous it gets. Can President Biden negotiate us out of this mess before it’s too late?
U.S. President Joe Biden’s recently concluded trip to the Middle East was a mixed bag of results.
On one hand, Mr. Biden returned from the trip with a strong, renewed commitment to the U.S.-Israel partnership. The White House just issued a strongly worded joint statement with Israel promising, in no uncertain terms, to prevent Iran’s rogue government from arming itself, or its terror proxies, with a nuclear weapon.
On the other hand, if the Biden Administration was hoping to pressure Saudi Arabia to produce more oil in the short term, it didn’t work. As French President Emmanuel Macron remarked only three weeks ago, the Saudis are already producing at their maximum capacity.
The Kingdom did indicate openness to increasing capacity long term, possibly even within the next several years. Unfortunately, that won’t do anything in terms of lowering the average price Americans are paying at the pump now.
July’s big ease in gas prices is largely due to a release from the U.S. strategic oil reserves. That strategy, while a savvy one, isn’t guaranteed to lower the price permanently. Combined with various gas-tax holidays, which expire, this particular two-pronged approach is likely only a temporary one.
With the strategic oil reserve depleted, and gas-tax holidays expired, the price of a gallon of gasoline will likely rebound back to $5, probably higher- and sooner, rather than later.
The next option after Saudi Arabia may be…Russia.
It might be time to reevaluate and recalibrate U.S. policies and positions with regard to Russia and the conflict in Ukraine. For one thing, the current strategies aren’t really working.
The Russian ruble is as strong as it has ever been, Vladimir Putin is still firmly entrenched in power, and the actions of the West have pushed Russia into a much closer relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.
The CCP has practically counter-balanced every economic chess move Western powers have made during this conflict by increasing imports of Russian energy.
What’s more, Vladimir Putin, is winning his war of attrition in Ukraine.
President Biden and the U.S. might not even have much of a choice in another 6 months. The impact the conflict in Ukraine is having on the U.S. is as nothing compared to the hold Russia enjoys over the economies and energy needs of EU nations.
If Europe gives, the United States will have to either follow suit or be left behind, marginalized.
And the EU might have to give: Higher gas prices are one thing; higher gas prices making everything, including food and shelter, much more expensive are another.
Millions of EU citizens freezing to death this winter because Russia cut the energy flowing through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline is quite another.
It isn’t that Putin might do this; he is already doing it.
“Russia is blackmailing us,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters on July 20, 2022. “Russia is using energy as a weapon. And therefore in any event, whether a partial major cutoff of Russian gas or a total cutoff of Russia gas, Europe needs to be ready.”
The EU is already asking its members to cut gas consumption by 15%.
For comparison with this measure, Russian gas supplies to Europe were reduced by 60% last month. Currently, Russia has the vital pipeline shut down completely for 10 days for “maintenance”. The skeptical are warning it may not ever be coming back on, let alone on July 21, and certainly not at pre-Ukraine capacity.
“Russia is intensifying is commodities war against Europe by freezing gas supplies through Nord Stream 1,” reports CNBC, quoting Velina Tchakarova, directors for AIES. “It must be seen as a harbinger of a total gas embargo ahead of the winter season, as European storage capacities are not filled to the required extent, and the governments of European countries heavily dependent on Russian gas supplies will come under immense economic pressure.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party is buying all the Russian oil and natural gas Vladimir Putin can sell.
The U.S. has a list of diplomatic concerns about Russia as long as Joe Biden’s resume. Who better to hammer out a seemingly impossible compromise than a great conciliator like President Biden?
Even as things currently are, the global situation being caused by Russia’s transgression into the Ukraine, is untenable. Things can’t go on like this forever, even if things never get any worse.
And things almost certainly will get worse.
The longer the conflict in Ukraine drags on, the more likely the rest of NATO, including the U.S. might get dragged in.
In addition to the extra leverage Putin will have once winter hits and European countries are hostage to their desperate energy needs- how will the world react when Moscow finally captures Kiev and arrests Ukraine’s hero president Zelensky?
There is also a possibility Putin won’t stop with Kiev.
Members of Putin’s government have started threatening to take back Alaska of late. It might be idle chatter, ratcheted up rhetoric designed to please the Russian electorate in support of Putin, not a communication of a genuine military strategy or a change in official policy.
When President Biden called Putin a “war criminal,” for instance, Biden wasn’t proposing a military tribunal to try Putin as such. When Biden suggested Putin should be removed from office, he was not announcing U.S. military operation “reverse shoehorn” to pry Putin from his post.
It is possible that Russian politicians, in a similar fashion, are expressing personal sentiment rather than official policy or position.
Before the world finds out the answer, someone needs to stop this conflict. Whatever humanity’s current problems, from famine to astronomical fuel prices, war can only make them worse.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)