Sanctions and embargoes backfired; the global market saved Vladimir Putin. Who will save the West?
Even as the U.S. and European nations sought to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for his actions in Ukraine via economic sanctions and embargoes, the Chinese Communist Party quietly doubled China’s imports of Russian energy.
From March 2022 through May 2022, China spent $18.9 billion on discounted oil, gas and coal imports from Russia- twice what it acquired the previous year during the same period.
“China is already buying essentially everything that Russia can export via pipelines and Pacific ports,” Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, admitted recently.
India is another nation taking good advantage of cheap Russian imports of oil and gas. The second most populous nation in the world sent Russia five times the amount of money it spent during the same period the previous year: $5.1 billion.
“Historically, India has taken very little Russian oil, but the war in Ukraine and Russian-origin oil embargoes by the European Union have led to a rebalancing in oil trade flows,” said Rystand Energy analyst Wei Cheong Ho of the enormous shift.
India and China are two major reasons economic embargoes and sanctions have failed to deter Russian aggression in the Ukraine in any way whatsoever. There are other reasons as well.
As July winds down and summer temperatures heat the hemisphere, winter seems a million miles away. It isn’t.
When Germany made the short-sighted decision to place so much of its critical energy needs at the whim of Vladimir Putin’s Nord Stream 1 pipeline, it may have signed away any hope of Ukrainian sovereignty. E.U. nations like Germany should perhaps, instead of useless sanctions, be hoping, fervently, that Ukraine is the extent of Vladimir Putin’s plans to extend the Russian empire in Europe.
Putin doesn’t have the German government over a barrel yet, but when winter comes, he will. When the cold weather hits, and an energy crisis means more than high prices at the pump, Putin will in short shrift be holding all the cards.
Germany isn’t just any nation in the E.U.; Germany is the wealthiest, the linchpin of the European Union.
Framing Germany’s lack of access to Russian energy lines as a transition away from fossil fuels won’t keep people alive this winter. Germans are already running out of firewood.
A transition to renewable energy would be exciting- if the world was in any way ready for it. We are so far from being able to flip that switch, most of the electricity in the U.S. is still generated by burning coal, natural gas, and petroleum.
It’s the very inconvenient truth about where electricity comes from, available in plain English on the U.S. Department of Energy website, which no one in the media likes mentioning. Members of the media will go out on a feeble limb to decry nuclear energy as racist, sexist and ageist before admitting electricity is currently generated by burning fossil fuels.
Evaluating the relative strength of Russia’s position also involves admitting another inconvenient fact: Embargoes and sanctions haven’t hurt Russia, the Russian economy or Vladimir Putin much; but they have severely diminished the U.S. and E.U. nations.
European leaders- or better yet, U.S. President Joe Biden- must end this conflict using diplomatic means.
To approach Putin for a sit-down now might involve eating a not-insubstantial amount of crow, but there has never been a better time to do it, with more at stake than there is right now.
In addition to holding Europe’s energy needs by the throat, and CCP leader Xi Jinping’s personal cell number in his contacts, Putin holds a number of American political prisoners, not least of which is WNBA basketball star and Olympic athlete Brittney Griner in his clutches.
Bringing Brittney Griner home would be a tremendous feather in the cap of the Biden Administration. Griner’s triumphant return stateside could be an important turning point for the White House and U.S.- Russia relations.
President Biden has, on numerous occasions, intensified political rhetoric against Vladimir Putin. While calling Putin a “war criminal” and suggesting he be “removed from office,” played very well in the U.S. media, isn’t likely to soften the Russian leader on humanitarian requests for prisoner release.
Vladimir Putin has also repeatedly called U.S. sanctions related to the Ukraine conflict, “akin to a declaration of war,” against Russia.
Citizens of the world sympathetic to the Ukrainian cause, of which there are many, were more than prepared to forgive Biden for expressing a heartfelt, if undiplomatic sentiment.
Putin might be less forgiving, so it’s a good thing Biden has built his career hammering out hard compromises between bitterly opposed factions.
Brittney Griner is hardly the only bone of contention between the U.S. and Russia. Diplomatic relations between the two countries haven’t been this acerbic since the Cold War.
The U.S., Ukraine and the E.U. didn’t lose this war when Russia invaded Ukraine. The war was lost before it began, right around the time the Nord Stream 1 pipeline gave Putin so much leverage over the E.U.’s energy needs.
It isn’t entirely the fault of short-sighted European Union leaders. Vladimir Putin had a major advantage the E.U. knew nothing about when it placed so many precious eggs in Moscow’s basket: Putin knew the invasion of Ukraine was coming all along.
The conflict in Ukraine caught world leaders, aside from President Joe Biden, by complete surprise. For this reason, the best solution to the current crisis is a time machine.
Barring that, the second best solution, as unpalatable as it may be for Western world leaders, is to bring Vladimir Putin, and Russia, back to the negotiating table with Ukrainian leaders to hammer out a compromise in this conflict.
There are worse things than being outmaneuvered by the nefarious schemes of Vladimir Putin- like mass starvation, people freezing to death in their homes this winter, and World War III.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)