Energy Dependence on Russia Fuels War in Ukraine – The Organization for World Peace
After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24and, much of the Western world was quick to impose sanctions on Russian imports and exports. Rightly fearful of triggering a global conflict with direct military intervention, a collective response was taken to crumbling the Russian economy and flooding Ukraine with defensive weapons, and more recently, offensive armament. Western sanctions have cut off Russian banks, frozen assets and sought to hit oligarchs close to Putin to deter further assaults. New efforts were made in early April to impose economic costs in sanction the families of Russian elites and ban new investments in Russia.
Western governments have tried to counter Russian military advances by supplying Ukraine with resources while harming the Russian economy. These countries are hoping that the depleted Russian economy will prevent the Kremlin from further prolonging a war which, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has killed 1,430 civilians. However, while the first sanctions initially caused the ruble to collapse, it has bounced back since.
Continued purchases of Russian energy by European countries have been one of the factors keeping the economy afloat. Following reports of war crimes in Bucha in early April, the EU banned Russian coal imports, but refrained from banning all Russian energy imports. The European economy is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas and oil, which account for 45% and 25% of the bloc’s imports respectively.
Currently, Europe supplies Russia with around $850 million a day for oil and gas. This money will continue to allow the Kremlin to finance its aggression in Ukraine, killing thousands of civilians and fostering the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. However, recent years have brought a huge push for renewables across Europe, often pushing politicians to adopt policies that force reliance on foreign energy sources.
Green energy advocates have lofty sustainability goals that will enable future generations to inhabit a healthy Earth. But these goals must also be weighed against the real consequences of current green energy policies. Many European countries have begun an energy transition to renewables, favoring wind and solar over nuclear, oil and gas, but the market’s continued reliance on oil and natural gas has forced Europe to seek foreign suppliers. Since 2016, the European Union’s dependence on Russian natural gas has increased from 30% in 2016 to almost 47% at the start of 2021, according to bp World Energy Statistical Review published in July 2021. According to the same report, Europe relies on oil imports to meet its demand. Europe uses 15 million barrels per day, but only produces 3.6 million over the same period. Russia, meanwhile, produces 11 million barrels of oil a day but only uses 3.4 million.
Germany, for example, is extremely dependent on Russian energy due to its recent green policies. Then-President Trump noticed this in 2018, telling NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, “Germany is a prisoner of Russia because it got rid of its coal-fired power plants, it got rid of its nuclear power plants.” The country was to become more dependent on Russia with the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline; however, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz halted the project once Russia recognized the two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine before the invasion. Due to Germany’s green campaign (Energiewende, or “energy recovery”), nuclear power is at a standstill. By 2020, Germany had reduced its reliance on nuclear power from 30% to 11%. By the last day of 2021, the country had shut down three of its six remaining reactors, with the last three to be shut down by the end of 2022. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has worried German politicians, as they are so dependent on Russian energy and now have a reduced ability to create their own. In December 2021, The Russian gas pipeline was Germany’s main source of supply at 32%. Only 5% of its annual consumption is covered by national production. Leaving the last three nuclear reactors open is now a possibility in the midst of these concerns.
The European Union leads the world in policy to tackle climate change. The European Green Deal has set ambitious targets to address the existential crisis, seeking among other goals that member countries achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. While these targets are certainly laudable, the human cost of achieving these ends should also be considered. Switching to sustainable energy, such as wind and solar, means reducing the production of other energy sources, such as oil and natural gas. Some countries, such as Germany, have also reduced their production of nuclear energy. While these policies move towards a more sustainable energy economy, they also push countries to import energy from other countries. In recent years, Russia has been that country.
The European Union should take this into account and find other ways to heat their homes and generate electricity. For the foreseeable future, Europe should either look to increase domestic energy production of oil and natural gas, or look for other countries to source from. Cheap, abundant and reliable energy supplies should be produced locally or in allied countries. For this reason, the production of nuclear energy should also be accelerated. Nuclear power has the highest capacity factor of all power sources, making it extremely reliable; nuclear power plants produce their maximum power more than 93% of the operating time. Moreover, the infrastructure is already there, with 30 facilities having already been decommissioned or about to be decommissioned in the near future.
Failing to address these energy concerns and continuing to depend on Russia for energy consumption will continue to fuel the war in Ukraine. Russia can only carry out its illegal attack with adequate funding. Let this serve as a warning to countries hoping to turn completely to green energy: this type of energy transition has negative effects that must be taken into account. There should be no trade-off between greenhouse gas emissions and human rights violations.