Energy independence is energy security and national security. That should be the top takeaway from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where Europe is struggling to appear strong during an energy crisis. If Europe had even a fraction of energy independence from Russia and could domestically produce what they needed, Vladimir Putin would have far less power.
For years, while the world watched Russia build its forces and threaten Ukraine, the issue of Russia supplying oil to Europe has been a constant threat. In January of 2022, the Wall Street Journal reported, “Germany’s dependence on Russian gas has left Europe short of options to sanction Moscow if it invades Ukraine—and itself vulnerable should Russia stop gas exports to the West.”
Germany made a conscious decision to make itself weak on the issue of energy. In 2011, Germany’s then-leader Angela Merkel decided to phase out nuclear power. Three months after the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, Merkel eliminated nuclear power by 2022. German media reported:
The German parliament voted to phase out atomic energy by the end of 2022. But energy companies sued the government for damages. It took nearly ten more years for both sides to agree to damages worth €2.4 billion ($2.86 billion,) with taxpayers footing the bill for Merkel’s phaseout detour.
All of Germany’s development of nuclear power halted immediately. And then, on December 31, 2021, Germany permanently closed half of its remaining nuclear power plants. Only three such plants remain, and since then, Germany has had to rely increasingly on Russian oil to close the gap in its energy production.
European politicians constantly talk about the environment and other things, but when it came time to transition away from nuclear power, it wasn’t renewable energy that closed the gap. It was Russian oil. And less than three months after Germany closed those plants and a decade after the decision to shut down those plants, Vladimir Putin felt secure enough to invade Russia.
The United States got thwarted from pushing harsher sanctions against Russia because Europe, specifically Germany, cannot afford to experience a shortage of oil from Russia. The invasion has not slowed Europe’s need for gas. Yahoo Finance reported that after Russia launched an attack:
Russian gas exports through Ukraine jumped almost 38% on Thursday and may increase even further, according to data from Ukraine’s grid operator. Traders booked an additional 6.5 million cubic meters a day of pipeline space to flow gas into Europe through the Velke Kapusany entry point on the border between Ukraine and Slovakia, a sign shipments will increase again on Friday.
The Biden administration can push all the sanctions through it wants. However, the sanctions won’t have the same impact until Russia gets forced to feel the pain of lost oil revenue.
As Matthew Continetti noted, every “deterrence” used by the Biden administration failed. “Nothing worked. Negotiations failed. So-called ‘deterrence through disclosure’ had no effect. The threat of punishment carried no weight.”
And so, in a moment of weakness and dependence on energy, Vladimir Putin built his strength and struck. Whether he is ultimately victorious is anyone’s guess at this stage. But the lesson should be clear: preventing another Russian invasion requires energy independence.
Matthew Continetti is right in his view, “Biden must abandon his energy strategy. Nothing less than a total reversal of his approach is necessary. Certain times require a reevaluation of priorities and a reorganization of values. The global crisis that Putin has set in motion is such a moment.”
The Green New Deal is dead. The green movement’s desire to eliminate nuclear power can never be given credence again. The Democratic Party’s embrace of a policy that forces America and its allies to depend on countries that thrive on oil and similar things empowers authoritarian regimes.
Joe Biden does not understand this lesson. In a speech discussing his sanctions for Ukraine, Biden blamed oil companies for shortages and increased gas prices. His administration actively blamed the Russia-Ukraine conflict for inflation too.
Inflation and energy shortages were pervasive before the crisis in Ukraine. For months it’s been crystal clear that the United States needs to expand its own nuclear power energy. Europe is in a similar position, given that it’s buying oil from a regime that’s invading an innocent country.
Energy independence is vital to strong national security and preventing future Putin’s from exploiting the basic needs of the West. We can’t wait until the next crisis to produce these results. The planning has to start now. Blaming oil companies for prices is the strategy of empty-minded politicians. We need a new, vibrant energy policy now.