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Biden and Putin are playing energy chicken

by SuperiorInvest

Faced with what can only be called stunning defeats from the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the besieged country’s east, Russian President Vladimir Putin has done what many who have closely studied his belligerence over the years predicted he might: up the ante. . Specifically, he ordered the call-up of 300,000 reservists to assist in his “Special Military Operation”. Unfortunately for Putin, the main success of this operation so far has only been to weaken Putin’s power, increase NATO’s cohesion, size and strength, and solidify the West’s commitment to supporting Ukrainian opposition to Russian aggression—the exact opposite of what Putin’s main goals have always been.

In recent weeks, Western political scientists have shown rare unanimity in deciphering Putin’s goals and strategies. Almost to a person, they agree that Putin hopes that Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas will loosen its resolve to continue helping Ukraine this coming winter.

Underscoring Putin’s apparent strategy, Putin specifically increased economic and social pressure and further announced that he would stop the flow of energy to Europe via the Nord Stream I gas pipeline.

Assuming the above is indeed Putin’s strategy, and it seems pretty certain that it is, his main intention in calling in reinforcements may be less a belief that he can actually turn the tide of the war by adding more fighters, but more a calculated risk. that Western cooperation and support for Ukraine will erode as Russia’s embargo on European energy supplies increasingly strains European cohesion and determination to continue helping Ukraine in the coming winter.

Ironically, Putin is aided in his energy push by an unlikely source, US President Joe Biden. Biden’s energy policy has been so at odds with US oil and gas development and exports that Europe knows it can count on little help from America to offset the coming Russian supply cuts.

European economies are already reeling from the economic and energy effects of the war, and the fighting has not even extended into the entire winter season. Energy prices have risen by almost 800% in some places since February, and some European factories are already closing or cutting production to save on energy costs.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian war continues. Last week, Ukraine’s nuclear reactor in Zaporozhye was nearly hit by Russian missile fire, Russian artillery continued to cynically target Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, and Russia announced plans to legally annex the parts of Ukraine it currently controls.

The normal response of those resisting aggression and their allies is to limit the damage the aggressor can do. However, these are clearly not normal times. Shortly after Putin invaded Ukraine, Biden’s energy liaison, John Kerry, asked that Putin not withdraw from Ukraine, but only that he limit his carbon emissions.

Maybe Kerry got his wish because Putin can’t export his energy to Europe now (though he still has ready and eager markets in China and India). This seems little consolation to Ukrainians who are fighting and suffering for the right to live freely and survive as a people and as a nation. For a powerless person dodging bombs and bullets and trying to find enough food, issues like climate change don’t matter much in the real world.

Do we all really have to ask ourselves, is the choice really binary? Does tackling climate change by definition mean getting rid of fossil fuels immediately, or is there a more gradual process that will work, make economic, political, environmental and moral sense and ultimately better pave the way for a more sustainable future?

It will be up to history to judge our priorities in 2022. As Europe restarts old coal plants, not because it wants to, but because it has to, we face a troubling question: Did we do well to continue to focus on phase-out? of all fossil fuels in the fight against climate change, even if Putin blew up Ukraine, or our extreme focus on fossil fuels has helped to produce an outcome that is immoral and paradoxically ecologically destructive – given that less polluting natural gas is not available, highly polluting coal is the only alternative?

The story of life on Earth is amoral. Not immoral, but immoral because the innate struggle for survival is a basic human need that is without moral restraint or gloss. Perhaps in the coming decades we will learn whether President Biden’s injection of his climate change morality into Putin’s immoral shooting war in Ukraine helped produce an outcome that future generations will see as truly moral, or whether Biden’s stance instead helped cause the outcome, from which humanity will shake, if not suffer, for generations to come.

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