N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
The winter of 2022 threatens to become a dangerous period of energy perils, unpredictable political frustrations and social discontent.
Last Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a heavy torpedo into the European Union, by closing the Nord Stream 1 pipeline until the EU would lift the sanctions on his country.
He hopes to disrupt the EU energy market, putting citizens and companies in serious financial trouble. That could cause interrupting industrial production processes (read: unemployment!) and citizens turning against their government.
Putin’s tactic is transparent but no less dangerous: by leaving citizens in the EU member states literally in the cold, he hopes to damage support for the tremendous aid for Ukraine.
A support that a growing number of people, with all their sympathy for the attacked country, already find outrageous. The Russian president’s hope is that ‘Brussels’, Berlin and Paris would push for a swift end to the war including the perpetuation of the Russian occupation of some parts of Ukraine.
His plan may still work. In some member states, Hungary and Slovakia for instance, people are really afraid for a complete energy stop seen their big dependency of Russia. Others, Germany and Belgium, are postponing their nuclear phase-out until there is more energy security.
In these two and more countries coal is on its way back. Green (and often socialist) politicians will have the greatest difficulty in convincing their voters of this bend.
On Friday, EU energy ministers will try to reach an agreement on energy emergency measures. The importance of this meeting is enormous: is it possible the EU can reach a deal to keep energy prices affordable.
It would be a necessary boost for the credibility of the European Union. Failure would mean, the EU is unable to protect its citizens and businesses from disaster at a crucial moment.