Europe’s Darkest Winters Ahead!

Any talk about Ukraine’s separation from Russia made one a mortal enemy of Russia. An individual could choose their nationality any more than cells can divide whether they are part of the body—these are the words of Vladimir Putin’s most admired philosopher Ivan Ilyin. Though one cannot claim with certainty whether Putin really admires him or not, but Putin often quotes Ilyin during his speeches. Since the beginning of his presidency back in 2000, Vladimir Putin talked about Russia’s red lines referring to the Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. 

Since the beginning of the Russian Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine, Putin publicly justified the military adventure as shielding Russia’s strategic interests. However, the ongoing conflict at the heart of Eastern Europe brought major economic consequences for the world economy as the West decided to economically isolate Russia by imposing financial sanctions and by kicking Russia out of the global SWIFT system. Abruptly, Russia took retaliatory measures in the wake of the Western sanction by starting the energy war with Europe. 

Amidst the Russian sanction due to the conflict in Ukraine, Europe is facing the largest energy crisis in history. The Russian retaliatory measures have severely divided already polarized Europe. The members of the European Union lack mutual consensus and unified policy concerning the soaring food and energy prices especially due to Russia’s closure of Nord Stream I gas pipelines. The ongoing economic warfare with Russia is indeed a nightmare for Europe which is struggling with rising costs of food and energy. 

In the wake of price-hikes massive protests have erupted across Europe including Germany and Austria. A week ago, approximately 70,000 people took to the streets in the Czech capital Prague protesting the rising cost of living. Hence, it seems that the European sanctions on Russia are biting back at them, which signals Europe’s darkest winters in making. According to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Europe has a storage capacity to deal with the crisis in winter. The data shows that Germany’s storage capacity is 80%, and a similar percentage is in other European countries. 

But the question here is that will this storage be enough to feed the average households and run the large-scale industries. Based on the storage capacities, the European leaders appear optimistic about dealing with the largest energy crisis in European history. Unfortunately, the reality is exactly the opposite. It goes without saying that Europe’s fate is closely tied to Russia when it comes to energy. Russia has been selling hydrocarbons to Europe below the market price which is key to European energy security and economic growth. However, Russia’s decision to launch the Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine on Feb. 24, has put Europe between ice and fire. 

Whereas the fire has already erupted when Europe decided to side with its patron United States by supporting endorsing the toughest sanctions on Russia over Ukraine while the ice is on becoming stage. To understand this let’s dive deeper into the statistics—due to Russia’s retaliatory measures, the natural gas prices topped $3100 per 1000 cubic meters in mid-August, which is 610 percent higher compared to the same time last summer. Consumer price inflation has already jumped above 8% which is higher since the inception of the European Union. 

The soaring prices of gas in Europe are endangering productivity and growth as the major power stations decided of closing their operation due to unaffordability. Moreover, ordinary Europeans are the major victim of consumer price inflation due to the rising cost of input fuels such as electricity bills which have jumped to 300% in 2022. It is time the Brussel bureaucracy must throw away the eye covering to understand the gravity of the ongoing energy war in Europe. 

The EU has already declared an economic emergency amidst the precipitous fall of the Euro against the dollar in the international market first time in decades. Although to tackle the crisis on emergency grounds, the European member countries have allocated a budget of $278 billion to bail out the energy sector to resume the flow of subsidized gas to average households. But the question is that despite the large-scale bailouts will Europe be successful to maintain the annual economic growth? 

The ongoing crisis shows the biggest challenge for the average European economy is to assist the small consumers, which are on the brink of facing major energy blackouts. The forecasts show that the worst is yet to come because it is a calm before the storm. If there is no end to conflict in Ukraine, then Europe must get ready to face the serious socio-political and economic consequences of the recent century. At the moment, the Brussel bureaucracy is living much farther from the ground realities. Just like the world was unprepared for the Covid-19 pandemic, the European leadership appears completely ignorant of the depth of the ongoing crisis. 

If the Western leaders are thinking that they can defeat Russia on the battlefield, then it is nothing but a daydream. The only solution to the conflict in Ukraine is a serious dialogue and diplomatic engagement with Russia instead of isolating it both diplomatically and economically. It is time the Brussel bureaucrats should stop taking dictation from the United States and look after the best interest of the European people. Precisely, the Western leadership should keep sidewise their egomania of humiliating Putin and must engage in serious dialogue with him to end the crisis. If not Europe’s darkest days are waiting ahead—better to act now than repent tomorrow.

[Photo by Frank Vincentz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

*Shahzada Rahim is a geopolitical analyst and the editor-in-Chief of the News Portal The Eurasian Post.

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