Monday, February 2, 2009

Putin's Energy Weapons

We've hit this topic many times before and we'll touch it again no doubt: from a DOD and US perspective, energy security is partly about becoming less reliant on foreign sources because energy can become a weapon used against us and its allies. When Putin ordered the natural gas flow through the Ukrainian pipelines cut off last month, it was about economics ... and a whole lot more. The might Russia used to project with its military arsenal is now conveyed with its control over some of the largest supplies of oil and gas in the world. On Putin and energy in WSJ last week:

"I would describe it as very much his personal project,” said Clifford G. Gaddy, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and an expert in Russia’s energy policy. “It is the heart of what he has done from the very beginning.” Indeed, from his earliest days in power in 2000, Mr. Putin, who left the presidency in 2008 and became prime minister, decided natural resource exports and energy in particular would not only finance the country’s economic rebirth but also help restore Russia’s lost greatness after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Fine. But the logical response of countries held hostage by Russia's manipulation would be to wean themselves, as rapidly as possible, off the substance that binds and threatens them, right?
As they did two years ago after a similar supply disruption, European officials have promised in the wake of the Ukraine dispute to take steps to diversify the Continent’s sources of gas to end its reliance on Russia, which supplies nearly 30 percent of the total. European dependence is expected to grow as North Sea gas fields decline.
So while logic would dictate a brisk move away from Russian supplies, other factors will play a bigger role, and likely keep Europe and the former Soviet Union in Russia's energy grip for the foreseeable future. Lest we feel superior, however, very similar forces have been at work between OPEC and the US for decades. Only now are we beginning to move in the right direction. Let's move quickly.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

No comments: