This winter, Europe will face the most severe energy crisis in recent decades, putting the continent and beyond at risk of high inflation and a recession half a century after the concept of the “energy weapon” was first coined. “The oil weapon,” a US general wrote in 1974 after oil prices spiked in many Western countries due to political disruptions in the Middle East, was being used as a peaceful and seemingly innocent means to undermine NATO and Western economies resulting, without the direct involvement of the Kremlin, in an “economic war by proxy.”
Of course, Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine is neither innocent nor indirect—it is the center of the current global energy disruption, with the Kremlin trying to force the energy-dependent European Union (EU) to lift the sanctions it imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
On March 8, the EU announced its REPowerEU plan to phase down, and ultimately end, its dependence on Russian energy by 2030, as well as accelerate a green transformation of the sector, with the 2030 target for renewable energy being revised up from 40 to 45 percent. The plan also pays more attention to energy conservation and efficiency. The European Commission estimates that delivering REPowerEU objectives requires an additional investment of €210 billion between now and 2027, but this would save almost €100 billion per year in reduced fossil-fuel imports.
While this longer-term approach could be considered a conservative response to a war that was almost universally viewed as catastrophic for Ukraine and deeply troubling for Europe in general, it can also be viewed as the technocratic bloc’s baseline framework for shifting energy policy. Given that more than half of Russia’s export revenues came from energy in 2021, more targeted measures followed from both the EU and individual member states in regard to Russia’s coal, oil, and gas. Read more