The gas crisis in Europe has added yet another dimension to a global crisis, with many well-known experts predicting that the worst is still to come.
Nowadays in Washington and Brussels, practically any internal or external problem is blamed on Russia and the evil President Putin, who somehow has accumulated unprecedented superhuman powers to manipulate the world’s events, including this one, to his advantage. According to Washington Post-CNN pundit Fareed Zakaria, “Russia hasn’t just hacked our computer systems. It’s hacked our minds.” For someone who can do that, playing gas games is a trivial exercise.
Those remaining few of us whose minds are not hacked and who question the mainstream media’s integrity might consider using simple logic and the laws of free market economics instead. My good friend Jack Kemp, the late congressman, explained them in two words: supply and demand.
Russia has plenty of gas, and Qatar, Iran, Algeria, Norway and some other countries have it as well. America joined this exclusive club after its shale revolution. One would assume that any country is free to decide which gas supplier to choose. The suppliers, in turn, must compete to offer the best deal.
Not so fast. Members of the European Union must follow a long list of bureaucratic regulations reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s command economy. Back in the USSR, all 15 Soviet republics had to follow orders from Moscow. Today, 27 EU countries must follow rules imposed by a Brussels bureaucracy that has miscalculated by investing a lot of money into closing coal mines and building plenty of wind turbines and other renewable energy sources to fight climate change.
Germany made that situation even worse with its decision to phase out nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. What the smart boys and girls in EU headquarters did not realize is that a transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources takes time, and the windless weather this summer was perfect proof that rushing the process does not always makes sense.
Another huge mistake was to encourage EU member states to move to gas delivery contracts based on the daily spot prices instead of negotiating fixed, long-term contracts as suggested by Russia‘s Gazprom. Any offer coming from Mr. Putin for consistent, stable pricing was met with suspicion and was turned down.
To summarize, Germany and other European countries need gas, and lots of it. By any elementary logic, the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) pipeline definitely could help by supplying more Russian gas.
Enter the “Kremlin stooge,” Donald Trump, who wanted to sell American liquefied natural gas (LNG) instead. With bipartisan congressional support rarely afforded him, Mr. Trump tried to sink NS2 by imposing painful sanctions on companies involved in its construction.
Although Europe definitely could use the promised American LNG, it is locked into long-term contracts mostly with Asian countries. Well, that’s the free market for you. A friend in need is a friend indeed, but Mr. Putin is the villain anyway.
When some European firms involved in NS2 got scared off by the American sanctions, the Germans and Russians stood firm and finished the project, although with a two-year delay.
President Biden, who came to the White House with a pledge to restore relations with U.S. allies, decided to let it go when faced with Germany’s firm determination on the almost-completed pipeline.
When Mr. Trump was president, Mr. Biden repeatedly called him Mr. Putin‘s puppet, but now the Swamp is accusing Mr. Biden of the same. Congress is voting for the resumption of sanctions against NS2, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan rushed to Europe to lobby against it. Mr. Sullivan (who, according to John Durham’s report, is one of the main culprits behind the Russiagate scandal) and other NS2 opponents have argued that the project will undermine Ukraine by making its pipelines redundant.
Here is the trick. For the U.S., the EU and NATO, the Ukraine project has little to do with democracy promotion or making the lives of Ukrainians better. The main thing is to turn Ukraine into an anti-Russia platform and have the Russians pay for it with transit fees through its pipeline. Most of the $2.5 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine is pumped into its military.
Never mind that this army uses openly radical nationalist and neo-Nazi battalions, which even Congress calls terrorists. Back in 2019, a congressional letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo portrayed Azov as a part of an ultra-right-wing “global terrorist network” analogous to al Qaeda or the Islamic State group, but one bent on attacking Muslims, Jews and people of color.
However, under Ukraine’s Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Azov is doing well and is integrated in the regular army. Post-Maidan Ukraine is the world’s only nation to have a neo-Nazi formation in its armed forces. Perhaps for some in Washington, they’re now “moderates” like the U.S.-supported jihadis in Syria.
Washington does not condemn regular neo-Nazi torchlight marches in Ukrainian cities and does not care about ample evidence that a big chunk of the transit fees generated by Ukrainian pipelines fills the pockets of some questionable Ukrainian characters. According to the Pandora Papers, 38 Ukrainian politicians, including Mr. Zelenskyy, have tax-free offshore accounts. So much for fighting corruption.
Well, as it goes these days, the only course for politicos who screw up badly is to blame Mr. Putin. Why would they admit to the mess they made and try changing the course?
• Edward Lozansky is president of American University in Moscow.