When Net Zero enthusiasts in Western governments act exactly as if they meant what they said, it’s not strictly true that there’s no Plan B for getting energy. The problem is that there are two and each is worse than the other. Plan B1 is to rely on unreliable “renewables” and ignore their costs, from the dirty mining of key elements to the land requirements to the unreliability itself, a subject we have discussed at length and will again. But B2, rather remarkably, is to let governments hostile to our way of life develop fossil fuels and then hold us hostage to their monopoly to obtain surrender on strategic issues. And if it sounds incredibly reckless and stupid, well, don’t tell us. Tell Joe Biden and Angela Merkel. For instance that Vladimir Putin is threatening to cut off natural gas to Ukraine if it resists being dismembered. Via a pipeline Biden and Merkel both support because it’s not, say, taking hydrocarbons from nasty old Canada but from the lovely Kremlin.
The rule that people mean what they say gets surprisingly short shrift in international affairs. Which is odd given how often and painfully we have been taught that they do. Not that tactical deceits are unknown. But when Pol Pot says to build communism we must first raze society, or Stalin preaches the annihilation of class enemies, well, guess what? (And here you thought we were going to cite Hitler. No need, evidently.) And Putin meant it when he called the disintegration of the Soviet Union the greatest catastrophe in the 20th century, even in all of history, and pledged to reverse it.
There’s no reason a sentiment cannot be laughably parochial and dangerously revanchist at the same time. And speaking of the parochial, a petty related example is the Russian government’s protest at Ukrainian soccer jerseys showing annexed Crimea as part of Ukraine. On which the Union of European Football Associations predictably folded, ordering the shirts modified.
Putin means to weaken Ukraine, dismember it and absorb the parts. And at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, on June 4, asked what the Russian state-owned gas giant would do about existing shipments of natural gas through Ukrainian pipelines to the EU once the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline was operational, he replied “Everything’s possible, we're ready for this and we want it, but we need goodwill on the part of our Ukrainian partners. Spend money not in order to maintain the army and aim it at solving the problems of Donbas by force, but in order to improve the economy, work with people – do you understand?”
Well, do you? In Poland and the Baltic States, also threatened by Russian historical revanchism, they do. But, the EU Observer reports, in Germany they seem to understand something else: money. “German chancellor Angela Merkel has backed it for the sake of cheaper gas for German people.” As for Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who spoke at Putin’s forum, “Austrian companies are taking part in this. We, as well as Germany and some other European countries, see it in a positive way.” So we’re not for sale. But in case we were, what were you thinking of offering?
Sold! At least if you’re Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schröder, who now works directly for Gazprom. But why is it that Merkel herself, who presided over the disastrous Energiewende that sent energy prices way up in Germany to save the planet, and shut down Germany’s nuclear plants to save who knows what, is happy to buy Putin’s natural gas to lower energy prices? Why not buy her own instead?
Meanwhile Joe Biden issued a national security waiver so the main company working on Nord Stream 2 would not be sanctioned in accordance with American law in consequence of Russia’s attacks on Ukraine. That company being Nord Stream 2 AG, “a registered Swiss firm whose parent company is the Russian gas giant Gazprom.” His excuse was that “to go ahead and impose sanctions now would I think be counterproductive in terms of our European relations and I hope we can work on how they handle it from this point on.” Whereas Keystone XL got deep-sixed because evidently it either wouldn’t be counterproductive in terms of our Canadian relations or he doesn’t care if it would.
Back in 1984, the year not the book, Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky declared in disgust that modern liberalism is “best described by the Russian saying: that it is like a dog in reverse because it barks at its own folks and wags its tail in front of a stranger.”
Harsh words? But how else to explain barking at your own fossil fuels while wagging your tail at Xi Jinping’s coal plants and Putin’s natural gas even as the former moves aggressively into the South China Sea and the latter brazenly uses the fuel itself to threaten what’s left of your Ukrainian ally? Compared to this nonsense, even Plan B1 starts to sound good.