Philip Sosnik '23
On February 24, 2022, the Russian armed forces invaded Ukraine—beginning the largest conflict on European soil since WWII. The West vowed that this time, unlike after the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea, they would retaliate by uniting to equip Ukraine with arms and cripple all sectors of the Russian economy.
Yes, the Russian economy has gone into freefall, and yes, Ukraine has received arms from Western nations. However, much of Europe remains far too divided and selfish to fully punish Russia, and truly give Ukraine the support it needs.
Take Germany as the best example of this inaction. The nation of 82 million sports the fourth-largest economy in the world, easily doubling the size of the Russian economy. Despite their economic strength, they are dependent on Russia for most of their energy. Germany was not blessed with rich natural gas reserves or vast oil fields. Yet their continued interest in pursuing short-term fixes instead of long-term solutions to their energy dependency problem has only worsened their situation.
Instead of significantly increasing the amount of green energy produced from nuclear power plants, the German government announced earlier this year that they would shut down half of their remaining power plants by the start of 2023. Furthermore, the government has only now yielded to the pleas of German energy experts to build vital ship terminal facilities that would allow them to import natural gas from the United States. These terminals won’t be completed for years, and in the meantime, Germany will continue to buy billions of dollars worth of Russian natural gas and oil every day.
By now, you probably understand why Germany is enabling Russia and the ramifications. Russia has faced countless sanctions in nearly every sector. Yet due to the dependence of Germany and other European countries in similar positions, the Russian energy market (by far the most powerful sector of its economy) remains relatively in place.
Germany’s shameful reliance on Russian energy also extends to other parts of the Ukrainian war effort. Germany knows that if they aid the Ukrainian government by giving arms, Russia can at any point turn off their energy grid. As a result, whenever Ukraine asks the central European power for anything, it usually comes up disappointed. Ukraine asked for 100,000 helmets. Germany provided 5,000. Ukraine asked for 100 decommissioned German Marder infantry fighting vehicles. Germany gave them nothing. Ukraine asked for any amount of decommissioned Leopard combat tanks. Germany again gave them nothing.
Unfortunately, the German government’s hesitancy to punish Russia and aid Ukraine is not unique in Europe. Hungary has declined to change its energy policy with Russia and up to date has refused to give Ukraine any weapons, ammo, or protective equipment. Several other European nations, while chastising Russia in public, continue to import massive amounts of energy from them in private to not face public scrutiny from the press.
Nearly two months after Russian tanks stormed into Ukraine, a few things have become clear. While the Western response to Russian aggression is better now than it was in 2014, there is still much left to be done. Primarily, the West has failed to not just limit but cut off Russian oil and natural gas from being imported. Failure to move away from Russian fossil fuels will make it harder and harder for all of Europe to become independent from Russia and produce their own clean energy. More importantly though, by continuing to buy Russian oil and natural gas, Putin and his generals have all the power they need to continue to keep the Russian war machine going.
A Note from the Editors in Chief:
The opinions expressed in this article, as with any article, are of the author and author alone. The Exchanged is simply a means through which students can express their ideas without direct oversight from St. Albans or NCS, and its editors neither endorse nor condone the contents of any article. Our Mission Statement and Comment Policy are accessible via the 'About Us' tab.