Uncommon Decency

53. Ukraine—It's the Energy, Stupid! with Nick Butler & Simone Tagliapietra

Mere hours after Russian tanks rolled over Ukraine’s borders, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made this chilling statement : « We buy 50% of our coal from Russia. If we exclude Russia from the SWIFT payment system, the lights in Germany will go out. » In our 44th episode a few weeks ago (« Europe Braces for Winter »), we wondered whether soaring energy prices could lead to mass blackouts, but we never expected that problem to be soon compounded by Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. This naked act of aggression has starkly highlighted Europe's energy dependence on Russia, which provides nearly half of our gas and a quarter of our oil. Such a reliance has logically hampered the European Union’s (EU) capacity to hit Russia’s massive energy sector despite the Biden administration's calls for the West to profoundly decouple. This week, we turn to Nick Butler and Simone Tagliapietra, two experts on the geopolitics of energy, to take stock of Europe’s dependency. How long can the EU survive without Russian gas? And can Russia’s aggression spark a much-needed strategic approach to energy ?

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