Unseasonably Warm Weather Could Help End The War In Ukraine
Across Europe, hundreds of countries are recording record warm winter temperatures. The ski slopes are closed during what is usually their busiest time of the year due to a lack of snow. According to Czech TV reports, some trees had even begun to bloom in private gardens due to the false spring. Meanwhile, in Switzerland, the office of Meteorology and Climatology issued a pollen warning due to the early flowering of hazelnut plants. The historically warm winter has rung alarm bells for swift action on climate change, but it’s also had a big silver lining: it’s all but eliminated any influence Russia had over the European Union.
Russia and the European Union have used energy imports and exports as weapons in a pyrrhic war of wills since Russia invaded Ukraine early last year. Until recently, the European Union imported almost half of its natural gas supply from Russia, making European energy demand a vital component of Russia’s economic well-being while making the EU dangerously vulnerable to the regime’s whims. unstable authoritarianism of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As a result of this delicate balance, the EU has tried to hit back at Russia’s war in Ukraine by imposing increasing rounds of energy sanctions on the Kremlin, while Russia has tried to prove that Europe is crying wolf by cutting off the flow of natural gas to the bloc. This has created an unprecedented energy crisis in Europe that is redrawing the rules of global geopolitics as we speak, but now with an unforeseen twist.
Related: The UK is confident it has secured sufficient energy supplies for next winter
This winter was supposed to be rough. The gas wars between Russia and Europe were supposed to cause disruptions, economic turmoil, government stress and civil unrest. In the UK alone, projections have predicted that 26 million people will be plunged into energy poverty during the winter months – in other words, one in three households. And the UK would have done quite well compared to many other more economically depressed European countries.
Instead, gas futures are now falling, demand is low and Europe has managed to rebuild its inventories. As an added bonus, the weather has also brought strong winds across Europe, further reducing gas demand while increasing wind power generation. All of this means that energy markets have had an unexpected opportunity to normalize, throwing a serious wrench into Russia’s wartime strategy.
Putin had been counting on rising energy prices during the winter months to finance Russia’s costly war in Ukraine. That bet has failed, to say the least. Last month, Russia’s fossil fuel export earnings fell by 17%, hitting the lowest level since the start of the war. The latest round of EU sanctions have also hit their target; since December, Russia’s net energy export earnings fell by 160 million euros ($172 million) a day.
“Europe’s spring weather is Putin’s winter of discontent,” summed up a recent Washington Post headline. Putin “probably hoped to bring Europe to the brink of several countries begging for gas, and therefore destroy unity in Europe, or really create mass unrest,” said Georg Zachmann, a senior fellow at the Institute of think Bruegel based in Brussels. Post. “That didn’t play.”
While warmer temperatures are a worrying trend in the long term, they are extremely fortunate for Europeans in the short term. However, winter is not over and experts warn that European leaders should not count their chickens before they hatch. A prolonged cold snap could tip the scales towards disaster for the European Union. And even if the weather stays warm, the underlying issues that created the crisis in the first place have not changed. “While it will give governments more fiscal space in the first part of this year, solving Europe’s energy problems will take concerted action over several years,” said a note from Eurointelligence. “No one should believe this is over yet.”
However, a new study by the Center for Clean Energy and Air Research (CREA) found that continuing to lift energy sanctions against Russia will be a winning strategy. “The short-term windfall generated in Russia by high fossil fuel prices in 2022 is starting to wear off,” CREA reports. “Therefore, further cuts to the Kremlin’s revenue will materially weaken the country’s ability to continue its offensive and help end the war.”
By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com
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