It is getting harder and harder for IE students living in residences to get up in the morning, and I am not talking about hangovers. I am talking about the cold breeze in their rooms. According to experts, this may continue for the rest of the winter.
Ever since the rise of Covid-19 the world has been continuously dealing with its repercussions. However, the European energy crisis is not entirely due to the strain of the pandemic. This issue is more a repercussion of Putin’s war with Ukraine. However, can we really place all the blame on Putin? Is the European Union not to blame for depending so heavily on one man? Before answering any questions, let us first understand how Europe reached this point.
One of the biggest gas-supplying companies, known as Gazprom, was created in 1989 when the Soviet Ministry converted the Gas Industry into a corporation. This marked the first state-run corporate enterprise in the Soviet Union. It was later privatized until Putin became president in 2000. He used blackmail to force out the head of Gazprom and control the company by nationalizing it. Later, in 2008, Gazprom created partnerships with Western European corporations, which meant that it had a minority ownership in gas pipelines and storage facilities in countries like the UK, France, Germany, and Italy. Moreover, Gazprom took part-ownership of the Blue Stream, which sends gas from Russia directly to Turkey via a pipeline running along the bottom of the Black Sea. The company also constructed a similar structure from Russia to Germany on the Baltic Sea floor, which is known as the Nord Stream. Gazprom’s economic and political power does not end there. It also owns banks, hotels, Izvestia (Russia’s major) newspaper, and the television channel NTV. The history of this company illustrates how Putin, slowly but surely, established control in many countries in the European Union. Ultimately, this leads us to our modern-day crisis: Europe’s lack of energy.
After the war between Russia and Ukraine broke out, Putin’s Gazprom shut down the main pipelines carrying gas to Germany, which exports gas to the rest of the European Union. Putin defends this decision by claiming that the sanctions imposed on Russia are impairing many significant deals. His decision to cut off gas exports to European countries may lead to political divisions between countries in the European Union. In the past, Russia supplied 40% of Europe’s natural gas, with an even higher percentage going to Germany, which benefited its economy and this country’s growth rates. The only supply of Russian gas left is that flowing to Europe through a pipeline passing through Ukraine into Slovakia and another pipeline crossing the Black Sea to Turkey and then to Bulgaria. However, since the supply has been severely cut down, the prices have also increased. Thus, European countries are being forced to shift to other resources for energy.
The severity of this issue lies in the fact that gas is versatile. Besides heating homes and generating electricity, gas is also used to fuel a range of industrial processes, such as forging steel to go into cars, making glass bottles, and pasteurizing milk and cheese. Additionally, companies need time to find alternative sources, especially since there has been an increase in the price of oil and fuel. Another consequence is that households in European countries will soon experience harsh temperatures during this upcoming winter. Unfortunately, the list of consequences goes on and on.
Regardless of the countless consequences, the European energy crisis comes with one benefit; it is a wake-up call for European countries to operate more independently in order to supply their citizens with the necessary means of living. The energy crisis has demonstrated the instability and high risk of relying so heavily on one country, both economically and socially. Even after understanding the history of how Europe reached the level of dependence and what the energy crisis is, it is difficult to place the blame on one country. There are many factors that played a role in the disaster that is today, including ones that are not related to the Russia-Ukraine war. For starters, Germany increased Putin’s power when it allowed him to build pipelines that function as the main source of energy for most European countries. At the same time, Putin is to blame since he is the man behind the desk executing the decision to reduce the supply of energy. An issue was bound to happen at one point or another for the European Union, it was only a matter of when. Therefore, we need to do our part to help boost the economy by shopping for winter clothes.
Featured cover image: iStock