Anders Fogh Rasmussen is the founder and chairman of Rasmussen Global. He was a security adviser to former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (2016-2019) and former Secretary General of NATO (2009-2014) and former Prime Minister of Denmark (2001-2009).
Three weeks later, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war is not being prepared.
His dream of a quick and painless regime change in Ukraine turns into a nightmare in the face of fierce resistance. Warned that they would be greeted as liberators, the Russian troops are instead greeted with Javelin missiles and sniper fire. Even in cities where the Russians nominally control, citizens dressed in Ukrainian flags stand face to face with the invading soldiers.
In large parts of the country, the invasion has stalled and the war is entering a dangerous new phase. Putin is stepping up his efforts and resorting to increasingly brutal tactics as Russian troops fire shells and missiles at civilian areas. But as he increases the brutality of his war effort, we must also intensify the intensity of our response. And we have to address the elephant in the room: oil and gas imports to Europe. To end this war, the European Union must turn off the taps.
So far, the West has shown determination and unity in the face of this crisis. Economic sanctions are beginning to weigh, and every day another European or American company closes its operations in Russia. Putin may be doing everything he can to hide his war from ordinary Russians, but he can’t hide the economic consequences. Russians can no longer watch Netflix or buy the latest iPhone. And even if they could, the ruble in their pocket is worth half what it was two weeks ago.
But even as we apply sanctions, we send hundreds of millions of euros every day which are used to finance the Russian war effort. In 2021, 36% of Russian government revenue come from oil and gas sales. The EU remains Russia’s largest trading partner and the main market for its energy reserves. More than 50% of the country’s population oil and gas exports go to Europe. With one hand we are pushing the Russian economy off a cliff, with the other we are throwing it a lifeline.
This current policy is counterproductive. As oil and gas prices soar, we are pouring more and more money into Putin’s coffers – we are directly funding his war and his war crimes. The only effective solution is the complete cessation of transfers to Russia. The EU must join the United States and immediately end all imports of Russian oil and gas. This would bring the Russian economy to its knees.
Don’t make a mistake. The complete cessation of Russian oil and gas imports to Europe will have a price. But this price is small compared to the current suffering of the Ukrainian people; it’s miniscule compared to the loss of freedom that will occur if we don’t act now. And it’s a price we can bear.
Energy policy is also a security policy. By replacing Russian gas flows with more liquefied gas (LNG), increasing oil imports from other suppliers, unlocking our storage capacities and reducing our energy consumption, we can manage the situation in the short term. . In the longer term, we need to improve energy efficiency and accelerate the development of new and sustainable energy sources.
Putin calculates that Europe’s economic interests will outweigh his moral and political support for Ukraine. We have to prove him wrong. We have to show that we are here for the long haul. That we are prepared to weather an economic storm to end our reliance on Russian energy. It certainly won’t be cheap, but if it helps end the suffering in Ukraine, it’s a price worth paying.