We say “Never again” when we commemorate the Second World War.
We make a promise to ourselves and to future generations not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
We pledge to keep Europe peaceful and never let it start a conflict that would consume the whole world.
And yet, we failed.
There is war in Europe, and it is not going anywhere. On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The invasion was not provoked. In two months, Russians killed tens of thousands of Ukrainians, carried out massacres which fit into the definition of genocide, and made more than 10 millions Ukrainians flee their homes. But the war did not start on February 24. It started in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and occupied Donbas, the Eastern part of Ukraine. The Russians claimed that they held a transparent referendum in the annexed peninsula and that their soldiers did not participate in the war. Now, ironically, Putin is giving awards to the same soldiers for the war that the Kremlin so ardently denied for eight years.
Therefore, February 24 is a continuation of the largest European war we had since WW2. This war has a genocidal nature, and it will not have a win-win scenario for anyone. Russia cannot conquer Ukraine without a huge loss for itself. Ukraine cannot defeat Russia without a tremendous human sacrifice. And the rest of Europe cannot pretend like it is life as usual.
Numbers show it. After 24 February, the EU provided Ukraine with around 1 billion Euros. That money goes for humanitarian and military aid.
In the same period, Russia has received nearly 40 billion Euros from the EU. That’s the payment for Russian oil, gas, and coal. This is European money funding the war on its soil.
The EU has been in a difficult position ever since Russia launched a full-scale invasion. On one hand, it pledged its full support for Ukraine. It announced sanctions, and it also condemned Russia.
On the other hand, the EU keeps on buying Russian energy supplying the Kremlin with money for war. The energy embargo is not happening. Some of the major Russian banks are not included in the sanctions. And there is a constant debate about whether to send Ukraine more arms or not. here is a giant European split.
For starters, there are European countries which are pushing for a full energy embargo. Mostly, Eastern Europeans support Ukraine, and are ringing the alarm about the continuation of Russian aggression. Baltics and Poland are leading in both publicly shaming their Western neighbours for not doing enough, and showing by example that when there is a will, there is a way.
Then, we have got a bunch of Western European countries whose responses differ. Some are varied of banning Russian energy because of the economic costs. Some would like to do it sooner than later but are waiting for a pan-European decision. And some are very much against “provoking Putin more”. Apparently, a massacre of Ukrainian civilians is not a strong enough argument against stopping funding the Kremlin.
Germany’s position here is especially interesting. On one hand, it is a country whose leadership has supported Ukraine rhetorically, and that aligns itself as Ukraine’s ally in its fight for freedom.
On the other hand, German energy policy tells otherwise. Germany is against nuclear energy, is phasing out its coal usage, and increases its renewable energy supply. However, most energy – over 70% – still comes from oil, gas, and coal. Russia is the main source of the three.
The German government has supported Nord Stream 2 even after Russia has annexed Crimea and occupied parts of Donbas in 2014. In the eight years since Russia has first started its military aggression against Ukraine, Germany – as well as the rest of the EU – had plenty of time to access the threat of their dependency on Russian energy. Now, we have a situation where the EU countries are debating an energy embargo on Russia – a move, that could have been done swiftly have Europeans listened to the many warnings from Ukraine and other Eastern European countries directly affected by Russian aggression in the past.
The energy embargo is painful. It is much more painful because of the German stance. The German government has repeatedly refused heavy weapons Ukraine has asked them to provide, supported Nord Stream 2, and appeased Russia for years. It also rejected the energy embargo as one of the most crucial sanctions against Russia. Germany is very important as the powerhouse of Europe. If its government has the political will for an energy embargo, the debates will be very different in Europe.
Europeans may stop buying Russian oil (not gas!) by the end of 2022. But we need to understand that the money Europe is paying now – and will keep on paying until December at least – will go to sustain Russia’s war. And the faster Germany and the others refuse to fund the genocide of the Ukrainian people, the better it would be for Europe as a whole.
It is crucial to understand that Putin and his cronies will fight as long as they can. They will be able to wage the war if the European money keeps financing it.
There are alternatives for Russian energy. Studies show that it might take 6 to 9 months to switch from Russian oil completely. Gas may be trickier, but it is also a realistic and a doable change – with countries installing LNG terminals and adapting to the new reality of buying gas elsewhere. In addition, there is a potential for renewables which has been in the talks in Europe for years, and which is yet to be realized. The transition takes time, but it has to happen sooner than later.
It is clear that a decision to stop buying Russian energy is a political one. For example, we are talking about billions of Euros that the German companies won’t make because of the death of Nord Stream 2. We are talking about the need to adapt, potentially rise prices, and annoy the voters in countries where this is already a very sensitive issue. We are also talking about a strong business lobby that cannot wait to return to normal trade with Russia.
And, we are also talking about the continuous funding of the Russian war. We are talking about a genocide that is happening live, about burned cities, tortured civilians, and thousands if not tens of thousands killed. We are talking about a divided Europe where democracies have no problem funding a dictator.
Europe has had years to free itself from Russian energy addiction. It didn’t. But it can – and needs to act now – if it does stand by the values it promotes.
It has been two months since Russia’s full-scale invasion into Ukraine. We saw what Russians did in Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin, Borodyanka, and more. We see the pictures of destroyed Mariupol. Ukrainians keep on fighting on the ground. They keep defending their land and Europe as a whole. We only ask that the rest of Europe not fund the killing of Ukrainians.
Anna Romandash, Ukraine, Advocate of United Europe