Europe's energy crisis and Russia's readiness to alleviate vividly demonstrates a fundamental win-win partnership.
Russophobia and geopolitical cynicism know no bounds among certain Western politicians and media commentators. Thankfully, however, such a negative mindset is increasingly exposed for its ridiculous irrationality.
This week as Europe's energy crisis broke new records in terms of soaring consumer prices, Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped in with a promise to increase exports of natural gas. The news had an immediate calming effect on Europe's energy markets which saw prices whipsawing to lower levels.
Rather than simply greeting the development as a positive move, there were predictably sinister comments from some quarters. Russia was accused in Western media of "holding Europe hostage" over the continent's energy crisis and using its vast supply of natural gas as a "geopolitical weapon".
Jake Sullivan, the United States national security advisor to President Biden, told the BBC that Moscow was "exploiting" Europe's energy crunch.
This is an overwrought, convoluted way of interpreting what is normal economic interplay of supply and demand. But the irrationality betrays an obdurate mindset of Russophobia that is untenable. If politicians and experts are so possessed of such foolish bigotry then their assessments on the subject and much else besides are hopelessly unreliable.
Europe's current energy crisis and market turmoil have nothing to do with Russia as a primary factor. The pent-up demand after a year of economic quiescence due to the coronavirus pandemic, the low storage of natural gas by European countries due to government policies, the switch to renewable energy sources not being able to meet demand, and the approach of winter - have all compounded the overall supply of gas. This has, in turn, caused benchmark prices for the fuel and other forms of energy to skyrocket. Gas prices are up more than five-fold. What has that got to do with Russia? Nothing, at least in causality.
Russia is historically Europe's biggest supplier of natural gas. It accounts for about 40 percent of the continent's consumption. As President Putin pointed out this week, Russia's state-owned Gazprom has met all its contractual deliveries of natural gas to Europe.
The allegation from some quarters that Russia is withholding gas supplies to Europe in order to exert political pressure on Europe is a baseless lie that stems from anti-Russia prejudice and propaganda.
The fact is Europe is faced with an energy crisis - partly of its own making - and Russia is able to alleviate it by increasing its already substantial supply of natural gas. What is there to complicate about a straightforward economic relation?
This week saw a technical step being completed for the opening of the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany and the rest of Europe. The new pipeline will greatly expand the existing flow of Russia gas to the European Union. German regulatory authorities are reviewing the new supply route and it may take a few months for delivery to become operational. The ball is in the EU's court. If Europe wants more Russian gas that is its prerogative. How is that supposed to be Russia holding someone hostage? The slander is not only insulting, it is moronic.
Russia has proven to be a reliable supplier of energy to the rest of Europe over several decades, including during the former Cold War period when Western ideologues demonised the Soviet Union as an "evil empire". Russia presently is ready to meet increased demand with a new supply route under the Baltic Sea while also honouring existing contracts for overland transit. The notion that Ukraine will lose out on transit fees is groundless as Moscow has repeatedly stated it will honour existing contracts with Ukraine up to 2024. Russia is not obligated to keep paying transit fees indefinitely if logistically more efficient supply routes are innovated. That is a reasonable exercise of Russia's or any nation's sovereign right.
The main obstacle to improving efficiency in energy trade between Russia and Europe is the negative political attitude of certain European politicians and successive American governments. Washington and its European surrogates have been playing anachronistic Cold War politics with a matter of vital interest for the whole of Europe. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline should have been completed over a year ago but was not only because of U.S. sanctions and the negative attitude of eastern European states. The irony is that the detrimental impact of Europe's energy crisis on households and industries is attributable to the irrational objection by Washington and certain anti-Russian European states towards Russia as a natural strategic partner with Europe. Yet these culprits persist in their perversely pejorative mindset towards Russia, accusing the latter of wielding energy trade like a geopolitical weapon.
It is the United States that is cynically using Europe's energy market as a geopolitical weapon with a view to selling its own expensive and environmentally dirty liquified natural gas. There is also a bigger ideological aspect to all this skulduggery. If Russia and Europe were permitted to develop their naturally mutual partnership in energy trade the consequence would undermine the contrived propaganda construct of Russia as a "threat" to European security. That construct is vital to maintain for the purpose of promoting the U.S.-led NATO military alliance and lucrative American weapons sales to Europe. It is also vital for Washington's hegemonic influence over European allies by polarising relations with Russia.
Europe's energy crisis and Russia's readiness to alleviate vividly demonstrates a fundamental win-win partnership. That reality has become so obvious that objections to the relationship look increasingly irrational and ridiculous from their congenital Russophobia.