Ukraine’s counteroffensive “has succeeded beyond most predictions,” reports The New York Times on September 13. “In less than a week, Ukrainian forces have retaken some three thousand square kilometers from the Russian invaders,” observed The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board two days earlier. “That’s more Ukrainian territory than Russia has seized since April.”
The ‘other war’ in Europe is not going well for the European Union, leaving few businesses in untouched, with some manufacturers that are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas in danger of closing their doors after Russian President Vladimir Putin “turned off the taps to the biggest natural-gas pipeline, Nord Stream, completely this month,” reports The Wall Street Journal on September 11.
The impact has pushed Europe to the brink of recession and threatens to inflict lasting harm on its manufacturing businesses. Unlike the U.S., Europe leaned on manufacturing and heavy industry to keep its economy chugging in recent decades. A bigger chunk of its economy comes from the likes of steelmakers, chemicals producers and car makers.
“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said enduring 90 days of an energy standoff with Russia over this winter would prove more ‘crucial’ than anything the European Union has faced in its entire history,” reported Christian Oliver for POLITICO Europe on September 11 in the source article.
“There are 90 days ahead, which will be more crucial than 30 years of Ukraine’s independence; 90 days that will be more crucial than all the years of the existence of the European Union. Winter will determine our future and the risks,” he said in a speech delivered at the Yalta European Strategy meeting late on Saturday.
Zelenskyy predicted Russia would sever gas supplies entirely, but he told Europeans not to fall for the Russian “illusion” that they could make a trade-off by compromising on their values to secure cheaper energy.
The editorial board of the Financial Times backed Zelenskyy up 100% on September 13.
Vladimir Putin’s calculation is that European countries will prove less able to bear soaring winter energy bills and possible shortages than Russia can withstand western sanctions — and that their unity and resolve will shatter before the spring brings renewed military offensives in Ukraine. With Kyiv’s forces starting to make breakthroughs, the coming energy battle is one that democratic Europe cannot lose.
It will be a hard-fought battle considering that “Russia provides about 40% of Europe’s gas, and despite aggressive weaning, Europe may simply not have enough gas this winter,” writes Rick Newman, a columnist for Yahoo Finance, on September 13. “European gas prices are six times higher than they were at this time last year and 14 times higher than they were two years ago.”
“Europe has held its ground well so far,” concludes the FT editorial. “But the economic war with Putin will finally be won or lost on how well the bloc can stick together.”
Related Russia-Ukraine war posts focused on Russian gas:
Hat tip to POLITICO’s Power Switch newsletter.