This is a summary of an event with Edward Chow, Senior Fellow at the Energy and National Security Program at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies on the 6th October 2014; it reflects the views expressed by the speaker and not those of The Henry Jackson Society or its staff.
The event was held in light of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and covered a number of issues, including: Europe’s energy supply situation and how this has been affected by the crisis in Ukraine ; the role of Europe and the United States in dealing with European energy supply; and, what steps could be taken to reduce Russia’s leverage over Europe. Edward Chow concluded that the situation in Ukraine represents a long-term challenge for the Western alliance and while both Europe and America have shared economic interests in Ukraine, Europe will have to exert greater strength against Moscow’s threats to cut of gas supplies.
Chow’s talk on the Europe-Russia energy relationship covered the following points:
- A third of Europe’s gas imports come from Russia, of which roughly half passes through Ukraine. Europe did not need to wait until earlier this year to anticipate a potential cut off of Russian gas. Moscow has a track record of threatening Europe’s energy supply, such as in 2006 and 2009. Events in Crimea may have bought this issue to the fore of political attention, but it has always been a possibility.
- There is a common belief that Europe is dependent on Russian gas. However, Europe only imports 30% of its oil and gas from Russia. On the other hand, Russia relies on Europe for 80% of its natural gas sales. Even with recent energy deals with China, Moscow could not stop the flow of energy to Europe overnight or for a long period of time.
- The energy trajectories of Europe and the United States are becoming increasingly different. The US is now predicted to be a net exporter of natural gas, while Europe appears reluctant to explore alternative energy sources, such as shale gas.
- America’s geostrategic interests are shifting eastwards and, much like European states, face budget austerity. While the US has global responsibilities as a world power, European states must step up military and take responsibility for events within their own continent.
- In the end, it will be Western states that will pay for Ukraine’s gas this winter if a cut off occurs. The West must provide Ukraine to aid and strengthen the country. Sanctions against Russia are necessary but cannot solve the issue on their own.